Most people are shocked that I could possibly be at work when Aidan is so sick but unfortunately, balancing work and caring for a sick child is something many parents have to do, whether we like it or not.
Since I returned to work after my maternity leave, my working history has been disjointed to say the least. I worked part-time at my old job for 4 months until Anthony had a car accident, where he sustained a brain injury, and I took 2 years off to care for both him and Aidan. I finally returned to work last year and lasted 8 months in that role. I had days off here and there for Aidan’s hospitalisations but went to work most of the time until I inevitably burnt out, had a car accident and the whole thing became completely unsustainable.
So I found another job with less hours, closer to home and I thought I had found the balance. Believe me, finding an employer who will take you on when you have massive gaps in your work history and a terminally ill child is never easy.
However, with three hospitalisations this year, I am already struggling with trying to be a good mother and a good employee. I would love nothing better than to call in sick today and comfort Aidan but I can’t and here’s why:
- I can’t afford to lose my job – even the most sympathetic employer can only handle so many sick days before you become no longer useful to them and you get sacked.
- I need the money – when a child is sick, bills still roll in and while, in Australia, we are blessed to have government assistance, it is not nearly enough.
- I need to maintain my work reputation – When you lose a child, grief doesn’t stop the bills from coming but it does stop the government assistance. The truth is, when Aidan dies, I will need to return to work full-time. There will also come a time, in the not too distant future, that Aidan will deteriorate even further and maintaining my current job will be impossible. When that happens, my reputation as a hardworking and reliable employee will be my best ally in finding a new job.
I am very lucky to have an amazing husband who has overcome the challenges of his brain injury to be Aidan’s primary carer. I also have fantastic support (thanks mum and Bec for being there today to give Anthony a break), which makes going to work that bit easier. I don’t work because I want to, I work because I have to.