Politicking The Working Mom Agenda

Happy Birthday, Kathleen Sebelius! Kansas's second female governor turned 58 on Monday. Two amazing accomplishments we all should thank her for.

First, when she was Insurance Commissioner in Kansas, this working mom (she has two grown sons) instituted a policy similar to the Infants in the Workplace program run by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which allows employees to set up cribs in their offices and bring babies to work until they're six months old. A handful of other employers currently offer similar programs, including the Department of Energy and many credit unions and banks.

Can you imagine how much easier it would be to go back to work if all companies adopted this program? To get ammunition to bring to your human resources department, you can turn to the Work & Family Connection, an information clearinghouse.

Second, in honor of Mother's Day, Governor Sebelius worked with the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) to come up with a dozen intiatives designed to give working parents time to be parents, protect their kids from harm and create opportunities for their children. The suggestions for state governments include ensuring family leave to care for newborns, policies that allow employees to use personal sick leave to care for sick children, mandated background checks for child-care workers, a child-care quality rating system, universal pre-k and quality after-school programs. Yahoo!

Of course, there is politicking involved. John Harwood's Friday, May 12 Wall Street Journal Washington Wire column described the DLC program with the headline "Parties Duel Over Political Outreach to Mothers." But hey, I WANT politicians to duel over what I and the 80 million moms in America need to be good employees and good mothers. You go, girl!

Two additional, more private, accomplishments: Sebelius has been married for 31 years and she's always been a working mom. Although she says she's been lucky to have a strong co-parent in her husband, Gary, she also acknowledges that it's unfortunate that our society doesn't hold men accountable for children's well-being and development in the way it does women. "Women are expected to do it all and make things work, giving their all to their kids and their jobs when they also work outside the home. The pressure is on when you're a mom."

Nice to know a politician who cares about making our country better for parents and kids. Do you know other programs or politicians -- Democratic, Republican or non-partisan -- who are making a difference?

washingtonpost.com Update: Some commenters in today's entry are referring to an Anne Applebaum opinion piece in this morning's Post. Here's the link: Cartoon Warfare Over Motherhood

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  May 17, 2006; 6:00 AM ET  | Category:  Workplaces , You Go Girl!
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I don't really need politicians to help me be a "good employee" or a "good mom".

Posted by: MaryEllen | May 17, 2006 8:09 AM

Thank goodness for Anne Applebaum's piece!!!!!!! I found that to be a tremendously thoughtful piece that encourages and validates ALL choices. It describes perfectly the problem that this entire blog illustrates - women making assumptions about other women based on THEIR choices.

Posted by: becky | May 17, 2006 8:17 AM

While I sympathise with working parents, I really can't think of anything htat would drain productivity of everyone in the office more than a less-than-six-month-old there everyday. Anytime anyone brings up their child from the day care to the offices where I work, work stops and everyone wants to coo over the child.

plus, in this world of cube-lands, how would this work? I, for one, do not want a crying baby to deal with at work all day -especially if they're collicky.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 17, 2006 8:22 AM

I have a 6 and a 3 year old and I work full time. In both cases, I was back at work full time 9 weeks after they were born. I can't imagine bringing them into work for six months. I don't think that would be reasonable for any workplace to allow.

Posted by: wls | May 17, 2006 8:30 AM

I have a five year old, and to think of her at 9 weeks old brings back many memories of first smiles and sleeping in my arms. I couldn't have imagined not having her with me. To each their own.

Posted by: lb | May 17, 2006 8:49 AM

Back in 1979 I had an employer who allowed me to bring my baby to work with me 2 days a week. She was a really good baby and easy on everyone. There were times when we dropped everything to feed the baby - my boss always saw that as everyone needing a break! Incidentally, my boss was a man.

Posted by: PATTY | May 17, 2006 9:13 AM

I just read Anne Applebaum's column. What a nice way to wake up. Someone with a brain writing for the Post. Ask your wife/husband what their office would be like if everyone took their new baby to work for 6 months! I predict a few crib deaths. Ever had a colicky baby? One with projectile vomit? Poop out the collar of the onsie? And with at least one new baby every three months, this would get old fast. Not to mention schlepping an infant on the metro. Excep I forgot--all mothers are college grads with office jobs and even their own offices! Leslie, I think Anne just called your bluff. You should update your resume.

Posted by: aa | May 17, 2006 9:19 AM

Did Leslie SAY that everyone should bring their baby to work? It's an idea folks. For some people, in some jobs, in some work settings, it might work. It's worth talking about and thinking about.

Let's don't start out the day being mean, OK?

Posted by: THS | May 17, 2006 9:24 AM

Once again, your premise is fatally flawed. Businesses are not socialist enterprises, there to cater to the personal whims of it's utopian deluded employees.

Employee benefits currently account for more than 40% of an employee's compensation package. Proceeding in the manner you desire would certainly push it above 50%. The employer in turn will have to:

A) raise the cost of goods & services it provides, making it less competitive & reducing it's revenue stream.

B) Cut back on or cease hiring, due to the increased benefit burden.

C) Eventually outsource jobs being performed by employees, due to the untenable benefit packages.

When the tail wags the dog - see GM & Ford, or all of France for that matter - everyone loses.

Posted by: Registered Voter | May 17, 2006 10:13 AM

I'd be okay with at-work day care--would think it a great resource, in fact. But the idea of having any baby, mine or anyone else's, crying in the background while I am trying to think or talk on the telephone is anathema. I just can't applaud that kind of initiative.

Posted by: no infants in the workplace, thanks | May 17, 2006 10:30 AM

lb wrote:
"I have a five year old, and to think of her at 9 weeks old brings back many memories of first smiles and sleeping in my arms. I couldn't have imagined not having her with me. To each their own."

That's nice lb. Now do you have an actual comment on today's subject or did you just want to make a judgement on the previous bloggers choice. I'm a man and I find this kind of stuff very sad.

Posted by: LC | May 17, 2006 10:33 AM

"Did Leslie SAY that everyone should bring their baby to work? It's an idea folks. For some people, in some jobs, in some work settings, it might work. It's worth talking about and thinking about."

I agree with you THS. It's much easier to complain about your life and reject ideas than to brainstorm and analyze solutions to the problem.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 17, 2006 10:37 AM

While I appreciate any politician's or organizations efforts in improving work/life balance for families, I am a little concerned about initiatives like allowing babies into work until their six months old. First, as you can already see in some posts above, they can cause a backlash of "enough is enough." Second, shouldn't we be more focused on letting moms take time off when their infants are really little rather than giving them the opportunity to bring their kids into work sooner? I just don't see that helping the babies much. I'd rather see these efforts focused toward paid maternity leave, allowing new moms longer sabbaticals, on-site daycare, etc.

