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Life in the Academia: Caring for sick children and feeling guilty

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Life in the Academia: Caring for sick children and feeling guilty

At the University of Oulu a task force on parenting has been established by the RESET project. Here, the task force presents the outcomes from a cultural probes study with personnel diaries of the task force members. The contribution shows personal impressions of caring for sick children while navigating scientific work.

Children get sick quite often and that seriously affects our work!

“Daycare called and said that the child was vomiting. I had to quickly organize the work so that I could pick up the child from the daycare and my husband was with the child first, so that I could finish the unfinished work.”

“I was called from the daycare that my son has the flu. So, I had to take him home and take care of him. I was unable to do any office work because I had to focus all my time on him.”

We appreciate the flexibility in our work …

“Today, it’s my responsibility to take care of sick children, alternating with my wife. However, I did not take a leave since I worked as usual from home. (…) Flexibility is great for me as compared to my wife.”

“It is common in Finland for employees to be allowed to work from home (using email and online meetings) while taking care of sick children at home. It becomes more challenging to focus on work; I must be honest, as taking care of two children leaves me quite exhausted, resulting in decreased attention to my work.”

… this is also creating a serious burden for us…

“Due to taking care of my sick children, I had to postpone two tasks until after they fell asleep. As a result, I had to compensate for my working hours from 9pm to 11:30pm.”

“My son has the flu and cannot go to day-care. I have a review deadline today. This requires arrangements. (…) I am sick too, and very tired. Around two my husband comes home, and I get to work for a couple of hours. At night, I’m too tired to work. And feeling guilty of having such a bad workday.”

… and making us feel guilty

“I have decided at night that I will mark myself as “leave for taking care of child”. I feel still sick and my son is not in condition for going to day-care. I’m able to read emails and take care of some things in the morning while he is watching Netflix. (…) I manage to work a bit. When a small child is sick and has to stay at home, you have to consider if you will mark yourself on leave for taking care of the child. It is easier to live in the fantasy that you are able to work at home with the child. To reduce the feeling of guilt it is better to take the leave and then work if you can.”

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