Modern Mom, M.D.

Sick Babies and Working Mommies – Not a good mix

Posted on by Christina

I’m sitting here at 5:30 pm, letting my son nap later than I should, eating some chocolate and writing. It has just been one of those days. Actually, it has just been one of those past 24 hours.

When I arrived home from work last night I knew right away something was going on with Gavin. He kept pointing at his foot saying, “booboo,” then putting his fingers in his ears and whining, and did not want me to put him down. We played outside as usual, he ate about as much as he normally does for dinner, but at 7:30 he started laying on me asking for a bath. It’s never a good sign when my son wants to start heading toward bed. Sure enough 30 minutes later he had a feverĀ of 103.2. We have done this many times before. As a pediatrician I know it’s normal for a kid to have an illness as often as 10 times in 1 year, but as a mother I’m basically over it.

We just had a 48-hour viral illness causing 103 fevers one month ago. It was our first illness since last Winter – when our lives were ruled by ear infections, viral gastroenteritis, and the common cold almost every month. I guess it is that time of year again. I don’t really enjoy the Winter as a pediatrician, with 12-hour days of runny noses and exasperated parents wishing I could take their child’s cold away. I’m also learning not to enjoy it as a mother. I want Gavin to be out in the world practicing valuable social skills, but I hate the germs he brings home from that experience.

My biggest dilemma as a working mother so far has been what to do about work when my child is ill. My son is very attached to his mother, which I choose to perceive as a good sign. But when he is sick it is, simply put, exhausting. He screams for me only, he is completely mean to his father, and he doesn’t want me to as much as go to the bathroom without bringing him along to snuggle on my shoulder. He goes as far as to demand that mommy brings his juice, mommy changes all diapers, and mommy sits with him while he lays on her to watch TV. Cody and I died laughing this morning, recalling how Gavin was so upset that Cody brought his blanket to bed instead of me last night. For 5 minutes Gavin cried over and over again, “I want mommy and me to get my blanket” despite the fact that the blanket was already there. I think he wanted me to get up with him and re-enact the process of retrieving his blanket from the living room. Poor Dadda!

Unfortunately for Gavin, his fever never went below 101 from 7:30 last night until 11 am this morning. I alternated Tylenol and Motrin every 3 hours (as I would tell my patient to do in such a circumstance), gave him 2 tepid baths, and kept him undressed all night. If this were happening to one of my patients, I would advise them to go the emergency room to be seen by a doctor. Since I am a doctor, I was fortunate enough to know when to get worried and head to the ER. He showed none of those signs last night (lethargy, altered mental status, dehydration), so I just stayed with him waiting for it to break. With a snotty nose and diarrhea, I felt confident this was either a virus or the flu.

When 7:00 am rolled around and his temperature was still at 102, I obviously did not feel comfortable leaving my child with our Nanny to go to work. She is the best Nanny I could ask for by teaching me all kinds of things about toddlers, loving him like he is her own, and honestly being part of our family. But when your kid is this sick, as both a Pediatrician and a mother, I want to be there to make sure he doesn’t need to go to the hospital and to comfort him like no one else can.

I’ve made this decision many times, whether to go to work when he is sick or not. Most of the time I decide he is ok to be without me. I think I’ve stayed home twice in two years when he is sick, having cancelled clinic twice. I feel horrible the whole day knowing how much I have inconvenienced my patients. I know many of them have taken off from their work to bring their child in for a check up. And I know many parents want their pediatrician to see them when their child is sick. I do my best to meet those needs, but in good conscience (as a mother) I just can’t always do that.

Making the decision to stay home with my sick child has cost me some patients. I know I lost two patients today, choosing to see another pediatrician because of my sudden absence. I do feel bad that I have upset some patients enough to leave me as a pediatrician. But I also know the reality of my situation. I am a working mom with a working husband and a young toddler. I’m also pregnant with another one on the way. I do the best I can to be there for my patients, but I can’t sacrifice the health and emotional well-being of my child to make everyone happy all the time. This, at least, is the mantra I tell myself when making that difficult decision the mornings that Gavin is sick. If they want a pediatrician who doesn’t have such demands, I am not the one for them.

So to all working moms out there, when I see one of you in my office with a sick child, my heart really does go out to you. It’s a very tough struggle, to decide when to stay home, decide when to call the pediatrician, decide when to let others down so you can be there for your child. Not only are you scared for your child, literally aching for their pain, but you are also juggling the many demands placed on you. I hope we all get through this winter!!!!

10 Responses to Sick Babies and Working Mommies – Not a good mix

Samantha Tounget says: October 23, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Dr. Sherrod has been amazing for our family through some very trying times with my son, Cory. Times that required me to take A LOT of time off of work. I commend you for all you do, and please know that being a mom of a young child and working in the medical field myself I understand how helpless those times make you feel! Keep up the good work!!!

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Christina says: October 24, 2014 at 11:18 am

I can’t imagine how you went through everything you did Samantha. You are an inspiration. Thank you all for the encouragement; I guess we all need it sometime!! Happy to report Gavin is back to normal running and trying to jump off the couch. So glad to see his happy face again.

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Samantha Tounget says: October 27, 2014 at 9:33 am

Glad to hear Gavin is feeling better! So true that we all need a little encouragement from time to time, happy to be the encourager this go round! And as far as what we went through .. always felt like you were never more than a phone call away..so..you were our source of encouragement then!

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Mayra says: October 23, 2014 at 5:50 pm

I understand and am more than proud to have you as my kids doctor. I recommend you to someone who just moved here and wanted a Dr. that shows compassion and this blog post just proves your compassion for children and your life.

Happy for you! Hoping for a good recovery for your little man. See you this coming month.

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Regina says: October 23, 2014 at 7:26 pm

Keep up the good work. Those willing to understand will stick with you! I think your insight into the dynamics of parenthood will inevitably make you the better doctor!

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Kathy Burkett says: October 24, 2014 at 9:39 am

I think you are an amazing pediatrician. We have moved to Louisiana and I sure miss you!! We cannot find a peditrician here because they are not excepting any new patients!!! So please be kind to Dr. Sherrod and just be lucky you find such an amazing Dr.!! Oh and congratulations to you and Cody for the new pregnancy!! Hope Gavin is feeling better!!

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Amy Chapa says: October 27, 2014 at 9:52 pm

You are a great doctor to our little Jonathan too!! You prescribed him Singulair last year which have spared him his many allergy/asthma symptoms & gave him the best medicines for whatever illness he had. Unlike many doctors, you did not blow us off & disregard my concerns for him. You treated him as your own. <3 I love you for that. So if you need to stay home & take care of your little man, that's fine with me. The Shannon walk-in clinic knows our family well when you are unavailable & we feel secure with them too, Dr. Blount (I think). :) Keep up the great work!!

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Ivy Gomez says: October 28, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Ugh…also, as a Mom I can’t fathom taking a sick day for myself, because “What if the baby gets sick?”. I have to save those days for the little ones. Yeesh, I feel your pain Dr. Sherrod!

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Melody says: February 18, 2015 at 12:33 pm

We love you Dr. Sherrod! I hope everything is going well with the new baby! Hopefully you keep updating Modern Mom, MD, I love reading your blog posts!

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