Putting Family First

I visited the dermatologist recently to get some petite, classically feminine warts frozen off my left big toe and to have my right big toenail biopsied for abnormal growths. There was an exceptionally kind nurse whom I didn't recognize. She told me funny stories to distract me until the painkillers took effect.

"Are you new?" I inquired, my bare feet in the air.

"Just a month working here."

"How do you like it?" I asked, wondering how enjoyable wart removal and toenail biopsies could be.

"Good so far. But I loved my old job working with morbidly obese patients. I left because I have a new baby. There was nothing wrong with the other assistants taking ten-minute cigarette breaks. But the surgeons gave me a hard time because I took ten-minute breaks to pump milk for the baby. I worked there five years. I had to quit. Here, Dr. S., she's nice. I came to work for her because she understands I sometimes need to put my family first."

A humble request, I thought. Why is that so hard for some bosses to honor?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  April 19, 2006; 8:40 AM ET  | Category:  Flexibility
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

It's amazing to me...that a woman (or man) can't get the support for the very simple things at work! It's hard to find good employees, so why not make their lives a little bit easier, especially when it costs nothing?

Posted by: Kate | April 19, 2006 9:17 AM

got pancreatitis seven weeks after my daughter was born and I was in the hospital for a week, so unfortunately I had to stop breast feeding. However, many of my friends at work had babies and were breastfeeding, we had just moved into a new building with a wellness center downstairs so they had a room to their self and complete privacy.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last long, we had budget cuts last year and now the wellness center is gone. Who knows where people will pump now. And I work for a humanitarian organization! I’d like to know how the for-profit businesses treat their mothers.

Posted by: Scarry | April 19, 2006 9:29 AM

Are there any guidelines or standards regarding "reasonable accommodation" that could be applied here? While pumping is not related to a disability per se (though as a state employee in VA, I will receive short-term disability for the birth of my child), it seems as though employers should have to follow the same principle.

Posted by: Hmmm | April 19, 2006 9:42 AM

I'm happy to report that my employer was completely supportive when I pumped for my daughter for her first year. I felt very strongly about both returning to work and continuing to nurse my daughter, and when I came back from maternity leave, I presented the scenario to my boss as a given, not an option. It helped a lot that I was in a managerial position and already had my own office with a locking door. But I was never made to feel like a slacker or weirdo for closing the door for 10 minutes three times a day. (Of course I kept working while I pumped, answering emails, etc.). I so wish that more new moms were afforded this same opportunity. It's really a very short period of time over the long run.

Posted by: Miranda | April 19, 2006 9:48 AM

Miranda you are absolutely right. I wished I could have breast fed my daughter longer. The sad thing is that where I work, no one thinks twice about the smoker who goes out four times a day or the people who talk and talk about non-work related issues. I am fortunate that I have a nice boss, but some people aren’t so lucky.

Posted by: Scarry | April 19, 2006 9:59 AM

In this case, the employer was punished for his inflexibility by losing an excellent employee. If only he was smart enough to learn a lesson from it.

Posted by: Ms L | April 19, 2006 10:00 AM

Wow, that's really unbelievable. I'm with Ms. L: in the long run, it's employers like that who lose out on good employees. My firm has been extremely flexible with me over a period of years (let me telecommute from 1500 miles away for 3 years when my husband was transferred, pick my own schedule, etc.). As a result of that, they have earned an incredible amount of loyalty from me -- I wouldn't even consider another offer, no matter how much more money was involved, because these people have shown me that they value me and are committed to me.

I just returned from my own maternity leave a few months ago and am still nursing. Luckily, my office has a door (but no lock), so I close it and tape up a "do not disturb" sign, and everyone understands what that means (and like Miranda, I am able to keep working -- although I usually take the time off to read this blog!). Another woman here just had a baby, and we want to trade in the signs for a big ol' cow magnet to stick on our doors at the appropriate time.

Posted by: Laura | April 19, 2006 10:23 AM

Oh gross. Please, TMI about the warts and toe-nail thing.

Posted by: eww! | April 19, 2006 10:23 AM

I recently had to return to work after my maternity leave when I wasn't planning on it (reason's for not coming back could start a whole nother string of posting on childcare - expense, unavailability for some of us, waiting lists, etc. - and the boss totally unwilling to even give working part time from home a chance despite my direct supervisors willing and pulling for it).

The pumping situation has been less than ideal. While so far no one has given me crap for doing it, none of our bathrooms have outlets for me to pulg into, I work in a cubicle, and have taken to camping out in empty offices or offices where people are on travel. Still have managed to have been walked in on once (thankfully my back was to the door) when I was in a vacant office, and there are folks moving from our other spaces into these empty offices this weekend, so next week? I don't know where I'm going to pump. I'm trying to keep things on the down low so that I won't get crap about it (while the smokers are out there for hours a day), but I may just have to book one of the conference rooms for 3-4 half hour meetings every day from now on!! I envy you women with wellness centers or even a nice bathroom wtih a chair and an outlet!!

