It’s the question every parent has to ask themselves and at least once a term. You can guarantee that as soon as a new term starts, back come the bugs, viruses and nits!
We all dread those 4 little words – “I don’t feel well” or the telephone call from the school requesting that your little one be picked up due to illness. We know that we are not supposed to take them back, at least in the case of sickness, for 48 hours.
We also know that many parents don’t stick to that rule, much to the annoyance of teaching staff and those parents who fear their kids may now go down with the latest bug.
It’s easy to be judgmental but, if parents work, it may come down to a straight choice between the health of their child and keeping their job.
Part time jobs, in particular, are difficult to come by and I know from my experience in the Legal Sector that part time positions are often created simply to be seen as adhering to “good” HR practice and in order to create roles for female employees returning from maternity leave!
The job may be part time, but the workload certainly isn’t. 5 days work is cantilevered into 3 and woe betide you if you have to leave early to pick up a poorly child. You’ll be equally unpopular with your bosses and the employees who have to pick up the slack in your absence.
If there is a tender document to submit or a presentation to give, you’d have to be very brave indeed to miss it. Come appraisal and pay-review time, the discussion will be about whether you are a ‘team player’. Law firms are very fond of ‘team players’, despite having a hierarchy which is anything but flat.
This is without taking into account the cost and scarcity of good childcare. Our local childminders all seem to be oversubscribed and are followed into the playground by ever increasing numbers of children.
Breakfast clubs and after school clubs are thriving. In fact, so popular are they in Caitlin and Ieuan’s school that the playground is often comparatively deserted in the mornings, with the children outside looking enviously at the children safe and warm within.
Many parents rely on their parents to help with childcare but if you had your kids later in life as I did, you may find your parents are elderly or too infirm to take on the challenging responsibility of looking after little ones.
In fact, you may find that you are dashing back and forth caring for sickly children and ailing parents!
No wonder with this kind of physical and emotional load to carry, some parents just send their kids into school and hope for the best.
Be aware that the Government is quite clear that children should only miss school if they are too ill to attend or they have advance permission from the school – otherwise a fine may be payable.
If your kids are showing clear symptoms then it’s a no-brainer but what do you do if they are a bit ‘under the weather’?
But what do you do when they have had a rotten night’s sleep? Ieuan, for example went through a phase where he suffered from growing pains and often woke up in the early hours clutching his legs. But he was not ill.
As adults when we get colds we know we just have to carry on and dose ourselves up with Lemsip. We don’t have the luxury of a duvet day.
Despite the fact that we are likely to infect our colleagues and our performance will be under par, many of us trudge unwillingly into work to hack and cough through the day.
If we let our children stay home for every cough and sniffle, what will happen when they really have to turn up and perform?
But when your kids awake bleary eyed, tired and weepy, complaining of head, ear or tummy aches, it takes a very hard mother not to want to scoop them up and put them back in bed.
Some of my fondest memories when ill are of being tucked up in bed by my mum, being fed tea and hot buttered toast, and listening to the radio. There is nothing like a bit of parental attention and love to aid a speedy recovery.
These days there is, rightly, a greater focus on the mental health of our children and whilst the Government is clear about those physical illnesses that warrant an absence from school, surely it is time to think about including mental health problems in that list – anxiety and depression for example.
There is a huge difference between a child who wants a day off and one who is suffering from anxiety so badly that attending school brings on a flurry of unpleasant physical symptoms.
As a stay at home mum, being nursed at home by me is a luxury I can offer my kids. But I think it’s a shame that, as a society, we have got ourselves into a position where poorly kids have to be sent to school so that parents can keep a roof over their head.
We can, at least, make sure we practise good nutrition and take care of the family’s health in order to stave off as many of those horrid bugs as possible.
But otherwise I think it is the joint responsibility of both parents and school to educate our children about health, both physical and mental and for us all to work in partnership to ensure that we strike the right balance between health and education.
After all, a happy, healthy child is more likely to perform well in school which is surely what all of us want.