How I Suck at Calling in Sick

When I was little girl I didn’t like to go to school. I liked it once I got there, but I was very attached to my mother and had separation issues. In retrospect I wish home schooling had been popular back then as I would have been a perfect candidate for it. But my poor mother needed a break.


One of my ploys in trying to avoid going to school was to pretend I was sick. Monday morning was the prime day for these ‘illnesses’ to overtake me. I was naïve enough to think no one would catch on, but my mother was no fool. She came up with a sure-fire way to avoid unnecessary truancy. This was her criterion for me to stay home from school:

1)  Fever

I know you are expecting more but this was it.

As I grew up and became a responsible adult this rule stuck with me. It has helped me push through when less dedicated people would have called a time out. It has created memories of driving to work with a barf bag in one hand, and the steering wheel in another. It has been a badge of honor.

I pride myself on excellent attendance, and my belief is that 90% of success is showing up.

But have I taken it too far?

Last winter I missed two full weeks of work due to a crazy upper respiratory infection and then pneumonia. Well, the first week I had taken one day off as a holiday, so technically the first week was not a full week. The fact that I just wrote that last sentence tells me I have some ‘issues’ around this topic.

  1. Ego – How can my work team get along without me?
  2. Shame – What is wrong with me that I can’t push through and work even if I am sick?
  3. Workaholism – the 5-year-old potato-picking child comes out to chide me for being ‘lazy’ and indulging in time to recuperate.
  4. Difficulty with ‘sick’ qualification – I had a fever only for 3 days so how can I justify the rest of my sick days?  After all I could wear a mask at work and take multiple changes of underwear for those uncontrolled coughing spells.
  5. Fear of disapproval – I hope I still have somewhat of a cough when I go back to work next week, as people may think I made the whole thing up.
  6. Over-responsibility – I have a commitment to my work team, my singing groups, my church choir, etc. etc. – I can’t let them down. This ties in with no. 1-5.

I wonder if this is a baby boomer syndrome or if people from all ages struggle with issues of calling in sick.  I’d love to hear your views on it to:

1) Give me comfort that I’m not alone

….or even better

2) Show me a new way to look at things.


Molly Stevens

About Molly Stevens

Molly Stevens arrived late to the writing desk but is forever grateful her second act took this direction instead of adult tricycle racing or hoarding cats. She was raised on a potato farm in northern Maine, where she wore a snowsuit over both her Halloween costume and her Easter dress.