Posted by: nat | April 19, 2006 10:24 AM

I'm not in management, but when I came back from maternity leave, I did not present pumping as an option, nor did I ask permission. On my first day back, I set up my pump, and put a sign on my door asking people not to knock if the door is closed, just send an email. My boss and co-workers were very supportive. I don't know that it would have been the same if I had asked. But in just barging forward and making it clear that pumping was a part of my work day, just as mandatory as leaving on time to pick up my baby from daycare, it was accepted readily.
The expression goes "it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission". But it's also true that when asked for permission, employers tend to see problems, rather than seeing how easy the "solution" is.

Posted by: Lucky employee | April 19, 2006 10:26 AM

I had an almost identical conversation with a Nurse Practitioner at my Ob-Gyn's office. Her bosses (Ob-Gyns, who promote breastfeeding!) make her stay an extra half hour each night to make up for her pumping time!

Posted by: Makes No Sense | April 19, 2006 10:27 AM

Glad you're having this string because I'm expecting and plan to nurse and pump soon. Can any of you tell me what the general environment is here? In Texas, there's a big push by the state to encourage nursing. I never had a problem nursing in public or pumping at work. In fact, in the hospital they give you a business card to carry around, which cites state law allowing nursing in public. That way if anyone gives you crap you can show it to them.
But I think it varies state to state. I have a close friend in Illinois who said people weren't so cool with that.
I live in Rockville, but work in DC and wanted to know what I can expect here. Thanks!

Posted by: new to DC | April 19, 2006 10:34 AM

post script to my previous post: The La Leche League website has some great links to state laws regarding breastfeeding rights (some states make it law that an empmloyer provide space and time for a woman to pump) as well as different articles on the advantages of breastfeeding from an employers point of view: Breastfeeding mothers are healthier, their babies are healthier, thus the mother is taking less time off to care for a sick child, etc. I plan on printing those articles out and pasting them all over the outside of my cube if i get even the slightest wierd looks from anyone about it.

Posted by: nat | April 19, 2006 10:47 AM

I'm pumping right now! With a little ingenuity, it is very possible to pump handfree and still do emails, computer work, etc at the same time. It helps if you have an office with a door... I have a sign on my door, and also brought in a mini fridge so that I can easily store my milk and parts. I don't think I lose more than 5-10 minutes of productive time per day getting set up for my 3 pumping sessions.

Our company has set up a lactation room as well, and this is something that you can encourage your HR department to consider. There are numerous statistics out there that breastfed babies are sick less (mine has not been at all, despite being in day care) and allowing for pumping will thus result in less absenteeism. However, even if you choose to skip the pumping and supplement with formula, consider still nursing at night and in the am - even a few ounces of mothers milk per day is thought to help provide antibodies and beneficial nutrients.

Posted by: Pumpingmom | April 19, 2006 10:56 AM

For New to DC, I never had a problem nursing in public in DC (or the surrounding metro aread) last year, I think there is actually a rule or law regarding the right to nurse in public at the smithsonian museums.

It sounds like the working environment is office specific. At my office (a government agency), there was complete acceptance of pumping when I came back to work, it is generally expected actually (we have a lot of babies around here). I probably know more than 10 other women who pumped in their offices for extended periods of time over the past couple of years in a variety of groups throughout the agency, including my boss. Of course, I too have a private office. I believe, however, that we have accomodations for those employees that do not have private offices to pump.

Posted by: another DC working mom | April 19, 2006 10:56 AM

Has anyone posting on this thread ever actually started/owned a business? I have. Businesses do not exist for the purpose of social accomodation - they exist to earn a profit.

Fact of the matter is that it's very difficult to run a business with unreliable employees. The predominant mentality here seems to be that businesses are a never ending vat of wealth from which employee whims should be constantly be indulged.

I've had women with and without kids work for me. Those with kids inevitably call out more frequently - leaving me to explain to clients why my employees aren't more reliable.

As an employer, I try to do all I can to accomodate employee concerns. I just wish that employees would reciprocate. All of our actions have consequences.

Posted by: Registered Voter | April 19, 2006 11:01 AM

Nat, you said "none of our bathrooms have outlets for me to pulg into"

While I'm sure it would be less than ideal to pump in the bathroom, you should be able to get battery packs for your pump. I believe my wife's Modela pump has a pack that takes 8 AA batteries. Don't now how long they last but I would think it would be cheaper ot buy rechargables and charge them up in your office so they are ready to go when you need to pump.

Check the pump maker's website.

Posted by: Father of 2 | April 19, 2006 11:07 AM

I pumped for over a year when returning to work. I work in a cube so I was supposed to send an email to the Office Boss to see which office was vacant each day. I did not let this make me feel uncomfortable - I stayed focused on the task - 2 half hour pumpings a day. Yes - I will say I was definitely less productive. After my baby was a year - I did get some weird comments - isn't she in college? People are so ignorant. Extended breastfeeding has shown to have many benefits - my daughter rarely gets sick and is super smart.

Nat - have you checked if you have any breastfeeding centers in your area? I work in D.C. and discovered that even if my employer didn't offer it, there are pumping centers here and there in the city (GW Univ., K st, ).... perhaps La Leche knows more about this..

Posted by: D | April 19, 2006 11:08 AM

I nurse at home and pump at work. We have a small breakroom here that was converted to a combination breakroom/lactation room. Someone complained of the potential biohazard of pumping and storing expressed milk so a cipher lock was put on the door and the room dedicated fully as a lacataion room. It's often the same people who are out socializing and smoking from the time I go in till after I get out.

Posted by: anon | April 19, 2006 11:14 AM

Registerd Voter's trying to start a controversy! Don't let her!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2006 11:18 AM


I worked for a large company, and most support lactation rooms. I loved it, except when a couple of Neanderthals a) walked in on me (back to door luckily) b)stole the chair from the room, and then c)stole the fridge from the room (that was a big deal and quickly replaced!)

If you can do it, let your employees bring their kids in. Small businesses can be innovative without spending a ton of money.

I even brought my kid and handicapped sister to work (on off-hours) for a software release that kept changing. I couldn't get a babysitter, because the young project manager, thought less than 24 hours was okay notice to find a babysitter. I had no relatives available, so I had no choice but to bring them in.

If you can accommodate the smokers and not other good people, then they will just vote with their feet and go to work somewhere else.

Posted by: ladycheckitout | April 19, 2006 11:20 AM

I agree, don't let Voter start another flame war. Who are you, anyway, Father of 4's brother?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2006 11:22 AM

There are usually several sides to an employment story like that, so without all the sides I'd reserve judgement.

Some jobs are more rigid than others. I've never really understood why people go into nursing, most of the nurses I know are more receptionists than anything else.

That aside, for me the best solution was to nurse at home and bottle feed while I was at work. After a week or so of adjusting everything worked out just fine.

Posted by: RoseG | April 19, 2006 11:27 AM

We are fortunate enough to have a Wellness Center that includes space for lactating mothers, prayer services, and just space to get away from it all. Management doesn't really care how long/often anyone is in there as long as the work is done on time.

Posted by: loveMyCompany | April 19, 2006 11:32 AM

Registered voter believes that one parent should stay at home with their kids until they're school age (see What Moms really want). This may be guiding RV's comments.

Yes, we were business owners. We learned quickly that giving some flexibility to our workers didn't cost us much and reaped huge benefits in terms of loyalty and dedication of our employees.

Posted by: Ms L | April 19, 2006 11:36 AM

To "Makes No Sense," who posted that a nurse practitioner at her ob-gyn's office has to stay an extra half hour each night to make up for her pumping time...

Um, are you saying that you think lactating employees should get paid for time spent not working? Why should she not have to make up the time she spent on a break, like any other employee would have to? For her to get free paid breaks to pump, and not have to make up the time, would be unfair.

Posted by: Brooke | April 19, 2006 11:39 AM

Brooke - Do you expect (and naively believe) that smokers who take 10 minute breaks 4-6 times per day actually CLOCK OUT? What about the 30 minute discussion about the latest movie or weekend activities? Do those participants clock out? The point is that if smokers don't clock out, then why should other types of breaks require a clocking out?

Posted by: K | April 19, 2006 11:41 AM

father of 2 - I haven't had a chance yet to check out battery packs, but I'm back at work unplanned b/c my husband was laid off. Funds are tight - I had to rent a breast pump in the giant case instead of buy the nice little one's with their own snazzy bags - I'd prefer not to have to spend the $$ when the pump isn't even my own.

D - I hadn't heard about the lactation centers around DC, but I'm doubtful us down here in SW have anything close by (there's NOTHING in SW...) besides, the time it would take to go to a lactation center to pump and then come back to work kind of defeats the whole purpose of being a good employee and showing how un-disruptive to the work day pumping can be.

Which leads me to my next comment...
Voter - I think you'll find that most breastfeeding and pumping moms are not militant, demanding folks who are expecting everyone to bend to their every whim to accomodate their milk laden breasts. We jsut want to pump at work to keep up our milk supply and to produce enough for our babies to drink the next day because it's something we feel is important. If my employer says I have to make sure I make up the time I take to pump, fine! Will do! We just happen to get resentful when that same employer doesn't give a rat's ass about the smokers not making up the time they spend outside enjoying a ciggy. But chances are we won't pick a fight about it. We just want a private place to pump our milk and have people leave us alone. Is that really so much to ask?