Posted by: FS Mom | May 17, 2006 10:40 AM

Can we replace Leslie with Anne Applebaum?

Posted by: Jacknut | May 17, 2006 10:44 AM

Jacknut,
It's easy to replace Leslie with Anne Applebaum. You know how to use a mouse don't you?

Posted by: LC | May 17, 2006 10:57 AM

I've outsourced that task to some Indian kid. It's what all the cool people are doing. :)

Posted by: Jacknut | May 17, 2006 11:02 AM

lb wrote:
"I have a five year old, and to think of her at 9 weeks old brings back many memories of first smiles and sleeping in my arms. I couldn't have imagined not having her with me. To each their own."

FYI - I did not enjoy leaving my babies in day care at 9 weeks, and yes I would have loved to be with them when they were that little. But, I can not imagine bringing them to work and getting work done. As much as I may have enjoyed it, I don't think it would have been fair to my employer or my surrounding employees. Furthermore, my babies were better off in daycare, where they went on walks outside, got to play near other infants, and had a nice quiet area to sleep. As much as it broke my heart, it did not harm them at all to be in daycare.

Posted by: wls | May 17, 2006 11:05 AM

I was lucky to have 2 male bosses who allowed me to bring my infant to work a few days a week. There was some initial cooing and aahhing but that quickly ended and I was very lucky that she was a very good and healthy baby and that I worked from home most days in the first few weeks. I think this can be done in some industries but should be left up to individual businesses to make these decisions. A company has to make its choices on how to keep and recruit talented employees so whether they do this or provide other options is their perogative.

Posted by: Lucky | May 17, 2006 11:12 AM

Hi,
Here are my 2cents as to why society should participate in supporting moms and dads in bringing up children.
(1) Think of it this way, when a parents have children they are building a future for society. Because, when people get old, say 60, 70 or 80 years old, then we "need" the next generation to take over from us the jobs that we have so far been doing, i.e. checking stuff out for us at the store, driving our trash out, tellers at the bank, doctors, teachers, bankers, journalists, newscasters, editors, farmers, and all the other jobs.
(2) Now think of the scenario with "no" next generation. Who will be doing this work? Do you think when we are old we would like to (or can do) these jobs or prefer to relax and enjoy a vacation? But then, there are essential things that need to be taken care of! and that's where the new generation will help.
That's why I think, whether you have children or not, whether you are a man or woman, we need the next generation to carry on, and that's why we as society need to suppor those with children by being cooperative when mothers/fathers need time off to attend to the needs of their kids.

Put it simply, it's like planting a fresh crop each time, so that we have something every year.

Posted by: inLA | May 17, 2006 11:17 AM

While it's an admirable idea to have a crib in the office and bring your baby every day until 6 months old, I don't think it would work well on average. Some babies may be the ideal child and never cry, but that's not the norm.

No one would have wanted my child in the office for her first 6 months. She was a fussy baby and what a disruption that would have been. It would have been similiar to being stuck on an airplane with a crying baby. And if I was good and removed her from the office to calm her down, I wouldn't have been very productive at work. I'd much rather been given 6 months leave (paid or unpaid) than try to work with her in the office.

Posted by: Working_Mom | May 17, 2006 11:18 AM

The 'bring your baby to work' thing is just an excuse for not having paid maternity leaves available.

I went back to work after two weeks. I'm in IT and I worked at home. That was my employer's stab at maternity leave. They're a gov't contractor, and if they offer better benefits some other company comes along and underbids them -- so you lose your job. Given that reality they play the work at home game for new Moms. It's not perfect but it keeps a check coming.

The idea of communting with a little baby is not a happy one.

Posted by: RoseG | May 17, 2006 11:31 AM

Seems to me we don't need to replace Leslie with Anne Applebaum, but rather some of the commenters who feel compelled to be nasty to each other and Leslie on a regular basis. Really, is everyone so incapable of disagreeing without putting in personal attacks?

On the substance of the posts, I too find the idea of bringing newborns to the office to be questionable - I can see the draw of the idea, as it would allow mothers to breastfeed, care for their babes etc, but it seems like it would be a rare mother-child combo that would actually be able to pull this off. Most of the newborns I have known, and certainly my own newborn, required so much care that I would never have gotten any work done. I think this would be a great option to have available in the right circumstances, but as far as broader policy initiatives, I'd rather focus on some of her other ideas, like ensuring quality child care and access to universal pre-k, and other work-place initiatives that allow mothers to breastfeed or pump - for example, CT has a statute that requires workplaces to allow mothers two additional 10 minute breaks to nurse or pump, and to provide a private space that isn't a bathroom for her to do it in. CO considered a similar law, but ended up backing off the requirement that workplaces provide a space, instead making it a "recommendation." I think initiatives like these can support a broader population of working moms.

Posted by: Megan | May 17, 2006 11:39 AM

By funny coincidence, Anne Applebaum and I grew up together; our dads were both DC lawyers and shared a pair of Redskins tickets for decades. Nice to be linked on the topic of motherhood, so many years after we were small girls together.

Anne writes in her Op-Ed column (see link in today's entry):

"Writing about oneself has a long history: The memoir, the autobiography, the roman à clef, the essay that draws on personal experience to make witty social observations -- all are legitimate literary forms. But writing about oneself and then turning these observations about one's narrow social circle into a party platform or a tax policy -- that is a more modern invention, and one of more questionable legitimacy and usefulness."

Anne is partially correct -- MEN have a long history of writing candidly about their issues. But women have a much shorter history of frank, personal memoir. This is especially true when it comes to motherhood, a topic that the male literary tradition has long derided. So no wonder that the words of women such as Caitlin, Naomi and Judith are denigrated as "cartoonish" when they tackle the problems women face today in combining work and family obligations.

I feel it is perfectly legitimate, and actually quite admirable, to turn personal experience into political action. Men have long done this; women are doing it now, in our own unique ways. Naomi Wolf has done it with The Woodhull Institute and Judith Warner has done with her political advocacy. Go, go, go!

Just as women are free to rewrite political rules, we can also rewrite work rules. Why not find creative and productive ways to integrate kids into work life? It's not for everyone, and it's not for every baby. But bravo to the moms and companies who are at least TRYING to solve today's problems.

Posted by: Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 17, 2006 11:42 AM

You missed the point, Steiner. Applebaum was stating that it makes no sense to take one individual's experience and act as though that one experience can be an adequate basis for large-scale legislation. Frankly, when a writer who has a cadre at home with her to help her take care of the household (as Flanagan does), her experiences cannot and should not be used as the basis for public policy that affects the millions of stay-at-home moms who are in no way like her.

Using one's own personal experiences to make a point about society can be, as Applebaum said, valid and useful. Using one's own personal experiences to create laws that affect hundreds of millions of people may not work so well, depending on the experience.

As for the cribs-in-the-office thing - how would that work for, say, parents who work in factories? Or parents who share offices with other workers? Do they not count? This is an example of what Applebaum was discussing: someone taking their unique experience and acting as though it could apply to anyone. The plan doesn't hold up under inspection. Better than the cribs in the office would be childcare support/allowances/tax breaks, or incentive for businesses to provide on-site childcare. You know, things that can help new parents of all levels of society while NOT infringing on the rights of those who don't have a small child to care for.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 17, 2006 12:25 PM

I loved Anne Applebaum's column today--it made such an important point. We aren't talking about stereotypes here, we're talking about real families making choices in the real world. Demonizing a charicature may be fun, but all it does it create more ill-will. And insisting that, "I had X experience, therefore we need/don't need laws and policies to do Y," is only minimally helpful. While your experience is helpful in terms of spotting the issues that real women face, there are millions of us, so one-size-fits-all policies are unlikely to work.

I'm astonished at how vehement some people are about the bring-your-baby-to-work thing. Leslie wasn't saying that all employers should allow it, or all women should do it, she was applauding efforts to think of practical ways to improve the situation for working mothers. If you don't like those ideas, suggest some of your own, rather than just tearing down. For example, I don't think I'd want my baby in my office, but it would be nice if employers had on-site daycare. Perhaps smaller employers in the same neighborhood could pool resources to provide that service at a reasonable cost to employees.

Posted by: Kathy | May 17, 2006 12:41 PM

I hear bringing infants to work is well established in Sweden.

I personally could not do it - I need the division between work and home/kids. I don't think I could focus on work if my child were there, and at home I never do work-related stuff unless my daughter is asleep. Some people might be better at balancing the two than me though.

And I agree, the Anne Applebaum piece was fantastic!

Posted by: vj | May 17, 2006 12:54 PM

Fully agree with inLA.

Why don't we see this reflected in elections? It is ultimately the choice of a society through the election of officials to put certain policies in place.

I come from a country where mothers get 2 years (yes, two years) of paid maternity leave (at a decreasing rate). Their employer must (by law) keep the mother's job until she returns. Mothers, fathers or grandparents can use their sick leave to care for sick children. Again, this a society's choice.

Posted by: VE | May 17, 2006 12:55 PM

I think Leslie is saying let's be creative about what kind of benefits the work place can offer to make it easier for families to strike a good balance.

What about requiring companies with 150+ employees to have on-site day care? What about requiring Gov't contractors to provide on-site daycare and other family flex options (I'd love to see that bidding war!), just like they're required to abide by a whole slew of other workplace requirements (which are sometimes pretty obscure!).

I don't totally buy the "its too expensive" line either when it comes to benefits for employees...who's making the money there? The insurance companies, do we want to open THAT pandora's box.

Really, if you all spent less time nit picking about semantics and thought creatively about solutions that would work, you'd probably have a pretty significant list of doable things.

Posted by: Mom in Silver spring | May 17, 2006 1:05 PM

"Leslie wasn't saying that all employers should allow it, or all women should do it"

She didn't say it outright, but she's endorsing it. From today's post:

"Can you imagine how much easier it would be to go back to work if all companies adopted this program? To get ammunition to bring to your human resources department, you can turn to the Work & Family Connection, an information clearinghouse."

What she seems to be saying is that, if all companies adopted this program, it might be easier to go back to work, and people who want it should advocate this program to their HR departments. She very clearly does endorse it, and she does seem to indicate that all companies could/should adopt the program (I mean, she used the phrase "all companies," after all).

And why should impractical ideas be applauded? Cribs in the workplace only works if you have the office space for it, and, given the nature of babies, would be rather disruptive to other workers (not to mention clients who might have to come in to the office for meetings). What happens when mom or dad have to go to an impromptu meeting, or when the baby decides to let everyone know s/he's hungry when mom or dad is on a conference call? It doesn't make sense. Why should we applaud it? Because someone took the effort to come up with a half-witted idea that wouldn't work for most parents or babies, we should give them an A for effort?

There are already more sensible ideas and solutions in use and being advocated, such as on-site daycare and more flexible family leave. Impractical ideas like cribs in the office take away from the importance and power of valid, reasonable ideas, and ought to be shouted down.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 17, 2006 1:06 PM

OK Kathy, I'll bite: you want a suggestion? How about waiting until you have saved enough money to stay home for a few months before procreating? How about people taking responsibility for their lives and any others they create instead of looking to the government to legislate them? This is what Leslie wrote "...which allows employees to set up cribs in their offices and bring babies to work until they're six months old. " and then follows with "Can you imagine how much easier it would be to go back to work if all companies adopted this program?" I can imagine--NOT AT ALL! Work is the great escape. It is where we can talk on the phone uninterupted, go to the bathroom in privacy, have a conversation, eat something that perhaps we didn't have to prepare, and did I mention the bathroom thing? Some places do have daycare on site, but not in the office itself. But if we are going to take our own individual experiences and use them as a template for other people, I think we should use mine. I stayed home (unpaid) for the first 7 months. I then worked part-time in the evenings for two years and my husband watched him, had another baby, stayed home. My kids were never in daycare except for the rare babysitter, and now I work part-time during the day, even though they are in school. I like having energy to keep my house looking nice, preparing heathy meals, going on field trips, entertaining, taking care of my husband and kids. But I realize that not everyone has my situation.

Posted by: AA | May 17, 2006 1:07 PM

While I think bringing infants into the workplace is going a bit far, the fact is that companies MUST begin responding to the needs of their employees for work-life balance. A good start might be to permit flexible work schedules and more telecommuting for employees at all levels. It also seems like many companies create job descriptions that assume the employees have no life and are available 24/7. This is not realistic and creates serious resentment, not to mention logistical problems when employees have to be out of the office or unavailable.

A woman I met recently is the training coordinator for company of about 500 people, and carries a company-owned cell phone so that people can reach her whenever. For what, a training emergency? She isn't even a manager and she's expected to be available all the time, but she told me that she's not allowed to work from home for tasks like course development. She also said even when she goes on vacation or takes a personal or sick day, it is expected that she'll be checking her email and voicemail. I met her on the metro coming back from her second interview with another, more work-life balance friendly company.

I recognize businesses don't exist for the purpose of providing benefits to their staff, but the fact is, if you want to keep good people, you've got to treat them well.

Posted by: MomJD | May 17, 2006 1:09 PM

VE, what is the unemployment rate in your home country? How does the per-capita GDP compare to the US?

