One of the most highly touted benefits of having a home-based business is the flexibility it affords you — and this is absolutely brought home when there’s a little one under the weather and underfoot. Having a sick child at home can certainly throw a wrench in your work plans, especially if you’ve got deadline pressure, an appointment, or an event to figure out how to work around.
As much as you’re able, focus on caring for your sick child and making this uncomfortable day as comfortable as possible. If you can swing it, take the day off or resolve to get some work done while your child is sleeping or otherwise occupied. Don’t panic — some things might be easy to move if necessary, like a standing weekly accountability chat. Other things might require some finesse, but nothing you can’t handle. This is my sick day survival guide for when there’s work that must be done despite the couch-bound kiddo(s) under your care:
Take full advantage of naps, assuming naps are happening. Do absolutely nothing during any nap time except move forward on your big project — this is critical, especially if you’re up against a deadline.
One thing I liked to do with my son when he wasn’t feeling well was make naptime fun with a “nap nest” on the couch in the living room, which is where my desk was. He could pick as many blankets as he wanted and bring as many of his “guys” (stuffed animals) as we could carry, and we built a little nest for his rest time. Sometimes I’d throw in a special snack to keep him occupied. He found it comforting for us to be in the same room, and the novelty of napping on the couch helped ease him in when he otherwise was feeling resistant.
We don’t do a lot of screen time at my house (we’ve found that limiting screen time leads to a much happier kid), but when my little guy is home for a sick day and isn’t napping, his favorite DVDs, episodes of Mr. Rogers, and the PBS Kids iPad app are life-savers. They keep him occupied in a safe, non-taxing activity, which allows me to plow ahead on whatever I need to be doing.
Sometimes, when you’re really up against a wall and there’s a kiddo underfoot, the only thing you can do is outsource your childcare. Ask your spouse take a half-day, call in a grandparent or other family member, contact an at-home friend and offer to trade babysitting time, or refer to your go-to sitters list. This isn’t an option everyone has… but if you’ve got it and you need it, use it!
If nothing is working and you simply aren’t going to be able to meet a commitment due to your child’s illness, the best thing to do is get in touch and let the other party know as soon as possible. This may mean requesting a deadline extension from a client or rescheduling a meeting. It’s always humbling to do this, but don’t panic — many people are understanding and able to offer you the time you need.
What you don’t want to do is wait until the very last second to let the other person know — or to fail to show up and deliver at all. By giving as much notice as possible, you’re showing courtesy and giving the other person as much time as necessary to take care of things on their end.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do is set yourself up for success next time you have any setback, whether it’s a sick child or something else. Plan ahead in your work schedule and set up buffers for your deadlines. For example, if you’ve got something due on a Thursday, aim to have it finished by Monday or Tuesday. Schedule social media posts a few days in advance (using services like Buffer or Hootsuite), and pre-load blog posts so they’re ready and scheduled a couple of weeks out. The more you can get ahead of the curve in your work, the better off you’ll be if something does come up.
Similarly, set yourself — and your child — up for success at home. Keep some “sick day must-haves” (like crackers and a children’s electrolyte drink) stocked in the pantry so you don’t have to drag your little one to the store. Likewise with medicines — keep a supply of your go-to tinctures, syrups, and fever-reducers on hand. And think about having a small stash of “surprises” you can pull out to keep your child occupied when you get in a pinch, like a new puzzle, toy, or movie.
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