Posted by: nat | April 19, 2006 11:44 AM

Without picking a registered, I'd like to point out to him/her that I can confidently say all of us working moms are striving to provide what's best for our families and being good employees. For me and my kids, I feel its best to find a way to nurse and pump. For others it might be to use formula and nurse at home. I understand profit is important for a business, but think about how much money companies pay to search for and train new employees. Does it make economic sense to hire someone new everytime an employee has a kid? The thing I love about my employer is that they're so supportive of my needs, so I'm not always stressing out about what am I going to do when the baby comes, or when my preschooler is sick. I can actually focus 100% on my job and am very efficient (I think most parents learn to become very efficient workers). In return, I come in early, and occasionally make plans to stay a little late to finish up a big project. (Oh my boss has a no weekend working policy for all employees, he says even he has a life). In return,I plan on working here as long as I can. Sorry for the long entry, but I'm tired of people always assuming that people with kids are lazy.

Posted by: new to DC | April 19, 2006 11:45 AM

It is interesting how different parts of the country react to breastfeeding. I just recently finished nursing my son, and I think breastfeeding is strongly encouraged here. Lucky for me, my federal office building has a nurses office with private rooms to pump in.

Posted by: for new to dc | April 19, 2006 11:52 AM

another option is to get a gently used second-hand pump(some can be shared). Check out craigslist, they very often have pumps on sale. Also check your local freecycle group, maybe someone can give you one for free (go to http://www.freecycle.org for more info).

Posted by: VA | April 19, 2006 11:54 AM

To New to DC:
Between my two kids, I breastfed for about 10 months and never had any issues doing it in various public areas, the grocery store, malls, libraries, the steps of the Lincoln Memorial... Most people don't seem to notice and the rest don't seem to care.

I work at NIH and they have a lactation program whereby there are a number of lactation rooms in many buildings on campus. And there are a lot of women who use them.

I used to work for a company that wanted people to stick to the standard 9-5 but gradually morphed into a number of people working flex time or part time. This was usually, but not always, related to people's childcare responsibilities. It has actually worked out well for them because employee turnover went down a lot and considering training new employees there took a considerable amount of time, it keeps their productivity at a reasonable level.

Posted by: Rockville Mom of Two | April 19, 2006 12:06 PM

New to DC - I nursed both of my kids in public all over Montgomery County and DC, including restaurants, and never got any crap, or even looks, from anyone. That said, I was subtle--covered myself and the kids with a blanket--and didn't make an issue of it. (Tip: Use a clothespin to clip the blanket to your shirt on your shoulder, and you can get it all set up without exposing yourself.) I think most people didn't even notice. I like the idea of the business card that cites the law, too; maybe you could make your own version of the Texas one appropriate to DC/MD/VA. If I have a third, I'll do that myself! Also, I was pleasantly surprised at how many public places, especially shopping centers, in the DC metro area have or are creating family bathrooms and quiet places to nurse--malls, Babies R Us (logically), IKEA, etc.

I've been lucky at work--I'm an academic librarian--too. While nursing my first child, I had an office at the back of the library with a door and a single mom boss. For my second child, I was at different job in a cube farm, but my father-of-three boss arranged for me to have a study carrel with a locking door all to myself, and they even put a second computer (my old one--they had just replaced everyone's workstations) up there for me. And Pumpingmom is absolutely right--you can keep working while pumping. Medela (I think it's Medela, anyway) even makes a harness that holds the cones onto both breasts so that you can work totally hands-free! I just got really good at typing one-handed.

Posted by: niner | April 19, 2006 12:09 PM

Just a quick comment from the "other side":

While my employer is extremely flexible with those who have children.Those who are childless are constantly asked to juggle extra projects, while those who procreate are crowing about their "extra day" off. Your lifestyle choices should not infringe upon my workplace rights.

Posted by: Childless | April 19, 2006 12:11 PM

To Childless: that you are expected to do more is completely unfair; you should bring this up with your supervisor or through another appropriate channel of communication at your place of employment. And by all means, do NOT accept the extra work. As soon as you do it once, you'll be expected to do it all of the time!

Posted by: niner | April 19, 2006 12:22 PM

To Childless:

I'm sorry if you are given extra work. That's something. like niner said you should bring up with employer. On the other hand, when my son is sick, I'm definetly not crowing. Its not a free day off. I have to use a sick day, or in my current position a PTO day. Trust me no one likes to use potential vacation days to tend to sick children.

And just like mommy wars, there seems to be employee wars at some places, childless vs. w/ kids. I think its important to remember everyone can have emergenices. I've had coworkers who have come down with bronchittis (sp?), cars have broken down, family in hospital. Like I mentioned before, my boss is understanding and WE ALL chip in on those days. If your boss is unfairly making you take on extra work please speak up to him/her, but realize that as employees we're all in it together and trying to make a living here.

