By the end of the day I had an ache in my chest and a nasty cough. I was not surprised. I work with preschoolers and many of them have been coming to school with runny noses and that very same cough. I wash my hands frequently and we disinfect surfaces multiple times per day to no avail. If you are a teacher, you are a sitting duck for every germ that comes along.
Kids come to school sick. There are a variety of reasons for this. Sometimes the runny nose doesn’t make them miserable, they don’t have a fever, and the parent reasons they are better off being with their friends. Sometimes the parent can’t miss work and gives them some medicine and hopes for the best. They hope against hope they won’t get that dreaded call from the office or the nurse.
The ability to stay home with a child comes from financial stability and a kind of autonomy in your place of employment. If you don’t have that, you take any time off at your peril. We can’t roll our eyes and complain about parents who send their children to school sick without understanding the underlying issues that cause that to happen.
It all comes down to an issue which remains unresolved in our culture: who cares for children? Who cares for them when parents have no choice but to be at work? Who cares for them on snow days, or one-day holidays, or school vacations, or when they are sick? Assuming that the norm is a mother who is always on call is woefully ignorant to the realities of life in 2018. It is hardly a standard against which all families can be judged.
The Howard County Schools have addressed some student health issues though a program called Telehealth, but this does not reach the issue of how we care for sick children when they need to be away from school. Is this an area that needs community intervention? Do we need better supports in place for parents in the workplace?
For some years Harbor Hospital offered a sick child day care program in Baltimore. I don’t know if that is still in operation. But that still means you need to have the money to pay for such a service. A higher paying worker might be able to access that. A minimum wage worker probably could not.
As an early childhood educator, I believe that caring for children is everyone’s responsibility. I think you can tell a lot about a community by the value it places on care for the most vulnerable. So I want to know who will care for our sick children? How will we make that possible?
And I want to know how to get this painful cough out of my chest. Stat.
Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: