Another day, another dip into my dwindling pot of annual leave hours. Actually the pot is officially exhausted,a lthough if I pull some longer days next week (as I’m already doing today) I might be able to still wind up with a marginally positive balance by the next pre-pay-period recalculation. Not that it matters much to me personally, really; the choice between telling my family to suck it up when one or more of them is sick and needs some creative rescheduling and accommodation, and telling my employer to suck it up when I’m out of official leave time but need to borrow against future accrual, that’s a textbook no-brainer (assuming said textbook is written, illustrated and edited by me).
So I stayed home from work once again yesterday. This time the root cause was a virus which had been doing battle with my wife’s immune system for almost a week already, in the face of which my wife was bravely soldiering on all the same, until suddenly a new and alarming symptom reared up in the form of an all-over itch that prevented her from getting any sleep whatsoever on Wednesday night. By 4 am it was apparent to both of us that she wasn’t going to be good for much except recovering on Thursday, and as I said, for me that meant staying home was just a given. It’s a little trickier to succinctly explain to my bosses that “my wife is ill and physically couldn’t sleep last night so I need to take today off from work, but I’m fine, and there’s not much I can do for her, but she can’t handle being exhausted and under the weather and minding a three year old and a six month old, and we don’t have daycare arrangements on Thursdays because those are usually my wife’s days off …” than the usual “my kids are too sick for day care and it’s my turn to stay home with them” (or the ever-more-infrequent “I myself am sick”) but I think I got the point across.
Fortunately my two bosses occupy opposite ends of the spectrum: my contracting supervisor never had kids so all this business of daycare and childhood maladies and whatnot are a complete mystery to him and he simply trusts my judgment and discretion in managing my own schedule and workload; my government supervisor is a mother whose children are just about grown but nevertheless she remembers the early days well and completely understands. She actually stopped by my cubicle this morning to sympathize and trade war stories about the vicious cycle of kids bringing home germs that get passed round and round the household in a vector death-spiral. (So to speak.)
If nothing else, the impromptu sick day yesterday once again lent credence to my belief that if I ever won the lottery I could quit my job with no reservations because I would never, ever get bored hanging around home every day. My wife got to take things slowly and rest up, my son and I got to go to his weekly toddler activity class (half an hour of free play on mats and foam climbing obstacles, fifteen minutes of loosely structured songs and games, pretty ideal), and my daughter and I got to go to the pediatrician for her six month check-up (she’s fantastically on-schedule developmentally, has two teeth coming in and is probably going to start eating rice cereal next week, and even got an official “no current active infections” declaration of in-the-pinkness). About as run-of-the-mill as things get, and I would have no problem with an unbroken string of days like that, fantastical finances permitting.
(One random thing about the little guy’s class: the theme of the day was apples, and as we were leaving I asked the little guy if he was going to tell his mom how the class was about apples, and he asked me “Why was today about apples?” And I actually tried to answer him by explaining how in the past apples were mostly associated with the early fall because that’s when they were available, although of course he would know no such thing because we buy and eat apples at the grocery store pretty much year round. Which further led me to think (but not share aloud with the little guy) about how the class teacher had brought out a little worm-in-apple puppet and sang a song about worms in apples, despite the fact that wormy apples strike me as highly anachronistic. Maybe I’m a bit sheltered in my affluent suburban neighborhood with its massive corporate food-retailers, but it seems like the odds of my children ever seeing an actual worm in an actual apple are zero-ish at best. Which is a good thing! Yet the iconic imagery remains in the popular imagination. We have a weird culture.)
Anyway, I haven’t even gotten to the real kicker yet. I bailed on work twice this week, once for a holiday, and once for a family-caretaker personal day, and absolutely no one cared or batted an eye. As I have observed many times before, I don’t have that much to do on a regular basis at work and it’s no trouble at all to catch up on it if I drop a day here and/or there. My wife, on the other hand, has a very demanding job which is also appointment-driven, meaning no end of eyes get batted whenever she has no choice but to miss a day of work due to illness, because those things by their nature come up at the last minute and require seismic amounts of schedule-shuffling to cover an unplanned absence. And recently that (along with myriad other ridiculous-to-sublime factors) has been taking a toll on my wife and she decided to take a stand and inform her employers that she wanted the same scheduling considerations that the other senior doctors at her clinic are accorded, namely instead of working two full weekends a month she would work two Saturdays a month but only one Sunday, which is one of those seemingly small concessions which really means a lot. So a meeting was scheduled for this Monday to discuss the possibilities (yet another reason why it was fortuitous for me to take Columbus Day off, so that I could be home with the kids while my wife re-negotiated her hours) and the meeting went very well. My wife got the two things she wanted, not just the one Sunday per month arrangement but also a general feeling of being respected and appreciated by her colleagues and bosses (and rightly so, of course). Of course, if you’ll recall, my wife was pretty sick on Monday so she barely made it to that meeting. And hot on the heels of obtaining her newly liberated Sundays, she was also informed that she should come in for only half a day on Tuesday, given how some extra rest could only due her salutary good. She did manage to work a full day Wednesday, and Thursday is her off-day, part of which she dedicated to going to urgent care to make sure nothing was, as it were, urgently wrong with her vis-à-vis the itching (Good news: not measles! Bad news: not really sure what exactly it is, so tough it out and drink plenty of fluids!) and was informed she was probably fairly contagious, which was dutifully relayed back to work and they told her to go ahead and stay home today, too. To which thankfully she acquiesced. But I know it’s just killing my wife to have not just made but won the argument that she’s been a dedicated productive worker at the clinic for close the three years and deserves the minor benefit of one more Sunday to herself every month … and then proceed to show up at work that week on severely reduced hours. It’s through no fault of her own, obviously, and getting sick doesn’t retroactively make her a slacker, but nonetheless it’s not how she wanted this week to go down. Alas.