Pigs, Coughs, Guilt, and a Mother’s Intuition

As a full-time working mom, I’ve gotten used to dropping Beanie at daycare five days a week.   I’ve gotten to know his teachers and the other babies in the nursery.   Truth be told, I look forward to spending a few minutes every day in the nursery with Bean.   It gives me a chance to see how he’s doing developmentally and I’m able to chat with his teachers about Beanie a little bit.   I’m proud of both of us for having lives away from each other.

HAVING SAID THAT…   I’m convinced there is nothing harder in my world at this moment than having to put Beanie in daycare when he’s sick.   Its one thing to have someone else playing with him during the day while I’m working.   But having someone else take care of him when he’s not feeling good just un-glues me.   That should be my job.   I’m his mom.   You are supposed to be with your mom when you don’t feel good.

I find though that I have the problem deciding if Bean should stay home from school as I do deciding whether I should stay home from work when I’m sick.   On one hand, he’s not dying.   I mean, he could actually go to daycare today and be fine, I’m sure.   But he’d be coughing on everyone.   He’d be tired and he doesn’t nap well with all the nursery commotion all day.   And he’d just feel sick, you know?

After a long night of poor Bean waking up coughing and finally ending up sleeping in his swing in our bedroom, I let him sleep in this morning.   I sent an email to my boss saying I would be in a little late.   When Beanie finally woke up around 7:30, he seemed more rested and he looked happier, but that darn cough was still there.   And it was nasty.   So I did what I always do in these kinds of dilemmas.

I called my mom.

For some reason, I still feel like I need my mom’s permission to stay home from work.   Every time I don’t feel good, I call her and tell her what’s going on.   I know it must seem to her like I’m calling to wallow in my sickness, but really I’m just waiting for her to say, “Kate, you should probably stay home today.”   Only when she suggests it do I really feel like its okay for me to stay home.   And with Bean its not any different.   I just need my mom to tell me what to do and then I feel legitimate.

When I talked to her early this morning and told her what was going on, she and I both decided that I can’t stay home every time Bean has a cough.   As much as I want to, I’ve got to learn how to live and work with a baby.   And part of that means he’s going to be sick sometimes.   But he’s not running a fever and this seems to just be a cold, so it is best if I take him to school and I go to work and save the day off for a day when he really needs it.

After we talked, I let Bean continue sleeping and I jumped in the shower and got ready for work.   I was completely dressed, fully made up, jewelry’d, shoe’d.   I was ready to go.   But when I went to wake Beanie up and get him dressed for school, I stood in front of his swing and I started crying.   (Give me a break…I had been up all night and I was exhausted!)   I just couldn’t do it.   I couldn’t take him to school and drop him off with his teachers – however wonderful they are – and go about my day.   For one thing, this pig flu thing is going around and as stupid as I know it sounds, I am a little panicky that Bean might get sick.   So if he’s showing ANY signs of a sickness, that becomes even more of a concern for me.

But more than the pig flu, there is the guilt.   Ahhh…always the guilt.   I used to feel guilty about missing work.   Even if I was sick, I felt like I wasn’t pulling my weight if I wasn’t there and the guilt got me every time.   But NOW, that guilt is still there but it is dwarfed by the guilt I have of putting Beanie in daycare when he doesn’t feel good.   So in these guilt-ridden situations where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, I’m going to always err on the side of Bean.

So, I got undressed and put on jeans and a sweatshirt and now I’m sitting at my office at home with a sleeping, sick Bean next to me in his swing.   And I think we both feel better already.

Being a mom on even the easiest, most normal days is hard.   But being a mom when you have to use your judgment for more tricky decisions is really, really hard.   Finding the balance of working and being a good mom and doing what’s best for my son is not easy.   I’m sure it will take a while before I make the choices with more confidence.   I know that somewhere deep down, I have that mother’s intuition.   I just wish it had a little louder of a voice so I could hear it better.

