I sat in the emergency room at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, listening to the doctor, explain to me that they needed to admit Nate. He had an abscess that needed to be drained and surgery was the only option.
After completing all the necessary paperwork for admittance to the hospital floor where Nate would be staying, we were escorted to the room. When we arrived, we were met by a nurse who explained that she would be caring for Nate. She then took his vitals, gave him pain medication, and then dimmed the lights, before leaving, so he could rest.
I sat down on the sofa as the news played on the television and I looked out the window. Through the large glass, I could see the headlights of cars whizzing by. Then, at that moment, I thought about work. Ahhh, I inwardly groaned….I had to call out.
Nate’s need for surgery had come at an awful time. Our school and the many others in the state were preparing to administer the required standardized test. It was important for staff to be there. The schedule had been made weeks in advance, and it was planned for me to work with a colleague, proxying her classroom.
I knew how much work and effort was put into making the two weeks of testing run smoothly. If I was not there, it was going to require a shuffling of teachers, locating substitutes, and whatever else was needed. And if that happened it would be my fault, I painfully thought to myself.
As I sat looking out the window, I started to feel horrible inside, for causing a problem. Yet, I had to make that dreadful phone call, I was NOT going to make it to work.
So I retrieved my cellphone and called my superior. When I spoke my voice was unsure and shaky. “I’m sorry”, I began. “I will not be able to make it to work. My son is in the hospital and needs to have surgery.” I explained. Although the tone on the other end was sympathetic, I felt horrible and guilty inwardly. When the call ended, I couldn’t help thinking that there were going to be conversations later that complained about me. “Here she goes, calling out again” and “Another issue with her son.”
I put the phone down and looked at Nate, as he moved, trying to get comfortable in the hospital bed. I took a deep breath, as I began to think about the past years and how we had this same situation, with him being sick and me needing to call out from work to care for him.
I stood up and walked over to Nate’s bed, sitting on the edge, as I looked at him sleeping peacefully. Who is more important? I asked myself. Of course, I knew the answer, but at that moment I needed to hear myself say it. “Nate”, I said aloud. “My child is more important, than my job.” I added. And that was final.
Since that day, I have gained a new perspective about taking off when my son needs me.
Just do it! Call out and don’t feel guilty. I have realized that my employer will manage without me. They can replace me in a quick second. Nate, on the other hand, needs his mother. It is my job to care for him. If that requires taking off from work, so be it. My child comes before my job.