After four years of working from home as a freelance writer, I recently started working full-time in the social media department of a big company. The health benefits were just too sexy to ignore. Not only am I currently square-dancing with the Holy Trinity that is medical/dental/vision, but I have all sorts of life insurance I can pass on to my kids in case I meet some kind of untimely end. This pleases me. In addition to the insurance, I’m saving about a grand a month on health care-related expenses, so while it’s difficult to not be with my kids all day, every day … it was impossible to pass up this gig.
The constant struggle of needing to work to support your kids, but having that same job keeping you from your kids? It’s the irony-laced ugly underbelly that is the American dream, I suppose. And while it’s the same for most working parents, there are still so few resources for us to manage the juggling. My kids are 5, 3, and 4 months old and, while I understand why my older two can’t come to work with me on a daily basis, I have a harder time understanding why new parents (especially nursing moms) can’t bring their babies to work with them. With millions of us successfully working from home with kids, why is it not possible for us to have them in the office? It shouldn’t be considered unprofessional to bring children to work if we handle it like the professionals that we are. If corporations want to keep turnover down and invest in loyal employees, why not enable us to pursue careers in the company without having to sacrifice our very important roles as parents?
Us parents, we’re not idiots. We know how to leave the room if the baby causes a problem. But having your newborn sleeping in the corner of your office while you get your work done — that shouldn’t be a problem. Giving your baby a bottle during a meeting isn’t more distracting than Claudia from human resources slurping down her coffee. Or Rich from accounting who clips his fingernails with his keychain clippers during morning meetings. God, I hate you, Rich.
Thankfully for some lucky employees, one CEO is way ahead of the game as far as family-friendly policies are concerned. As Gwen Moran writes on Fast Company, an Oregon-based software company has declared that every day is “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.” CEO and mom of three boys ages 10, 7, and 4, Sabrina Parsons, has enacted some uber family-friendly policies and says taking care of babies shouldn’t derail anyone’s career. As Moran reports, “Parsons says that the juggling work and parenting is tough for all parents, but the physical and societal demands placed on women hold particular challenges. From getting pregnant and giving birth to the disparity in many caregiving situations, she says parenting puts women’s careers at risk more than men’s.”
Parsons tells Fast Company, “You’re in the prime of your career with all of this experience, when you get mommy-tracked. They get ‘concerned’ that you can’t do your job. That’s a huge reason why we’re not seeing women in leadership roles across Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies and in politics.”
So, Parsons, who also blogs about her challenges at her popular blog, Mommy CEO, is leading the charge when it comes to family-friendly policies. Her 55-person firm offers flex time and welcomes children into the workplace. As a matter of fact, Parsons led by example, wearing each of her babies on a sling around her neck while at work until they were four months old. How about them apples? Attachment parenting while on the job as a CEO. It’s how it should be. And it isn’t just moms taking advantage; Parsons says there are four working fathers who take advantage of the kid-friendly policies on a regular basis.
The company also welcomes older children, providing comfy couches and crayons, although it’s not a daycare substitute. But if trouble comes up with childcare or your kids have a week off from school, the company policies offer many options (with some limits). Children need to sit quietly near their parents, drawing, reading, or playing computer games — and no colicky babies are allowed because, clearly, they’re disruptive.
The days of parents having to choose between staying at home or leaving their babies behind should be a thing of the past. Employers should welcome women and men who are driven enough to want to work but also value being with their families and trust that we know how to deal with our children being in our workplace. Just like in any other instance in life, if the kid becomes a problem, the parent removes him from the environment and handles it.
But, as you can imagine if you’ve ever tried to fly with your baby, not everyone is thrilled about babies at work. Parsons says some think they’re great and others think children in the workplace is an absurd concept. Some people who don’t have kids are offended at the notion that they have to tolerate someone else’s kids at work. Interestingly, Parsons notes that more men tend to see it her way once they have daughters and start to realize the issues their little girls will face later in life as parents.
So what’s been the result? Parsons’ company has very little turnover and one-third of her development team is women versus Silicon Valley’s average of 7%. Not only that, but revenue is growing and she attributes that to loyal, happy employees. “We need more women in a position to say that we are going to have these types of policies. It’s just assumed that it’s unprofessional. Why is it unprofessional? We need to find a way to make work and family work for everyone.”
Image source: Monica Bielanko