It sounds good, but there IS a trade-off for benefits such as paid leave and a guarantee of job when you return. If I was gone for two years and no one replaced me, the business here would not survive. So I leave to have my baby... when I return, does someone else lose their job? Do I try to rebuild the business from the ground up, minus the credibility I sacrificed by being gone for two years?

Posted by: choices | May 17, 2006 1:09 PM

Amen, 1:06 poster. No shame in calling an idea what it is - stupid and not practical in the least.

Posted by: highhat | May 17, 2006 1:11 PM

AA Wrote:
"I like having energy to keep my house looking nice, preparing heathy meals, going on field trips, entertaining, taking care of my husband and kids. But I realize that not everyone has my situation. "

Yes, not everyone is a live-in maid. Is AA your name or organizational affiliation

Posted by: Anonymous | May 17, 2006 1:25 PM

Does this nifty plan also apply to the female laborers who clean your houses and hotel rooms or work in grocery stores, bakeries, retail stores, day care centers? Or are they a separate class of working mothers? Can they bring their cribs and kids to your home or at the end of the checkout counter? Admit it, this is a wealthy woman issue for women who have time in the middle of a work day to write to a blog liek this. Most of whom actually have choices. How about those who work FOR us in various capacities?

Posted by: annoyed | May 17, 2006 1:26 PM

Fascinating. This could be a killer wedge issue. Democrats should pay attention.

Posted by: lart from above | May 17, 2006 1:27 PM

I am currently a stay-at-home mother to four children ages 3-14, but I have 8 years of experience as a full-time career mother as well.

In 1992 when my first child was born, I took him to work with me from the time he was 6 weeks old until he was about a year old. My husband was a student so he cared for him during part of my work hours, but my son was at the office about 5 hours a day on average. He was not an extraordinarily quiet, content baby - he had his moments.

2 1/2 years later when my daughter was born I was asked to go on a business trip to another company location the day I returned to work (also at 6 weeks post partum.) I took her with me - it involved a 4 hour drive and a whole new set of coworkers, staying in a motel with a newborn, trying to find privacy in a strange office to nurse her, etc.

I was blessed with patient co-workers and a boss who said "as long as he doesn't barf on the computers, I don't care." But in my opinion, the main reason these sorts of things work is because of the *mother*, not the employer. You just have to *really* want to make it work. I didn't have a choice to not work since I was the wage earner for the family, yet I wasn't willing to put my children in daycare as infants.

My husband's current employer is also very flexible with mothers who want to bring their infants to work. Their loose guideline for the subject is about 6 months. Neither my ex-employer or his current one are what I would call cutting-edge companies on this subject. I worked for a forest products company and he works for a farm/food processing plant - both industries that tend to be somewhat conservative. We're not located in a progressive urban area.

In my opinion, I think it's mothers (and fathers) who go out on a limb and *ask* their employers for these situations that will change the way we view infants in the workplace. We can't depend on companies to do it - we have to do it ourselves.

Posted by: momof4 | May 17, 2006 1:29 PM

Can I imagine an young infant (or more than one) in the office? No. Not mine (and I have the cutest, most adorable children) nor anyone's. But it IS possible to let many office-based moms telecommute for several weeks.

It is also possible to set up a work-based daycare center for the employees. And hey, this would have the added benefit of helping NON-office-based employees (re: blue collar, non-management, people who probably need more options than upper middle class parents).

Posted by: Anonymous | May 17, 2006 1:32 PM

Anne Appelbaum's essay was good, but we are not so unique as she seems to suggest, or as some posters here have understood her to be saying.

Certainly, when we make decisions about how to care for kids and, more generally, how to create a functioning family and household, we make them as a family or as individuals, whichever is appropriate. That is, we don't consult our legislators, and we probably wouldn't want to.

But, if there are 80,000,000 mothers in this country, there's going to be a lot of overlap in what people want and need. As unique as we might be in terms of our personal characteristics, there aren't 80,000,000 ways to organize work and family. There are a few. They change over time, and they vary based on family size and other factors, but the number is still relatively small.

The idea that we are, at the same time, like each other and not like each other suggests that we should be trying to distinguish issues in which the best way of doing things is to find a "greatest good for the greatest number" solution from issues in which the best solutions involve maximum flexibility.

There are few other areas of civilized life, and certainly none more important, in which we are as "on our own" as we are w/ respect to parenthood. Whether the issue is schooling, transportation, health care, or nutrition---all fundamental to daily living---we treat it as an issue of public concern. We recognize that no single family can provide for its own health care, create its own public transportation system, or ensure the safety of food from tons of different producers around the world. Thus, we have created systems that families can use to meet their needs. That's not to say that these systems function optimally, but I don't think most of us want to revert to having to grow our own food or have our babies delivered by a neighbor who has modest experience in the area.

Why not have more and better arrangements for the care of children that people can use in ways that meet their needs, in much the same way that they use health care systems and transportation systems?

Americans like to be free to do things their own way, but we pay a price for our individuality. We do not have the best education systems in the world; we do not have the best health care systems in the world. And there are many ways that we are not a "model country", in the way that we might be given our wealth and talent.

We could do better in a lot of ways, but we probably can't do much better as a society by assuming, at the policy level, that each family is an autonomous unit.

Posted by: THS | May 17, 2006 1:40 PM

THS

Thanks for the novel!

Posted by: June | May 17, 2006 1:44 PM

What can I say? I've been a writer, a writing professor, and an editor. Once I get started, I just go.

Hope it's at least a little interesting :-)

Posted by: THS | May 17, 2006 1:48 PM

I do agree that bringing babies to the office could be distracting but I totally agree with Leslie's comment on it being easier to go back to work if you don't have to leave your child. Working from home or on site daycare could fit that bill but how about this - a center where you can work and have your child taken care from at the same time. You can just log in to your office server and work as you would from home but have your child right next door where someone else is taking care of them. Granted it will not be affordable for everyone however, it can be an option for some. There are some companies that no matter how hard you try to convince them will not have a daycare on site but this might be a good alternative for them. And the home is not the most motivating of environments so this is a middle ground that I think can work.

Posted by: solution | May 17, 2006 1:57 PM

It seems that Leslie's suggestions could only really apply to a white collar environment. I don't think you could really make it applicable in a factory situation, like furniture manufacuring. However...paid leave or the various other programs in place and working at 99% of other countries would help parents begin their child's life a little less stressed. Even a short two month paid leave could help ALL PARENTS, not just those of us with computers for telecommuting or ability to close their office door for nursing. Anne Applebaum's piece today was excellent because it just pointed out the universal truth that we all just want to be good parents the best we know how. A little help from the government "village" could help ease the stress of those first few months of new parenthood.

