Working Women Outsourcing Their Sick Kids

munch: the sick child

When my first child was born, I bought a three year subscription to Parents magazine.  I just renewed last year; just like my renewal of In Style (I can’t afford anything in that mag), I can’t figure out why I renewed again.  I like the baby bloopers section but many of the articles annoy me.  One such article was titled “A Working Mom’s Guide to Sick Kids” in the Sept 2010 issue.

First, it was a politically motivated article aimed at getting working women to phone and write their Congressmen to support deceased Senator Ted Kennedy’s Healthy Families Act which would “establish for the first time that all employers provide one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.”  Apparently Family Medical Leave Act isn’t enough government regulation as it only gives 12 weeks for parents with chronically ill kids…the flu doesn’t qualify.  Also, on top of the federal regulation, we have 19 states which are considering bills requiring companies to offer certain number of paid sick days per year.

According to Dr. Jody Heyman of McGill University’s Institute for Health and Social Policy, “The U.S. lags behind almost every developed nation when it comes to flexible leave policies and other family supports and well below many low- and middle-income countries.”  Who cares if I can get government subsidized child care if I have to live in a 300 square foot apartment in a barrio in Brazil.  Also, perhaps this is a simple-minded observation on my part but…..if you’re doing cross country comparisons, don’t you have to look at other factors like per capita income, taxes, education, etc before you can draw any conclusions about whether the U.S. has too little or too much subsidized child care.

I was mostly struck by how I felt for the little kiddos who are affected by the recommendations in the article.  Let’s take Marijean Jaggers whose experience is highlighted in the first paragraph:

Marijean Jaggers cringes when she thinks about the time she strapped her vomiting 4-year-old daughter into the backseat of their car, gave her a towel and a bowl and then drove 45 minutes to her office to pick up work she had to turn in that day.  ‘My husband was out of town.  I’d been up all night and my priorities were completely jumbled,’ recalls Jaggers of St. Louis.  Halfway there, she came to her senses, called the office, and asked them to email the files to her at home instead.  The message from the boss?  ‘He said I needed to find back-up child care when my kids got sick and that I should get my ass into work.’

I was saddened by several things:  first, the feeble child who needs her mom and instead has to deal with the harried frenzy of figuring out how to dump the child off somewhere so the mom can go please her boss.  Let’s be honest, is that mom who is worried about her child, going to be productive at work ?  Not really.  Also, what messages are we sending to our children when we aren’t there for them when they need us ?  How many children are being forced to go to school when they’re sick because mom needs to go to work ? A solution in the article was, of course, more outsourcing of our children:  sick-child day care.  A franchise with 9 locations called Get Well Station has a pediatric nurse where

kids are cared for in separate rooms according to illness.  Each is equipped with a reverse ventilation system so no one has to worry that a child with, say, a broken leg, will catch the flu.

Mom’s: Is this really what you want for your little kiddos ?  Were you taken to a sterile environment like a hospital when you had the flu or did your mom let you sleep in your own bed or better yet on the couch with your comforter with the tv on?  Perhaps she even watched The Price is Right with you in between dusting and making your chicken soup.  Those kind of memories are priceless.

Are we really better off than we were when the boomers were born into families twice the size of today and mom stayed home.  50 years ago mom stayed home to nurse her 2 month old whereas now mom pumps in the bathroom at work and watches her newborn on her computer at work.  The daycare camera delivers her pictures of her 6 week old over the internet similar to security footage from a 7 Eleven.  Is this the result we American women were hoping for when we thought about having a child ?  I just don’t see how we can be better off with our children being outsourced at every chance….even when they’re sick ?  As working women strive to be more like men, they are treating their role of mother as a nuisance that needs to be eliminated.