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24 Thoughts to “Pigs, Coughs, Guilt, and a Mother’s Intuition”

  1. Teddy-n-Mai's mommy

    I appreciate your dilemma. I have been there many times myself. I agree that when your kid is sick, they want to be home…with their mom. Also, as a parent, I really hate it when other people bring their sick kid to the daycare so that my kid can get sick too.

  2. Garven's Mom

    I also could not go to work/send my son to daycare/school when he was sick. He wanted to be home with me and I wanted to be the one to hold him/care for him when he was sick.
    I too would have ‘guilt’ for not going to work but got over it because my son is only little for a short time.
    It’s hard because my mom was a stay at home mom and I work full time so sometimes she would not understand my guilt or dilemma.
    I’m glad you are home with your boy and you will not regret it.

  3. You’re doing the right thing. Not just for Bean but for the other kids at daycare too. And their parents. It’s “just” a cold for Beanie but could be more serious for the next baby who catches it.

    I admire your dedication BTW. I was hoping my kid had a fever today so I could stay in my jammies! No such luck.

  4. Oh good for you! I can relate on so very many levels! I am also a full time working mama and there is nothing quite like the ache of driving away from your kids to head to the office. I am so glad to have found your site because it seems to me that so many of the moms I know are blessed to be able to be home with their kids. And today, I too am home with both my boys because they are sick. So we are juggling Elmo and my laptop so that I can work from home and be with them. It’s a hard juggle but so worthwhile! In case you’re interested, here’s my take on the working mom’s struggle http://thegypsymama.com/2009/10/04/the-sunday-night-blues/

  5. Sarah H.

    aww 🙁 BIG hugs! I hope both of you feel better–I’m glad you stayed home today. It sounds like both of you need the rest.

  6. Jen

    I have a 7 year old little boy and I still call my Mom. So she can weigh in her decision. I don’t always take her advice- but I will always call her. And as for me, I still feel guilty when he gets sick and I head off to work or stay home. Either way- GUILT, GUILT, GUILT!!
    Thanks for putting it out there.

  7. courtney

    I completely understand. I just spent Monday at home with a not so sick two year old because he was a little under the weather. And when I say a little I mean very little. We ended up having fun and playing hookie, but I (1) didn’t want to expose other kids to the miniscule virus that was bothering him (I hate it when moms send really sick kids to school) and (2) I, much like you, fell immense guilt when I drop off my child feeling “not so great”. Every mom feels guilt and well sometimes it doesn’t hurt to just go with it.

  8. I had much the same dilemma today when trying to decide whether or not to send my son to kindergarten. On the one hand, he doesn’t seem to be SUFFERING, but on the other he does have a stuffy runny nose and a cough. My rule of thumb is to look at it this way: Would I want a child as sick as mine is right now sitting next to my son, coughing and sneezing next to him? No? Then he stays home with me.

  9. Katie,

    I totally get the guilt as well. But we have to remember they gave us sick days for a reason, and whether they deem that reason good enough is a non-issue. 🙂

  10. Nate's Mom

    Your mother’s intuition is hollering loud and clear – and good for you for listening to it!!! And I’m sure Beanie is the happiest of campers with his Mom. No one else can administer the booger sucker like a mom can!!! PS – Voted for you today on TheBump and will totally vote for you again!

  11. Michelle Uhlfelder

    You know, when your sister and I worked at the PR firm (not saying the name on the blog for obvious reasons!)- there were a few moms who would work from home (just like you are!) and get ALOT done while their child rested and recovered. Thus it didn’t count as a sick day at work. Maybe you could work it out with your company to have some “working remotely” days- either a few you can use when he’s sick- or maybe even doing every other Friday or something like that. That way you could get some things done that need consentration (no colleagues asking questions, etc.)? Just a thought- I am sure you’ve thought about all this stuff. Just remember- your boss is probably more willing to work with your schedule that you think. And it will make you a more loyal employee if you can have some flexiblity. 😉 (Btw- i have no clue what you do or what your boss is like- so please, trash this advice if necessary! ha!) 😉 GOOD LUCK!

