I thought we daycare parents were in this crazy circus of drop-offs, pick-ups, and runny noses together. You know the drill; multiple times a week we smile and offer each other a quick hello while taking our children to or from their classroom before hurrying out, all while trying to not leave a shoe, sippy cup, or pacifier stranded in the chaos.
I felt a connection to you after all these months, and I certainly assumed that we had an unspoken bond of unity when it came to our kids being sick. I thought we all utilized whatever plan B, C, or D was necessary to keep our infectious children home to help them heal and avoid passing it on to the rest of the class. At least, I thought that was the mutual understanding, until you brought your sick kid to daycare.
Hear me out before you assume this is a chastisement; it’s not.
I understand where you’re coming from, and I’ve been there (desperate for options with a sick child) too many times myself this year. You see, this cold and flu season has been especially rough on my family. I wish I were exaggerating, but in the span of just 10 short, but painful weeks, my toddler has contracted Pneumonia, RSV, Bronchiolitis, Roseola, and most recently Influenza Type A. Each illness came courtesy of her daycare peers and every diagnosis gave me another patch of gray hair. My toddler has been sick so frequently that at one point, we spent a solid week visiting the pediatrician every day, with an urgent care trip wedged right in the middle.
As a fellow parent, I’m certain you know all too well the dreadful misery that comes with caring for an ailing child: the pain of seeing your child suffer, the whining, the crying, the clinging, the all-night-vigils to monitor a fever, and the mental fog that settles in your brain after consecutive nights of restless sleep with a toddler in your bed or worse, on top of you. I’ve spent the better part of my winter surviving in these conditions, as one illness swept over my daughter immediately after the previous one cleared. I’m a shell of the human I typically know myself to be, and I’m ready to see my child as her happy and energetic self again.
We all have to make difficult and sometimes crappy decisions. Working families often face very limited options in affordable childcare or work flexibility when it comes to caring for a sick child.
If dropping off a sick kid at daycare means a parent doesn’t lose a job, then I’m not judging or condemning that choice. But when the choice to bring a contagious kid to daycare is so that a parent can attend a previously planned engagement, such as a lunch date or a baby shower, then we have a problem. I know how isolating staying home to ride out a child’s infectious disease can be. It’s so tempting to escape for a few hours to see friends, socialize, and catch a break from the constant care. I know how disappointing it is to say no to social invitations because that’s all I’ve been saying since our rollercoaster of illnesses began. I’ve worked my job remotely from home with a crying toddler in my arms while not really accomplishing much work at all. I’ve taken conference calls on mute while I bathed my toddler to soothe her aches, and I’ve cancelled so many social engagements that I’m pretty sure my friends have stopped asking me out until spring.
I know this may seem like exaggerated stories coming from an overly cautious mom, but dozen of children have already died this year from the flu, and the flu season isn’t done yet.
So here is my humble request: can we move on from this awkward place to a new normal of mutual concern and respect?
Can we agree to make smart choices that are best for our children and the safety of others and do everything possible to avoid bringing our kids to daycare when they’re sick and they just need to be home?
I’d love go back to the way we were before, when our kids were healthy and I enjoyed our brief chats and well-intended smiles.
I promise, I’m not a monster mom, and I’m not here to parent-shame you. I just want us all to survive this flu season and hopefully come out stronger, wiser, and more resilient on the other side.
Signed (with chapped hands from too much hand-sanitizer),
Your Fellow Daycare Parent
The Center for Disease Control offers many resources on how to protect yourself against the flu this season, including a helpful Flu Guide For Parents. The CDC recommends that children who appear or are suspected to be sick with flu-like symptoms, should be kept home and separate from healthy family members until their symptoms improve. This includes keeping sick children home from school and daycare until a fever has been gone for at least 24 hours. (The fever should be gone without use of a fever-reducing medicine.) A fever is defined as 100 F (37.8 C) or higher.