My guilt for taking time off started in middle school

February 7, 2024
Minute Read
Written by:
Jess Cruz-Abalos

Jess here – Let me ask you, are you currently sick or just getting over something? Every week, my daughter brings home some germs from school. Kids are disgusting!  

Being sick while working is hard. Being sick while working and caring for a little human simultaneously is harder…and exhausting. It’s almost like you don’t know when it will end. 

That was me last week. 

At first, I toughed it out and worked from bed, but eventually, I felt worse as the day progressed. I was getting frustrated and mad with myself—guilty even for not being able to get things done.   

I started thinking about where this anger, frustration, and guilt originated. And then I remembered it all started back in middle school. 

When I was in 7th and 8th grade, students used to receive Perfect Attendance awards. There weren’t just some printed certificates. No! You received legit metal plaques with your full name etched into them. 

“Oh. My. Gawd.” I realized.

Is that why I used to feel guilty for submitting my PTO at work?

Is that why I work at my desk with tissue shoved up both my nostrils wrapped in a blanket, shivering?

Is that why I get anxious before I leave for vacation? 

Is that why I don’t take sick days?! 


It was ingrained into my mind at a young age that I always had to show up or be pressured to perform, even when I wasn’t feeling 100%. What a ridiculous award! 

I need to quit that, like now! What kind of example am I showing my daughter? 

So if you feel sick and cannot work, rest, my friend. If you need a mental day to recharge, take the day off. If you want or need to take a vacation and have PTO? TAKE IT. 

I know it’s challenging to stop working, especially when there’s a ton of stuff piling up. Still, you won’t be able to perform and fully show up for your team, clients, family, and, most importantly, yourself if you don’t take a break. 

As creatives, we can’t be “on” all the time. It’s not sustainable. Our minds must wander, explore, and think about nothingness before an idea comes. Let’s normalize rest as part of our creative process. 

Do you feel guilty taking time off? Are your kids getting you sick? And why do parents always get a cold worse than a kid? Aren’t we supposed to have better immune systems than them?

So many questions.

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