Posted by: New to DC | April 19, 2006 12:29 PM


If you are constantly asked to juggle extra projects, I suggest taking a firm stand stating that you cannot take on "the work load for project C" without other work (projects A and B) suffering. Managers can forget that someone is already loaded at 110%, and they have to be (gently) reminded that 110% plus 50% for project C doesn't add up to 110%. All employees (nursing moms, childless, working dads, etc.) have lives beyond work.

Posted by: NursingMom | April 19, 2006 12:33 PM

to VA: thanks! In my newly-mom brain I frequently forget glorious resources like craigslist and freecycle. Duh!

It's a shame that these discussions need to be had in the first place. It seems like our society has gotten to a point where carrer and jobs is more important than anything else and that's just not the case for the majority of us.

Posted by: nat | April 19, 2006 12:38 PM


I agree with the others that you should discuss with your boss your workload if it becomes too full. Also, make sure you're not stuck working on holidays (Christmas week is the worst) because you don't have a "family". I remember always having to work those days when I was single because people with families (re: kids) needed those days off. I didn't resent the families but I did think it unfair.

That said, when my children get sick, it's definitely not a holiday (vomiting toddler?). Also, it takes up most, if not all, my annual leave so I rarely am able to take week-long vacations.

Don't think parents get a free ride at work. Lost hours have to be made up somehow, either through annual leave or longer workdays.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2006 1:14 PM

I thought I had read that pumping in a restroom was unsafe because restrooms are full of germs (I think i read this on my company's Women's Network area)but please don't let me be the "expert".

I think that most offices could afford a terminal and a shared office. It could even be shared with people who need to make a quick *private* call, so everyone can share in a benefit. I don't know if you pumpers are "regular scheduled pumptime" or what, but if those times were reasonably posted, other people could use the private area then as well. (That *could* curb some of the "eew, nasty procreators" comments)


Posted by: ljb | April 19, 2006 1:31 PM

Restrooms are safe compared to other parts of the workplace. See below.

"(CNN) -- With cold and flu season reaching its peak and flu vaccine in short supply, many Americans may want to hide at their desks to avoid those hacking and sneezing co-workers. But health experts say that could be the very place that makes them sick.

A study by the University of Arizona in 2002 found the typical worker's desk has hundreds of times more bacteria per square inch than an office toilet seat. If that's not disturbing enough, desks, phones and other private surfaces are also prime habitats for the viruses that cause colds and flu."

For more details, see: http://www.cnn.com/2004/HEALTH/12/13/cold.flu.desk/

Posted by: THS | April 19, 2006 1:40 PM

BTDT. I had to fight with the employer when they wanted to move me out of my office with a door to an open area. They moved into a small office with a locked door. Then after about 2 months I was in an office that I shared with a lady who was very nice about it. I did have to put a sign on the door.

Luckily I never had to pump in the restroom. And I was very happy when the year ended.

Posted by: 10digitMom | April 19, 2006 1:52 PM

My workplace had 3 lactation rooms set aside for nursing mothers. One of the things I liked about it was that you could reserve the room through Outlook just like any other meeting room, so that you could guarentee your time in the room, and a place on your calendar. I did have a problem once where I came in on a man coming out of the room, presumably from a nap, and I have to say that experience made me less comfortable pumping. Then when I called the contact number in HR there wasn't any policy about it, so I was advised that if I saw him again I should "Follow him to his desk and then report him to his manager". I'm not sure what answer from HR would have made me feel better, but that wasn't it. Oh, in case you are wondering, the company also had rooms set aside with cots for people who aren't feeling well and the mother's room was labeled inside and outside.

Posted by: Mom22 | April 19, 2006 2:06 PM

Our HR guidelines specified that we could use our 15 minute break and part of our lunch hour for pumping, but if we needed a third session we needed to clear it with our boss and make up the time if neccessary.

My boss, while supportive of me, did turn an interesting shade of crimson every time he saw me walk down the hall with my electric blue thermal lunch bag.

Posted by: Mom22 | April 19, 2006 2:12 PM

When my first son was born in 1998 I was working on Capitol Hill and one of the only women in our office. I had to pump in the bathroom and everybody had a good-natured snicker when I ducked out for 15 minutes with my little carrying case. There was only one place to store my milk - in the little fridge that my male co-workers also used for their lunches and sodas. I'd try to disguise it in a bag but somebody always found it and made humorous remarks. Many of those young guys are now married themselves ...I hope it's gotten easier for their wives.

