Why parents of sick children still need to work

desk shotToday I am at work and Aidan is in hospital (don’t worry I’m writing this in my lunch hour so as not to use up company time!).

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


2 thoughts on “Why parents of sick children still need to work

  1. My daughter doesn’t have a terminal illness although she does require lifelong care. My husband has a brain injury and can’t work or care for the children. I also try to work – although very part time at the moment. I don’t want to lose my job with my very flexible employer but it is a very tricky juggle.

    I hope Aiden is feeling better soon.

    • Hi Alison,
      Thanks for your comment. I had a look at your blog and I can’t believe how similar our life stories are. Aidan also started life in RPA NICU at 580g and our life has been in and out of hospital. I’m glad you also have a flexible and understanding employer. It certainly isn;t an easy juggle but it’s nice to know I’m not alone.


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