Every so often I come across a post about some company’s generous policy of allowing new parents to bring their babies to work with them. Usually the praise for the family-focused policy is accompanied by a picture of a smiling baby, happily sitting in a baby seat while mom goes about her office tasks.
These policies are touted as a wonderful solution for new parents who have to return to work and can’t or don’t want to rely on outside childcare.
The reality, however, is much different.
While some babies are calm enough to allow you to get your work done, others demand a lot of attention. Some babies are colicky, need to be held constantly. They need to be burped, changed, cleaned, and on and on.
And, then there’s the feeding.
If you are nursing, you may need to feed your baby as often as once every hour, and if you consider how long a feeding session is, that doesn’t leave much “baby free” time to get work done.
This can be daunting if your job requires you to meet certain daily or weekly deadlines, you have a customer-centric career, or you have a job without flexible hours.
Though, I was working from home, I still found it challenging to balance my job and my baby without outside support. I often found myself working in the middle of the night or very early in the morning to catch up on what I had missed caring for my son during the day. I imagine those who bring their babies to the office have to do the same.
Those who are able to bring their babies into the office also have to contend with the understandable concern of the distraction it may cause other employees. Unless you are fortunate to have an office with a closed door, chances are others will hear your child. Babies cry, we know that, but even as a mother myself, I wouldn’t blame a non-parent coworker for being distracted by a child in the office. I believe there should be reasonable expectations and understanding for working parents, but allowing a few-month old baby to be in a cubicle in earshot of other employees is not the way to do it.
The whole setup is unfair for the parent, the baby and the rest of the company.
This type of policy, while better than nothing, is a bandage for a bigger issue in the United States, which is our lack of comprehensive, affordable and fair options for parental leave and childcare.
And, while there are a few companies who offer such “perks” as onsite childcare and extensive paid maternal and paternal leave, this is far from the norm.
Mothers shouldn’t feel like they are lucky they “get” to bring their babies to work. We should have policies in place which enable new moms to properly care for their newborns for more than few weeks to a few months, allowing them to heal from childbirth, bond with their babies, and be better prepared to enter the workplace if they so choose.
For parents with older children, we are overdue for change in how we approach childcare in this country, and what, if anything, we are doing to support our most vulnerable families. A single parent should never have to send a sick child to school because their job doesn’t provide paid time off.
Study after study shows that labor policies that put women and families first are beneficial to economic prosperity, and that women are far more likely to return to work after having children if allowed to take advantage of adequate paid leave.
Working alongside a three-month old baby isn’t really working, whether you’re at home or at an office. Imagine having a full year to bond with your child? Of course many moms would still choose to not work to care for their children after their leave ended, but I imagine many more would be comfortable returning to work. And having more robust childcare options in place would make it even better.
Are you a working parent who brings their baby or child to work with you (or works with one at home)? How do you manage working and childcare? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.