Babies in the Workplace: Yes or No?

Yesterday, I published a piece at The Federalist, advocating that more companies allow women to bring their small babies to work when they choose or must return to the office. The column was inspired by Senator Tammy Duckworth, the first sitting Senator to give birth while in office. Her situation inspired the Senate to change the rules to allow babies in the Chamber.

These early motherhood working experiences aren’t ideal for everyone, but I love the idea that we would foster a society that welcomes this kind of set-up. As I wrote:

“It’s time for more workplaces to embrace policies that support early motherhood working experiences. It’s empowering to women and contributes to decreasing the wage gap for a variety of reasons.”

I definitely got some push back. There were people saying there is no way they’d ever even want to do that — and others saying it would be too much of a distraction for other employees. Still, others mentioned potential liability concerns. All valid points…and don’t you love a great conversation on an issue like this? Instead of getting offended, I am happily taking these points to heart.

One thing that drives me crazy when writing about issues like these, though, is that people often assume I mean the idea should be mandated. I’m a conservative friends — I think hardly anything should be mandated. I believe businesses and individuals should be able to decide for themselves what they want to do — and I’m a huge supporter of OPTIONS, especially when we are talking about parents and babies.

Many women don’t get even 12 weeks of paid leave. Depending on the job and the environment, I do think it’s feasible for babies to be welcomed. The number of places where this would work may be small, but even small changes can make a difference. My fellow BRIGHT editor Inez had this to say:

“Maybe I’m just crotchety, but call me skeptical. This only works – such that it does – because Sen. Duckworth’s job is more conducive to split attention than most. In many office environments, an infant or toddler would distract both mom and her coworkers, who would likely be picking up the slack when the mother understandably has to divide her focus.”

I certainly do NOT advocate toddlers in the office, ha ha. Once they are on the move, good luck! I didn’t spell it out in my piece, but I think the “baby rule” would probably need to apply to 6 months and younger.

But, really, I totally get the opposition to my argument though I standby it as a potential option for some places of businesses. The way to do it even more effectively would be for more companies to offer teleworking and flex-time options for parents.

Lastly, I do think that companies should everything they can to offer the best maternity leave possible. It’s difficult and a sacrifice but promotes workplace longevity, a valued and warm atmosphere, and producing the best employees possible. And, just in case I need to say, NO, I don’t think long, fully paid maternity leaves should be mandated. But choices…now those I can believe in.

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