It is that time of the year again. No, not tax time – no one I know thinks about that until at least October – but cold & flu season. Here at our Melbourne office we have an open plan set up, which is great for team camaraderie and communication -(read gossip) but terrible when someone gets sick. It is inevitable that whatever germs are brought into the office are quickly passed around. The fact that I have four children at home, each coming into contact with approximately 30-40 other children every day, seems to raise the likelihood of catching something to a certainty.

Like many working mothers I compound the problem by doing two things which I know are a no no. Firstly, I pretend that I’m not sick and power on through my normal schedule of work and study, adamantly refusing to take a sick day or, god forbid, a rest.

Secondly, if it’s just a cold, I refuse to acknowledge that the children are sick. I fill them with litres of hot lemon juice and honey, and the odd Panadol or two, and shuffle them off to school sufficiently rugged up and with strict instructions to not look sick. I’m sure I’m not the only one who dreads the call from the school office requesting (or is it demanding?) that you come and collect your sick child.

It might just be my working mother guilt combined with a furtive imagination but I can’t help hearing a critical subtext that screams ‘Bad Mother!’

Leaving work to collect said sick child then brings on a further wave of guilt. Even though Farrar Gesini Dunn are fully committed to supporting women in the workplace, and I’ve never seen so much as a rolled eye or disapproving look (in fact quite the opposite), I can’t help thinking that now I’m also a bad employee. Oh, if only I’d nipped the problem in the bud.

So last Friday, with a 10 year old that had been up coughing until midnight, I made the decision to let him stay home. We snuggled in bed until noon, him reading and sleeping, me studying and by Saturday he was well and we were back on track. I’m sure many mums and dads have the same problem – does anyone have the magic answer?

Elisa Turco

Elisa Turco