Mommy Guilt Confessional– I Sent My Sick Kid to School


Jack had strep. 

And I sent him to school. 

In my defense, I did not know he had strep throat.  He didn’t have a fever, and he didn’t balk at the notion of going to school.  Had either of those two features been present, I would have kept him home…  or made some kind of a plan to have him stay with a relative for the day. 

I had a very full schedule ahead of me, and I was more focused on that than on Jack’s symptoms–  I will admit that.  I had been out of the office for several days the week prior because of my “accident“.  So, I had this back log of clients.  And it’s March which for whatever reason is the Granddaddy of months for everyone and their three brothers to be having horrible mental health symptoms.   

So, Jack went to school.  I told him he could call me if he felt really, really sick and needed to come home.  But he didn’t call, so I figured maybe he was just fighting off a little virus and all was well. 

Then he broke out in the rash.  All.  Over.  His.  Neck.  And.  Chest.  He was simultaneously flushed and pale. 

“It hurts when I gulp,” he moaned. 

Off to the doctor we went.  And he tested positive for strep on the rapid strep test, which almost always comes back negative.  The doctor expressed how impressed she was with exactly how much strep my poor boy had.  “Wow,” she said.  “Normally it takes a full five minutes to read the test, but his popped up positive like instantly!” 

“But he didn’t even have a fever,” I stammered, feeling close to tears.

I hate it that I get so wrapped up and overwhelmed with what I am responsible for at work that my own family seems to just get my overtired, sloppy seconds. 

Our society has some really effed up values; both in terms of how families should be raising children, and in terms of our crappy mental health care system.  If things were different, if there were more of an emphasis on putting your own family first rather than racing off to make the bucks to give your family the bare essentials, I could have been way more mindfull about Jack’s needs, and also not exposed his entire class to strep throat.  And if our country had better access to mental health care, I would not be so freaking overwhelmed and insane at work (now isn’t that ironic), and could take my time with my clients and not worry quite so much if I had to take a sick day to take care of my sick kid.  It just doesn’t seem like there should be a conflict when it comes to taking care of your own, sick, child. 

After a couple days of antibiotics and lots of honey, Jack was back to school. 

I’m glad he’s feeling better, but I drove to work feeling like a shit for having sent him off sick to school.  I’m having a hard time shaking off this mommy-guilt, but I also feel a profound sense of resentment that I have to leave my kids, my own sick kids, to go to work and take care of other people’s sick kids.  I know that isn’t very social-workery of me, but I have to recognize that this part of working motherhood is really sucky.  

Ok.  Rant over. 

What regrets do you have as a working parent.  Did you ever send kids to school sick? 

14 responses »

  1. I completely agree that our society has effed up values. I often envision life here on Earth 500 years from now. Those humans will look at their history books & read about how we lived life: slaving away more hours than we spend with our families, and think of it as almost barbaric (at least emotionally). One day, society will be reformed and we’ll have more time to love, to live, to be happy with our own, rather than sit at work for the almighty dollar. I wish that time was now.

    YES, I’ve sent my little to school sick before. Sometimes unknowingly, and other times I’ve done it because she “just” has a runny nose, or is on antibiotics, or any number of excuses.

    I hope your boy feels better soon!

    • It is interesting to think about how history will reflect on us… Puts me in mind of how they used to send kids to work in the mills 100 years ago but now that would be considered abusive. He’s feeling much better. I’m probably struggling way more than him!! Thanks.

  2. Being a mom with a sick kid is a terrible thing. I almost never feel equipped to know the right thing to do. Not only because of the “work v. stay home with sick child” thing (which, thankfully is rarely an issue for me because of the nature of my job) but because of the major hit we take in our budget every single time we visit a doctor – even with medical insurance. There’s never a good answer, and I agree with you that it’s a societal problem.

    • Ugh. That is definitely an issue as well. Not that I ever want my kids to be ill buy my least favorite words from the pedi are, “it’s just a virus,” after we paid the copy etc.

  3. Yes. I find this so hard as a mother and it brings up so many emotions. I worry as soon as there is any sign of illness, but the worry is about how much time I might have to take off work. Pretty skewed thinking!

    Sending all mamas much lovingkindness 🙂

  4. Yep, and I work from home so my schedule is a lot more flexible. I’ve gotten it wrong several times this year, so I’ve had a lot of guilt. Recently, I had a crazy day ahead of me, and my 5yo got up complaining that he didn’t feel good. I did all the checks — no fever, no specific symptoms really, but I had also sent my oldest to school (unknowingly) with strep recently and didn’t want to make that mistake again. So…because of my guilt, I let this child stay home. Not sick — not even a little. I was slammed all day long and thought he could hang with the TV and rest. Didn’t happen. Then I yelled at him for interrupting me repeatedly and told him how much I had to do and how many deadlines I had. He burst into tears and said he only wanted to spend time with me and this was the worst day ever. How did I feel? Wretched!!!! It’s so hard. I feel torn constantly — if I’m with my kids I feel like I’m letting work down. If I’m at work I feel like I’m not giving my kids the attention they need and deserve. We’re always broke and I want to put my kids first but if we don’t work, there’s no money and that’s not good either. I love what one commenter said about history — yes, we live in a society with jacked up priorities. I feel ya. It’s not fun.

  5. When my eldest was a year and a half old she got strep + an ear infection and I didn’t notice until the infection in her ear “popped” and puss oozed out. Sure, she had the sniffles and didn’t seem quite herself, but I figured it was just a cold. I sent her to daycare and we went to work for a couple days before we realized how serious it was.

    I felt like the worst working parent ever.

    But I’ve since sent her to school when sick. Sure I stay home for the worst days and when it was really bad my husband and I traded off days for over a week with my parents helping out some – but there are only so many days you can be away from work! I get the challenges and the backwards values it implies.

    That said, don’t beat yourself up too badly about it. And glad he’s feeling better.

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