The Dreaded Call From School.

Being a stay-at-home-Mom has so many challenges that I gave up. I gave it a fair shake…TWICE…but it was simply too difficult for me and I knew I was a better Mom if I worked in some capacity. Other than those two short stints around the birth of my children, I’ve worked away from home (or gone to school) my entire career as a Mom. Now, I did work from home for the last two years and that allowed me to escape most of the SAHM challenges and even some of the Working Mom challenges because I got to pick up my kids from school and be there if they were sick.

But now I’m back to working in an office and I’ve already been reminded of one of the SUCKIEST PARTS of working outside the home: The Call From School.

Not the urgent one: Come get your kid now! She’s puking! He needs stitches!

Nope. That one’s fine. That one doesn’t happen often and it’s just part of life. If you have a shitty employer then maybe those calls are a problem, but hopefully they’re rare enough that it’s not too big of an issue.

No. The AMBIGUOUS calls. The GRAY AREA calls. The calls where they say, “Here is what’s wrong with your child. We wanted to call you because you might want to come get the child because of the thing we’re calling you about.”


My first instinct is ALWAYS to say: “Nope. He/She is fine. They’re overly dramatic about everything. I’ll see them at 5pm as usual.”

But holy CRAP if that instinct is not followed by the guiltiest feeling in the world.

But what if they’re NOT fine? What if they’re really hurt/sick?

Because we all have those stories. That time we thought our kid was faking or overreacting and then…BAM! Flu for 5 days. Broken wrist. Black Plague. Something serious that we blew off.

Now…most of us also have countless other stories of times our kids were overreacting. But still…that one time they weren’t gave us a supply of guilt to last a lifetime.

So. We get the call from school and we have to deal with that battle. Do I get them? Do I not? And all you have is the judgement call of the person on the other end who technically can’t tell you either way. But they always hint. Because they don’t know your child like you do…so they don’t know your child overreacts. “She won’t eat.” “He won’t straighten his arm.”

I have stood my ground before and said, “He/She will be fine. I’ll get them later.”

But twice this summer at this new daycare with a director who maybe has a delivery that always sounds like she thinks if you don’t come get your kid, you’re an awful parent – I’ve had the call. TWICE. ALREADY. And both times I left work to go get the kid. Nikki had a fall and hit her head at the skating rink. Wes hurt his arm. And both times? NOTHING. I spent 4+ hours with Wes yesterday at the doctor and then at the imaging center for X-Rays and the whole time I was thinking, “He’s fine…” because I would see him use/straighten the arm when he wasn’t thinking about it. And you know what? HE WAS FINE.

Remember that guilt battle we have when they call? That battle over “Should I go get my child or not?” Well. NONE of that guilt even REMOTELY compares to the guilt you feel when you are actually kinda irritated that the radiologist came back and said, “You all can go! No break!”

11391551_10153889478233496_6549019713958181595_nYes. Part of me was actually irritated that it wasn’t broken. A small part of me, BUT STILL. I took 4 hours off a day that was already insane, I had to reschedule an appointment that afternoon, ALL FOR NOTHING.

I promise. I’m fully aware of how shitty that makes me. I still feel guilty about THAT now.

PHASE 1 of guilt: The Phone Call and The Decision – Something is wrong with your kid, are you going to get him/her?
PHASE 2 of guilt: The Diagnosis – Are you disappointed your kid is healthy/well? Are you relieved your kid is actually sick/hurt?

And then, because this has happened TWICE already this summer…I had a “talk” with my kids last night that went something like this: You better not let them call me at work again unless you are gushing blood, bones are poking through the skin, you are vomiting, or you have an ACTUAL fever of over 101. You all do NOT have a good judgement of pain or injury and you overreact at everything. Sometimes we hurt and sometimes we feel like crap. That does NOT mean we are actually injured or sick. You have to accept that sometimes you’ll get hurt and sometimes you’ll feel like crap but you have to just SUCK IT UP, not call me at work.

So, PHASE 3 of the guilt? Was sitting in bed last night, replaying that conversation and realizing how really shitty all of that is. And that it is totally contrary to the whole, “If you need me for anything, I’ll be there!” message we try to convey as parents.

But you know? That message has it’s limits if you have a job and other people who depend on you to do that job.

(This is me basically trying to make myself feel not as guilty about all of the insanity yesterday.)

And now is where you tell me similar stories that have happened to you so I can feel – not less guilty – but at least not alone in my guilt.

11 thoughts on “The Dreaded Call From School.”

