As if balancing your career with your family weren’t challenging enough, we also have to deal with the dreaded call from the school nurse or being told on the way to school that your child left their homework at work. But, I don’t have to tell you about that. Mothers know that no matter how organized you are, emergencies and unexpected situations are inevitable. But, how can you take care of these situations when you already have a full schedule?
Prepare for the unexpected as much as possible.
- Don’t waste all of your personal days. Save some of your personal days so that you can use them when a child has to stay home — particularly during flu season.
- Talk to your supervisor. If you don’t have paid time off, Lewis recommends that you, “Proactively meet with your manager to create a plan and set priorities for when your child is sick..” You may also want to discuss options like a flexible schedule.
- Get ahead on your work. If possible, get all of your most important completed earlier in the day. This way if you have to leave early you won’t be falling behind. Also, most people are most productive in the morning, so this makes sense all around.
- Compromise with your partner. Have a discussion with your partner on how to handle an emergency so that you can work together on resolving it effectively as possible.
I’d also add,
- Add free time to your calendar. Not everyone has the option. But, the idea is that you should have some blank spaces in your calendar, which can be 30 minutes to 2 hours, that take place throughout the day. It doesn’t’ solve everything. But, it could allow you to run to your child’s school and drop off the lunch they left in your car or talk to your child on the phone upset or in trouble.
- Have a routine. Before your children go to bed for the night, make sure that they have everything ready for tomorrow, such as homework in their backpack or asking if there is anything you have to sign.
- Stay healthy. Kids are gonna sick. But, if you and your family aren’t healthy, it’s only going to get worse. Make sure everyone washes their hands, pay attention to your diet, get some exercise, and don’t neglect your own health.
Know your rights.
Depending on the state you live in and your employer, sick days vary. But, what about the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)? While it does permit employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave, it’s only reserved for taking care of your newborn, adopting a child, or having to attend to a serious health concern for someone in your family. That means it can’t be used to stay home from work because your child has a cold or the flu. The only way to address this would be to use a vacation day.
Build your village.
Turn to your family, friends, neighbors, and other mothers. I’m fortunate that my recently retired mom comes twice a week to help me out. So, if one of my kids did have to stay home or forget something, my mom can take care of that while I’m at work. If my mom isn’t available, I can turn to my in-laws and some of my closest friends in the area.
You may not think that you have a village. But, it’s never too late to start building one. Maybe your neighbor is a retired teacher who wouldn’t mind helping you. Does your child have a friend whose parents have flexible schedules or work from home? And, you could always ask your co-workers, other parents, and childcare providers if they know someone you could be an emergency caregiver.
Just remember to return the favor!
This is also can be used at work as an effective time management tip in general. If you have to leave to immediately, is there someone you trust to handle some of your responsibilities? If so, just make sure to help them out when they aren’t around.
Use technology to your advantage.
Since we leave in a connected world, it’s possible that you can work from home. Make sure this is an option in advance. And, if you do have to work from home for the day, let others, mainly your boss, know as soon as possible.
Look for outside help.
Not an option for all of us. But, look for organizations that provide emergency childcare. There are actually preschools and recreation centers, such as the Get Well Place, that provides backup care for mildly ill children. It’s also staffed by nurses. Some hospitals may even offer similar services.
Another option is to find an organization that will send out prescreened caregivers to your homes. This can be expensive. And, to be honest, most of us aren’t willing to leave our child with a stranger. But, you could contact the organization in advance and speak with them to see how it works because there may come a time when you have nowhere to turn.