Confession: I’m ‘That Mom’ You Hate During Cold Season

You know those horrible moms who send their sick kids to school, daycare, or nursery knowing their kids probably have a chance of passing that sickness on to another kid? Umm, ya… Sorry about that.

My huge 9+ pound babies were unbelievably healthy for their first 2-3 years of life. Maybe it’s thanks to breastfeeding, or maybe it’s a bunch of good luck, but we managed to dodge a lot of sickness. But the first time my daughter’s daycare called and told me my little girl had a fever, I found myself in a bind.

You have to wait 24 hours after their fever subsides before they can return to daycare. But the problem is, after you have a baby–depending where you work–you exhaust all of your vacation and sick time during maternity leave. So you return to work, and if your child gets sick, you don’t have sick time. It starts to accrue again by about 6 hours a month, but between doctors appointments and other emergencies, that can vanish quickly.

A dose of Tylenol and a prayer just before drop-off and heading to work is a secret I’m embarrassed to admit. I only did it once in desperation when I was working full time at the station. Then I didn’t see it as a big deal. All kids get sick, it’s a part of life, and we’re all trying to power through it. Now I can see things a little differently.

I still get it.–The desperation of having to go to work yet not having backup child care options. But I’m fortunate to be in a position now where I can adjust my work schedule for my family, and I have my mom less than two miles away when we’re in a real pinch.

And on the other hand, now that my daughter is in elementary school, I’m beginning to witness the toll sick kids can take on our family.

seventh generation handwashing ways to stay healthy during cold season

A few nights ago Lil’ J woke up rushing to the bathroom to throw up (by the way it’s so nice that she can recognize when she’s going to be sick now). Is this a sign of what’s to come? We’re barely a month into school and we’ve encountered what appears to be a stomach bug (which honestly we get once a year about this time anyway).

She never got a fever, and was better the next day (which was a Saturday) so I’m hoping maybe it was a fluke and the rest of us won’t be coming down soon. That thought alone was enough to make me empathetic for other families. I’ve learned my lesson, I won’t be sneaking my sick kids into the drop-off line with a medically reduced fever.

Schools send mixed-messages though. On one hand they don’t want you to go to school if you’re sick, but on the other hand, you can only be absent so many times, and the class with the best attendance gets parties and perks. Maybe it’s suppose to be an incentive to try to stay healthy.

I'll never send my sick kids to school (anymore) hand washing seventh generation

We are stepping up our hand-washing game. Washing before we leave the house, once we get home, and many many times in between. My daughter love the smell of our new Seventh Generation hand soap so much I caught her washing her Barbie’s hair with it. There’s no synthetic fragrances yet they smell SO good. We’re also staying on top of vitamins, getting plenty of rest, and praying for good health all around.

I still worried what I’m up against though. A small daycare class is one thing. A classroom full of 16 other kids? I’m not sure we stand a chance.

Have you found your kids get more sick during the school year?

seventh generation handwashing ways to stay healthy during cold season

*Thank-you to Seventh Generation for sponsoring this story. I’m partnering with them as I share my imperfect life and ways I’m trying to improve it with you. If being more conscious of natural cleaning productshand soap and eco-friendly diapers are on your list of priorities, head here for more information. As always, all opinions are my own.

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  1. Our two oldest went to daycare at 6 weeks because both of us worked full-time, out of the home jobs. They got sick regularly, but I always preferred that they do (despite the hit to our sleep patterns). The more colds they have as youngsters, the less they have when they are older. They get used to their environment, the people in it, and the finite (we can argue that point) viruses available in that microcosm.

    Besides, once they get school aged, we tend to expect things to fall into a regular consistent routine so we can move on past the baby/toddler stage and on to the older kid stages. I don’t want them sick often just as I accept a new job with greater responsibility (for example) which I would do now that the older two are at least in all day kindy and up.

    The little guy though has never gone to daycare because daddy stays home now. I am very concerned that he doesn’t get exposed to anywhere near the number of viruses now and will have the potential of being sick more often later. I am hoping the older two bring home a few colds this winter. I certainly need no prompting to rub all over him when I am feeling poorly. 😀

    I am all for you sending your kids quasi-sick to school. It is better overall for non-immune compromised kids. The first person I find whose kid has chicken pox, we are coming over for a play date. Just saying… LOL!

    1. You are so funny Yvonne! You know, I’ve kinda thought the same thing. I RARELY get sick. Seriously. Maybe a little nauseous from the stomach bug if my kids get it, but *knock on wood* I’ve got a great immune system. I think a lot of that could be because I was in daycare from a young age (I wasn’t breastfed). I’ll let you know if my kids get the chicken pox. haha.

  2. We stay home from church when we’re sick, which means you don’t see a lot of us during the winter months. If nursery-aged children have a runny nose at ALL, they stay home. Nursery leaders have enough to do without wiping noses for two hours. Plus, the snot and drool that would get all over the toys. *shudder* Once they’re in Primary, I’m not AS strict, but we do keep our germs to ourselves as much as we can.

