It’s a dilemma that many parents face. You have a child home sick but other children to collect from daycare or school.
But when single mum of two, Renee, posted an innocent photo of her unwell eight-year-old daughter, Breanna, on her personal Facebook profile, she didn’t expect to be on the receiving end of criticism from an old friend followed by a public rant.
Renee's big parenting fail? Taking her daughter, who was home sick with a 24-hour tummy bug - to school pick-up where she was collecting her six-year-old son, Brandon.
While Renee's friends were quick to offer their well wishes to her daughter, a woman the mum went to high school with on the Central Coast, named Lisa*, commented with: "If Breanna doesn't come good in the next 24-48 hours I'd take her to the [doctor] as viruses usually don't last more then 48 hours."
Followed by: "I hope Bree is feeling much better. Though not a good idea to take her to school pick-up where other kids could pick it up. You couldn't leave Bree with a neighbour or friend or have a friend pick him up from school?"
Renee responded with: "It was a 24 hour virus Lisa* and no I couldn't leave her with anyone as that's my predicament being a single mum."
Lisa replied: "Not even a friend to pick Brandon up from school that's going to pick their own kids up anyway? Even 24 hour bugs can spread easily, by the looks of Bree she looks like she barely made it to school pick-up let alone walking home. I wouldn't like it if a parent brought their sick child to school, pick-up or or not. Should always have a back up plan in place.
"I'm sure you've made friends through the school, even if they are in Bree's year that wouldn't mind picking Brandon up as well as long as you send a signed note with the nominated person. What about your emergency contacts? Would they be available?"
"I understand you're a single parent, though you should always have back up options in place for days like [this] when one of the kids [is sick]."
Renee replied with: "Oh Lisa sorry I forgot you are a single parent without help around you 24/7 guess what? I don't have a support network to call upon in times like these I don't have family to lend a hand nor would I leave my child with a neighbour. We moved recently, we don't know our neighbours. Also other parents whom I have just met by the way as Brandon only just started kindergarten - who have kids obviously too so no I'm afraid I can't call upon them to help me either. Considering we were at school for five minutes and away from everybody else I might add, I think personally considering my circumstances I did OK on this day. But thank you for making me feel even more horrible at the fact I had no other choice but to do what I did."
"I've been super diligent about ensuring the illness didn't spread to him or anyone else," said Renee.
Renee's son who has a heart condition - hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) has had multiple surgeries and has just started primary school.
While Renee's friends quickly expressed their support for the single mum's choice, and told Lisa, who does not have children, to "back off", Lisa took to her own Facebook profile to continue her rant, which she made public for the world to see:
"My biggest pet hate!! Is parents who take there children to school pick up when they are home sick grr. Gr8 way 2 spread it."
"No I don't have kids but arrange a friend to pick up the other children or to stay with your sick child, 24 hour bug or not. Some parents can't afford to take time off work to look after sick children. Think of others [RENEE tagged]."
After copping criticism from her own friends for launching such a public rant and from friends of Renee's who had seen the public post, Lisa posted:
"Just to let everyone know I have though thought about it from both sides. But parents need to consider other children with low immune systems such as suffering from cancer or an auto immune system, that exposure to illnesses can lead to hospitalisation. Which will make it worse for the other child as they then miss school and parents need to take time off work.
"My point is parents need to be considerate [of] all other children who may be exposed. The parent mentioned in this has a younger son who has [a] serious heart condition and I would have thought she'd know better not to take her sick child to school for others to pick up whatever they have. When her son was approximately six months old I ran into her in Woolworths in Gosford but I spoke to her from a distance as I had a really bad flu and didn't want to expose him to whatever I had, he's almost six.
"He's had three open heart surgeries, the first when he was only a few months old. This lady has the children's father in their life, why not call him to pick up the other child."
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Friends of Renee branded Lisa's rants as irrational, rude and unjustified while another questioned Lisa's own judgment of visiting a grocery store recently while sick with the flu:
"What were you doing in Woolworths with a really bad flu??? Spreading your germs?? What about people with low immune systems? Why not shop online or get an 'emergency contact to do your groceries'? Shame on you!"
Lisa added: "If I saw a sick child in and around the area where my child or niece or nephew was playing I'd approach the parent or carer and ask them not to bring sick children to school whether its for drop off or pick up or not. As some some children have low immunities and if my child was one of them I wouldn't appreciate the careless parent."
"Just like sending your children to school with nits should always be checked while brushing their hair every morning and if more convenient each afternoon. Hair should always be put up, in a small ponytail if necessary."
The replies were in support of the single mother's decision to collect her child from school, with the unwell child in tow.
One fellow single mother commented:
"Wowsers... as a single parent who also has no family near by as they are all in Sydney. I'm disgusted that someone can make such cruel judgments. Instead of being quick to throw stones maybe instead offer help you out.
"She clearly has her own issues that she for some stupid reason has the need to vent on to you. Which you clearly don't deserve. Just remember she's clearly the miserable one here and that's all a reflection of her character not yours.
"You do what you do and screw the narrow minded opinions.
"To all the single mums!!"
Renee replied: "I did nothing wrong, kept Bree at a distance from all whilst on the school grounds. Kept a sanitary vigilance at home so that Brandon did not get ill and neither did I and guess what miraculously I have not heard of any tummy bug raging through the school. Somehow I rest my unmotherly and irresponsible ways case."
* Some names have been changed.
School and daycares are notorious germ hubs, did this childless woman take it too far? How else can parents - without strong support networks - collect kids from school/kindy while also caring for a sick child?
LISTEN: Sue Channon talks about what it is like to be a parent of a very sick child and what people can do to make life a little bit better.