  12. Michelle Uhlfelder

    oops- totally bombed the spelling of concentration. My bad! 🙂

  13. Donna

    I have been there and understand your dilemma, and I did the exact same thing when my daugther had her first few colds last year. But it has become easier for me to leave her at daycare with a cold, it also helps that her daycare is only 5 mins away so if I want to leave to give her medicine I easily can (and do). I hope you have a good day off with the Bean.

  14. casey

    You have another dilemma with your parents not being close. I have been lucky enough to stay home with my little ones until this last year. Now as I sit at work I am trying to find something different, I can’t stand the fact I spend so little time with them, when they are sick if I have deadlines, I have to send them to Nanny’s or field trip on deadline day I have to call in Ganny to go.

  15. kay

    i am grateful that i never had to make that decision when my children were young. going to daycare sick or stay home, well the guilt would have won me over and me may have ended up living on the street. good luck in making that daily decision!

  16. I have to go back to work on the 26th. Porter will be just one day shy of 3 months. I am DREADING it. It helps to read your blogs about being a working mom. I am hoping my ridiculous anxiety about going back is worse then actually going back. Please tell me thats how it really is.

    p.s. voted for you!!

  17. Oh man I remember those days when I was working. It was just SO hard to leave Sophie. It did get easier – sort of! I just found you through The Bump awards. You’ve got one cute fam! Now following! Can’t wait to read more of your adventures in mommyhood!

  18. Sarah C. H.

    Poor Beanie. I hope he feels better soon. Being sick is bad enough, but I think it’s worse when you’re a baby. Can’t communicate what exactly is wrong. Can’t ask for a popsicle. 🙁

  19. jjustjjen

    I am the mother of three children, ages 19, 13 and 11 wks.
    (pause here to gasp)I promise, as your Bean gets a little older; it will be easier to leave him at daycare when he has a cold. I have done it numerous times with my older two children. Having said that, I cannot even imagine leaving my little guy the first time or two that he is sick!!!! Maybe I have gotten wimpier, but I think I will just strap him to me and bring him along to work!

    PS. Just came upon your blog a few weeks ago and love it! Fun to “watch” you go through the same kind of things that I am dealing with right now. I think you might be my new imaginary best friend.

    PSS. My son’s middle name is Hamlin. (Named for a grandfather) Frequently he gets called Hammie or Ham. My older son pointed out to me that together our little guys are Ham and Bean!! Or Hammie and Beanie. 🙂 Pretty cute.

  20. colleen

    Thank goodness for Moms, huh?

  21. On Monday morning I kept my baby home from the babysitter’s because he’s been fighting a cold for a couple weeks (we’ve been passing it back and forth… grrr) and he hadn’t slept well. It wasn’t as hard of a decision since all it meant was that I’d have to reschedule some homework, but it was similar. I think your mother’s intuition kicked in right there, and I think we’ll start to figure out through trial and error what the right and wrong choices are. In the meantime, more time with your baby never hurt anyone.

  22. I love hearing stories like this. Not because I’m a “working” mother, but because I know (someday) I’m going to be in the exact same situation. I keep putting of kids because being a mom is going to be hard. Now being a mom (night time feedings, day care, house work…) with a full time job on top of is 100% crazy. However, someday I’ll have my “come to Jesus moment” and realize “I just need to do it”! For now, I’ll live vicariously through you.


  23. I so call my mom whenever I have a tough mom decision to make. I feel like she just needs to be in on it with me, or something. And then there is the “doctor or not” decision. I always try to wait and see, but then what if that is not the right choice this time. Being a mom is way hard. Even for our moms who thought their kids were grown, yet we still call them to help us make decisions. Hard.

  24. I always call my mommy when I’m sick too!! I have the same guilt dilemma with my girls when they get sick…are they well enough yet to go back to school? Am I sending them back too soon? If I keep them home too long will they flunk/fail in life/never measure up to the rest of the kids at school….etc, etc. I don’t think it will ever stop either; even when they’re both grown and mamas to their own babies I will ALWAYS worry about them and try to protect my baby girls.

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