Posted by: Anne | April 19, 2006 2:40 PM

To Anne: I can relate to your experience. I was pregnant twice and nursed and pumped twice while also working on the Hill. By the time I was back from the second maternity leave the medical station had installed separate rooms with TV's in them (not that you miss a TV on the Hill!) It was really the most peacefull part of my day. But those young childless co-workers male and female did joke at my expense for other reasons and overall I found it not a family friendly place, at least for a working mother. But I really enjoyed the pumping part.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2006 2:52 PM

I am lucky that my employer allows for pumping at work and provides a lactation room. Unfortunately, my schedule doesn't provide me the opportunity to set a particular time to pump. And I had no desire to be in a meeting and begin leaking.

But I still was able to breast-feed for over a year. I was talking about the problem with a nurse at my OBGYN's office and she suggested that I just modify the times that I was breast-feeding. It was so easy that I am surprised that doctor's don't suggest it to their patients more often. Breast-feeding is often presented as an all or nothing option.

For over a year, I would breast-feed my daughter as soon as I got up, then during the day she had formula. As soon as I got home from work, I would breast feed her and then again at night. My body soon adapted to the schedule and I had plenty of milk at night. Though I must say, by 2:00 in the afternoon I was incredibly thirsty as my body starting building up the milk supply.

Several women that I have worked with tryed the pumping routine, and finally decided it was much easier to go the route I had taken. I think breast milk is the best for the first year, but sometimes it just can't work for you. So try alternatives.

Posted by: Working_Mom | April 19, 2006 3:05 PM

I think the policy at Mom22's workplace is fair. I don't see why parents should be treated more leniently than singles (like Childless, I, too, have been victimized by the expectation that I should pick up the work that parents couldn't handle). The same break policy should apply to everyone, and everyone has to make up time they spend on whatever is necessary to them -- lactation, checking up on elderly parents, diabetic care, etc.

Mothers would be more welcome in the workplace if they stopped demanding special treatment only for them and started to realize that even the childless can special burdens on their time, and were not put on earth to help out mothers.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2006 3:07 PM


I nursed my son during 10 months.
I nursed everywhere, on the national mall during 4 of july fireworks, at restaurants, at changing rooms of different stores, and even at the top of the empire state. Nobody noticed because I always covered myself and the baby with a burp cloth.

I work in a cubicle, but my company provides a "pumping room", where I pumped twice a day, and then put the bottles in the fridge. Nobody ever complaint, nor said anything, everybody understands that breasfteeding is natural, benefitial for the baby and a right!

Posted by: ML | April 19, 2006 3:34 PM

I don't think (most) mothers are "demanding special treatment only for them." I think most of us are just doing what we need to do to get through the day. Sometimes that means we have to work out more flexible arrangements with employers. That doesn't mean we're trying to offload all of our work responsibilities onto our co-workers, single or whatever. Sometimes employers need to be reminded that ALL employees have a life outside of work that sometimes need their attention. However, it isn't necessarily the parents in the organization who should have to do battle for everyone else's needs as well as their own. Others need to step up to the plate as well. It would be nice if there were just some blanket HR policies that covered the gamut of work/life issues but that usually isn't so. So sometimes we have to fight for it.

Posted by: not demanding special treatment just for me | April 19, 2006 3:34 PM

When my first child was 5 months old, it was time for me to return to work. Only problem was she would not, would not, would not take a bottle, even one filled with breast milk.

I thought I was going to have to quit. But I summoned my courage and asked the boss if I could arrange to work temporarily at a different office, which was just down the street from the day care. To my surprise, she agreed.

For the next few weeks, I went to the day care every few hours and nursed the baby. (I did three 20 minute visits a day instead of my usual 1 hour lunch, so I still worked the required number of hours each day). Eventually, the baby began to take a bottle, and I returned to my regular office.

The point of this story is that a little accommodation from my employer concerning a nursing baby won them my loyalty. I would like Registered Voter to know that this loyalty has paid off for my employer: I am a top performer and very valued employee who always gives my best effort. Really, a win-win as they say in the business world.

Posted by: MM | April 19, 2006 3:40 PM

RoseG called nurses more like "receptionists" than anything else. Am I the only one who did a double-take at that? Many nurses go through four years of college and all of them have the special job of advocating for patients, in addition to all the close patient care they provide. A "receptionist" would never empty your catheter or hold your hand when you're dying. Ugh.

Posted by: nurse's daughter | April 19, 2006 3:45 PM

Well look at that. I just defended the career my mom had when I was a child. She went around and took care of other people in hospitals/nursing homes, instead of staying at home all the time to take care of me. It was hard sometimes, as I missed her, but - most of those people really benefitted from her being there. I respect that she worked, and I think I turned out okay.

Posted by: nurse's daughter | April 19, 2006 3:51 PM

For Nat, who will need a place to pump at work: Are any of the office-dwellers in your workplace mothers themselves? Especially moms who have "been there" recently -- I'm sure one or two of them would be willing to let you use their office for 10 minutes a couple of times a day while they're away from their desks for meetings or whatever. Good luck!

