Undocumented sick time

Dan’s new job at the IAEA (he’s been there almost 8 months, so I don’t know if it counts as “new” anymore) has a lot of great benefits that we aren’t used to from home:  more vacation time, more sick leave (actually a nearly infinite amount, if he goes in and gets declared “sick” or “injured” by the IAEA nursing staff), use of the UN commissary, a housing stipend and a higher salary (plus cool things like paid paternity leave, which we don’t plan to take advantage of, but which I really, really, REALLY wish we’d had when the boys were born).  It also has “undocumented sick leave” which means taking sick time without going in to see the nurse — usually used when the spouse or children are sick.  I am so grateful for this kind of sick leave.

In our previous jobs (since we’ve had kids — before that it wasn’t an issue, because if I was sick, I used my own sick leave and just stayed home) we had to ration Dan’s limited sick leave across the entire family.  Because, frankly, it’s not like it’s realistic for me to have a restful sick day at home while I’m watching two healthy kids — and it’s worse if they’re sick, too.  Now, we don’t have to worry about “saving” sick leave in case Dan were to get sick — if he gets sick, he can just go in and get it approved and come home.  We only have to ration the sick leave between the days I might get sick and the days I and the kids might get sick at the same time.

I’m really appreciative of it today.  Last week, Liam was sick with croup, and Benjamin had a cough and a cold.  This week, Benjamin is nearly better, Liam is getting better and I’ve been getting sick.  Yesterday, I managed to get through the day just feeling run down, but today, I just couldn’t have done it.  I have a nasty sore throat and I’m completely worn out — one of those days where you sleep about 6 daylight hours and then sit at the dinner table, feeling miserable and trying not to fall asleep in your meal.

So, Dan stayed home.  Even though he knows it’s ok to use this documented sick time, he couldn’t help but stress about the things he’s leaving undone at work.  So, it was even better that his boss sent him an email today saying, “Stay home, take care of your family, do what you need to do”, which helped him to relax and focus on being here.  (Dan’s boss has sent such an email every time Dan has stayed home with us, which I think is infinitely cool of him.)

I am so glad Dan was able to be home today.  I am so grateful I was able to rest and work on getting better.  Other than feeling crappy, I’m feeling really lucky.

How being sick is supposed to work

So, I understand it’s supposed to go something like this:  you wake up, you feel crappy, decide you’re sick and the best thing is to rest.  So, you do that.  Your day goes along, you do the stuff you have to do (in my case, watch the kids, make sure no one gets profoundly injured, feed and clean everyone) but other than that, you rest, you take care of yourself, you get better.  Nonessential tasks are put on hold.

At least, that’s my rough understanding — I’ve never been able to manage it.  I wake up, I feel crappy, decide I’m sick and the best thing is to rest.  Then, throughout the rest of the day, I try to do just that.  But as soon as I’m resting, I feel compelled to start doing something — laundry, straightening up, getting online and sending an email I’ve been meaning to . . . anything.  It’s a compulsion.  The thoughts in my head go something like this, “Ok, I’m sick, I should rest.  But I’m not THAT sick, I COULD be getting something done.  What about laundry?  I COULD do laundry, it isn’t hard.”  It’s not about the laundry, it happens all day long, about myriad things.  I get stuck in this idea of what I am physically capable of doing, and lose sight of why I’m resting in the first place.  The problem with that is that there’s a lot of different ways to interpret “what I’m capable of”.  Even sick with the plague, I COULD probably do the laundry if my life depended on it.  I could carry both kids down six flights of stairs if the building was on fire, even if I was really, really sick.  It’s amazing what I COULD do, if I needed to.

But that’s what messes with me.  I intellectually understand that I’m not resting because I’m incapable of doing anything else, I’m resting because it’s a good idea to give my body the chance to divert its energy towards healing rather than laundry.  But somehow, in the middle of “resting”, I get caught up in feeling that I’m lazy if I’m not doing the maximum of what I’m capable of.  Problem is, I’m capable of quite a lot, but that doesn’t always make it a good idea, and it makes it hard to get well.

Grumpy pants

2 sick kids, 2 sick grown ups, almost no sleep plus a cup of coffee spilled all over the floor, the walls, the end table and the side of our big, comfy living room chair = me as Ms. Grumpy Pants.  (Nice to meet you.)

I haven’t been in a foul mood all day, but it’s been there, just under the surface.  I have a lot to be happy for today, actually, and when I remember that, things go better.  It looks like out house will actually be sold sometime in the next 7 days, drastically improving our financial picture.  Dan joining the rest of the family in the ranks of the ill is a bummer, but at least he was able to get excused sick leave from work today, so he was able to be home with us most of the day, without being charged any time off for it.  My kids are sweet and funny and wonderful (when they aren’t being fussy, whiny and incredibly needy).

Truth is, I hate being sick.  I have never been good at giving myself a break, psychologically or practically, and I am constantly giving myself a hard time for not doing more, regardless of how I’m feeling.  So, regardless of my understanding that I’m sick, it starts to get to me that the house is in such a state, the laundry isn’t getting done, we’re watching tv all day and we’re eating carryout for dinner.

Here’s hoping that we wake up feeling better tomorrow, or at least that I do better on excusing myself for my daily responsibilities.

Sick day

When you’re a stay at home mom, you don’t get sick days.  I knew, when I started staying home with my kids, that this was one of the benefits of a “regular” job that I’d miss the most.  When I’m sick, I only want to curl up on the couch, watch mindless tv and drink ginger ale until I feel better.  Not a lot of opportunities to do that in my current occupation.

Working when you’re sick is more or less difficult depending on the job — it was hard to teach dance lessons well with even a cold, but I could write software with the flu (although for the sake of my coworkers, I tried to do it from home).  Being a stay at home mom is an intense job — the hardest I’ve ever had.  You can only slack off so far — you absolutely have to on your game.  You can’t really take a break, even when you’re sick.  Nothing changes.  Diapers still need to be changed, kids still need to be fed, messes need to be cleaned up, stories need to be read, cuddles need to be given out, and you have to do the dozens of things you do all day to keep your children from causing themselves (or each other, or the dog) serious harm.  There’s very little margin for adjustment.  (In fact, it can actually be harder — any attempt to give yourself a break will probably get the kids off their schedules, which can make things tougher.)

I am sick today.  My day was pretty much exactly the same as always, except we didn’t go out to explore at all, and we watched more tv than usual.  (And, all the tv we watched was all in English.)  I kept things as simple as possible all day, but it was still pretty much business as usual.  Benjamin was bouncing off the walls because he didn’t get out at all, and Liam was fussy all day (I’m hoping he’s not getting sick, too).  I had Dan pick up dinner on the way home, and after dinner, I got to lay down for half an hour.

Here’s hoping I feel better by morning.