As is so common in the life stage with young children, last Thursday I was up all night with my five year old Aubrey. She came down with a stomach bug and started throwing up around 12:30 am. There was vomit all over her, on the bed, and in multiple spots on the carpet. She was scared and miserable and came looking for mommy. I bathed her, attacked the carpet with OxiClean, did a load of laundry, put her back to sleep, and just as I fell back asleep she woke up again, throwing up a second time in her room. This cycle happened five times by 5:30 am and she never made it to the toilet. Around throw up episode #3, Emma also woke up crying loudly for a bottle. I woke Eric up at this point so we could divide and conquer.
Aubrey stayed home from school the next day to rest, but Mommy and Daddy didn’t. We split the workday and each stayed with Aubrey half of the day and worked the other half, as is our normal routine when one of the kids is sick. Or, if I have a day full of meetings, Eric will take the whole day.
A few days later at 12:30 am on Saturday night, Eric and I both caught the stomach bug at the same time. I had just finished throwing up when I heard him getting started. We were up all night again, still not recovered from earlier in the week, and we were both pretty pitiful. The next day we spent Sunday at home still sick and trying to care for the girls when we really needed to rest. It was an exhausting day.
By Sunday evening I found myself still nauseous, dehydrated and weak, and fighting a tension headache in the back of my neck, muttering, “I quit. I should just quit. I can’t do this.” I found myself wishing something like an “Up All Night Policy” (UAN) existed at work. My employer is wonderful and very accommodating, but I still feel like I need to explain every time a situation like this arises. And, if too many UAN incidents happen close together, it starts to sound like excuses. In fact, last night as Eric and I debated whether to stay home today for ourselves, we both decided to go to work for the same reason: we’ve taken too much time off lately to care for the girls, and we didn’t want to send another email saying we’d be out of the office today.
It would be great to have something like UAN hours as a company benefit. It would work like PTO (vacation or sick time) in that you would have a dedicated amount of time granted to you per year. There would be an understanding that UAN hours are unplanned and can arise quickly without much notice. It’s different than sick time because the parent is often not the one who is sick – and most sick time policies allow for enough absent days for the parent alone, not considering a parent + child/children dynamic. UAN time could be used to just give a mom or dad a few extra hours in the morning after a rough night, rather than having to take a full sick day. No explaining necessary, no guilt, just using your company benefit – UAN time.
Let’s be a workforce that understands and sympathizes with parents who are up all night, so that as they groggily attend to a sick child the last thing they have to worry about in that moment is work.