    We homeschool, and germs are one of the items on the “I’m glad we homeschool” list. It’s quite a long list, actually. 🙂

    1. Erin I have no problem staying home from church when someone is sick! haha. Is that terrible? You’re right though, it’s yucky to think of all of those gross toys. And I don’t recall seeing a sanitizing routine for them.

      Avoiding sickness is definitely a great perk of homeschool. I still think about this option almost daily.

  3. I have trouble finding empathy for parents who send their sick kids to school and church.
    I have a vivid memory of standing in the rain and getting the phone call that every mother dreads. We were hanging out under a tunnel near the lake because there was a sudden downpour. I had to step out into the rain just to hear because the tunnel was full of echos from happy kids squealing. My youngest was in the ICU at the children’s hospital. Again. The doctors told us to get to the hospital ASAP. The doctors didn’t think she’d make it through the next few hours. They told us to come immediately to say goodbye.
    She only barely pulled through. It was not the only time.
    She’d get lethargic, spike a fever, heart rate crazy high….we’d call an ambulance. 10-14 days in the ICU. Can you imagine the bills?
    She was 2.5 years old the first time she was sick without needing an ambulance. We visited her pediatrician every day that week for breathing treatments. …and then threw a party.
    I got sick of hearing “Oh, he had a fever this morning, but it’s gone now” and “I’m not sick, I just have a little cough” or “He was sick, but now he just has the sniffles” and especially “he’s still a little sick but he was so bored at home and begged to come to school/church”.
    Visiting teachers would come over to check on us….and then 20 minutes into our visit I’d find out they were “just getting over a tiny cold.” They’d assure me it was “no big deal”….and a few days later I’d be in the ER watching a team hold down my baby and shove a tube down her throat so machines could breath for her.
    The level of inconsideration was astounding. I don’t mean working moms with no other options. I mean straight up “it’s so good to see you – we’ve been sick but we were going stir crazy and had to get out of the house.” This after we’d repeatedly told everyone how serious it was when she got sick.
    Most will have stopped reading by now, but I know you’re still reading, Jennifer. So let me tell you what helped get some of my empathy back. It is easier to have empathy now because my kids don’t share every cold with each other. Ya know how folks used to NOT wash their hands; used to dump their feces in the street? How at first doctors fought against the idea of washing their hands between seeing different patients? There is a new product called Qore24. It is essentially a hand sanitizer that lasts 24 hours (even through hand washings). It uses mechanical nano technology instead of chemicals to kill germs. One day we’ll be telling our grand kids about how we used to spread germs via contact. They’ll laugh and ask why people would do such a dumb thing. I look forward to that day.
    In the mean time, please check out Qore24. The company has a cool history. I think you would like learning about them. Maybe you can share what you learn with your many, many readers.

    I am still happy to hear you plan on keeping your kids home when they are sick. That is very considerate of you. It gives me hope for others. Thank you for posting. I enjoy reading about your family.

    1. One of the boys in one of my sons’ class at church is a heart transplant recipient. He is on my mind when my kids are sick and begging to go to church. He is in one of my boys’ class and his sister is in my daughter’s class. We keep our germs to ourselves.

      Qore24 sounds interesting. *off to check the link*

    2. I’m just loving reading these comments with “visiting teachers” and “primary” nice to see some LDS buddies in the community!

      I’m SO sorry to hear about the terrible consequences of people having their sick kids around your immune-compromised kids. Stories like these really make me realize it IS a really big deal to some people.

      Thanks for sharing the info about Qoe24. It looks really cool! Here’s my gripe about most sanitizer… doesn’t it also kill the “good” bacteria we need? I remember reading that hand washing was better because of this. But perhaps this is a different kind of sanitizer that puts that into consideration? I looked on their site and am trying to see.

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. I’m sure it will help other parents to think twice about where they take their sick children.

      1. There are places that you need good bacteria. Your hands isn’t one of them. The CDC prefers hand washing over hand sanitizing for many reasons. They like that it works mechanically. Bacteria sticks to the oil on your skin. Soap breaks down the that oil and then the bacteria is physically removed via rubbing (friction) and rinsed off.
        Soap doesn’t kill the bacteria. Soap doesn’t distinguish between good and bad bacteria. Most bacteria is harmless until it enters the body.
        The more soap you use and the more you rub, the less oil and bacteria left on your hands. The CDC stresses that you must rub everywhere and wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds. Most adults only wash 5-15 seconds before rinsing. Kids? …and rubbing everywhere? Hand washing is only better if you do it right.
        Qore24 works mechanically. It literally shreds the bacteria – like little nano swords. It does not create resistant strains. It is non-toxic and environmental friendly. I call it my super-power hands. My kids love it. They still wash hands at the normal times, but Qore24 provides all day protection. They get sick less.
        Also, how often do you clean your refillable soap dispensers? Because of the way soap works, soap dispensers are often contaminated. I just read a study that found more germs on hands AFTER washing with soap than before on both teachers and students in an elementary school:

        1. Most people don’t wash their hands let alone do it right. Millions of people in third world countries live in deplorable conditions…and yet we are 7 billion and growing. The math doesn’t lie. If it was that easy to die from bacteria, I doubt humans would have survived this long because, man, the world was insanely dirtier in the past than it is now…and yet here we all are. There has to be some sense of balance in all of this problem.

