When I was pregnant with my first son, I came across a photo in my Facebook feed of Licia Ronzulli, a member of the European Parliament, with her baby in a sling. After the photo made headlines, she told the press that while she brought herbaby to work for breastfeeding reasons, she also wanted “to remind people that there are women who do not have this opportunity, that we should do something to talk about this.”
The photo, and the sentiment, affected me deeply. I’d heard talk of my own office having a “bring your baby to work” policy. But in the nearly three years I’d worked there, no one had taken advantage of it.
Could I be the first? And would it work, or would it turn out to be better in theory than in practice?
I didn’t know. But I decided to give it a try.
Bringing Liam to the office catapulted me out of my comfort zone. I’ve always been a people pleaser, and I knew not everyone would approve of having a baby at a marketing agency. (Even my husband was skeptical.)
I also knew that Liam, being hungry or tired or bored, could scream and interrupt every meeting within a hundred-yard radius.
I spent much of our first day together in my office with the door closed, and jumped whenever the baby made a peep. He fussed through a few meetings, but never for more than five or ten minutes — and never loud enough to draw our meetings to a close.
That evening, I kept checking my email for a message from HR. “We’ve had numerous complaints,” I imagined it would say, “so please leave your baby at home from now on.”
The email never came, and Liam’s subsequent trips to the office passed without incident. Each time, I even managed to accomplish a full day’s work. I breastfed him while typing copy, burped him while reading market research, and rocked him in a travel swing during brainstorming sessions.
Right now, I only bring the baby into work once or twice a week, on days when I don’t have meetings scheduled. I usually get pulled into meetings anyway, but so far that hasn’t been an issue.
Several of my coworkers have offered to watch Liam during these meetings. So far, I haven’t taken anyone up on the offer. It’s not that I don’t trust them. Quite the opposite, really. I’ve been a mom for two months now, and they’ve raised multiple children, so they’re probably better at baby care than I am. I just cringe to think of burdening them with a squalling kid.
It goes back to the people-pleasing thing. Sure, they think Liam’s cute now, but what will they think of him when he’s cranky and won’t stop fussing? What will they think of me?
They assure me it’ll be fine. And eventually I’ll have a day when I need to leave him with a coworker for 10 or 20 minutes. It just hasn’t happened yet. (I guess when it does, I can brown-nose my way back into their good graces with donuts and coffee.)
How to Take Baby to Work
I’ve done the whole “take your baby to work” thing for a month now, and here’s what I’ve learned:
- Work in advance. I usually get a few hours of work done over the weekend. That way I have time to spend with Liam at the office if he’s being needy. And if he’s not, I get even more done.
- Have plenty of distractions on hand. I rotate Liam between a play mat, a Moby wrap, a rocker and a travel swing. This keeps him entertained long enough for me to stay productive. Plus, sometimes just a change of position or scenery is enough to calm the fussies.
- Bring a change of clothes. Between feedings and diaper changes, baby gets lots of opportunities to ruin my work attire.
- Identify your office allies, and don’t be afraid to call on them. I’m still working on the second part of this one.
- The second someone remarks on how your baby never cries, your baby will cry. Murphy’s Law.
Why It’s Important to Have Children in the Office
Because placing value on families strengthens our society.
Because parents don’t stop being parents when they go to work.
Because childcare is prohibitively expensive for many families. (Putting Liam in daycare would have cost more than my mortgage payment.)
Because it makes it easier to breastfeed—and for some moms, it may mean the difference between breastfeeding and formula feeding.
Because this is the first time in recent history parents have ever had this opportunity. And if we don’t take advantage of it, it could go away.
Like many new parents, my philosophy is Whatever works. And right now, this does.