Posted by: LDB | May 17, 2006 2:21 PM

Although I adore my children, I cannot imagine bringing them into the office -- I would rather have the flexibility my job offers to work from home or leave when i need to. I once brought my youngest into the office when he was about 8 months old (emergency situation with daycare) and because I am in a cubicle I took him into the conference room for a couple of hours with a laptop. After 2 hours he let out a blood curtling scream and wouldn't stop so I took him home because of the disruption it was causing. I admire any company who is nice enough to accomodate small children though!

Posted by: typical working mother | May 17, 2006 2:32 PM

We will reorganize the office and tolerate the crying just to accommodate new moms. How about bringing senile parents to work so they can be watched?

Maybe we should settle for simply working at work. It is a lot simpler.

Posted by: Steve | May 17, 2006 2:45 PM

LDB Wrote:
"A little help from the government "village" could help ease the stress of those first few months of new parenthood."

Not being critical but a company's responsibility is to its shareholders. A Politician's responsibility is to its funders (usually large corporations). Therefore, until there is a profit motive for making it easier on working mothers, it will not be adopted by companies or the politicians that they support. The fact is, until companies find themselves losing money because there are not enough qualified women in the workforce, there is no justifiable need for them to care. For some companies, they do it to attract highly qualified employees and to make the workplace "nice and attractive". However, when profits are down, these are the first programs to be cut.

My point is (finally), don't look for companies or politicians to provide benefits that won't directly impact their profits. Nowadays, with outsourcing, it is hard to argue that providing these benefits is needed in order to hire qualified employees. In the meantime, savings, family support, and adjusting lifestyles is your best option.

Posted by: LC | May 17, 2006 2:48 PM

Pardon me? Did you say a politician's responsibility is to funders?

I don't think so. Regrettably, a politician may be beholden to funders, but he or she must be responsible to constituents and to the nation.

We may not always get that, buy we should keep demanding it.

Posted by: THS | May 17, 2006 2:54 PM

Okay, beholden to funders is a better phrase. My point remains the same.

Posted by: LC | May 17, 2006 2:58 PM

I love babies! Bring 'em all in. Type up a policy, pass a law, include it in the government contract. To make it fair for everybody, make sure it also provides for Nanny, Granny, and the pooch. Everyone loves dogs. Yee-hi! Git dem babies familiar with life at the cubacle. Maybe by the time they grow up, they'll install the conveyor belt that brings by the doughnuts and Jo.

Posted by: Father of 4 | May 17, 2006 3:12 PM

It is insane to set up cribs in a workplace. If she let that happen, she is a complete fool. Being a mother is a private decision, and work is a place for work. Yes, mothers should be allowed flexible time, but to turn an office into a nursery is insulting to people who have careers that require real work. You are deluding yourself if you think you can have an infant in a crib, feed, wash and stimulate them, and perform the job the taxpayer requires you to do. If you have that much free time in your job, you are overstaffed and the taxpayer is getting hosed. Support mothers at work, but do not turn work into a nursery. Should we tell the citizens to call back when the baby wakes up? Should we tell the taxpayer to speak louder?

Posted by: Karen | May 17, 2006 3:31 PM

I agree that bringing babies to work is not a good idea. Flexible work hours, etc.. are the key and yes, dare I say it, flexibility generally only applies to the professional work force. However, I'll make another bold statement, everyone in this country can make the leap into the professional work force if they so desire it and have the ability to work hard to get there. This is just the facts of life. I did not grow up with pots of money and neither did my husband, we worked hard and I'm proud of the fact that I have a very family friendly professional job & hope I have made it easier for the younger women following me to do the same.

Posted by: SS | May 17, 2006 3:47 PM

LC wrote: "Not being critical but a company's responsibility is to its shareholders. A Politician's responsibility is to its funders (usually large corporations)."

I totally understand your point, but I think it is overly pessimistic when it comes to the politicians. You are absolutely right that companies are responsible, in the end, to their shareholders and nobody else. That is precisely why government regulation is necessary to meet social goals, for everything ranging from workplace protections to environmental regulations; government regulations level the playing field and take the subject matter out play for competitive purposes. If everyone has to meet the same standard, the company no longer can consider cutting corners in that area in order to best the competition and serve their shareholders.

While I agree that too many politicians pay too much attention to the big-dollar contributors, if what you said was true accross the board we would not have the FMLA, OSHA, or any environmental regulations. Sometimes they do have to pay attention to what the citizenry asks for, and as others have said, we as a society can make a choice to value and support families by mandating certain options for them. We have made similar choices in the past, even where it means sacrificing some degree of growth or profit.

I know, it's pollyanna-ish, but I can't simply resign myself to the world being a horrible place when I've brought a child into it.

Posted by: Megan | May 17, 2006 3:49 PM

What about the kids? Going to work may be the best thing for the employer and the mom, but is an environment where they will get the love of 1 person and the scorn of 100 of mom's co-workers a good idea?

Posted by: What about THEM? | May 17, 2006 3:58 PM

I agree with you but most of the government regulations that you refer to concern safety, discrimination, and environmental issues. These are regulations that prevent a corporation from harming innocent people for the sake of profit. Whether or not a company allows flexible work schedules or provides daycare does not harm society as a whole. Our choice to have children is "at will" and so is our choice to work.

If we leave it up to the market forces, maybe the companies that provide these benefits will profit and force other companies to follow suit. However, that has not been the case.

Posted by: LC | May 17, 2006 4:03 PM

Well, first of all, I think it's arguable that NOT allowing parents to adequately care for their children does harm innocent people (the children) and society as a whole, since they are the next generation of our society, and thus we all have a stake in raising them in a healthy way.

However, either way, society can still choose to prioritize families, and we do have regulations aimed at that result (ie, FMLA). Regulation (or the lack thereof) always reflects a societal choice to priotize something, whether it's protection of workers or promotion of families. Many politicians and political organizations talk endlessly about the importance of "family values;" is it really so unreasonable to think that they might follow through with regulations that allow people to actually spend time with their families?

Posted by: Megan | May 17, 2006 4:13 PM

I would like to discuss this from the opposite viewpoint. Although I do not have kids, I am completely empathetic to the plight of mothers who work outside of the home (and before you stone me to death, this is not a statement on the value of moms at home--this is simply not today's topic!)

That being said, I would be highly offended is my employer changed its policies to allow babies in the office. (This would be disruptive to employees who want to come to work and do so in an environment that is conducive to productivity. The thought of being distracted by crying babies, colleagues cooing over babies, etc. bothers me as I want to come to work, be as efficient as possible and leave to enjoy those things that, as a single person, some people don't see as valuable as children--although they are to me. While we as single people are accused of not being sympathetic to parents, I also think the opposite can be true. In this case, I do not think that this alternative works for most people in an office environment.

