“From the time I was about 12-weeks pregnant, I was worried about the cost of childcare–and having a stranger look after my baby. Because of the cost, there was a huge dark cloud in our home, but neither my husband nor I considered whether there were any infant-care options in our neighborhood. (Instead of all the other unsolicited advice, people should encourage you to plan for child care during your pregnancy, but I digress!)
I had doubts about returning to work once my maternity leave ended at one point during my pregnancy. Is it worth it? Paying for child care so much that it feels like you’re paying to be at work, depressed, and away from your newborn? But I had to return. With a new infant to care for, I couldn’t afford to lose my job, which covered our family with all of our insurance coverage. I eventually told my boss about my anxiety after months of feeling restless at work. Her initial reaction? ‘Just bring her back when you return!’ We can have a baby in the office!’ It was incredible. She can’t be serious, can she? But she, along with practically everyone else in the office, was ecstatic and eager for Baby P to join the team!
Because I work for a small company with less than 50 people, I was given six weeks of unpaid maternity leave, plus one week of paid time off. Because his firm does not provide paternity leave, my husband Tony took a week off from work. For 7 weeks, I bonded with that tiny daughter and snuggled, nursed, snuggled, and breastfed her again and again. It was enchanting and ideal! It’s also stressful and emotionally debilitating! And it’s stinky, painful, and awkward! Nonetheless, magical and beautiful. But that seventh week flew by faster than I had anticipated, and I sobbed virtually every day about it.
On my first day back to work, Tony took the day off to be at home with Priscilla. Before delving back in with a newborn in tow, he thought I should get myself settled and caught up. For over two months, I lugged Priscilla and all her baby gear to work every morning, trying to get as much work done as possible before her first nap, which she would take napping on me, and then I’d continue working on my daily responsibilities.
I wasn’t as efficient or productive as I had hoped, but everyone was incredibly sympathetic and accommodating while I went through the strange process of adjusting to being an ‘office baby.’ For months, my coworkers worked quietly, bringing me coffee when I couldn’t get up and then re-heating the same cup since I never finished it in time. It was so touching that it made me cry. When I needed P to sleep, they’d take phone calls in other rooms or play lullaby music. When I needed a moment to focus or even to use the restroom, one lady was my go-to baby entertainment! She would entertain Priscilla by playing goofy films or rocking and bouncing her. Priscilla made rounds to other levels on occasion so that coworkers could coo at her and have their turn with a little embrace.
However, there were drawbacks. When P was nursing, trying to get her fussy self to sleep, or cleaning up one of her numerous enormous blow-outs, I couldn’t participate in every conversation or meeting I needed to. I didn’t pick up the phone and instead sent an email in response to the person’s message. Everything I wore had to be nursing-friendly, which presented its own set of difficulties. Plus, there’s the apparent side effect of feeling like a huge burden on your coworkers because they’re changing practically everything about their daily routine, while you’re stuck in an office with a wailing infant and the lingering aroma of diaper cream.
After a few months, my father was able to assist us with Priscilla’s care throughout the day. One or two days a week, I’d take her to work with me, and three days a week, my father would watch her. I was also free to work from home if necessary, which was another nice concession offered by my boss. Young babies can be irritable and fussy at times, preferring to be comfortable at home rather than spend nine hours at an office with fluorescent lights. I know, it’s shocking. I’d work from my dining room table on those days, with P plopped next to me, doing her lovely baby things.
We visited a few child-care centers during that period and put our names on the waiting lists. We were told it would be nine months until an opening, which seemed like an eternity, however, there was an unexpected part-time care opportunity starting in January 2019! It was wonderful to start part-time so we could see how things went and I could still have my daughter with me throughout the week. I needed to get back to work, but I was dreading the end of my days with a newborn coworker!
Priscilla is 14 months old and has been in child care for about 10 months. So far, she has enjoyed all of her teachers and her regular interactions with her tiny toddler companions.
Being able to bring my new baby to work with me provided me the peace of mind I needed when it came to enrolling her in child care, especially as a first-time mother. My boss agreed because he thought I’d be more likely to continue with the company if I did this, and also because he’s a nice guy who realized it wasn’t such a big thing if a kid came into the office now and again! My office is peaceful and private, and there aren’t many people in and out regularly, so it’s an ideal environment for a newborn to join in. I understand that this isn’t true in every workplace, but there are a lot of organizations that could provide similar benefits to their employees if they wanted to. Bringing a baby into the workplace can seem like a crazy notion. But, if the infant is reasonably unobtrusive and no one directly involved is bothered or offended, why not give new moms some leeway? My coworker is expecting her first child in a few months, and we expect her to be in a scenario quite similar to mine. Until this baby’s daycare seat becomes available, everyone will adjust to the new, temporary normal. Meanwhile, we’re all smelling like new babies again and getting back to work.
I hope that someone reading this tale can find some hope in it if they are facing a similar decision about whether or not to continue working. To discover that there is a happy medium. Talk to your employer and managers to discover what kind of scheduling flexibility they’re ready to supply. Perhaps you might be the one to introduce a new policy at your job and begin the process of making new mothers feel welcome and respected.”
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