Sick Leave for Kids and Story Time
A short dispatch from the plague house
Appropriately enough, very shortly after sending Monday’s post on resiliency in the face of winter illness, our whole house went down with what is probably flu. So instead of a reader roundup, I’m turning today’s post over two two recent projects of Alyssa Rosenberg.
First up, her op-ed “Sick kids need their parents. Why don’t we give them what they deserve?”
Americans are so conditioned to think of “benefits” such as paid sick leave in terms of what adults can wrest from their employers that it can be hard to acknowledge when such arrangements are absurd. This part of life is one of those moments: It makes no sense for the care of sick children to depend on state laws or the generosity of individual businesses toward their workers.
Even if a child packed off to a hastily deputized babysitter arrives with an insurance card and an authorization form as well as a beloved stuffed animal, that fill-in caregiver might not know allergies by heart or be alert to the subtle shifts in behavior that suggest a child is getting sicker. They certainly won’t have a preexisting relationship with a child’s pediatrician or be the most comforting choice if a child needs invasive testing or uncomfortable treatment.
Alyssa is right that a child’s need for a parent when they’re sick is treated as an extraneous luxury, rather than as basic to their needs as Tylenol. She highlights a few models from other countries that feel almost unimaginable to import to a country that frequently does not mandate any paid sick leave:
Belgium, for instance, offers a lifetime pool of 52 weeks of caregiving time, to be used before children turn 8. Switzerland provides three adult sick days each time a child falls ill.
I’m very curious how employers allocate tasks during flu season, knowing they’re on the hook for this leave!
Second, I was delighted that Alyssa invited me to contribute to a roundup of children’s book recommendations. She tried to invite a wide range of recommenders—people who disagree with each other, but prioritize engaging in good faith.
I tried to pick three books I love that I don’t always see on other people’s shelves.
“Miss Rumphius,” by Barbara Cooney
We can see the many people whose lives are shaped by the Lupine Lady, all because she committed to “do something to make the world more beautiful.” It’s a gift to be refreshed by the beauty of the illustrations and to get to keep reminding myself and my daughter of this charge.
“Half Magic” and other novels, by Edward Eager
In “Half Magic,” siblings find a magic coin that half-grants wishes, which forces the family to be creative about how and what they wish for. Eager has a series of linked stories of magic adventures, each strikingly original.
“So You Want to Be a Wizard” and its sequels, by Diane Duane
While movies about magic are dominated by third-act CGI-fests, Duane’s wizards are attentive to small things, and their adventures turn on small risks of generosity and trust.
It’s a pleasure to see strangers praising old favorites, and to have some new books that I might suggest to grandparents.
My work gives me 10 days of "family sick leave" each year, to be used for caregiving duties as needed. Its most common use is for sick children, but a sick parent or partner would also qualify, if they were in need of extra care for a few days.
In New Zealand, where I live, this isn't mandated by the government; nor is it a mere whim of my employer. Rather, this is a benefit arising from the fact that my workplace has a strong union associated with it. More specifically, we have a union that has always had a strong focus on the human qualities of workers. It's not just about getting higher pay, it's about making sure that work makes room for us as people with other concerns besides our job.
Miss Rumphius 🥰🥰💐