How To Deal With a Sick Kid As a Working Mom

My almost two-year-old, Sam, has a nasty spring cough. The moment I heard it, I immediately ran through the mental checklist:  He’s teething. Also, he was playing outside a LOT so, you know...allergies? 

But it’s possible he might be sick. And because I’ve had three years of various daycare illnesses rage through our house, almost always unexpectedly, I’ve become an accidental pro at dealing with a sick kiddo and that working mom life balance. Here’s how I got all Olivia Pope and handle it: 

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Not my actual kid. But Damn he looks JUST LIKE HIM! 

Not my actual kid. But Damn he looks JUST LIKE HIM! 

Step 1: Your Kid Might Be Sick


Say many curse words in your mind but not out loud because you cannot let on to your little potential sicky that something is actually really wrong. 

Take a deep breath. Regroup. Run through the mental checklist in your mind of what needs to be done RIGHT now and wait until you can pow-wow with your mom village or partner or family about what you can and cannot control. 

The truth is if you’re a working parent the panic is coming at you from all sides: What’s wrong with your kiddo, and also what to do about work. 

Whiskey helps to deal with this (if you’re so inclined). I’ve also heard weed is pretty useful (if it's legal where you live). 

In the meantime, it’s okay to prepare for the worst but expect the best. 

Step 2: Make Plans, and Back Up Plans For Your Plans. And One More Back Up Plan Just In Case

My TV producing background comes in handy when we’re approaching the potential of having a sick kid and my go to is to do the following: 

  • Text all the backup babysitters asking for availability for the following day.  I actually copy paste a text to all of them that says something like, “Hey! So it’s possible that Sam might be sick and I just wanted to check your availability for tomorrow in case he needs to stay home.” 
  • Post an add on a local babysitting site (I like to use UrbanSitter) just in case all of the back up babysitters aren’t available. 
  • Negotiate with your partner, or your village of parental figures to decide out who will stay home with the sick child should all the backups be unavailable. 

Drink the whiskey as mentioned above. Go to bed with a plan. Mutter to yourself as you wake up in the middle of the night the adage...If you fail to plan you plan to fail. 

*Note. When you are not sick, when your children are not sick, INTERVIEW A SHIT TON OF BABYSITTERS!!!! Put the ones you love in your phone and label it “babysitter” because you will forget their name when an emergency happens, I promise you. 

*Note #2 -  Although we have some family nearby, all of them work full-time jobs and cannot be backups. We are mostly on our own when it comes to figuring out alternative care as are many working parents. I see you, momma. 

For some reason having a plan, any plan, helps me feel like I have some bit of control. Even if the reality is I have no control. 

Work or family

Step 3: Manage the Optics 

If it were up to most employers no one would ever be sick, have a sick child, or have any accidents ever the end. At least that’s how it often feels; your illness or your child’s illness is somehow an inconvenience to your work and therefore THEIR productivity which you and I both know is absolute bullshit, but we feel all the guilt and all the fears of being fired because we have the fucking sniffles (or our kid does). 

The optics of sick care is almost as stressful as having a sick child. 

I like to give a heads-up to my immediate supervisor that there’s a chance my kid is sick. And a plan for what that entails for my next few days of work. If I can work from home, all the better. I personally feel like the warning of something being wrong lessens the blow. 

However, there is something to be said for the immediacy of a text/email the minute you know for sure your child is sick. The surprise and shock of it are hard to deny or to argue with.  

Whether to delay letting the powers that be know or give them a heads up ahead of time is a personal call. You do you. 

Step 4: Wait and See

What to do while waiting is the oldest and most speculated question in storytelling. In the case of waiting to see if my child is sick, usually, I end up getting very little sleep (which is stupidly counterproductive). 

If you’re lucky, at some point at a regular time in the morning, you’ll wake up as if nothing has ever happened. The sickness never manifested, and baby gets to go to daycare, while you go to work like nothing ever happened. 

If you’re not so lucky, it’s time to move on your backup plans and execute them like the muthaforking boss mom you are.

working mom, sick kid


Step 5: Sick Baby Hell

I’m not going to sugar coat it. As the saying goes, “You’re only as happy as your unhappiest child,” and it couldn’t be more accurate when they are sick. 

Once you know for sure what’s up with your kiddo, it’s time to execute all those panic induced plans. Notify work. Make appointments with your pediatrician (if necessary).  And buckle down for the journey that this new illness will take you on.  

For now, I’m holding my breath. Making my plans. Hoping for the best. 

What are you doing to prepare for sick care?

Do you have any go-to back up plans that I didn’t mention here? Comment below or send me an email at  I’d love to know that I’m not alone in this. Tell me what you’re doing that makes it easier!