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"Working mums: it's time to stop being martyrs when your kids get sick."

This is the depressing truth about being a mum who puts your kid in childcare to return to the workforce: you’ve got months of coughing, sneezing, fevers, vomiting and possibly explosive diarrhoea ahead of you. Unless helpful grandparents live nearby, you will almost definitely end up taking time off work. Quite possibly, lots of it.

How about if you’re a dad with a kid starting in childcare? Well, that’s usually a different story. Chances are, you probably won’t take too much time off work at all.

Now, an employment expert is calling on mums to stop being martyrs and dads to start doing their fair share of looking after sick kids.

Listen: Dealing with mum martyr syndrome in the workplace. (Post continues.)

Kiri Stejko, executive coach with Parents At Work, says childhood illness is a big issue for working parents. She says although some kids seem to have strong immune systems, most will have two tough winters ahead of them when they start in care.

“If you’ve got multiple kids, you’ve got multiple years of winters,” she points out. “They can have weeks off.”

Stejko says most childcare centres have policies where kids with a temperature over 37 aren’t allowed back for 24 hours.

“They can be fine, but they’re not allowed back.”

New research by Cenovis has found 90 per cent of the time, it’s mums rather than dads who stay home with ill kids. Once they’ve used up their sick and carer’s leave, some of them even start using up their annual leave. The research shows that last winter, 11 per cent of Aussie mothers took annual leave to look after a sick family member.

Stejko agrees it tends to be mums who take leave to look after unwell kids. She says they need to talk to their partners about it before they return to work.

“If there is a partner, don’t just take the martyr mentality,” she advises.

“Don’t take it all on yourself. Do consider this to be a team effort. Have the conversation now about how you’re going to handle it.

Responsibility for taking are of sick kids falls largely on mums. (Image via Getty.)
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“The martyr syndrome with women is pretty significant. Women just go, ‘Okay, well, I’m the one who has to take the day off,’ and they don’t ask. They just assume that they’re the ones. There needs to be more expectation on men to take this on 50 per cent of the time.”Info from the 2016 Census backs up the belief that women are still the primary carers of kids in Australia today. In the 25 to 34 year age bracket, 42

Info from the 2016 Census backs up the belief that women are still the primary carers of kids in Australia today. In the 25 to 34 year age bracket, 42 per cent of women said they had done unpaid childcare in the week before the census. Only 26 of men in that age bracket said the same.

Then there’s the burden of guilt. Stejko says women, many of them working part-time, feel bad about taking days off work to look after their kids.

“If they’re now only working three days a week, and out of those three days they’re taking two days, they’re only there a day. They do feel terrible.”

Working from home while your child sleeps is also an option. (Image: Getty.)

She believes that as well as dads picking up the slack, employers need to be more flexible. She thinks they need to allow people to work from home when it’s possible.

“Sick children can sleep a lot, so you might get half a day’s work done, and you might make up the rest in the evening,” she explains.

“Employers need to get better at recognising that people can do jobs outside of normal working hours. The big employers are getting better at this, slowly but surely.”

Do you think dad's need to start picking up the slack?

Tags: health , kids-health , parenting-2
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