A Modest Proposal*

Last weekend, Flora complained of ear pain. I gave her some ear drops and some Tylenol, and heard nothing the rest of the week. (She didn’t run a fever, either.)

Both the girls have colds; some runny noses, some coughing.

Thursday, Flora’s coughing stepped up a notch. She went to day school; she didn’t complain of a thing.

I picked up the girls yesterday; we had sandwiches for dinner, put on costumes (okay, THEY put on costumes), headed out for trick-or-treat (why not on Saturday? I DON’T KNOW.) Flora was still not complaining. And she’s a drama queen, but she’s no actress. While I wouldn’t put it past Kate even at her tender age, Flora doesn’t fake being well. Even for candy.

We got back from trick-or-treat with lots and lots of treats… and Flora was suddenly shivering. Hard. She crawled under a blanket, shivered some more. Said her ear hurts. In the space of 20 minutes, I watched her temp jump from 98.9 to 99.9. By 2 in the morning, it was 100.5, and she was telling me she needed to throw up. (She hasn’t barfed yet.)


If I don’t get to go into work tomorrow morning (yes, that would be Saturday), I will have to use the rest of my whole 7 hours of vacation time, plus an hour of personal time. When I factor in Thanksgiving day, that leaves me with NO holiday/personal time until the end of December, and NO vacation time until the end of March.


Additionally, my girls seem to find it convenient to get sick on a Friday or a Monday, which undoubtedly makes my work ethic look just fantastic. (Yes, Virginia, that is sarcasm.)

I know that I’m going to have single and/or child-free parents and/or SAHMs jumping down my throat (play nice in the comments, please), but I honestly feel that there are certain situations that require another 40 hours of time from employers. Call it “sick kid time”.

(This is, of course, assuming employment with paid vacation, holiday, and/or personal time in the first place. Which can be assuming a lot, I know.)

If you are a single parent, whether or not you live near family, you get an additional 40 hours a year.
If you are the working spouse/partner of a spouse/partner without paid time, you can apply for the extra 40. This clearly would require a certain “proof of income” level — on the lower end.
If you are a caretaker of any dependent person (child or parent or spouse/partner), you should get an extra 40 hours of time.

This discounts FMLA time (which, really, America, the best we can do is 12 weeks of unpaid time? But you get to keep your job?). While I think FMLA is an excellent program, for these little dribs and drabs of sick kid time, it is worthless. FMLA doesn’t even kick in unless you’re out for five days.

Other options that simply do not exist — or are so very rare as to not exist — are four-day weeks, telecommuting, part-time work with health benefits. I mean, Flora has not moved from the couch since we got home from the doctor’s at 11 a.m. She’s currently napping. If I had server access, I could be doing some work!

What other other family-friendly options can you think of? The American workplace is, generally speaking, not family friendly. In some industries, dads are punished (implicitly or explicitly) for wanting to spend time with their families. I directly lost a job at a small employer (with no FMLA) because I couldn’t (and was unwilling to, I’ll admit it) find a daycare for my six-week-old baby.

And I say all this coming from a very generous workplace. When we thought Nanny was leaving us, my boss, in so many words, said, “Get lost, and don’t worry about the time.”

I know that there are a lot of untenable aspects to handing out 40 hours of paid or unpaid time to certain employees. But I really wish it were at least a consideration.

*With apologies to Jonathan Swift, as this is not at all intended as satire.