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Sick days

April 24, 2017

My four-year-old woke up with a fever this morning so I kept her home from preschool, meaning I had to miss a day of work. For me, this isn’t a huge deal–I am able to do some of my work from home and can communicate with my students through email to keep my classes more or less on pace in terms of content and assignments.

For other parents, however, missing a day of work is a stressful choice, one that means important bills might not get paid (at best) or a job might be lost (at worst). As I lied next to Libby in bed tonight while she fell to sleep, gently stroking her hair, my heart ached for parents who are forced to choose between caring for their children and making ends meet. What a painful decision it must be to give your feverish child Tylenol in the morning in the hopes that his or her fever will stay under the radar long enough to make it through a day of preschool or daycare so that you don’t have to risk losing essential income or your job.

As a society, we shouldn’t be forcing parents to make these decisions. Children end up feeling unwanted and unloved and parents end up feeling guilty–and other kids end up getting sick because they’re exposed to ill children that our society is too pressed for time and money to properly care for. Children, whose hearts are by nature so tender and innocent, end up hardened at younger and younger ages because they can sense that adults care more about productivity and the bottom line than about quality time.

I’m not one to support an expanded welfare system–I’ve seen the pitfalls of government handouts in low-income communities where I’ve lived–but I do support living wages and more flexibility for parents in the workforce. In the meantime, when you kiss your children goodnight, say a prayer for those parents who have to make painful choices between giving their children the gift of their time or the necessities of food and shelter. Given what I know about global economics, I’m pretty sure those of us who can do both at once are in the slim minority. Let us recognize how extremely blessed we are and do our best to support and fight for better rights for all parents and their children.

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