Parents, Save Your “Sick Days” at Work!

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Dear parent of a daycare-aged child,

It’s imperative that you have a plan for if and when you will need back-up care, even if you have your child in a daycare (whether a center or a home is no matter). There are events that may come up where you’ll need to have someone ready to step in and care for your child. Things like for:

  • Your provider being too sick to work
  • Your own child exhibiting symptoms of illness (vomiting, diarrhea, fever over 100.0F, open sores) or a diagnosed contagious illness/infection (strep throat, flu, pink eye, impetigo), or something serious where a child needs rest (pneumonia, etc.)
    • For an illness like Hand Foot Mouth, if the child has is bad enough, they may be excluded from daycare for 7-10 days, or until all sores are scabbed over and are no longer oozing
    • For an illness like the flu, exclusion is 7-10 days from diagnosis
  • Your own child having trouble breathing upon waking in the morning, requiring a hospital visit (likely croup or whooping cough)
  • A holiday closure (New Year’s Day, President’s Day, Thanksgiving, etc.)
  • “Public School Schedule” closures and breaks (some centers go off of teacher schedules and will have closure days for planning days and etc.)
  • Provider’s bereavement time off (1-3 days)
  • Provider’s maternity leave (6-8 weeks) or if the provider goes into labor early and the due date is now earlier than expected
  • A daycare having no availability for drop-in care – it was not guaranteed
  • Personal day closure (for home daycare providers that need to take an entire day off for one reason or another)
  • If your child is inconsolable at daycare and needs to be picked up
  • A baby that won’t eat, sleep, or stop crying despite all attempts
  • Power outages (for any reason) or water shut off (for any reason), all daycare children need to be picked up within 1 hour
  • Closure due to fire or other damages caused by natural disasters
  • Training days for staff/professional development


People you can look into being your back-up care (and have 3-5 options):

  • You, as a parent, stay home with your sick child
  • You, as a parent, have your partner/spouse stay home with your sick child
  • You, as a parent, work from home with your sick child (if you can)
  • Grandparents
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Stay-at-home-parent (offer to pay for their time)
  • A daycare center that offers drop-in care for healthy children
  • A daycare home that offers drop-in care for healthy children
  • A daycare for mildly ill children (some illnesses are excluded even here, and rightfully so!)
  • Neighbor
  • Nanny
  • Back-Up Babysitter
  • Mildly sick care co-op with other local parents
  • Health Club childcare (healthy children only)

These options should be discussed with your partner/spouse and a solid plan should be in place. Make sure you ask these different people or businesses if they offer drop-in/last-minute care and be sure to ask them what hours they can watch your child(ren) and what conditions they are OK with and which ones they aren’t. (ie: Hand Foot Mouth might be OK but vomiting might not be comfortable for them to handle). Talk about if they would do a care exchange if they too have children or if they expect to be compensated, and how much.

Have a solid back-up plan with quite a few options in case grandparents are out of town or if your neighbor’s college kid is back in school in another city. If you know of an upcoming date you need back-up care, get it ironed out as soon as you know the date. Don’t wait until the week of to figure it all out. You’ll stress yourself out unnecessarily.

Before I did daycare, if my son was sick, I would stay home from work until he was better. My partner and I purposefully chose alternate schedules so that neither of us would be too inconvenienced by a sick child. I worked M-F and he worked Weds-Sun. I had off Sat Sun and he had off  Mon Tues. So we only needed daycare 3 days a week and so if our little guy was sick on the first day of his daycare week, we only needed 2 other days of coverage if he was too ill for daycare.

So if you have “Sick Days” available to you at your work/job, please save them for if your child is ill and you need to stay home with them, unless you have a very forgiving boss! As a parent, this is a sacrifice you must make to take care of your child and to also ensure that no other kids at daycare get the illness your child has. Please hold yourself to a high standard with good integrity and do the right thing- keep your sick child home. It’ll be good for both of you.

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