  1. I don’t have time for a story since I’m stalling instead of getting ready for work…. But I’ll say, I have been there! My new line to the director is always, let’s give it an hour and see how it goes. And when I call back, after that hour, I always ask to talk to the teacher instead (since they actually know my child and spent the last hour with them)!

  2. Oh, boy! Do I dare tell you this story?

    Well, it was the night before Thanksgiving. We were all busy cooking. My youngest daughter who was three or four at the time, had jumped or slipped off the arm of the couch.

    She said he foot hurt and she was favoring it. It wasn’t swollen or bruised or anything though. And the weird part is that for weeks before this she had been complaining of her foot hurting. Sometimes she would favor it and limp or crawl up the stairs ( most of the time she was fine – running and jumping as usual -it was around bedtime that she had this problem ).

    On Thanksgiving, we did bed time as usual, impatient because the next day was Thanksgiving and we had lots to do, and made her walk up the stairs.

    Yep. She had broken her foot! When she woke up the next morning it was swollen and purple. We raced her to the ER.
    The guilt! Oh, my goodness the guilt.

    I’ve always thought that she just knew that something was going to happen to her foot – she had precognitive pain or something.
    Poor little one. She’s fifteen now, and no, she doesn’t let us forget it.

  3. I got that call the other day too. Lexi had a sore foot. Part of me wanted to drop everything, pick her up, run her around to feel like I was being a “good mom” but I said screw it, if it still hurts tomorrow we’ll deal with it. Felt guilty, ate donuts, felt worse, made her cookies, she got off the bus – RAN up our driveway. Jumped on the trampoline and then went for a walk around the block with me. I was ANNOYED that she forced me to have all that guilt that made me eat the donuts.

  4. I know what you mean about the guilt. I’ve gone both ways on the call – once at school they said Sydney had sprained her ankle. The nurse did help by saying it probably wasn’t broken. I was really busy at work so I made her stay. I have definitely gone and picked her up when everything was fine and I was really frustrated. Of course there were the other times like when I sent her to school when she said she didn’t feel well and came home with the flu. Or the time she broke her wrist at home. She was sobbing in pain, but she really feels pain, so we didn’t do anything about it until the next day (when it was quite swollen). My Wesley doesn’t seem to feel pain as dramatically as she does, so when he has school call me, I go, since his calls are very rare. So at least I’ve got one easy kid in that respect.

  5. I don’t have kids but I can share two stories from the other perspective.

    When I was in 3rd grade, I was notorious for “faking” sick. Tummy aches, headaches, whatever. I was really just bored and didn’t want to sit in class. (This was the same year they tested me into the gifted programs and once that happened, the faking sick stopped.) So one day I went to the nurses office because my stomach hurt so bad. I don’t remember much about the actual pain or anything but I know the nurse called my mom, convinced her I seemed legitimately sick (even the nurse was on to me at this point) and my mom reluctantly agreed to come pick me up. She brought me back to her work which was in a trailer on a construction job site – she was the site manager/secretary/admin person. She laid me up on the back counter and let me rest but I was just not comfortable at all. Finally, one of the guys was like, umm, maybe she needs to get checked out. Mom was still convinced that I was just over exaggerating but was so concerned that others would think she wasn’t being cognizant enough about my issue so she conceded and took me to the doctor. Where they discovered I had an appendicitis and had I gone much longer, it could have burst. I had to have immediate surgery to remove it and well, that was that.

    Then, in 2008, as an adult, I was at work and just experiencing major cramping in my calf. It was so uncomfortable, I remember going to our bathroom at work, pulling up my pants leg and just resting it on the cold marble floor because that was the only thing that helped. We were supposed to leave on a 12 hour road trip that night and the cramping was just so uncomfortable and wouldn’t let up. I insisted on taking a hot bath before we got on the road to see if it would alleviate it. I remember mentioning to my husband, “What if it’s a blood clot?” and he scoffed at me and told me I was overreacting. I, not wanting to put him out, just kind of convinced myself that maybe I had strained my muscles (doing what, who knows – I wasn’t exactly the athletic type). The bath seemed to help so we headed out on our trip. I spent the entire trip, about a week, popping Advil and keeping my leg elevated and then we had to turn around and do a 12 hour trip back. The day after we got back and were headed back to work, I woke up feeling like a brick had been dropped on my foot. I could barely walk, there was a red spot on the top of my foot – it was time to go to Urgent Care. After a few hours and many tests, turns out it WAS a blood clot (caused by a combination of hormonal birth control, smoking and sitting all day). Three to be exact, wedged deep into my veins. The pain was because the clots were impeding circulation. My leg was so swollen they couldn’t even hear my femoral artery on the ultrasound. The doctor said that all of the Advil I ate and the elevating of the leg is probably what kept me somewhat safe but that it was a good thing I had gotten there when I did because the clot could’ve thrown into my lungs, brain or heart and that would’ve been bad. To this day, my husband stills brings up the fact that he discarded my fears when I mentioned them and urges me to get things checked out if I bring them up, to the point where it’s almost annoying.

