Saturday, November 27, 2010

Working with baby

An old friend of mine contacted me the other day on Facebook, asking about how I've managed going back to work after the baby was born. I answered her, but then I realized that I haven't explained very much about it on this blog, and I probably should. After all, the number of moms who bring their babies to work with them is quite small, but I think there's a lot of room for this to become a more popular option.

Here's what I wrote to my friend:

I never intended to go back to work after the baby was born. But the school where I had taught before contacted me, saying they had just one class that they needed me for. Since they were going to let me bring the baby with me, I saw no reason why not -- I'm a firm believer in keeping the baby with me all the time.

He was 5 months old when the school year started. I think I could have managed from, say, 3 months on. When he was tiny, I probably wouldn't have wanted to expose him to all the germs at school.

My one class takes less than an hour a day, and the prep work is pretty light, so it's a pretty easy situation. I also ended up volunteering to be on the sub list, so I've subbed for longer, and even working the whole morning long hasn't been a problem. I probably wouldn't want to do the whole day, though, because he does need a nap.

While I work, I usually wear him in a baby carrier like a sling or my Moby Wrap. (That thing is great -- he feels so light in it.) The kids (high school age) aren't usually too distracted by him, and he behaves really well. I do have an unusually easy baby, but I think most babies like getting out and getting some stimulation. I haven't had a problem with him crying in class more than once or twice, and the office says I can leave him with them if that happens. I don't do that, though; instead I just assign the kids some desk work so I don't have to yell over his fussing.

Overall it's been really great. I don't make a ton of money at it, but the little I take home is really handy right now. From what I know, most Catholic schools are very adaptable about babies, so you may well be able to swing a similar deal.

A couple things to keep in mind:

Your baby might not sleep through the night until s/he's much older. So you do have to be prepared for dragging yourself out of bed to go to work when you'd really rather sleep.

I have taken many more sick days than I used to, because if either the baby is sick or I'm sick, we can't go. So far this year I think I've taken three (including today).

I'm breastfeeding, but I don't feel comfortable nursing in front of the kids. With younger kids I might, but with high school kids, it's tougher. So I nurse in the teacher's lounge right before class, or else at home before I leave, and generally he lasts fine till class is over. It takes some careful scheduling to make sure he's hungry at the right times, but he's a pretty predictable kid. Once he was really fussy during a test, and I put the diaper bag on the desk to block the view and just nursed him. It wasn't a problem. I wish I could manage nursing in the sling, but I've never gotten the hang of it.

Our school has a lot of evening events the teachers are expected to go to. I begged off of all I could, and for the few I really had to make, I've left the baby at home with John.

That's all I can think of. If you can, it would be great to wait until the baby's born to decide, since all babies are different and you don't know how you'll handle it, but I suppose that's not always possible. In any event, you should talk to your school and see how far they are willing to accommodate you.

Hope that helps!


Overall, I have no regrets about having returned to work. I was very resolved not to leave the baby -- not to mention I have no affordable childcare available. Being allowed to bring the baby has made it possible for me to care for him and be a part of the workforce. From my perspective, it's the best of all possible worlds.

I think more workplaces should provide this option, instead of requiring the forced dichotomy that women are often faced with: spend time with children or work. In an economy where two incomes are almost required, while childcare is expensive (and not the ideal for many women), we need to be thinking of more creative solutions like this.

Service-oriented jobs tend to be the easiest to combine with parenting. I've heard of receptionists, hairdressers, pediatric nurses, and daycare providers babywearing on the job. Babies love interaction, and as long as they're cozy in a sling, most have few needs. Moms will need adequate break time, and many find it helpful for a coworker to be on backup for them in case both the job and the baby need their full attention at the same time. Part-time is much easier, though I've heard of moms managing their babies at work full-time.

Here's a good source for more information.

Any other readers who have brought their babies to work? How did it go?


Carla Moquin said...

I founded the Parenting in the Workplace Institute you linked to--just so you know, there are actually quite a few companies doing this now. Our Babies in the Workplace site has a lot more detail on this concept (and a list of all of the confirmed companies--more than 140 to date, affecting more than 1,600 babies, in many different states and different fields):

I'm happy to help any way I can in proposing or setting up a babies-at-work program (we don't charge for our assistance).

Carla Moquin

Sheila said...

I have heard that, and it's truly wonderful to see this becoming more popular. After all, there was a time when all mothers brought their babies "to work" with them, in the fields or hunter-gathering -- so it's actually a very traditional choice. My son actually seems to like being at work *better* than being at home!

I was very glad to find your website; it looks really helpful!

Heather said...

Member of European Parliament with her baby in a sling:

And sadder news:

Sheila said...

Thanks for the links, Heather! I'd heard about Licia Ronzulli before; that's pretty neat.

MichelleKendall said...

The hard part of this is how job and baby-specific working with a child can be. I am a firm believer that women should be with their babies, but babies and working is such a tough balance!

Because I had a long recovery from an emergency C-section I didn't put my son in his carrier until he was older. After all, he just snuggled in my arms all day. By the time I tried he was adamantly against the carrier!

That has made working with him so much more difficult. I've found I need to have someone there to watch him or I can't get anything done. By the time I've tended to him I've lost my train of thought, then need to take time to get back going again, and then need to stop to tend to him again!

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