I recently returned to work after my maternity leave with my second child. I was able to spend eleven insanely stressful and beautifully crazy weeks at home with my newborn and newly-turned three-year-old.
When discussing my return to work while I was still pregnant, I approached my boss with the idea of a flex schedule and bringing the baby to the office with me. I’m in the marketing/communications department and spend the vast majority of my workday at a computer or in internal meetings. I had worked remotely before. Changing my work schedule and environment up for a few months didn’t sound like a huge impediment to my ability to execute my work. As I’ve returned, I’ve found that while it is a little trickier to get everything done, the benefits to myself, my son and even my co-workers far outweigh the extra planning it requires.
There is beauty in creating workplace policies that allow for mothers to bring their infants to work with them, beyond facilitating the continued bonding of a mother and child (and help with breastfeeding success) and helping a woman financially support her family.
Something happens to an office when a baby is introduced. As one New York Times op-ed writer put it, “Uma seemed to help everyone forget their own agendas and insecurities and form deeper connections. When I remembered hearing that programs exist to bring babies to schools to teach empathy, it made perfect sense to me.”
Even the state of Washington’s Department of Health recognizes the benefits of allowing employees to bring their young babies to work. In my office we call them “mental health breaks”, taking a short break to snuggle a baby.
Now obviously there are some work embodiments and jobs where this just wouldn’t work (factories and hospitals come to mind). But the number of mothers with jobs that can be flexible, even just a few days each week, can do a lot to make a difference. And due to the overwhelming benefits to a company, I would be surprised if these policies don’t become standard policy over the next 5-10 years.
Many companies have a six-month policy in place, allowing mothers to bring new babies to the office during their first six months of life. And many companies, who have decided to give it a try, have found a boost in productivity and morale, not only in the mother, but also in the other employees in the office. Having a baby in the office makes people happier and more relaxed; and happy, relaxed people are more productive.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your manager or supervisor about the possibility of flex schedules, working from home or bringing your baby to the office with you. The benefits abound for you, your baby and your office. The Parenting in the Workplace Institute has resources for employees or employers looking to implement a babies at work policy.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I have a hard time asking for help. I’ve somehow developed a subconscious personal policy to minimize how much I allow others to contribute to my daily needs. I guess I figure since I’m blessed enough to be able to stay home with my children,