Sickness week

Everyone is experiencing sickness week, but working at home can help you avoid the bugs.

Sick Child


It’s been one of those sickness weeks when half the team are down. I went into an office the other day and everyone looked very gloomy and quite a few were sniffling. I was feeling fairly smug, I have to admit. At least working from home I don’t go down with all the work bugs, I thought. Just a day later, daughter three starting sneezing and she hasn’t stopped since, though she has also developed the stomach bug going round the family. My partner had it last week, but thought it was an ulcer or something terminal.

On Wednesday night I put daughter three in bed with a dose of Calpol and some Vicks Vapour Rub. Only son complained heartily. “Why are you spending so much time with daughter three, mum? It’s not fair. I never get sick.” Pause. “And when I did get sick you made me go to school. My nose was dripping and I felt very sick.” Tears rolled down his cheek. I recalled that he had had a minor sniffle and tried to explain that there is a sliding scale of sickness. “It’s so unfair,” he sobbed.

At around 5am I heard a rustle by the bed. There was a shadowy figure standing by the bed. I half opened by eyes and threw back the duvet. “Get in, daughter three,” I said, knowing full well that her sickness would soon be my sickness. The shadow didn’t moved and mumbled something. “Get in, daughter two,” I said, thinking it was daughter three’s sister. “It’s not daughter two,” said the voice. I knew it wasn’t only son by the size of the shadow so it must be daughter one. “I’m having a migraine,” she said.

By 9am two children were at school and two at home. Daughter one’s school has a strict attendance policy. She had two days off last term and I got a note about concerns about her 95.4% attendance or some such. That means once she has recovered from the migraine I need to get her to school. Her stomach was also feeling slightly dodgy, but school attendance policies don’t seem to take these things into account.

I returned home to tend to daughter three who had gone through a whole toilet roll and was languishing on the sofa with a nose a shade deeper than Rudolph’s.

Such detours in the day mean, inevitably, working later, sometimes much later. This might seem stressful for those uninitiated in parenting. I was told recently that an article I wrote about a woman who works a four-day week at a senior level and has three kids sounded “slightly breathless”. Yup, that’s exactly what it feels like, but working fast and flexibly is the only way that actually works when you have multiple kids and need to work. Unless, of course, you don’t have flexibility. In which case, you just get super stressed and burn out. Working flexibly is not nirvana, but it’s a lot easier – and more sustainable – than the alternative.

Of course, many would say you only have yourself to blame, that having children is “a lifestyle choice”. I was on the radio the other day when precisely this point was made with regard to childcare costs. Yet surely having more people in the workforce pays for itself in terms of taxes reaped. Plus if the species does not reproduce what then for the future workforce, the doctors, nurses, care workers, etc and all the tax they will pay to keep the whole system going? If having kids [propagating the species] is “a lifestyle choice”, why bother subsidising schools, the health service, housing or anything else? The trouble is that everything now has become so fragmented and individualised. Everyone is pitched against each other and everyone judges each other. At least they do in media-land, where controversy rules. Hence the rise of people like Katie Hopkins. Meanwhile, most of us just get on with doing the best we can in the circumstances we find ourselves in.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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