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Charlie Rose's picture

Sick days matter to me as a mom. I am a single mother so I have always been the parent who gets those dreaded calls -- the daycare number pops up on your phone and your heart sinks into your stomach. "Your son is sick, you need to get him now."

My son is 8 now, so he is past the sick-every-five-seconds stage, but I remember those earlier years a little too well. It's like kids are programmed to projectile you-know-what right when taking a day off would be a disaster.

In my last job, calling in sick was one of the scariest things to do. An angry boss adds worlds of stress to the already stressful situation of having a sick kid at home. And then you come back to the time sheet. L... W... P...

Leave Without Pay. We were living paycheck to paycheck. I got paid every two weeks, one check for rent and the second for bills. One LWP on a time sheet and a tenth of my paycheck was gone. When you are earning just enough to scrape by, a tenth is not a margin you can swallow.

When you are poor, your budget is an exact science. Weeks with an unpaid sick day wrecked that balance. I would obsessively check my bank account to make sure I wasn't going to overdraft my account if I bought cereal. I remember playing out every possible scenario in my head -- "We'll be okay if the electric posts today, as long as the car insurance doesn't post ‘til the 15th." "I can pay for the field trip if I don't buy coffee."

I earn paid sick days now and it makes a world of difference. I didn't realize how much stress I carried, until that stress was gone. It's normal to worry when your kid is sick, but those worries should be about the kid, not about your livelihood.

That is why I work with MomsRising now on the paid sick days campaign to make sure everyone has access to this important workplace protection. Paid sick days show that our work, both as employees and as parents, is valued. Getting sick is part of life and most of our families do not have a family member who is available at home to take care of sick kids. Most of us have to work -- and we need the money that we earn working. We need workplace protections that reflect the reality of our lives.

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