How to (not) Work From Home with a Sick Baby

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Friday was a day I always thought about when I was pregnant. The baby’s caught another cold from daycare so she stays home sick, and you spend the day snuggling, watching movies and making her feel better. (What I didn’t know was that you would also likely be sick because day care germs are the strongest germs on the planet). As much as you don’t want your baby getting a cold, sick-days are a place where mom is the only one who knows exactly how to make you feel better. It’s a memory she’ll always think back on as she gets older.

Except sick days aren’t transerable from baby to mommy, and mommy has to work.

If you read my post from Thursday you know that, at the last minute, I hired my coworker’s out-of-town friend to help so my baby could stay home. She was battling a cold all week and it was unfair to make her go to school when she was up all night coughing. I didn’t want to have the babysitter be home with her alone because I didn’t know her–at all– so I decided I would work upstairs while they played in the living room. And the baby napped. Because she was sick. Problem. Solved.

It was crucial I had help because my Friday work schedule was super busy. Thursday afternoon meetings led to immediate deadlines on Friday. I HAD to work uninterrupted all morning to get them done.

Our Friday started at 2 am when the baby woke up hungry, sucked down a bottle faster than I could make a second one and threw it up all over me, our dishwasher and the kitchen floor. I fell back asleep at around 3-something next to her crib and our sleepover lasted until about 7. Which is a lot longer than I usually sleep, so I’ll give her that.

John got home at 8 am from work and took over so I could call into my first meetings. So far so good. She was in a great mood despite being sick and they bounced a ball, read some books and fell asleep together on the couch. She slept for an hour and a half, a huge nap for her, and woke up with an equally huge smile, looking (and probably feeling) better than she had all week. Just in time for the babysitter.

I always feel awkward when I have a babysitter come over. It wasn’t that long ago that I was the babysitter, not the mom, and I’m not sure if I should be bossy with them or friendly, since they’re usually my age. And then I panic about how much to pay them, always overpay, and make them do as little as possible.

I’m also not delusional about how annoying the mom side of me is. I walked the babysitter around the house explaining how to make a bottle, change a diaper (she looked at me like I was straight from planet paranoid), we went over every toy the baby has in her toy chest and how I would be right upstairs in case of emergency. Oh, and don’t actually worry about making a bottle, I’ll just come down when she needs one and make it myself. I handed her to the sitter.

My baby does this thing, I bet a lot of babies do it, where she’s perfectly content when I’m holding her. But if I pass her to someone else? All. Hell.


But I’ve never seen my baby lose it like she did Friday. She was so loud she woke up John who had gone to sleep in the bedroom. She was so loud I could hear her from upstairs when I tried to let her cry it out. She was so loud I definitely couldn’t concentrate.

At this point I was about t-minus two hours until my deadline, about 3 hours behind on the work, and I couldn’t think with her shrieks shaking the house, so I took my laptop downstairs and asked the sitter if we could try me being in the room. But that wasn’t enough for baby. It had to be me in the room with her on my lap.

That was our day. The baby had to be next to me, sitting on me, in my arms or with our backs touching. We tried everything. Food, bottles. Taking her to the bookshelf to pull down books. She had to be in my space, pressing the keys on my keyboard or controlling my mouse. If the babysitter touched her, she lost her mind.

It wasn’t until 3pm that she made any indication of being tired. At that point I was behind, starving, exhausted and discouraged, and, honestly, kind of embarrassed that this was how we were acting in front of this strange babysitter. I was on a meeting, muted, so I took the baby into her room to rock her to sleep. But she was more interested in the voices on the meeting than sleeping.

That was my last attempt. I gave her to the babysitter and instructed her to rock her to sleep, thinking I just needed ten minutes to heat up lunch and try to get something out of this meeting. Then I would take over again while the babysitter watched.

But, a miracle happened. I think the baby gave up. I stopped hearing her scream, so I checked the camera in her room (I’m seriously not helping my paranoid mom case) and the baby was fast asleep, like she should have been, in the babysitters arms.

That left me with exactly an hour and a half to work.

This is fully a case of bad parenting. Well, not really parenting, more being bad at being a parent. Despite the reality that we work opposite schedules, my workload can’t handle any unscheduled days off right now (John actually can’t call in sick) and we have no family to help us, we still have no one to call if we can’t watch her. So we end up in these situations where I’m trying to wear two hats. Which makes it sound like some kind of fun party game. Two hats does not mean a party.

I’m really not sure how to fix it right now. We don’t have a lot of opportunity to go out so there’s not a lot of opportunity to find a babysitter outside of her teachers. And they’re not available if it’s a sick day. I did when she was really little, but I was home with the nanny in the afternoons and all the baby did was eat, sleep, repeat.

With this bound to happen again, I wrote down a couple things to keep in mind when it’s a work from home/sick kid day, especially when I get frustrated that I can’t do it all. But it’s impossible to do both. And at some point you have to accept that.

  1. Be transparent: I always tell my clients and my coworkers what’s up. The baby is sick, I’m the only one that can take care of her, I might not be 100% available. I also make sure they know they’re still a priority and I’m doing my best. This isn’t a vacation day for me. I’m not watching HGTV. (Ok, maybe I am watching HGTV but it’s in the background).
  2. Schedule lunch: Even though you might not be working the full 8 hours, you need a break. If not to feed your baby, to feed yourself. You’re not doing anyone any favors by being hungry.
  3. Prioritize: What are your deadlines TODAY? You may screw yourself for the next day, but you might also save yourself from having to re-do things if you’re not giving them your full attention.
  4. Be Grateful: There are worse problems to have. If you’re job is expecting you to work from home they’re also allowing you to work from home without penalty. There are many, many people who aren’t afforded that luxury. Don’t get frustrated with your job, their workers need to work.
  5. Keep Some Perspective: The baby is a human who needs to be taken care of. If that means working after she goes to bed, then start drinking coffee. If that means not meeting a deadline, it can wait. Being a mom is extremely difficult, and being a working mom adds a lot of logistical challenges. You can’t always be perfect. Unless you have a babysitter to watch your kid, who the kid actually likes, and can come at the drop of the hat. Then you’re pretty close.


How do you handle sick days? Or, if you’re a stay at home mom, how do you handle days when YOU’RE sick?


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One Response to How to (not) Work From Home with a Sick Baby

  1. Brandyn February 2, 2016 at 10:56 pm #

    Oh, I feel you on this one! When my daughter was a baby, she wouldn’t go to anyone but me. I tried a few times to have people come watch her while I caught up on stuff for the blog or around the house, but it always ended the same. Now that I’m working outside the home and she is in daycare, it makes it doubly hard because if she’s too sick to go, I have to stay home. You are right, though. In the end you have to just accept it for what it is and just do what you can. The most important thing at that point is to be there to comfort your child.

    Thank you for sharing with us at #MommyMeetupMondays!

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