Posted by: pumping mom | April 19, 2006 4:31 PM

I too did a double-take on the "receptionist" remark.

I have a feeling that writer isn't sure who has what job in a doctor's office. It's harder today now that so many staffers in doctors' offices wear scrubs. Many of them really are receptionists or other office assistants.

Lesson: not every woman wearing scrubs is a nurse!

Nurses are highly educated professionals with special training. And they matter to your health care. The next time you interact with someone other than the doctor , ask "Are you an RN?"

Posted by: a nurse's daughter too | April 19, 2006 5:20 PM

To Registered Voter:

My former employer had on-site, subsidized daycare, a fitness center, on-site WW, along with summer camp for kids.

This was a company that used to be sort of hostile to pregnant women and the needs of families. But for many reasons, the bottom line, among them, they changed.

Almost 15 years ago.

They need talented people, and they learned how to attract and retain them.

If you're having negative experiences with people, maybe it's your karma :)

Posted by: Kate | April 19, 2006 6:15 PM

I think that registered voter has some valid points. RV was asking for consideration from employees for the accomodations that are provided. I didn't see anything saying that there should be no employee accomodations. IMO, RV was responding to makesnosense who commented on a friend making up time lost for pumping.

I am long past the baby stages. I find that, in general, the work/life balance issues that are present now are not the same as when I was in my twenties. If the bosses you have are older people, it may just be that they see things in a different way than you. You can't assume that everyone has the same viewpoint you do.

Trying to meet halfway is never a bad idea.

Posted by: bj | April 19, 2006 6:32 PM

My kids are now teens and very healthy. I only nursed 7-10 weeks. I made sure that they were on formula before I returned to work. After 5 months of morning sickness, 4 months of heartburn, and another 2 months of monitoring every morsel of food that went into my mouth, I was more than happy to give it up.

Posted by: bj | April 19, 2006 6:40 PM

Everyone has a right to their view, I agree.

Perception is very important. Often new mothers, (some fathers) in asking for minor assistance or accommodations are seen as asking for special exceptions.

In contrast, I've been in several workplaces where middle-aged males received very, very generous accommodations when hit with illness, such as stroke, heart attack, or a "mystery" illness that was debilitating in one instance. These were mostly male environments, and the men received regular (not disability) pay while they recovered at home.

I myself am in my 40s and far beyond the baby stage. I have a husband who finally has a shorter workday so I have someone who can be there when I can't (when I return to work).

One last note: if you are childless/free and feel you're dumped on by management, please don't blame your co-worker. Work it out with your boss, as it's his or her responsibility. It's not your co-worker's fault or responsibility.

And, if it's any consolation, parents are raising future generations of taxpayers, the ones who will pay into our collective social security, medicare, etc.

Posted by: Kate | April 19, 2006 8:07 PM

Hey Nurse's daughter,

I really appreciated people like your mother when I almost died from pancreatitis after having my baby. It's nice to see a working daughter defend their working mother.

I also work with nurses everyday where I work and they are worth their weight in gold. Silly me didn't know I was having pre-term labor until one of them sent me to the hospital. I'm sorry but I don't think the receptionist would have known what the nurse did.

Yes, I know it's off topic, but I wanted to say good for you for loving your mother and respecting her.

Posted by: Scarry | April 19, 2006 9:04 PM

I successfully nursed my children beyond 1 year but I pumped only minimally. I worked at home with my first child most of the time. With my second child, I went back to work earlier. She used formula while I was gone & I nursed her before I left & full time while I was home. It worked for us.

Posted by: Loved nursing, hated pumping | April 20, 2006 8:47 AM

One thing no one has mentioned so far about pumping, is that if you go too long without draining out the milk, it HURTS! It's not as incapacitating as a migraine or as urgent as a UTI, but the pressure and pain can be very distracting, so please give nursing moms a break!

Regarding workloads, yes, sometimes I take off work because my kid is sick, but one of my childless co-workers takes off work regularly to take care of her elderly parents, and another takes off whenever his dog has a problem. Everyone has someone they care about, and it's not just kids! On another note, my organization is a news organization so there is someone working seven days a week. Weekend shifts, naturally, are the least popular, but I volunteer to work on Sundays because my husband is off on weekends so can watch our child (I get off Wednesdays in return). This schedule makes us happy, and it makes the office happy. And, yes, I worked both Christmas Day and New Year's Day last year because they fell on Sundays.

