Okay, it’s the middle of winter now, so it should come as no big surprise to you or anyone else that people everywhere are sick. As dogs. I mean, there’s snot and phlegm and bacteria floating around everywhere, lurking on every surface and inside every handshake or innocent hello kiss and every single one of us is susceptible to catching any of the nastiness that’s out there. Exactly no one is totally immune. But we’re way less apt to catch something from someone if that someone does the right thing and keeps themselves away from other humans to avoid sharing and spreading their germs. Unfortunately, though, not everyone does the right thing when they get sick or their kids get sick, so I felt it was time for a quick conversation. (I’m calling it a conversation to make it less threatening.)
Now I’ll be the first one to the mic to admit that there have been times in my life when there was a meeting I felt I couldn’t miss or a presentation I just had to give or a day I just couldn’t afford to take off, so I forged ahead, in spite of feeling like death. Yup, I’ve fought through my share of crappy days, feeling gross and being germy, not wanting to be the wuss who called out sick. Instead of listening to my clearly sick and worn-down body, there were definitely times when I ignored my lightheadedness or sore throat or achy bones and went to class or to work even though I should’ve stayed home. When I should’ve isolated myself instead. And we’ve all done it. But we shouldn’t. Yet we still do.
I think that’s because, as grownups, we all have the unique ability to justify almost anything when we’re faced with looking weak. Like how no one else can possibly do our job like we can so it’s just easier for us to do it ourselves, even if we’re deathly ill. Or that we’ll fall too far behind if we miss even four seconds of school or work. Or that since we’re adults, we have more of a capacity to keep our germs to ourselves by covering our mouth or sneezing into our arm or sanitizing our hands. But, sadly, we don’t. Just by going into the office or getting in the carpool or sitting in the class, we’re putting everyone around us at risk for catching whatever disgustingness we’re carrying. And in all honesty, most of us know better…we just choose to ignore it.
It’s only when I became a mom that the full scope of my stupidity caught up with me. When I realized how dumb and irresponsible it was to infect other perfectly innocent, healthy people just because I had a keenly overdeveloped sense of responsibility that skewed my better judgement.
See, in my case, my brain changed when I had kids and I started thinking about someone other than myself. It was one thing to suffer through a work day feeling miserable in my own little cubicle, but to send my kid off to school for the whole day with those glassy eyes and that drippy nose, knowing she was feeling awful, that I couldn’t take. In my case, my mama bear instincts kicked in haaaaard once my girls started going to school and I became someone who’d sooner throw herself on top of a wad of dirty Kleenex than let her kid touch it. I hated the idea of sending my kids into the world sick as much for their sake as for the people around them. I just couldn’t live with the guilt. That’s when it clicked for me that it’s not about being a martyr and toughing it out when you feel like crap. Instead, it’s about using common sense and taking care of yourself and/or your kid, so no one gets sicker. Period.
I realized, once I saw mom after mom dropping their sick, snotty, feverish kids off at school, pumping them up with Tylenol so they were fever-free when they called attendance, that it was completely selfish to knowingly and unnecessarily spread germs around to every unsuspecting person in a room just so life didn’t skip a beat. Because all it takes is one rando cough or sneeze or slime-covered pencil and BAM, your kid’s whole class or your whole office has the plague. Not fair. Not fair at all.
Now I get that we’ve all got responsibilities and commitments and jobs and deadlines, but none of those things are ever more important than our health and well-being. Or our kids. They’re just not. And no matter how hard someone tries to insist or justify that they are, they’re still not. No one should have to be an innocent victim of someone else’s nasty bacteria.
My real point here is that we all need to take responsibility for ourselves and acknowledge when we should and shouldn’t just stay home.
So let’s review some of the basic commonsensical rules of when you should quarantine yourself or your kid from the outside world:
- If someone has had a fever within the last 24 hours, stay the hell home.
- If someone has thrown up within the last 24 hours, stay the hell home.
- If someone has a cough that literally can’t be contained and sounds more like an actual barking dog than a human sound, stay the hell home.
- If someone has green mucus coming out of their nose, you know what I’m gonna say. Stay the hell home.
At this point in the evolution of mankind, soldiering on isn’t the way to go. And we should all know that by now. By not listening to our bodies, we’re guaranteed to stay sick longer cause, you know, compromised immune system. And we’re going to get the people around us sick too, guaranteed. So, for the sake of everyone you share the world with, do the right thing when you or your kids are sick and stay the hell home. It’s the right thing to do. This is a recording…
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at lisasugarman.com. Or, find them on GrownandFlown.com, Hot Moms Club, LittleThings.com, BeingAMom.life, More Content Now, Wickedlocal.com, and Care.com. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is and Untying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots—And How to Get Free available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at select bookstores