Thursday, March 3, 2011

Work: The sick day paradox

A couple of weeks ago, a spot at the junction of my neck, back and shoulder started to hurt.  It kept on hurting and hit its peak earlier this week, when the tiniest move in the wrong direction resulted in a screamingly urgent shot of pain that made me think for an instant that my head was being wrenched off.  My husband urged me to take a sick day.

As if it were that simple.

At the beginning of each school year, I am allotted 15 sick days and they accrue from year to year. With young children in school and day care there have been years when I've had to take an embarrassing number of days, but this year I've lucked out and only had to take one. You would think that would make it an easy decision.  And yet it's so much more complicated.

First, there is the reality that Strep Throat, Stomach Flu and Pink Eye lurk just around the corner.  Because I never know when I'll wake to a feverish child or get the dreaded call from the daycare during my workday, I must be judicious with my sick days.  When deciding whether to spend a day on my own health, vomit is usually the gold standard.

My neck started hurting after a day at the mall.  The pain was particularly excruciating when I did the leaned back head tilt rear view-mirror-lipstick-check that is reflexive every time I get in the car. accident?  Vanity-induced repetitive use injury?  Considering that I only missed two days of work last year during the week the girls and I suffered from H1N1, I had trouble considering the neck pain worthy of a day.

Calling in sick is often more work than it's worth.  I spend as much time planning lessons for a day I'm not there as I do for a day that I am, and then I have the pleasure of returning to deal with the fallout of whatever went on in my absence.  There's nothing like starting the day by reading an angry substitute's report. Phrases like "completely disrespectful" and "some of the worst behavior I've seen" are particularly jarring at 7 a.m..  

Add to that the fact that my part-time schedule means that a sick day is only a partial break as Little E must be picked up at noon, the reality that sitting around my chore-neglected home is hardly restful, and the ego-driven sense that it is irresponsible --unfair even-- to deny my students even an hour of my skills and knowledge.

I opted to power through and skip the sick day, and my neck seems to be on the mend.

It started feeling better right around the time that I decided to take a personal day tomorrow. So much less complicated.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed the post. Isn't that always the way it works.