More parents are bringing babies to work. Here's why!
Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day typically falls on April 23, but for some parents, it’s actually every day. A growing number of moms and dads are showing up to work with their babies in tow to push for changes in workplace policies and highlight the difficulties of balancing parenthood with a career, but not everyone is on board with welcoming young children to the office.
Mayor Jorge Elorza of Providence, Rhode Island, is the latest in a string of public officials who have brought their kids to work. Mayor Elorza has been known to bring his 1-year-old to everything from ribbon cuttings to private meetings with the governor, and he told the Associated Press that the main reason behind his controversial choice is the high cost of child care. "We can't afford that," the mayor said after noting that one day care he toured cost $350 per week. "I don't see how most families in our city can afford that."
Elorza has been criticized for being unprofessional and inappropriate by having his child with him, according to NBC. Some have even accused him of giving himself privileges that wouldn’t be extended to other people and professions, particularly if it were a mom trying to bring her baby to work instead of a dad. But Elorza is not the only parent who’s challenging ideas about children and the workplace.
Just a few months ago, a New Zealand politician made headlines when he fed a colleague’s newborn while presiding over a debate in the New Zealand Parliament. The baby belonged to Tāmati Coffey, a legislator and brand new dad who had brought his 1-month-old with him to work as he returned from paternity leave.
In the US, Illinois senator Tammy Duckworth made history last year when she brought her 10-day-old newborn with her to cast a vote on the Senate floor. And Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has requested that her staff make all of her weekend events “family friendly” so she can bring her daughter.
As of 2016, around 200 US companies have rules in place that allow parents to bring babies with them to the office. The reasons for the shift are varied. Child care costs continue to climb, with Care.com’s 2019 Cost of Care Survey showing that 70 percent of US families pay child care costs that the government defines as unaffordable. According to Care.com data, the average weekly child care cost for one infant child is $199 for a family care center, $211 for a day care center and $596 for a nanny.
There’s also the fact that many working parents simply need a flexible schedule and workplace environment that allows them to be with their children. Breastfeeding moms, in particular, can face major challenges when they are away from their babies all day, especially if their workplace does not provide the time or space to pump. Under the US Fair Labor Standards Act, only companies with more than 50 employees are required to provide pumping rooms and breaks to nursing mothers.
Other parents face challenges that make it difficult to leave their children in the care of others. In February, a Texas dad named Richard Miley went viral after he shared on Facebook that he lost a client from his power washing company because he brought his 5-year-old daughter to work. In his post, the dad revealed that his daughter goes everywhere with him since losing her mother, and that she can’t be left in day care. “First off it's not my fault my kids lost their mother, it's not my fault my youngest took it pretty hard and acts out too much to be in a daycare consistantly. [sic] But I do my best everyday to provide for my children,” he wrote.
As politicians like Mayor Elorza work to normalize children in the workplace, Miley’s story is a reminder that many people are still not accepting of such practices. Still, it is important to see public figures like Mayor Elorza, Senator Duckworth and Mayor Bowser challenging public perceptions. According to a 2014 study by the University of Texas at Dallas, family-friendly workplace policies — including paid parental leave, on-site child care, limited overtime, and flexible schedule options — result in happier and more productive employees and decrease turnover.
While the study did not specifically address children in the workplace, there is evidence to suggest that pro-baby policies yield similar results. In 2016, Michael Belenky, CEO of the baby-friendly clothing company Zutano, told NPR that parents who are allowed to bring their babies to work with them “have been some of our longest-term and most loyal employees.”
For a long time, workplaces have been structured in a way that makes life stressful and overwhelming for parents by limiting the time they’re able to spend with their kids, withholding maternity and paternity benefits and leaving them high and dry when it comes to covering the cost of expensive child care programs. In the absence of solutions to address the overwhelm and financial strain that parents face, bringing babies to work has emerged as both a makeshift solution and a natural form of protest. Obviously not all parents want to have a baby with them in the workplace, but as society struggles to address the needs of working parents, it’s hard not to applaud the hardworking politicians and parents who have stepped up so far to push for a new way of doing things.
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