Posted by: Split-Shift Mom | April 20, 2006 4:17 PM

I am an outpatient therapist and when I was returning to work from maternity leave I was very concerned about having time to pump. In an 8-hour day, I usually have 1.5 hours of paperwork time (first thing in the AM, next to lunch, and last thing at the end of the day) and the other 6.5 hours is patient treatment time. Patients are scheduled back to back in 30 and 45 minute appointments, with no free time in between them. I had asked my boss if I could build in set times for pumping, which could be unpaid breaks, when they could not schedule patients for me. I offered to work later (ie, 8-5:30 instead of 8-4:30) to still put in an 8-hour day. She said no, and I think it was because she didn't want to deal with changing my schedule when I didn't have to pump anymore (what would she do with those 4:00 patients when I wasn't working later anymore) and she said that back when she was pumping, she had only needed to pump once a day, at lunch. I needed to pump 3x/daily for several months, but fortunately, my schedule wasn't really full. We were a little overstaffed and we all just had some open slots on our schedules. So I had time to pump 2 or 3 times a day for a few months, and gradually cut back to once a day, and later just stopped.

As for finding a place to pump, I have my own office with a door that locks. There is a nice big one-way mirror in the door, so parents can observe therapy sessions. I had to cover that, and it was a pretty good signal for my co-workers that I was pumping and they should not come in. A couple of days a week I was working at one of our other locations where we have an observation room with windows looking into the therapy rooms, so the doors are solid. I was able to close the blinds on the observation mirror and lock the door, but other staff have the key and I was walked in on twice before I started hanging a sign on the door that said "do not disturb" and had a cow on it. I also sometimes worked at our main facility, which has a lactation room. It was nice but there were a couple other women using it and they would sign up their times for the whole month, and I was just there sometimes helping out, so I couldn't sign up in advance. There were times when the room and I just weren't available at the same time.

Posted by: Pittsburgh Mom | April 20, 2006 5:23 PM

I nursed for a year and pumped at work. The company had no rooms for pumping- and I did not want to pump in a bathroom. So I used my office- put a sign on the door and even barred the door with a chair.
But my boss, who was female, would repeatedly ignore the sign and open my door when I was trying to pump. I just think she couldn't understand what I was doing and could not deal with not having instant access to me all day. It was very stressful.

Posted by: shark2410 | April 20, 2006 8:45 PM

Gee whiz, warts and all. Had to take the earwax out to hear this writing right.

Other than bodily specifics, the conversation thread is interesting as it always is with mothers trying to balance everything.

Posted by: MotherPie | April 21, 2006 6:46 PM

As a singleton, I am surprised at some of the comments from those who have children about how to handle the "extras" that often need to be taken on. If it is my boss who tells is telling me that this has to be completed and it doesn't matter that I have already spent 60+ hrs in the office because of a child-related emergency of a co-worker, there is no recourse. If I refuse then I am not a "team player," and it can affect my review at the end of the year and impact my merit raise. While I know staying home with a sick child is no picnic, neither is working at the office for several 14 hr days in a row. And neither is having my paycheck impacted because I what I really want to do is scream "Hell no, I am not going to cover for XXXX again."

The thing that gets to me is that the parents in my office can just say that they have a child-related event and it isn't questioned. They leave the office early. As a singleton, I don't have that same luxury. My request to leave the office early (and take vacation time to do it) to meet my girlfriends for drinks, hit a sale at Field's or just to enjoy the nice weather after a long (and cold) winter is not taken seriously. While this may be partly where I work, many of my friends have the same situation at their offices. We all work in different industries and have different types of jobs. e work in different cities and have different levels of responsibility. What we all have in common is that we are single, without husbands or children.

Posted by: Kristina | April 24, 2006 9:05 PM

IMHO, I don't think going out for drinks or to a sale are equivalent to, say, watching a child perform in a school play.

When I was single, and then married but childless, what used to infuriate me was the fact that some family events (ie child-related ones) counted, and others (ie my father's 70th birthday dinner) didn't. I haven't changed my mind about these being equally important events now that I have a child.

I agree with previous posters that the important thing is to recognize that everyone has commitments outside work, and to give people the benefit of the doubt who need to be away from work for personal reasons. I have found that people who work hard, work hard under pretty much any circumstances. If you have to cover for them, they'll usually try to make it up to you somehow. People who skive will find any excuse they can to do so--children, dogs, rain, power outages.

Posted by: NJO | April 25, 2006 7:26 AM

NJO, I appreciate your comment but I was talking about doing something that adds/brings joy to ones life. I don't have the option of seeing my child in a play, so it makes me so mad that the activities that I enjoy carry less weight than activites that involve a child(ren). Even when I will and want to take vacation/personal time to do those things.

I also thought that the comments from the previous posters about telling one's boss that they couldn't take on a project was a bit unrealistic in this day of merit increases (at least at my place of employment) versus a slaray increase based on COLA.

Everyone has lives outside of the office (even if one spends most of their waking life at work). I have to say that my office is particularly bad, my boss actually conducted evening job interviews on his daughter's birthday.

Posted by: Kristina | April 25, 2006 3:47 PM

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