the curse of the rotavirus. Missing another meeting to play nurse?

February 15, 2011 § 3 Comments

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I am sick of taking leave from work. Much as I want to look after my children when they are unwell, the frequency with which this occurs leads to inevitable tension between me (already part-time) and my full-time colleagues. Not to mention mistrust. I work Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and this January I took nearly every Thursday off work.

I don’t imagine I am alone in this. It is, I am sure, almost always mums who take the time off. Perhaps working part-time or flexibly like I do, perhaps not the primary wage-earner, the onus is on us to shoulder the majority of the childcare responsibility. Pity too, the single mother. I know of one working mum with three young children who allocates every single one of her holiday days to looking after her children when they get sick. Where does the law stand on this? In the UK all employees are legally entitled to a short stint of unpaid time off work, called Time Off for Dependants. Of course though, employer’s policies vary, and if you don’t want to feel it in your back pocket, you can wave good bye to your holiday entitlement.

Particularly instrumental in screwing up mothers’ careers everywhere is the rotavirus. According to Wikipedia, by the age of five, nearly every child in the world has been infected with rotavirus at least once. This evil virus is spread around nurseries quicker than a new swearword on the playground, and in my experience is guaranteed to lay up every family member within 48 hours. When I first went back to work my baby attended a well-run and clean nursery, but this didn’t stop him contracting sickness and diarrhoea on a monthly basis. The familiar trickle of yellow sludge sliding down his pudgy thighs and exploding up his back, a resulting week of exclusion from nursery and a diet of eggs and bananas to try and get those nappies to seem normal again. I would get sick too, more meetings would be missed, resulting in more tension, and more rolled eyes from my childless colleagues.

So what of the grandparents, this unpaid army of childcarers who save many a desperate parent? Well it’s not so easy to sell a day of looking after grandchild when said grandchild will be projectile vomiting and crying for its mum. Not to mention that within 48 hours grandma will be more than likely lying prostrate on the bathroom floor clutching her cramping stomach and rueing the day she ever offered to help out her darling daughter.

The impact that taking unplanned leave has on career progression can not be underestimated. Not to mention the impact that absence from work must have on the economy. I for one am choosing to give up work after the birth of my next child – thankfully I am financially able to do so, because to the burden of a stressful job alongside childcare duties is extremely hard to bear. Surely there is a case for vaccination against the rotavirus in the UK? In the United States, according to the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, the rotavirus vaccination programme has halted around 2.7 million cases of sever gastorenteritis in children, almost 60,000 hospitalisations, and around 37 deaths each year. What benefit it has added to working mums remains unquantifiable.

Article first published as The Curse of the Rotavirus on Technorati.

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