Wednesday, April 27, 2011

mental health day

I started a tradition with Nell that I sometimes regret, but mostly not.  Each kid gets one mental health day per semester.  They can't miss a test or a big project that's due, but they can take a break for a day.  This is definitely not a universally popular idea.  The kids love it, of course.  But dh is not a fan.  They're supposed to be in school.  They're not supposed to be at home.

But I figure, it's one day.  MadMax hardly even has any makeup work-- he is a demon about getting his homework done at school, he hates to bring it home, so he usually doesn't even make it home with makeup work.  Mental health days are a real sanity-saver for both of us, because I get sick of dragging his butt out of bed every day, too.  Neither of us is a morning person, and it is an ordeal.  every. single. day.

There are problems associated, of course.  Since I was just talking about using words responsibly, I have to say that the phone call to the school makes me a little uncomfortable.  I usually say he's not feeling very good this morning-- which is true every morning, but I leave that part out.  He is miserable in the morning.  It's not quite a lie, and it's in a good cause.

And then there's what he tells his friends.  He has one friend whose parents allow more mental health days than we do, but the rest of them don't do this.  We've had several conversations about how he should talk about it to his friends.  Which is mostly:  don't gloat about it, don't even mention it unless someone asks.  And then just say you didn't feel up to going to school.

With Nell, the whole thing was pretty straightforward.  She didn't hate school, so she didn't even always use her day(s).  But MadMax would stay home from school every single day if I let him.  Almost as soon as the semester begins, he starts strategizing about when he should take his day, or asking me for strategies.  I push him to save it for the end of the semester, not to use it up first thing, which I think he would always do.  He took one today.  (gb, don't tell your wife).  I wasn't sure it was a good idea last night.  But he's been really dragging the last couple of weeks, and he is noticeably more cheerful this afternoon than he has been in quite awhile.  Maybe sleeping until ten was what he needed.

But dh was not happy with either of us.  And I can't blame him, since he faithfully drags his tired self to work every day so that we can sleep under a roof and eat and minor stuff like that.  He can't take a mental health day because too many people depend on him being at work.  I had a hard time taking mental health days when I was working, too.  But somehow I just think it's a good idea for the kids.

What do you think?  Effective strategy for managing school stress?  or cop-out?


  1. I think this is a brilliant idea. Dan and I just talked about something similar. When our kids were in school we viewed this as their job. They were responsible for attending and getting work done. But... there are simply times when you really do just need a break, you need to be OUT of that environment, you need to recharge (body, mind, and soul). I think the way you do this is logical and very wise. And by seeing how your boy showed obvious joy in using his right now, I can't help but think that there is NOTHING wrong with it.

    In the grand scheme, did someone die? No. Did your son feel better? Yes. Was his body, mind, and soul rejuvenated by this? Absolutely. I would stand my ground as Mom, if I were you. These mental health days are valuable, well thought out, and prove what an insightful and caring parent you are.

  2. HHBL and I had never even heard of a "mental health" day until our niece lived with us for her senior high school year. We were not a fan of the concept.

    That being said, I will admit that occasionally I could be talked into letting them stay home. I didn't want to lie when calling the school so...I would call at 5a when I generally get up and leave a message on the answering machine to the effect that they weren't going to be in school today and have a nice day. A machine doesn't ask me why they are going to be absent. I hang my head in shame.

  3. I tried to do the same thing-- I called at 7:10 a.m. thinking that no one would be there yet. But I was wrong. so used the "He isn't feeling very good" line. I like your phrase better-- "He won't be in school today" pretty much covers it. I'll have to call earlier next time. :-)

  4. I am all for mental health days. I worked at one company where, by the end, I had to take actual health leave --- twice --- my last year. It's rejuvenating and helps you go back to something you actually hate.