BTW, I would not be opposed tp daycare in the office as this would keep kids close to the parents but in a separate area,

Posted by: Singleton | May 17, 2006 4:36 PM

I don't think the "baby in the office" idea would work very well in most workplaces unless the mother OR FATHER had a private office with a door that could be closed to protect fellow employees from having to put up with crying noises or diaper odors. Having to smell burned microwave popcorn is bad enough! Now, if an office had an extra room that could be set up as a dedicated baby nursery complete with networked workstations for the parents, that would be different, and a very nice employee benefit.

Posted by: Scott | May 17, 2006 4:43 PM

Like others have pointed out, the "bring your baby to work" concept is very white-collar-centric. It doesn't take into account the millions of parents who work in factories, as sanitation workers, or in other blue-collar jobs - it doesn't even take into account the millions who work at the bottom rungs of white collar companies, who don't have the space at the office or the flexibility to take their baby to work.

Shame on Leslie for praising this utterly narrowminded, discriminatory idea.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 17, 2006 4:58 PM

Megan, you wrote:
"Well, first of all, I think it's arguable that NOT allowing parents to adequately care for their children does harm innocent people (the children)"

Be careful here. If YOU choose to have children (which is awesome), then YOU choose to provide adequate care. Whether that means working or not, the choice and responsibility is on you. I don't think that you can blame your particular employer for not allowing you to provide adequate care for YOUR children. You have to make that decision. It's too bad, but that's how it is right now. But you do have the option of switching employers.

Posted by: LC | May 17, 2006 4:58 PM

I believe LC noted that companies are motivated by interests of their shareholders. I'd point out many companies put strong HR policies in place so they can attract the right talent in order to be profitable, innovative etc. In my industry (finance) the health of the business is completely reliant on its talent (and balance sheet). If my company has to attract the best it must have the most sound policies in place. What our recruiters are finding when they go on campus is that work-life balance is important-- therefore it is in my companies interest to raise this on its agenda.

I would also note that in my company employees are shareholders (overwhelmingly).

Posted by: UP | May 17, 2006 5:19 PM

LC,

Clearly, it is my choice to have a child. However, that is no reason to not argue that we as a society should choose to prioritize families, and also recognize the reality that without flexibility it is difficult to provide the level of care that most parents would like to. The only way to ensure that this is offered across the board is through government regulation.

And for the record, I am arguing this not because of my personal situation, which is excellent (I work from home 4 days a week, have an excellent salary, and my husband is able to work part time), but because I honestly believe that as a society we give short shrift to working families across the board. Further, the people who are most in need of government intervention on this topic are those that have the least ability to negotiate for themselves, ie low paid workers. Taking your reasoning to its logical end implies that low-income people just shouldn't have children, a position that I think is really untenable. My point is that all families should have the options they need, not just those of us who are in positions to negotiate effectively with our employers.

Finally, I reiterate, children are important to our nation as a whole. They are the people who will perpetuate our culture, our democracy, and our economy. Although primary responsibility always rests with the parents, we do have a societal interest in taking care of children. The fact that it is an individual choice to have them does not change this.

Posted by: Megan | May 17, 2006 5:20 PM

UP,
That's my point exactly. When having family friendly policies in place leads to greater profitability, then companies will implement them. If your company didn't "need" to implement these policies in order to get the best employees, then they wouldn't have them in place.

BTW, having most of your employees as shareholders brings up an interesting dilemma. I wonder what would happen if the profitability and stock price was down and the company was spending a lot of money on benefits? How would employees (who's long and short-term financial health) was tied up in the company would react? Would they be willing to sacrifice such benefits?

Posted by: LC | May 17, 2006 5:29 PM

Megan,
I totally agree with you. But I am only playing devils advocate and offering the opposing point of view (redundant). For every policy that we think is obvious, there is argument on the other side that needs to be considered.

Posted by: LC | May 17, 2006 5:34 PM

LC, I appreciate your spirited and intelligent arguments - I always like a thoughtful debate (something that can be hard to come by in online forums...)! Also, I don't think it's obvious that mandatory workplace options are the way to go (in spite of my posts), as you point out in your post to UP, there are trade-offs, and they may be more than we are willing to make. Like you said, it would be interesting to see a case study on companies where employees are shareholders, and whether they respond differently to financial pressures with regard to benefits etc than companies that are not employee owned.

Posted by: Megan | May 17, 2006 5:45 PM

I post late because I can't read and respond to blogs during my work day. I wish I could participate more in these dialogues.

My thoughts on children in the workplace - I don't think that children belong in a place of business (I have 2 of my own - now teenagers). I would not be able to fully concentrate and give an honest day's work if my children were there. Maybe it is different for salaried empolyees. I am actually an hourly federal employee and we are expected to work every hour of the day. It doesn't mean that we don't slow down sometimes or take breaks, but it sure doesn't allow time to care for a child. Even as babies, they don't sleep all day. Besides, my cubicle isn't large enough for a crib.

Daycare - On-site may not be the cure that everyone expects. Again, I'm a Fed - After the bombing in OK City, I would NEVER have a child in onsite daycare at a federal location. Also, onsite might be convenient for one parent, but not the other. This could be difficult if both parents are involved in drop-off / pick-up. On-site at my agency is market-based in cost per child - maybe convenient but just as expensive. I personally had my children in daycare near the elementary school with the idea that there was a better chance for them to meet children from the same area who they might go to school with. It also was a smooth transition when they started school since the daycare also had an after-school program.

Posted by: tnt | May 17, 2006 11:00 PM

My thoughts on work/life balance - I am 49 years old and began working a long time ago. IMO, there is more consideration given to life issues now than when I began my career. The Gen X's and Y's may not realize it because they didn't live through it, but we have come a long way. That doesn't mean that there can't be more improvement.

It seems to me that the newer technology that is available that allows 24/7 access is a huge factor in this issue. While it does allow some to work from home and therefore improve their quality of life, it is detrimental to many because you are connected to the job outside of the office and it becomes harder to separate work from personal life. Due to security concerns (the privacy of citizens' data), I cannot bring work home. It is actually wonderful to leave work at the end of the day and be done with it completely until I return the next day.

I find the extension of the traditional 40-hour work week to 60-70 hours to be completely absurd and unreasonable. However, I don't know whose fault this is - maybe the employers for placing unreasonable demands on the employees. Or is it the employees themselves - ambititious and willing to work harder, longer, whatever it takes to move ahead, get the promotion, the bigger office, etc. Once you, as an employee, show that you are willing to do all the extra, the employer comes to expect it as the norm.

