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Dr. Becky unpacks the real reason why it’s so triggering when we have to pick up our sick kid from school

worried woman on the phone
Leszek Glasner/Shutterstock

As a parent, we’re spending every waking (and if we’re being honest, sleeping) second caring for our kids, except when they’re in school/daycare or we’re at work (unless you work remotely—that’s a different story). For stay-at-home parents, the school day is the only time you get to yourself; so when the school nurse calls to say your kid is sick, it’s perfectly healthy to feel a sense of disappointment or frustration that you have to pick them up early.

Dr. Becky unpacked this initial reaction in a recent reel, reassuring parents that it has nothing to do with feeling apathetic toward your child.

“Why is it so triggering when the school nurse calls and tells us we have to pick up our sick kid? Well here’s the thing: the reason it’s triggering has nothing to do with our kid’s sickness, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the type of parent we are,” the renowned therapist explained in a stitch with a meme that reads “When you’ve planned a super productive day and the school calls to tell you your kid is sick.

“Over the course of the day, we do so much pouring ourselves out to take care of our kids. We show up for them; we try to be patient; we do things for them; and when they’re in daycare [or] in school, we tend to use that time to fill ourselves back up,” she explained. “We catch a breather; we sit down; we check things off our to-do list. So when the school nurse calls and says we have to pick up our sick kid, we’re not really reacting to the fact that our kid is sick—because of course we care about that—we’re reacting to the fact that a very important time in our day was just unexpectedly taken away.”

“And it makes sense for all of us that we would have feelings about something important being unexpectedly taken away,” Dr. Becky noted. “So remind yourself in that moment, nothing’s wrong with you for that initial reaction. It makes sense.”

The comment section was a mix of praise and criticism from working parents pointing out that the parenting coach didn’t specifically list concerns that pertain to them like scrambling to get a shift covered, using paid time off, or the financial burden of not being able to work that day.

“Not to mention the literal stress this puts on working parents,” one user wrote. “I’m a teacher and my husband is a lawyer, I’m often in the middle of a class and have to scramble to leave plans, he might be in court or meeting with an important client, etc. The stress of that scramble makes my entire body race with anxiety when the school calls.”

Exact activities and struggles aside, one thing’s for sure: as a parent, the school is the last phone number you want to see on your caller ID when your kid’s in attendance!