The Complexity of Sick Days When Co-Parenting

By Jen Segura

Often, things come up in my own family that make me wonder how the particular issue is dealt with when co-parenting after a divorce. One such issue is dealing with who misses work when a child is sick. When I bring up this issue in mediation, my clients often seem confused about why I am asking. While many parents have no problem being flexible and reasonable and doing what needs to be done to ensure one party isn’t having the burden fall on them every time…there are definitely those that are not. These days, with so many people working from home, it may not be as big of an issue as it once was, but in the past where I have seen it cause the most problems is in employment that can’t be performed from home, with police officers, fireman, doctors, and nurses.

For example, in the past, I had a couple who were both police officers. One was a Captain, and one was in the field. The Captain, of course, had more power in his position, but it still was damaging to his career to call out because kids are sick. However, the mother, who was in the field, could lose her job if she missed too many days; plus, she left her partner alone on the days she had to call in. There were no good answers for this co-parenting couple, so the best answer we could come up with that was fair and reasonable was to trade-off every other time the kids were sick, so they could both limit their time away from work. This was possible because the co-parents were willing to work with each other and cared about the other person enough to see how their lives and careers could be negatively impacted if they allowed the standard “whoever has custody that day, stays home” concept. What happens when the parents do NOT care enough to do that? Then what do you do? Well, you talk about it…

Here are some things to consider:

  • If your co-parent has a less flexible job than you and constantly has to take time off to care for sick kids, how will it impact you if they losses their job?
  • If the kids tend to get sick on your time, would you feel OK always being the parent who must rearrange your schedule to care for the kids while they are sick?
  • Are there family members or close friends who are willing to care for the kids if they are sick, allowing you both to go to work? If the said family member or friend is from your circle, are you open to allowing your co-parent to utilize this person as well?
  • Do the kids tend to want one parent specifically when they are sick? Think of why that might be? Are there things you can do that the other parent does to make the child feel better and be OK with you or them?
  • Is taking time off work just an inconvenience? Or might it affect your position or job stability?

Being a parent is not an easy job in any circumstance. Some sacrifices have to be made, and choices are often limited due to the need to put our children’s well-being in front of our own as parents. Prioritizing your children’s well-being should never be clouded by your feelings (be they negative or positive) about your co-parent. While it may feel like you are punishing your co-parent, your son or daughter is the real individual being punished. It is always important to keep in mind that your kids never chose this… they have to live with your decisions that have a huge impact on their day-to-day life. Yet, more often than not, they still keep a smile on their little faces and bounce on forward with optimism and energy only a child can encompass. For this, they deserve to be protected and cared for to the best of you and your co-parents’ abilities. So have the hard conversations, listen to your co-parent. Make good decisions based on the right goals…providing your children the best life you can, regardless of your marital status.

Need to talk about sick days? Contact West Coast Family Mediation Center at (858) 736-2411 to schedule a FREE virtual consultation today. 

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