I believe this comes into play when childless people have to "pick up the slack" when parents leave to pick up children. It's not the parents fault, it is the employers who expect the childless employees to do this, and maybe to some extent, it is even a little bit the fault of the childless who may have already shown a willingness to go above and beyond - it just causes resentment if you feel like you are being taken advantage of rather than working hard to make a name for yourself - all just a matter of perspective. Anyway, no finger-pointing or laying blame to what amounts to a chicken-or-the-egg situation. I just wonder if people toned down their ambition a little and refused to work more than a normal 40-hour week, maybe the employers would stop expecting 60 hours. That extra 20 hours goes a long way toward achieving balance. Just my thoughts =)

Posted by: tnt | May 17, 2006 11:26 PM

Me again - lots to say all at once since I can't interact during the day.

Flextime and job-sharing are two wonderful options that would make an employer very attractive to prospective employees and don't seem to be particularly expensive benefits to provide. Reducing business travel would be great for many employees. It seems that there could be more teleconferencing with today's technology. Work from home is another option that is good but not always feasible.

Establishing personal time off (PTO)rather than vacation and sick time. This would allow everyone to use their time off based on their own personal situations. Everyone has a life and is entitled to time off, and it is ridiculous to fight about whose reason is more valid.

Maternity leave - the time incapacitated due to pregnancy and recovery from childbirth should be handled the same as any other medical condition. Anyone can be incapacitated for six-eight weeks due to surgery, accident, or injury and company policy should dictate pay status. It could be short-term disability, sick leave, vacation time, PTO.

If the company does have a maternity leave benefit separate from other medical absences, I believe that the employee should be obligated to commit to a certain amount of time (2-3 years) after returning to work or repay the company when they separate employment.

Paternity leave - the time off is protected under FMLA - pay should come from PTO.

Advanced (borrowed) PTO - allowing the use of PTO in advance. This restricts future use for a while, but it can be a wonderful benefit if you need to be off for a while but haven't yet accumulated enough PTO to be paid. This allowed me to be off for a considerable amount of time, with pay, when each of my children were born. The downside is that I couldn't take a vacation for another two years until I paid back the time I borrowed. It was worth it to me to be able to stay home longer with the babies.

Posted by: tnt | May 18, 2006 12:02 AM

my last post - ambition and finances

College is expensive - very expensive. I have a high-school senior so we are definitely dealing with this. It seems to me that young people are coming out of school with entirely too much debt. I completely agree that the education is necessary. However, it seems that there is unnecessary status placed on the college experience having to be 4 years away from home at the "best" schools. In my area, it is looked down upon to attend community college for 2 years before transferring to a 4 year school. It is also somehow considered to be less acceptable to attend an in-state school (even though the school is out-of-state for many of the students who attend).

I think that we need to get away from this thinking and look at the financial ramifications more closely. If you come out of school with more debt, then you need to make more money to live reasonably well. To make more money, you may have to work more hours or work at a job you don't really like. The vicious cycle begins - need more money, work more, less work/life balance, more stress.

I know that times change, but I remember people working full-time and going to school part time so they could pay along the way. Granted, it took much longer to get a degree, but they were debt free when they graduated. Not having to repay student loans is a big factor in work/life balance because you can accept a job with less salary or less hours if it fits your lifestyle better.

I was born in the 50's and lived through the women's movement. "Having it all" was something that women wanted. The opportunity and freedom to be able to become educated, compete with men in the workplace, have children, be a homemaker, or do whatever they chose. Now that I am almost 50, I realize that it is possible to "have it all" - but not all at the same time. We go through stages in life that include different levels of education, work, family.

I think we have to accept this and realize that we have to make changes along the way. Businesses making flexibility easier for ALL employees is something that should be improved. But, sometimes it isn't possible and we are the ones who have to make changes. That might mean relaxing our career ambitions for a while if family and/or personal concerns require more of us (family can be children, parents, siblings, same-sex partners, in-laws, etc). Personal concerns can be education, volunteerism, hobbies, or other interests.

I do believe I am older than most of the participants and my views may be slightly different than yours. I respect your opinions and concerns so please don't bash me if mine are different.

While I agree that workplace concerns are an important issue, I think that this country has bigger problems: lack of adequate health insurance, homelessness, loss of benefits to retired people (pensions and health insurance being taken away), the war, and crime. I believe that the government should address these issues before regulating policies in the workplace that have to do with work/life balance.

Posted by: tnt | May 18, 2006 12:42 AM

The ire aimed at Leslie for daring to endorse a white-collar-centric childcare solution amazes me. Where is it written that every single family-friendly policy has to be practical for every single family to have merit? So kids at the office wouldn't work in a factory setting -- so what? Maybe there's a solution that would work in a factory that wouldn't work in an office. As long as we're thinking of ways to make people's lives better, aren't we coming out ahead?


And, frankly, if I could have brought my daughter to work with me, I'd certainly have been looking for work as soon as she was born. For my family, being able to work without leaving the baby in daycare would have been a dream solution. And as an employee of such a flexible firm, I would have bent over backwards to make sure that I was as productive as any other worker, to ensure that my employer was never sorry it offered me that chance.

Posted by: NewSAHM | May 18, 2006 7:48 AM

"If the company does have a maternity leave benefit separate from other medical absences, I believe that the employee should be obligated to commit to a certain amount of time (2-3 years) after returning to work or repay the company when they separate employment."

Well, personally, I don't know that a time commitment AFTER returning to work is necessarily the most equitable way to handle it. For instance, I had worked at my previous job for 7 years before having a baby. Should someone who'd only worked for 1 year before having a baby have the same after baby commitment? That doesn't seem quite fair to the longer term employee.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | May 18, 2006 8:55 AM

To the anonymous poster: no, not affiliated with any 12 step program. However, I do enjoy creating beauty and order in my home for myself and the people I love. Is that somehow beneath you? Decorating is as much a hobby as knitting or rock-climbing. While I am not a live-in maid,I am, however, organized to a fault. It makes maintaining a home easy. I probably do fewer chores than many people because of this. The kids do a lot of the maintaining as well, and I do work outside the home while my kids are in school. Twenty hours a week. What do I do during the hours that I am not working or engaged in those horrifying domestic chores? Whatever I want. I visit friends, shop, exercise, waste time on blogs, etc. It's a nice, peaceful, balanced life. And it helps that I was careful with money before I had kids. I saved and invested. The point of the original post was that people need to take responsibility for their choices. That includes the choice to have kids and live a lifestyle that requires two incomes. Let me ask this: do all the full-time working mothers all have outside help with their houses? Who does the dishes, cooks and does the laundry? Who does yours?

Posted by: aa | May 18, 2006 9:38 AM

The hypocricy of our politicians has no end. They should start with their own workplaces. I know at least three former Hill staffers, all working mothers, who lost their jobs after having children. One woman came back from maternity leave and somebody was literally sitting at her desk doing her job.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 9:52 AM

The people on these boards are really venemous.

