The phone demands my attention, interrupting the flow of the work in front of me. It’s my child’s school. As I pick up the phone, I know what they’ll say—and I’m right. He has a fever and needs to get picked up.
“I’ll be there soon,” I say automatically as I wrap up the email response I’m working on. I pull up my calendar to look at what’s still ahead in the day and to request things be rescheduled.
Meanwhile, my mind rants, Not again! How many times does that make? Ten? Twelve? When will it stop? How am I supposed to work when sickness comes around all the time?
Whether you work from home or in the office, managing work expectations and a sick child isn’t easy. Our ideal schedule is interrupted, meetings have to be rescheduled, nights are long, children are needy, and the to-dos pile up a mile high.
You may be tempted to try to do it all—and be left feeling frustrated, angry, or anxious about the things you have to do while your heart worries, fears, and tries to comfort the child in your arms.
You’re not alone. I’ve been there too. I’ve stubbornly attempted to attend virtual meetings with a feverish baby wrapped around my chest or worked incessantly at night to catch up on the day’s worth of work. But this has never turned out as I intended. I’m left feeling exhausted, unaccomplished, and guilty.
Let me share a few things I’ve learned about managing work when a child is sick.
1. It’s OK to stop.
Yes, let me say it again: it’s OK and necessary for us to stop the work we’re doing to care for our children. Children are a gift from the Lord and have been entrusted into our care (Ps. 127:3). You may think this is obvious, but for many of us who’ve bought into the world’s perspective on hustling, it’s hard to stop.
It’s OK and necessary for us to stop the work we’re doing to care for our children.
We need to remember there’s a time for everything under the sun (Eccl. 3:1–9). There are moments to work, moments to care for our children who are sick, and moments to rest. Your child is sick today, and work will be there tomorrow. It’s OK to stop.
2. Be diligent.
Stopping may seem impossible if you’re always falling behind. But Proverbs tells us how the ants, without a boss supervising them, work diligently during the summer and autumn seasons in preparation for the winter (Prov. 6:6–11).
In the same way, we must work diligently during seasons of health. That way, when the seasons of illness come, we’re prepared. This may look different depending on your work, but I’ll give you a practice I’ve found helpful. I set my work due dates two to three days ahead of the official deadline, which allows time for anything unexpected while reducing my stress around completing a task on time.
3. Ask for help.
Despite our best efforts, there’ll be times when it’s hard to stop working due to a big, important project or a fast-approaching deadline. In these times, you need to ask for help. We weren’t meant to—and cannot—do this alone.
Coordinate with your husband about which days you’re absolutely unable to miss work, or ask a coworker to cover the meeting for you. The Lord has also made us part of his body, his church, and you may find unexpected and willing help among your sisters from your local church.
4. Enjoy these times.
Although illness puts a damper on everyone’s plans and moods, having a sick child at home creates a unique opportunity for midday snuggles, and it allows us to teach our children about God’s control over all aspects of our lives. Each moment we have with our children is an opportunity to teach them to love the Lord with all their heart, mind, body, and soul. There’s no exception for times of sickness (Deut. 6:5–7).
5. Grow in dependence on our Savior.
Managing work and caring for a sick child is no easy task, and you’re not an all-powerful mother or employee. You can’t do this on your own, and you’ll probably feel frustrated and exhausted. Be patient with yourself, and come to the Lord in repentance and in your need. Remember he’s the One who sustains you, enables you, and equips you for every good deed, both in motherhood and in your workplace.
Sister, as you’ve been called to motherhood and to work, remember that in the middle of sickness or health, your identity is found in the Lord and in what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. Your life and your children’s lives are in the hands of the Lord Almighty. His mercies are new every morning, and he’ll give you grace today for what needs to be done today and grace tomorrow for what needs to be done tomorrow.