October 28, 2005
The business of babies
My work travelmate and I have had hours to discuss driving in snow, marvel at the Real World Austin Melinda’s narcissism, and to debate the psychological benefits of chocolate chip vs. peanut butter cookies since arriving in Pennsylvania on Sunday. Over cream of broccoli soup at the hotel restaurant, we stumbled upon this conversation keeper, and I offer it for your consideration.

A group of restaurant staffers assembled for a meeting at the table next to us. The head chef assumed his spot at one end and began eating while the others found their chairs. Two hostesses sat down on opposite sides of the table. Three other important-looking women – the type that distribute colored graphs at meetings via manicured hands – pulled up chairs, leaving one empty at the head of the table. And a last woman walked up to this grouping and assumed the clear spot as meeting organizer. She arranged her paperwork in neat rows, called the meeting to order, and led the group through the printed agenda. And she did all of this with an infant on her lap.

I find myself torn. On one hand, I am filled with pride that woman can achieve this. Mostly gone are the days when a mother would have to abandon work aspirations so she could stay home to raise the family’s children and get dishes spic and span clean. Believe it or not! she can now direct feature films, play professional soccer, or teach the Kreb’s cycle and provide a close, nurturing relationship for her child without the authorities being alerted. And she can do so without quite the former stigma of giving her child over to a non-family member for the greater part of the day.

On the other hand, I have dependents, and although they are tinier and hairier than most humans, they vomit to excess and they do demand regular feedings and care. But I know it isn’t well accepted to take a sick day for a vet visit or to bring a cat with a leg injury to the office. Or what about someone requiring more constant care, such an ailing parent? Would it be acceptable for a parent, usually cared for at all times by an in-home caregiver who called in sick for the week, to come to meetings with one of your colleagues?

Your thoughts please.


50 Comments:

i don't know why people have babies in the first place. and then they like to bring them to work and show them off! then you are expected to ooh and ahh over the little thing and take turns holding it and making googly noises at it. but none of my co workers even want to look at a picture of my kitty. it's unjust. if i have to pretend to have interest in your little terror, please do me a courtesy and pretend you love my kitty and want to hold it and mkae googly noises at it too.

Blogger Heather B. said...

There's this constant battle between people with kids and those without as to who has made the best decisions and who is entitled to more help etc. I'm of the mindset that things should be equal. One group isn't better than the other.

If it's not ok to bring an ailing parent into a meeting or your ailing cat or dog, it's not ok to bring Jr. into a meeting.

Blogger Kiki said...

I've never had to deal with parenting and work so far. I could see exceptions to the rule as far as having to bring a kid to work if there was an emergency etc. but other than that I don't think it's exceptable.

Maybe more offices/jobs should offer some sort of daycare at work.

Blogger Jeff said...

I think if you're a parent and you intend to turn some of your focus away from your job and put it toward raising children, I say, "great!" I am disgusted by those rich lawyer types who work 12 hour days to buy another Land Rover, while their kids are raised by a nanny.

However, also think it's wrong for a mother to go to an interview and pretend to be a dedicated employee, then complain later when she gets fired for not living up to the expectations she set.

Blogger BamaGirl said...

I have often felt the same way. I've wanted to bring my dog places where dogs aren't allowed, yet screaming babies are. My dog would sit there quiet and cute as a dream, while a baby ruins the room for everyone.
Yet, I'm sure I'll be the person with the screaming kid someday. So, I have to stay open-minded.

Blogger Lulu said...

This is a tough one for me...On the one hand, I think it is fantastic that more work places are becoming more family friendly to some extent. On the other hand, the last office I worked in did not mind that children would come in frequently. These kids tended to be horrible shits, who would run around the office, usurping computers of people trying to do their jobs, who just happened to go to the bathroom or coffee pot and coloring on the walls. Granted, this was 100% due to poor parenting skills, but it still happened.

I will also say, that now more than ever parents have the option of working from home. I'm not even a parent and I work from home. Phones, fax and internet are all you need for many jobs now, so there really is no excuse for kids to invade the office.

Blogger Jürgen Nation said...

