Sick days and privilege

Being sick is a privilege. Obviously, it suuckkkkssss, but it’s also a privilege. Being able to say—‘My baby needs to stay home today. He’s not feeling well, so I guess I need to take a day off of work’—or to say—‘I just really need a day at home to get 100% better’—is a luxury that a lot of people don’t have. This week, A didn’t go to school on Monday or Tuesday because of a fever. My husband’s parents took care of him most of the time. We are privileged that they have jobs that are flexible—that taking a day off isn’t catastrophic to their monthly budgets. This is one of the first times that I haven’t been the one to stay home with A when he was sick.

I also have a job that, when necessary, I can take a day off without penalty. Since starting medical residency, my husband has never stayed home with A because he was sick–but he also has never taken a sick day himself. If you aren’t a parent yet, I’m sure you are thinking ‘my partner and I would never do that! We’ll split it fifty-fifty.’ I was one of those parents-to-be once. The way our careers and jobs look right now, though, I do 75% of the childcare and 100% of the staying-home-with-sick-kids (well, except this week when I called in grandparent reinforcements). This is a gender dynamic that I wish A didn’t witness on a daily basis, but it’s the reality. My husband is as engaged as possible in childcare during the hours that he is at home, which is what is important.

I’m not sure this is a helpful exercise for anyone, but I caught what A has so my mind is a bit foggy, to say the least. It’s definitely not particularly revelatory. But it makes all of those unconscious thoughts (the ones that you kinda know but have never really thought about explicitly) conscious. That’s an important exercise when thinking about privilege. I’m not sure what my call to action is for this blog post. But being a parent with privilege, I need to engage in regular reflections about mundane-ass shit like sick days and how my privilege shapes my capacity to parent.

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