Sick days? What are sick days?

Jen has been dealing with a sinus infection all week long.  Yesterday, I gave her a sick day.

The thing about parenting is that, unlike any other full-time job out there, there is no such thing as a vacation day or a sick day.  If one parent is a stay-at-home parent, they are responsible for the child(ren) no matter what.  If the other parent is working, the parent at home has no choice but to take care of everything else.  Yeah, yeah, “No kidding!”  Even if the other parent is at home, a crying child can make it difficult for most parents to rest.  You know, because evolution.

When I started a full-time job that actually obeys the law and gives employees sick leave and vacation days, I found out something that was a little surprising for some reason: taking time off to care for a sick family member other than yourself is not a sick day – it’s a vacation.  Giving Jen the sick day she so desperately needed means taking away from non-sick family time at some point in the next year, but that’s not a problem, just something to consider when we plan our family time next year.

But more to the point of Jen’s sick day: for most of the day, I handled the majority of Morgan’s care.  Jen fed her for most feedings, but I held her, carried her, changed her, etc.  Jen tells me that this really did allow her to rest, and she was feeling better last night than she had in a while.  I even got the Christmas tree put up and finished some housework that one of our helpers had promised to do and never done.

The housework really drove home just how much the parent at home has to do.  In my mind, just taking care of Morgan was more than enough to qualify Jen as the harder-working parent of the two of us, and my 10-1/2 hour workday (counting driving time) still leaves me feeling so tired when I get home that I want nothing to do with things like a sink full of dishes or a house in need of vacuuming, especially when the sink and vacuum are “normal person” height, which leaves my 6’4″ frame with plenty of back pain.  Even with an infant in a sling, a stay-at-home parent has to juggle precariously to do housework while they’re home alone, and if baby wakes up fussy, the housework stops until she can be comforted.  I accomplished what domestic chores I accomplished by letting Jen watch Morgan while I was doing them.

I know it goes without saying, but housework is nearly impossible when a child is first born.  Even ignoring the fact that the mother often has a pretty serious tear/surgery to heal from (which, by the way, you should never ignore), newborns, at least OUR newborn, have this interesting habit of waking up as soon as they are laid down.  While some may stay asleep for a while, it is virtually guaranteed that they will wake up as soon as any real housework is commenced – especially housework involving loud appliances.

I think every dad should have to spend at least one day every year taking care of running the house (including the kids), and they should do it using a list left by their partner detailing everything that has to get done that day.  I have heard all my life of men who think their wives do nothing at home, and I always thought this was an insane notion, perhaps in part because my mom homeschooled me and my brother – her laziest day was as busy as my worst day at work.  It’s a lot harder to think a stay-at-home spouse is shiftless when you actually take over their responsibilities for a day.

Seriously, guys – just because we might spend all day playing games if we were at home doesn’t mean that our partners do.  I’m amazed at the job that Jen does every day, and I’m even more amazed that she’s done it with a nasty sinus infection this week!