I'm with Heather B. and Bamagirl. If I were to bring Jurgen to the office, he'd lie next to me and maybe amble to the kitchen for his water bowl. Maybe he'd sniff some ass or something, but he wouldn't go buck nuts like a lot of kids would. I don't like it when people bring their kids in and parade them around. Something about it strikes me as vulgar; do you really need people to fawn over your baby? If so, why? And why is it normal behavior to solicit compliments from every office in the place? Nothing is more uncomfortable than having to squirm at a screaming and/or ugly baby and say, "oh, now. Wow. Now that's a baby." (I don't lie, but I'll never say "hey, what an ugly kid!" but I digress.)

Kids have no place in the office, but most companies now are either offering daycare or discounts for same.

Blogger Kim said...

My thoughts? Um, uh, I...

That's why I come to read your blog, so I don't have to have any thoughts. I can just read what yours are.

My brain hurts from trying to put together an opinion. I'll get back to you.

Blogger Asian Mistress said...

Oh, I want to comment but I have to think of something profound to say...

...perhaps I'll just write my own post on the subject - I think I can say enough!

But, no answers...those are tough questions Kris!

Blogger Candace said...

Am I the only one with kids?

I don't think I'd bring my kids to the office (I don't *have* an office and don't ever intend to, so I'm not sure that's an issue) but I wouldn't want someone's dog there; I'm allergic. I LOVE dogs, don't get me wrong. They just make it difficult for me to breathe.

But that's beside the point. I'm with Heather B. in that if one scenario is acceptable, they all should be. But I wish, seriously, that we could all just get along already.

Anonymous Jorge said...

That's an interesting thought.

I admire the fact that Miss Organizer coudl bring her infant with her with such poise. Mind you, maybe the rest of the meeting attendees woudl be barraged by projectile vomit should they not agree with the head of the table...

I guess it would depend on the nature of the ailing older person (or younger one, for that matter). This may sound cold, but the level of distraction brought forth by an ailing older person may be more of a hindrance in a meeting to the pleasant level of distraction brought forth by a baby.

I don't know.
This is a toughie..

We'll chat tonight about it, perhaps.

Or not..

By the way, I'm showing up with 10 babies on my lap. All of differeing simian origin..'

J

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Blogger babyjewels said...

Ideally, speaking as the parent of a 4 year old, I never want to have to bring my son to the office. However, if I do, it's because my boss has asked me to handle something that no one else can. (I'm the only graphic designer on site). So, although, it's not ideal for either me, my son or my workplace - I've done it. I find it incredibly stressful to bring him. Anxious that he'll behave, be quiet while I try and have a meeting with my boss to go over whatever it is she needs and be generally well-behaved. Children don't belong in the workplace. It isn't fair to other people. My boss is awesome and lets me do about a third of my work from home because of child case issues. More companies need to be flexible in this respect.

As for animals in the workplace, I think it's fine if its an everyday thing. (the way some companies just have a dog that comes to work everyday with someone.) Then the novelty wears off and its not a distraction to everyone. I can see where a once every few months pet visit can be disruptive because its so out of the ordinary.

And then there's always the issue of alergies (to children or pets).

Blogger kimmay said...

how about this kris. i heard a story about a parent (who has a chronically ill child) who was fired for two reasons: 1.) she was taking "too much" family medical leave and 2.) her child was costing the company too much in insurance benefits.

Anonymous your beau said...

Look people, I get about 3 quality minutes a week with mama. Don't start posting about LOST blogs or I'll never see her. Worse, I'll be forced to take her cats to work with me.

Blogger yournamehere said...

I'm sure there'll be a lawsuit. "She brought her child; well, I consider my pet wolverine to be my own flesh and blood. I'll even bring the rabies vaccine in case of attack," or "Why can't I bring my granddad to work? Nursing homes are expensive. He likes to tell racist jokes and pat women on their butts, but other than that he keeps to himself."

Blogger Bill said...

My gut reaction is that there is something fundamentally fucked about someone who is raising their kid a in a board room. Yes, I know it's a meeting in a restaurant but for all intents and purposes it's a board room because it's a workplace meeting. What the hell kind of kid are you trying to raise?

I think workplaces should offer day-care, and I realize it's a profoundly difficult thing to raise a child. But a work meeting is not the place for a child/infant.

The other thing that strikes me is, if I'm your employer, to be blunt, I'm not paying you to raise your children. How can you be focused on the work I'm paying you to do when your child is in your lap? And if you are doing the work I'm paying you to do, how can you care for your child?