    That being said, I bring up those two stories to tell you one thing – I don’t resent or blame or make either my mother or husband feel guilty for either of those incidents. I can remember the story about the appendicitis because my mother tells it as a humorous recounting of my faking her out and what she thinks wasn’t one of her finer moments of parenting. But I don’t hold it against her by any means. And I know my husband already beat himself up about it so I would never, ever take him to task about not believing me or taking me seriously because you just don’t do that. I know you struggle with the guilt internally but know that, for the most part, even in instances when it does turn into a big deal, the kids won’t hold it against you in the long run. Life happens, mistakes happen and for the most part, people are going to understand that no one can know the right thing to do at any given moment.

  6. I’ve got a story similar to Kathy’s above. This was when my daughter was just 18 months old. We were playing on the playground on a Friday evening, and I took her down a twisty slide on my lap. The sole of her shoe caught the plastic of the slide and twisted her leg up behind her. When we got to the bottom, she started crying, and wouldn’t put weight on her leg. After a few minutes, she stopped crying, but still wouldn’t put weight on the leg. We figured maybe she’d just pulled something or that it was just still sore since she was so young and just not used to pain. We went about our night as usual, and while I thought it was odd that she wouldn’t put weight on that leg, I thought that she must be fine b/c she wasn’t crying or acting like she was in pain. We figured we’d wait it through the night and just go in and see her regular pediatrician the next morning if she still wasn’t putting weight on it. And of course we go to the pediatrician the next morning and she sends us for x-rays and she had a spiral fracture on her tibia and had to have a cast all the way from her hip to her toes!! I felt so terrible as a mother b/c I hadn’t taken her to the hospital the night before and she had had a poor little broken leg the whole time!

  7. I never pick my son up from daycare unless they require me to. Do I feel guilty about it? A little. When they require me to pick him up, I leave work immediately, but given the choice? If it’s not bad enough that they’re requiring it then he’ll be fine.

  8. My kids’ schools, too, call with the cryptic “What do you want to do? messages,” and that’s new to me. I prefer the daycare messages I used to get: “Hey, it’s not an emergency, but your kid got knocked on the head. We applied ice and gave TLC, and it’s all good now.” The alternate was “Come now. Puking and/or fever.” There was NO grey area.

  9. Don’t let the guilt get to you too much. I’m sure we’ve all had our not gonna win “Mom of the Year Award” moments. Being a SAHM, I still don’t always pick my kids up from school when I get a call from the nurse. Most times, the nurse will let me talk to the sick kid. I can usually tell by talking to them if they really need to be picked up or not.

    When my oldest son was about 12, he was playing basketball for the middle school rec team. He had been coughing some and didn’t want to go to practice. I told him to suck it up and I made him go. The coughing continued for a couple of weeks. I finally took him to the doctor. He had pneumonia! And had been playing basketball for two weeks! Oh the guilt! I felt like the worse mom EVER!

  10. We call this the day care lottery: Class size is slightly over the maximum or the director wants to let a worker go home early, so they start looking for “sick” kids. We’ve had it at one of our day cares bad, so when I get called, I don’t believe my kid is sick.
    Rock, paper, scissors Donnie for the kid pick-up or track turns. Things have changed on your situation and you need to have him take on this more until you’re more established than him. Be honest about projects and ask him to be honest about his availability too. Sorry, I pick up the kids the majority of the time due to being closer, but that means my husband has to make it up on the appointments we schedule. It’s a sore spot for me, because I’m on a new team, need to make a good impression, and he has a ton more vacation time than me.

  11. I’m a high school teacher. Being absent and getting a sub is way more work than going in. Getting someone to cover your class so you can leave during the day? Dang near impossible. My school age daughter knows she is not allowed to go to the school nurse unless she is bleeding or vomiting. She has had perfect attendance the past 3 years. It is much harder with the two little boys, especially when they were in daycare. I still haven’t figured out the balance between going too soon to the doctor and waiting too long to go.

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