Rebecca Nelson Lubin
Last week, just before the Christmas holidays hit, so did the dreaded flu. It had been cooking for a while, me and the family I work for have been walking around since Thanksgiving coughing and sneezing and feeling generally like crap. I slugged through my work days, with tissues and hand sanitizer in my pockets, gave up on going to the gym and going out socially, tried to get as much sleep as possible, and spent each morning in a long steamy shower cleaning out my sinuses with a neti pot. I even, as suggested by my housemate, poured a capful of hydrogen peroxide into each ear every morning and let it bubble around for a minute, the theory being that it was killing off whatever virus was attacking my ears, nose and throat, for as she pointed out, it’s all connected in there. Such dramatic measures only seemed to hold the cold at bay, until the weekend before Christmas, when it exploded and I found myself croaking into the phone at 7am Friday morning,
“I’m really sick. Can’t come to work.”
My employer said something very sweet and supportive and after a rather extended couching fit, I crashed back asleep until 3pm that afternoon. I looked at my clock with bleary eyes. Had I just slept eight hours? It was hard to think about. I closed my eyes and woke again at 9pm, had some toast, and went back to bed. By Sunday I was feeling pretty chipper. I phoned my bosses and told them to expect me as usual Monday morning, but when I woke at six, I realized that was not going to happen as I found myself running for the toilet, totally ensconced in phase two of the dreaded flu- pukey time. It lasted a full 24 hours and at times I found myself curled up on my bathroom floor wondering, “How do people deal with this for more than one day?”
My employer sent me encouraging texts. “How r u feeling?”
I texted back “Kill me.”
“Can I do anything 4 u?”
“Make it b 2morrow so I can be @ work.”
The she texted something really nice. She said not to worry. This is what sick days were for, and besides, I still had two left in the year. Stay home and get better.
It is not always like this in the Nanny world. Sick days are usually nowhere in the work agreement. I know I was too naïve to even ask for them in my first big time nanny job. It was only after the fact, work agreement agreed to that I said, Uh – what about sick days? My boss told me I wouldn’t need them. Now all the nannies out there know that we work in a profession that puts us in contact with as many germs and viruses as flight attendants and emergency room orderlies. The little monkeys we love and care for are little germ factories, with a finger always up their nose and the entire viral weight of their preschool world on their little shoulders when we pick them up. We care for them when they are sick, we get sneezed on and vomited on and we provide extra hours when their parents fall ill, and then we catch the bug too…and usually get no sympathy. Has any other Nanny than me ever found themselves at one end of the phone, dizzy with fever and begging for a day off to simply be sick and have the time to regain our health? Previous employers I have had have grilled me during these early morning phone calls, making me describe my symptoms in intricate detail, making me feel as if I'm begging for a stay of execution. I have never abused my paid sick days. I follow the guidelines that the schools send home in the beginning of the year newsletters. I stay home if I have a fever, or if I am so obviously contagious I will spread the virus, or if I am so sick, I will not be able to do my job. I mean, isn’t that what it’s all about? Keeping your employees healthy so that they can provide the proper care for the children? It makes sense to me. Employers: Provide your nanny with paid sick days so when the flu and viruses strike, as they tend to do during this cold and flu season, they can stay at home and convalesce without guilt or worse - worry about bills and rent. Trust me – fever and throwing up and a hacking cough are enough. It was amazing last week to have nothing on my mind but the thoughts of getting over my bug. A Christmas miracle, one might say.
Rebecca Nelson Lubin is a writer and Nanny who resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. You may read more of her articles at http://www.abandofwives.ning.com/