Yes, it's extremely difficuly to raise children and have a career. And yes, it's far from fair. But the answer isn't dragging your kids into the workplace (unless day-care is offered). Forget about what noise they may or may not make, or what messes they may or may not make. Is this where a child should be? Can you really do your job when your child is right there and you're suppose to be caring for him/her? And if you are doing your job, then what kind of attention is your child getting?

And in the interests of full disclosure ...no, I don't have children so, yes, I don't know what I'm talking about.

Blogger sunshine said...

I guess what bothers me is the double standard in the workplace when it comes to caring for kids vs. pets.

Taking a day off to take a sick child to the doctor is accepted but eyebrows are raised when someone needs to get their sick pet to the vet for an emergency visit.

No, I don't have kids either. I do have two terriers, one of whom has a serious eye infection. Last week I lied and said I needed to go to the doctor for an emergency visit when in reality we went to the veterinary opthalmologist.

I find it easier to just lie rather than try to explain the situation to people who don't get it. But I wish it weren't that way.

I have a close friend who is dealing with this issue too. She had to have her dog put to sleep on Thursday and she is devastated and in grief. Yet she's expected back at work on Monday. She feels like curling up and dying. She's intensely depressed and isn't nearly ready to go back to work. This dog was her "baby" for 12 years.

There is no "family leave" when it comes to caring for pets or dealing with the loss of them, and I think that's a shame.

Blogger Megarita said...

I have to say in all seriousness that I took your comment about "my cats are the same as children" to be a joke until I read all of these comments. Seems like this is something people take very seriously. I have to say I still think there are considerable differences between a child and a pet, and I don't think pets should be in the office ever (I'm also a sniffles mcsneezy), but I have known many moms who had to bring their kids in last minute. Day care is great and necessary, but I don't like it in most offices (I mean, when the kid's there with mom). Unless you work at ToysRUs or the baby blanket factory.

That being said, I'm going to have to rethink my opinions a little here! Damn learning from blogs...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did it ever occur to you that maybe the BABY was in charge of the meeting? Kids these days....

Blogger Jürgen Nation said...

Sunshine,

*BRAVO* Nicely stated.

Blogger Shawn said...

I started to write out a long response...but then I realized it all boils down to that witch in the forest being right. If someone's kids are brought into work and they touch or try to eat any of your ginger bread cubible...they need to cooked up and eaten.

'Hansel...where did you get to? You're not bugging Shawn again while he's trying to work, are you? Shawn, have you seen my little Hansel?"

***Burp*** 'Huh? Oh, did you bring that darling child into work...again? Nope, haven't seen him...'

Blogger AJH said...

I totally agree with you. Why should Joe the Breeder get more benefits (insurance, time off, etc) and consideration than I do because he and his wife feel the need to procreate? When my pet is sick or dies, I deserve the same amount of time off as someone with a sick kid. A member of my family is ill. What difference does it make that he has four legs and a warm furry coat? There is definately an equality issue here.

Blogger yournamehere said...

I'm not sure how I feel about kids in the workplace, but I feel the need to respond to some of the comments regarding sick animals and time off from work.

The reason there's a double standard regarding children and pets is because children are human beings; "Rover" and "Kitty" aren't. No, you pet owners don't deserve the same amount of time off as someone with a sick kid. I don't have kids or pets, I get no time off; fine with me. I don't go around whining about "equality" because I choose not to be Dr. Doolittle.
I can't believe someone would compare their sick animal to a sick child. I am not an animal-hater, by the way, and in most cases prefer the company of a well-behaved dog over someone's kid. That doesn't change this fact, which should be indisputable: The health and well-being of the brattiest child on earth is MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than the health of the best-behaved animal. How can anyone feel otherwise?

Blogger KlevaBich said...

yournamehere: I think it's just fine if you choose not to feel the same way about your pets as you do you children. However, grant me the right to feel the way I do about my animals; that is, they ARE my children. I have never had the urge to replicate, and absolutely adore my pets. Take it or leave it.

ajh: This is the crux of the argument. If my employer chose to spend money on day-care, I would expect equal compensation. Why should I be penalized for not overpopulating our already crowded planet?

sunshine: My heart goes out to your friend. It's a devastating time. In fact, when I had to put my cat to sleep about 12 years ago, it set off quite a chain of emotional events that resulted in divorce, if you can believe it. I guess it was one of those "life is short, now what?" moments.

