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All shades of green

It’s winter, and germs and bugs are all over the place. Last week I was reminded, in the most sleep-deprived of ways, the amazing job that parents do looking after sick children. And how important having an understanding, flexible employer makes to making life (and work), that little bit easier.

Normally a robust little thing, my toddler got the seasonal cold, cough and vomiting bug. We had four nights in row of very little sleep, many bed sheet changes, rounds of washing, making soup, clingy cuddles, tantrums (him), crying (me), nose blowing…I was working three days and my husband’s company had pivotal meetings with US investors. Everyone was shattered. Heads were down, we were just getting through this week.

I share this, not because our story is unique, but because it reminded me how much amazing caring work goes on in households all over the country. People just getting on; looking after little ones (and often adults too), juggling work and life, usually sleep deprived and feeling guilty about leaving sick children in childcare while work requirements roll on.

It seems like a fine balancing act sometimes; when things are going well, life is manageable. But throw in an illness, or a sick relative or something out of the ordinary, life can be hard. It can be exhausting and emotional and draining.

Working parents of sick children- I salute you! And to all the grandparents and childcare providers who look after our children (and us) when things are hard- thank you. Last week I have never been so thankful to see my mum arriving at our house with a pot of dinner, or to have my mother in law come to our house early in the morning to look after our poorly wee toddler so I could go to work (relatively) guilt free.

When Alife and I finally re-surfaced to the real world after the lurgy had passed and went to our local toddler group, one of the volunteers asked how Alfie was and I explained we’d had a hard week. She commented: ‘Oh yes, we see all shades of green here at this time of year.’ As I looked around the bustling room of toddlers, parents, grandparents and carers, I spotted many runny noses and tired faces.

We were, of course, not alone. Did these parents have help and support? Did they have grannies or grandpas bringing round mince and potatoes for dinner or have someone to cuddle their wee ones when they had to go to work? I hoped so. And did they have supportive employers who would give them a bit of come and go when things got tough? I can’t tell you what a difference it made to me, while Alfie and I were up all night, to know that I could call my employer in the morning to say I might be in a little later while I got things sorted at home. I didn’t have the stress or worry that I would be penalised. I give my all to my employer, particularly as I know there is that flexibility in return. It’s invaluable at the best of times, but during those ‘all shades of green’ weeks, it’s priceless.

You can’t predict when something out of the ordinary may happen in life and sometimes you just have to muddle through. That’s life. But having help and support and understanding, firstly from our families and friends, but also from the people we work for – and the loyalty and commitment that breeds in return- can’t be underestimated.

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