Honestly, the first thing which came to my mind was how worried she must feel, because as a Mum, there is nothing which I dread more than the boy being ill. For all the times which the little one suffered through blocked noses, high fevers, coughs and colds, I will always wish that I could suffer in his place so that he won't have to go through it.
I admit that there was that niggling thought in my mind - the boy will be exposed to whatever his schoolmate is suffering from, but as a working Mum, I can totally understand her position in this instance. Furthermore, I also saw her produce a letter from a doctor certifying that her son is fit for school, and the running nose was just the tail end of the fever and flu which he had suffered the previous week.
What amused me, however, was the teacher's reaction when she saw me. She knows me as Caden's mum, but we are not familiar with each other because she teaches the Nursery class and the Mookid is in Playgroup. She saw me, smiled, and quickly ushered the other parent into the separate office.
Perhaps she did so because she has had unpleasant encounters with other parents in the light of the situation. Maybe it was an instinctive reaction to prevent any complaints or finger pointings should another child be taken ill. Either way, it got me thinking.
I am guilty of being judgemental in the past. Prior to having a kid, whenever I read stories of outbreaks in schools or hear of a sudden rise in flu or cough cases in preschools, I thought that it was irresponsible for the parents to have sent their sick kids to school. It doesn't seem fair that a whole class of kids is exposed to an illness when it would have made more sense for them to be kept at home till they are fully recovered.
You know the saying that people who have no kids seem to 'know' more about parenting those who do? It's true. They seem to have the 'perfect' solution to everything - but at the end of the day, only when they become parents themselves will they really understand the challenges that come with raising a child. Parenting seems to be so much easier when you don't have the physical child to take care of. Nothing is textbook perfect, and not everything pertaining to the child can be explained by the most comprehensive parenting book. Ever.
We chose to place the kid in a preschool / daycare by choice, because we want him to learn social skills, discipline, and have a good foundation in learning. As my in-laws, his secondary caregivers, are getting on in years, we feel that it's also best to give them a breather instead of having to care for the boy full time.
What about parents who place their kids in daycare because they have no other choice? When both parents work full-time and there are no alternative caregivers, daycare is the only other option, apart from leaving the kid(s) to a helper.
There are approximately 14 days in annual leave, at starting point. Some companies choose to increase this by one or two days with every subsequent year of employment. Add on 6 days of childcare leave. A parent has 20 days in a year to claim leave. Assuming a child comes down with a high fever, which can last from 3 days to a week. Then he contracts HFMD, in 2 months time. That's perhaps (conservatively) another 6 days of leave claimed to take care of him at home. Perhaps the child is sickly, and falls ill easily. How then, does one manage?
Kids fall sick. All of them do, regardless of how healthy they otherwise are, and how much supplements or boosters they are given. Some kids tend to fall sick easier than others - that's just about all the difference there is.
We are very very fortunate that my in laws stay near Caden's childcare, and picks him up at around 3pm, after his naptime in school. He is able to experience 'home' comforts and have dinner at an appropriate time, since we finish work pretty late. When there was one time he came down with a fever halfway through school day, his Grandma picked him up from school to bring him to the doctor. When he is unwell, he stays at his grandparents' home and is well cared for. Even during the recent haze situation, we chose to keep him away from school (as classes are non-air conditioned) for as long as it lasted, because we have the luxury of alternative care.
DaddyMoo and I need not worry about having to take leave to take care of the kid when he's kept home from school in situations whereby deadlines have to be met and taking leave would mean that certain things at work has to be kept on hold. We take leave as and when we are able to, and we are indeed thankful that we are blessed with parents who are more than happy to care for their grandson whenever.
What if we don't have this luxury? What if we have no choice, like the parent whom I mentioned above, who has exhausted all her leave? Perhaps we can take unpaid leave, but will it be prudent to always have other people cover our duties?
For me, my family always comes first. But I do not judge other parents who may have their reasons to prioritise other things. I am not in their situation, and I have no right to judge them. No parent will wish ill of their children, and likewise, I'm sure every working parent would see to it that they try to spend all free time with their kids.
What would have run through your mind had you been in my shoes yesterday morning? When is a child considered well enough after a nasty bout of sickness? If he is certified fit by a physician, yet is still recovering - is it appropriate to send him to school?
Please share your thoughts.
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