          Having had a kid who was immunosuppressed for a while and was in the PICU, I certainly cared about the cleanliness of the people who worked on her and the area she was in. I certainly cared about how we handled her world when she came home. I did not expect every person on the planet to live like we did and I didn’t think they were mean, evil people for not following our rules. I work in hospitals with sick people every day. We operate in a bubble for a reason: because we protect the people we care for and can’t expect the rest of the population to conform to that standard of living day in and day out.

          Do what you feel like you need to do to care for your own, but a family barely making ends meet just isn’t going to choose to lose money if they don’t have to. They aren’t going to say to themselves, I “might” accidentally run into a sick person/kid so I will skip work, forget that money I need to feed my kids so they can possibly (because there is no guarantee you’ll run into them) have one less sick person to deal with during the day. That is just so not going to happen. Even families not so close to the edge, but still in need of making a compromise on this issue, will take the gamble.

          Maybe the better way of fixing this issue is to fight for mandatory sick time/pay so that this is no longer a quandary for so many people. I doubt that it will meaningfully change if more people use this product. Human behavior is what it is. People who don’t wash now, aren’t choosing to avoid it simply because the right product hasn’t come along. Changes are, they still won’t wash no matter what is offered to them. It sucks, but that’s the truth of it. You can only control your own sphere. That is the limit.

  4. This is infuriating to me. Yes, some children a cold isn’t a big deal, but for others it IS! When there is a cancer patient who just had chemo. You don’t visit. You stay away and even a week after you are required to wear a mask. With NiCU babies, there are STRICT guidelines of who can visit and EVERYONE they come in contact must wash their hands. People with asthma even a simple cough can last them MONTHS to recover from. As Nanette said there are people with certain circumstances and it’s just not fair to those who are susceptible. Olivia, was breast fed for the first 6 months of her life. Then she went on to organic formula. She has a healthy diet (no processed foods) and yet she still struggles. She’s a vibrant healthy child UNTIL she gets sick and then it’s a completely different story. Her cousin got sick with the stomach bug and passed it on to her. He had diarrhea a few times and a fever and then was done. Olivia on the other hand threw up twice and then didn’t eat much for the first day, she had a fever, and then for DAYS after (were still fighting it off) she’d have diarrhea. We have to keep her hydrated otherwise things REALLY become a issue and she becomes lethargic and loopy. (Yes This has happened) I don’t know what it is, she is just more symptomatic then others and I’ve missed a lot of work because of it. To the point where I’m walking a thin line of getting in trouble. It’s heartbreaking to see them like that, and oh how I miss my sleep. That’s probably the thing that’s the hardest for me. Being required to still take care of your kid, go to work, and on little sleep!
    I agree with the reader Nanette that sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do (No judgement here), but there have been more times that I can count where I will tell people of my daughters vulnerability, and they just disregard it! They just don’t understand how it affects us and how hard it is for us. Even family does this. I know that as she gets older, shell get better, but that doesn’t mean people can’t be considerate to peoples situations NOW. Like you said, as they get older they can HANDLE sickness better (generally), so I hate seeing my dear sweet baby who can only say a handful of words suffer. It’s so hard to help them at this age. Hoping and praying that as the seasons change we can fight off those illnesses a little better then we have.

  5. Thanks for your honesty. It’s a really tough issue that should be addressed by policy. That’s why I am so proud that Pittsburgh (where I live) and a scattering of other municipalities have passed paid sick leave laws. Working parents need support!

    That said, I’m fortunate to have had in home care for both kids. When my daughter started FT pre-scshool at 2.5 we discontinued in-home care until we had our son last year. That was a tough year and a half! We had to juggle schedules, make sacrifices and engage family. Family support is a blessing. Unfortunately, though, none of our family members were an all day option. So, my husband and I drew straws about who would work partial days.

    No judgment. I just couldn’t do the Tylenol + hope + prayer thing and send her to preschool against the rules. It’s probably because I’m a lawyer and spend too much time trying to get others to comply with rules! I also work in health care focusing on risk management and patient safety, which has turned me into that other mom you hate–the germaphobe kind! 🙂

  6. Our daycare has a threshold of fever temp (101.3) but I try not to push it and sort of feel out the kids. If my son’s fever is 99 and he seems normal (i.e., no other symptoms, or maybe just normal mild cold symptoms), I’d definitely think about sending him. But if the fever’s higher or he just doesn’t seem like himself, then I keep him home. Same with my older son who’s in school. If I don’t think he can make it through a school day without needing a nap or asking to head to the nurse, I’ll keep him home. My mom’s rules were either a fever or throwing up…and anything else we went to school. I feel like those were good general guidelines as it weeds out the generic “I don’t feel well” excuse to stay home, but I think now that I’ve been at this mom thing for a bit, I know when my kid is just not okay…so I’ve expanded a bit. I think I mostly apply those same rules to myself, too. If neither of those things apply, is my energy level OK to make it through the day? I don’t want to burn sick days (for me or my kids, particularly since it cuts into my vacation), but sometimes you just have to.

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