One of the realities of being a parent is that from time to time, you are going to have a sick kid on your hands. Furthermore, occasionally you are going to have a really sick kid on your hands. If you are a parent that travels a significant amount for work (or I guess for fun, for that matter), then there are going to be times when you are on the road while your kid is sick at home. For my family, this is our reality this week. It is not an easy situation for anyone involved, so I am going to share a few of the things I have learned from living through this experience this week in case they may help someone else in the future. While it isn’t exactly miles and points related, it is a very real situation that most families will face if travel is a big part of either parent’s life.
While I will spare you all of the snotty nosed details, C has been sick off and on since before Christmas. This is pretty common for her during the winter, but over the past week her normal level of sick got a bit worse. Around that same time, Daddy, aka “The Man”, was scheduled to fly out of town for four days for a business trip. This wasn’t the kind of trip that you can really delay or cancel, so he left as scheduled, and I stayed home with C. The next day it was clear we needed a return trip to the doctor’s office ASAP, and she was subsequently diagnosed with pneumonia. We then had a toddler with pneumonia home with mommy in one state, and dad at work a few states away. Not ideal. Add to that the fact that mommy has a full-time 8-5 job that she was trying to do while managing the sick toddler at home, and you have a hot mess. Here are a few things that we learned.
- Keep the “road warrior” parent informed of the sick kiddo’s status, but don’t give updates more than absolutely necessary during the workday. Let them call home when breaks in the work schedule permit. If their work was important enough to leave home for, it is important enough to focus on during most of the day. If you are the traveling parent, try to respond as quickly as possible when you do get updates from home. They may be important.
- If you are the one at home, don’t make things sound worse than they are when you do talk on the phone. This can be really hard when you are the one at home and you are exhausted and overwhelmed, but try to resist the urge to let it all out on the phone. There really isn’t anything the “road warrior” can do from thousands of miles away, and worrying them unnecessarily won’t help complete the job for which they are away from home.
- Take notes at the doctor’s office when they are giving you information about your sick kiddo. This really is decent advice regardless of whether or not the other parent is on the road, but be ready to give the road warrior parent as much verbatim information from the doctor as possible to keep them in the loop. They need to be able to help make treatment decisions from the road, so it is critical that information is relayed accurately.
- If you are the out-of-town parent, rest as much as you can while you are away during available down-time, because as soon as you get home, you are likely going to need to give the parent at home a break.
- In our case, C wasn’t reacting very well to one of the medications, so her demeanor was not normal. I tried really hard to prepare my husband for what she was acting like before he got home, so he wouldn’t be surprised and would be ready to help her as much as possible. That seemed to be pretty successful.
- If you are the parent at home with the sick kid, try not worry about anything but taking care of the sick kiddo (and other kiddos if you have more than one little one). As long as the house doesn’t fall down, you can catch up on the rest of the stuff once your partner gets home to help you with the sick one. I’m not very good at following this advice myself, but I did set-up a “sick command center” where I was able to do my work while keeping C comfortable. Along those lines, if you are the one on the road, don’t be surprised if things are a bit chaotic when you get home.
- If you are on the road, come home as early as you realistically can. We toyed with the idea of my husband flying back a night early, but logistically it just presented more challenges than it solved. Instead, he got some good rest the last night he was away, and came back ready to step-in.
- Send photo updates to the traveling parent. We do this anyway when one of us is out of town, but it was even more important for my husband while C is sick. I know he was very worried, and it was hard for him to focus on the job at hand, so photos helped keep her illness in perspective. She wasn’t in critical condition – she just wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders.
- Try to get help for the parent who is home with the sick kiddo. This is especially true if the traveling parent is going to be gone for an extended period of time, or there are multiple kids at home, or the parent at home is also trying to work while managing the kiddo. Thankfully, my parents were able to help me some while Daddy was away.
- If you are on the road and there are some logistics you can help manage from there, do it. For example, we had switched insurance companies beginning of the year, and we didn’t yet have our new insurance cards in hand. Thankfully, this was something that my husband was able to manage from the road, so that I didn’t have extra phone calls to make.
- Finally, if you are the parent at home, buy lots of suckers. Using bribes to get sick kids to take medicine is totally acceptable while the other parent is on the road. Our pediatrician said so.
We have a scheduled trip to bring our little toddler to see snow in the very near future, so we may be making some tough calls about that trip this coming week based on how she is improving. Health clearly always has to come first no matter where you are. Fortunately, the sucker/medicine bribe seems to have worked out quite nicely, so hopefully she will be on the mend quickly.
Have you had the experience of being on the road while you had a sick kiddo at home? What did you do that worked or didn’t work?