Working Mom Woes: The Sick Day Dilemma

I have two jobs. One job requires 24-7 dedication. So when I’m not physically doing this work, I’m on-call, and I am certainly always mentally and emotionally connected. This job pays me in love–slobbery kisses, giggles, and cuddles. Being a mom is the job I live for, the job I’ve always known that I wanted, and the one that fuels my heart and soul.

Working mom woes: the sick day dilemma

My other job requires that I spend 40 hours a week in the office, but I’m compensated with benefits and a paycheck to help support my family. This is a job that I earned by pursuing a degree and steadily working to gain skills and experiences that make me a valuable employee in a career field that I am passionate about. In a nutshell, I’m a mom who works professionally outside of the home, and I’d like to take a few moments to vent about this. Cut me some slack, though, because as I write this, I’m on the tail end of a 6-day streak of baby vomit, diarrhea, and PTO woes.

It wasn’t pretty.

I think we can all agree that it is utterly heartbreaking to see your children in such distress. It literally hurts my heart to feel her clammy little head laying on my shoulder and to see her sweetlittle face contorting in discomfort. As a mother, the worst feeling ever is feeling like there is nothing you can do to help your child.

Much to our surprise, this “intestinal virus” kept our daughter out of daycare for a FULL WEEK. Every time I thought she was getting better, she would promptly vomit all over the place. My heart was aching for her to return to her happy and healthy self. On top of those overwhelming emotions was a thick layer of guilt that only a working mom can fully understand. Of course, I ended up using a slew of my precious paid time off (PTO) to care for our sickly babe.

But no matter what I did, the guilt was there…

I felt guilty for attempting to go to work, and then I felt guilty for having to leave.

I felt guilty for not going to the pediatrician sooner, and then I felt guilty for wasting the doctor’s time for something that isn’t even treatable.

I felt guilty for not checking my work email while I snuggled my sleeping baby, and then I felt guilty when she cried because I set her down to respond to a couple emails.

I felt guilty that I was home all day and didn’t do any chores.

I felt guilty that I was feeling resentment toward my husband who doesn’t have the benefit of paid sick days (I know, this means I’m terrible…right?!).

I felt guilty when I asked my own mother if she would babysit our sick baby so I could go to work to catch up. And Lord have mercy, that guilt was palpable as I peeled my clingy daughter off my chest and handed her to grandma so I could get to the office for a day!

The guilt was worse than the overload of baby bodily fluids I endured throughout the week. Way worse.

Working mom woes: the sick day dilemma

Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly thankful that my workplace provides paid time off so viruses like these don’t jeopardize my employment or wreak additional havoc on our budget. I am fortunate that my supervisor was understanding and that my direct teammates can relate to this type of scenario. The deep guilt that I felt surrounding the decision to work or not to work while my daughter was home sick wasn’t coming from them–it was all on me. I found that it’s a very personal struggle… one of many that come along with the decision to be a mother who works full-time out of the home.

My sick-day dilemma is just the tip of the iceberg on this subject, and ALL moms can relate to that. It’s a complicated decision, laced with complicated consequences and complicated rewards. There is NO right and NO wrong, and I think that’s where I struggle the most. I’m not a huge fan of grey areas; I like to follow the instructions and adhere to the rules!

So naturally, when the demand of my “two jobs” are at odds, it makes my head spin, my emotions flair, and I’m flooded with guilt.


I’m not sure there is anything I can do to better prepare myself for the next week-long puke-fest that will no doubt hit our household in the future. If you have any wise words for combating this type of mom-guilt, please do share!


Jessi is a creative, organized and enthusiastic girl mom with a soft spot for country music and all that it entails. She's a single mom to two sassy little girls (born in 2014 & 2018). She's putting down roots in West Branch, Iowa, just a few miles from her hometown of West Liberty. Jessi works in fundraising, event coordination and community development and enjoys hiking, crafts, bargain hunting, party planning, and taking in the simple joys of life. She is admittedly addicted to funny memes, is passionate about philanthropy, and is completely smitten by the adventure of motherhood.


  1. I can TOTALLY relate to this! I’m a full time post-doc masters student at the university and everytime I have to miss my classes or teaching or cancel my patients, I feel guilty. On the flip side, whenever I have to drop my son off at daycare when I know he’s not feeling well, I feel like my heart is shattering. I don’t like to pawn my responsibilities off to anyone so I feel like I’m stuck either way. Ultimately, I always choose my son when it really counts but I feel like I’m leaving my colleagues hanging (only 1 has a child). I don’t have any advice for you except know that you’re not alone!!

    • Exactly how I feel about not wanting to leave anyone hanging…I feel your pain! It totally helps to know that this intense guilt is felt by others. Hang in there!

  2. I so hear you…my husband works full time, as do I, but doesn’t get paid time off. So when baby girl is sick, it’s mostly mom putting everything on hold to care for her 24/7. The guilt over getting behind at work/not being able to fix my baby’s illness/wasting the pediatrician’s time/watching the house go to sh*t /making my mom sick, too, by asking her to babysit really resonated with me!! It feels like a lose-lose! All I try to tell myself is, in just a few short years I’ll be longing for so much one-on-one time with my daughter, and I can return the favor for co-workers by picking up their slack when they have sick kids, parents, or personal issues. I think we are all doing the best we can.


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