I agree with the person who said that just b/c a solution does not fit everyone doesn't mean it is worth considering. Propose another idea if it doesn't work for you. Don't simply shoot it down, attack Leslie (who I have no affiliation with and don't always agree with) or cry that the solution is "unfair to me" as a long-term employee or whever class you call in.

Let's hear the alternatives. I'd certainly like to hear them and discuss them.

Posted by: JS | May 18, 2006 10:18 AM

"Don't simply shoot it down, attack Leslie (who I have no affiliation with and don't always agree with) or cry that the solution is "unfair to me" as a long-term employee or whever class you call in."

Sometimes pointing out the "unfair to me" aspect IS part of the discussion. Perhaps I didn't state it very clearly, but I wasn't just shooting down the idea of a time commitment for getting paid maternity. I was just questioning whether a time commitment AFTER the maternity leave was the best way to do it. Another way might be that there can be one paid maternity leave per whatever set number of years with the company. Frequently, employees do get more benefits such as more vacation time when they've been somewhere longer. This is the type of thing to encourage employees to stay in one place longer and the company has less turnover to deal with.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | May 18, 2006 11:09 AM

See, now I read this article, and agreed. AND it made me happy.

So lets ends this absurd 'war-mongering' mentality and go back to working, staying home, or at least browsing other sites.

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1193793,00.html

Posted by: Observer | May 18, 2006 11:44 AM

Wait...wasn't the point of Applebaum's column that we needn't try to apply one woman's experience to all women at large. Sure, some women might not want to bring their six-month olds to work. But that doesn't mean that it's a bad choice for all women. We've heard from some women in this blog who brought their infants to work, were happy about it, and maintained felicitous work situations.

Does bringing an infant to work presuppose that its mother is rich? I don't think it has to. My mother has had a housekeeper who comes once a week for many years, and that woman's children have always been welcome in the house -- my mother has a toy box to occupy them, and reserved her housekeeper's job for quite a while after the birth of each child.

Would it work in a fast food joint? Probably. But I think other suggestions made on this blog -- on-site childcare, longer parental leave, and telecommunication could go a long way toward making all parents happy.

And as for the decrease in GDP these benefits might produce -- money isn't everything. Happiness is everything. I'd rather be happy than rich any day. And I wish the rest of the country felt the same way.

Posted by: Rita | May 18, 2006 11:51 AM

It seems to me that a lot of the people who have been knocking the babies at work idea have also been proposing other ideas that would work in a wider variety of workplaces. Those who think otherwise, go back and re-read.

If a policy to help parents only works for a minority of parents, it's no good. There are other ideas already out there, like on-site childcare, more flexible leave opportunities, aid in paying for childcare, etc., that would benefit ALL parents, not just the ones who can bring their children in to work. If we're talking about public policy rather than what individual companies decide to do on their own, it's important that we discuss policies that would help all families, not just the families where the parents' work environment is more conducive to bringing a small child in.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 12:38 PM

What about the co-workers of the women who bring their infants to work?

Has anyone asked how it affects their productivity? I am glad for interesting and varied solutions to address the problem, but it's not just about mom and baby.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 12:58 PM

I have several coworkers who aren't interested in looking at baby pictures. I can guess their reaction to the actual children being here =).

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 1:02 PM

well, i have several co-workers that I'm not interested in lookng at either.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 1:21 PM

I noted the person commenting on Capitol Hill. As a former Hill staffer, it is not the place to work if you have children (unless you have a spouse who has the flexibility to be the main provider). That being said, I worked for two members of Congress who were very good good people who didn't expect us to give up our personal lives for them. Both the House and Senate have daycare centers right next to the office buildings and some of my colleagues if they had to work late would just bring the kids over afterwards -- most of the evening work for us was waiting around for their bosses to vote or whatever, and one of them even said to me that he didn't pay us enough to work late -(a sentiment not share by most members though -- its the privilege of working on the hill that offsets the $20,000 per year you make :), and to be perfectly honest Washington is one of those towns where everyone feels like they have to work late to show how hard they work -- a lot of it is hardly productive). There are some really jerky members who expect you to just do their bidding (and some are currently under investigation for this) but not all of them and with more women in the house and senate now there is more of an acknowledgement there. Unfortunately I don't think there is much recourse for those who do get fired by members (I think members of congress have exempted themselves from certain laws, in fact, up until probably the early 90s until someone figured it out, Congress exempted itself from all labor and safety laws.)
I thought that there was some sort of body on capitol hill set up for labor issues but not sure.
Perhaps this might be a good issue for Leslie to write about in the future??

Posted by: typical working mother | May 22, 2006 9:32 AM

All I have to add: ALL MOTHERS WORK!
When my children were little and I was suddenly single I worked 24/7....you can't just call in and say your kid is sick...at least not when my kids were little (they're
in their 30's now)...it was just tough, either you get to work or someone else takes your place! As for falling asleep right after work, I once thought well I'll take just a "little" nap then get my children.....yep! more time elapsed than I'd planned, even though I'd set the alarm clock (slept through it) and yep, had the babysitter screaming at me to wake up and get my kids off her hands. It was a tough time for all. I'm SO relieved to be able to look back and know we survived!

Posted by: Elizabeth | May 23, 2006 12:15 PM

When we women were organizing the Women's Movement in the 60's and 70's, we fought hard and long so younger women (the Moms of today) COULD work outside the home, COULD get their own credit established, COULD vote as a bloc and get attention to the low pay "working" mothers (women in general)received. There was NO discussion of bringing baby to work, rather it was always 'can you work even though you have children?'....this was a dangerous area in an interview (remember we were vying for the grand sum of $3.00 an hour)and had to answer that question cooly and calmly that yes! of course we had care for our children
(hoping to God the sitter would still be available....she might also out in the workforce too, at any time)....
Yeah, it's "nice" to read about women who can stay home and arrange flowers....there
were many more of us with NO CHOICE....it was work or go hungry, period.
I think a lot of younger women do not realize how hard my generation worked so you CAN take your children to work or not.
We had no maternity leave, no medical coverage or insurance. I am a college grad
and if any of you think that's an automatic ticket to a high paying career, you'd best check again!
It really bothers me, reading all this whin ing when you have NO idea (apparently) what those of us who have gone before sacrificed in order that our daughters would not be discriminated against, first as women and also first
as a Mom trying to keep her little family going! The stories I could tell you about "those" days. And you think you work hard now?

Posted by: Elizabeth | May 23, 2006 12:38 PM

That's the most ridiculous thing I ever read. I would fight to bring my elderly parent to work with me, in that case. If it's okay for one caretaker, isn't it okay for the next??

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 2:07 AM

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