Kris: Are you sorry you asked? :^)

Blogger Robin said...

I think babies have no place being at work with a parent, ESPECIALLY if they are sick. If a working parent has a sick child, that parent should be home with that sick child. Period. That's part of the deal when you become a parent. Sacrifice in every room of your life.

Personally, I don't think that owning a pet is the same as being the parent to a human child. I have dogs. I have kids. Apples and Oranges. I get that people love their pets A LOT ( I am convinced my mother loved her beloved pooch way more than her own husband, due to the voluminous amount of tears shed for canine companion versus my father upon death). But, I think what people do with their paid leave is their business, whether it's to care for a sick baby or a sick kitty or a sick parent or to spend the day eating Cheetos and watching soap operas. You earned the time, after all.

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Blogger Bridget Jones said...

Depends on the type of office and the type of situation. I hope in the next few years that more effort will be made to accommodate employees as humans, not as robots.

And since most/many of us are dealing with senior parents and children at the same time, the smart employers are moving in this area.

The 50s are (thank God!) over.

Blogger Spinning Girl said...

I am curious as to how the colleagues reacted to the baby being there.

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Blogger Jen said...

I don't think children or pets belong in the workplace. I have four sweet little dogs and a parrot and they ARE my children, though, and I have taken off work to care for them at times, like when one of the dogs was first diagnosed with diabetes.

I think that companies should offer things to employees without children, since they do not have to pay to insure the children and could afford to offer those employees pet insurance or gym memberships or just cash. My husband and I both work for the same company and are each insured by the company, but for each of us they are only insuring one person, not a whole family. In comparison to another worker who has a wife and four kids, they save a lot of money on us. It would be nice to have some of that savings passed along, and some companies have started doing such.

Blogger la.dauphine said...

I get annoyed with children in the workplace too. But I'm not a mom so I don't know how hard it is to have to find childcare. Those mom's should just bite the bullet and work part time!

Blogger Jackie said...

Hey Kris,

I actually think it's stressful for the CHILDREN to be in a situation like that. The office space is designed for big people--everything at their eye-level is under desks, the seats of chairs, dangerous cords, etc.

In my opinion, it is better to leave your child at a daycare designed for children his/her age and with his/her peer group.

That way he can sit in the tiny chairs and play with his little friends.

The environment of an adult workplace is not geared towards children. Why do people expect their kid to behave under those conditions?

Blogger Cheryl said...

Oh, this is too much thought for a Sunday morning following a night of Halloween debauchery.

I guess for some reason when it's a baby, people see it differently than animals or elderly people.

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Blogger Brookelina said...

The question is, will Tom let Katie bring their offspring to work?

Blogger Jessica said...

Kris, good topic, but I'm not touching it with a ten foot pole! :) If only there were easy answers!

I don't that if I had children I would bring them to work. I know how lingering around with the children affects the productivity. I know there are circumstances where it's necessary but then there are others who do it to excess (to annoy others I believe).

There is a bulletin board at work with all the workers kids and grandkids on the board. I took a picture of my dog and placed it on there. Did I really feel like my dog deserved to be up there? Not really. But damnit, I have to put up with every grandkid and child that comes in, the least I can do is annoy the shit out of someone else for a change.

Blogger Bill said...

My cat, Gonzo, is on my lap as I type. I put it to her, "Where do you stand on the question of pets in the workplace?"

Gonzo replies: "I don't do offices. Now where's my damn food?"

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Blogger Anisa said...

personally, i can't concentrate when somebody's holding their baby while trying to conduct a meeting.

i also think more places should provide daycare. but a meeting is no place for a baby unless there's been an emergency.

just my thoughts!

Blogger LBseahag said...

I've been duped at work with extra tasks cuz someone had to care for a sic kid or even worse, pick up a kid who was expelled for fighting...

lame...

Anonymous robin said...

It is such a relief to see so many other people who can understand where I come from. For me it's not so much taking time off (I don't have to give an excuse) but more so me talking about my furkids. Forbid I discuss my furkids with mothers of humans because I'm just not in their league. I love showing pictures of my furkids and telling stories about them but I've found mothers of humans really don't appreciate it.

Blogger Berlinbound said...

We all think our children are beautiful and talented.

We all think our pets are beautiful and talented.

Fact is; we all think the children and pets of other people are ordinary and bothersome.

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