Working Parents Feel Guilty Taking Time Off to Care for Sick Children

If you feel guilty about taking time off work when you’re sick, spare a thought for working parents who are also forced to suffer feelings of guilt every time they take time off to care for their sick children. According to research commissioned by Vicks, 34 percent of working parents experience feelings of guilt when they take time off work to look after their sick children and a further 16 percent report it is actually frowned upon by their employer.

Australian TV personality and mother of three, Symantha Perkins (pictured with her daughter), has first hand experience juggling motherhood and the demands of a career. Recently, both Symantha and her daughter were hospitalised within days of each other and like many working mums, she was more worried about her sick child and meeting her work commitments, than herself.

Symantha told Australian Women Online, “Like most mums I struggle with guilt and find it hard to achieve work/life balance at the best of times. Adding a sick child into the equation can be extremely challenging, but my motto has always been family comes first. But there have definitely been times where I’ve been caught out!”

“My husband (Olympic swimming champion, Kieren Perkins) has been interstate and I haven’t been able to find a replacement for a job I’d previously committed to. Finding someone else to care for my sick kids in these situations has been the worst thing for me. On the one hand there’s the stress of locating someone on short notice coupled with the guilt of wanting to nurse them myself, but also not wanting let the company I’m working for down either.”

In what must be a significant sign of the times, ten percent of parents surveyed confess they’re actually too scared to ask for time off given the current economic climate and a further 16 percent said taking time off to care for sick children is actually frowned upon by their employer.

Vicks also found that two in three parents admit to sending their symptomatic kids to school, increasing the likelihood of spreading illnesses to other children and potentially landing other parents in the same position. With 30 percent of households suffering four or more colds a year, it may well be time for employers to cut working parents some slack.

Symantha Perkins agrees, “The research commissioned by Vicks shows an uncompromising boss raises the stress levels of parents already trying hard to cope with a house full of sick kids. A little understanding from employers goes a long way. It can help reduce any emotional worries parents might be feeling giving us more energy to focus on getting the whole family better and back to school and work more quickly – which is a great result for everyone.”

Adding to parents stress is the worry of how best to treat their child’s symptoms. 56 percent of parents admit they worry about what they can give their child to effectively ease cold and flu symptoms. Most choose to treat sore throats with medication, despite 44 percent admitting to feeling uncertain about making the best choice when selecting it. An additional 47 percent of parents turn to honey to bring natural soothing relief.

“My advice is when in doubt see a GP or ask you pharmacist. Fever and prolonged coughs or mucus discharges usually mean a trip to the doctor in our house,”said Symantha.

“But for your common colds and winter sniffles, or a dry cough, Vicks has these new natural honey products on the market that I can pop in the kid’s school bags to keep them more comfortable during the day. Peace of mind is everything as a parent and I know my grandmother used to whip out the honey, lemon and hot water at the first sign of a sniffle when we were young so having the natural honey Vicks lozenges and syrup available for my kids feels familiar to me.”

With over 80 percent of Australian parents experiencing a sense of helplessness at being unable to relieve their child’s symptoms and 55 percent revealing it makes them more stressed in general, it is little wonder that parents aren’t taking more sick leave themselves.

“Having sick kids immediately raises the stress levels in any family household,” said Symantha. “But what I have learnt is to be less demanding of me and cut myself some slack by being more open to asking for help from family or friends when I need it. I know I will happily repay the favour one day.”

For free tips on staying healthy and fighting cold and flu this winter, visit the website

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  1. Sammy Lea says

    I feel this guilt a lot but I feel a lot more guilty sending my child off to day care sick. I refuse to do anything which might put someone else’s family through the sickness I’m dealing with too.

    Having said that I’m very lucky to work in a highly child/family friendly environment. It’s a family business and the boss even has a box of lego in his office which he’s more than happy for any of our kids to sit and play with. If the need arises for us to do something urgent when one of them is sick it makes life easier, though stopping him giving them biscuits is somewhat more difficult! We can also do a certain amount of our work from home and as long as he knows what it is we’re doing to account for our time.

    Another factor about having sick kids that amazes me, is the number of two parent households where staying home with a sick child is automatically considered to be the mother’s job. My brother is a shocker for this and heaven help us when his wife AND the kids are sick! haha

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