By Tammy Woeppel
Before I had children, I made my share of "when I have kids, we will/will not xyz" comments. Some, I've been able to stick too, like getting them on a good sleep schedule in their own beds. Others are a work in progress (so much for being stringent about screen time!).
One thing I thought for sure though was that I wouldn't experience separation anxiety. After all, a little distance is healthy, right? No child ever cried themselves to death. It builds their independence. They develop coping mechanisms. Etc, etc. Only when I actually had my first son, did I realize just how heart-wrenching it would feel for ME to leave him- even if only for a few hours!
I am one of the lucky ones that has had the option to stay at home with my children while working part-time on Nona. After starting my career in an industry that demanded long days for months on end (in Manhattan no less, where 2 incomes often isn't sufficient), I saw a glimpse of what could have been my life, and in no way take my situation for granted. Now that the kids are 4 and 2, I'm making the transition to working a more complete work week. Again, all my choice and on my own timeline. In this day and age, that is quite the luxury. Many other mom's don't have this flexibility. The lack of standardized maternity leave in the US is appalling, forcing 25% of new mom's back to work after only TEN DAYS. I was still walking like a penguin 10 days post-partum! New York State recently instituted a mandated paid leave policy for 8 weeks which began in January 2018 and will increase to a maximum of 12 weeks by 2021. This is a start but other states need to follow suit and it still leaves America much farther down the list of standardized maternity/paternity leave benefits than any other developed country.
This leaves most families dependent on their employer's individual policy. I had read about a few companies making major exceptions to accommodate families- Patagonia and Rachel Zoe immediately came to mind with their onsite facilities to care for the children of employees, but then I stumbled across this Pop Sugar article titled: This New Mom is Applying to Jobs With Her Baby- Here's Why Companies Should Take Her Seriously.
The article opens by describing how job hunter Meesha Chang includes her daughter's 'qualifications' right alongside her own on her resume as she is only entertaining opportunities that will allow her daughter to come to work with her. My initial thought was "WTF? How does that work?" but then as I read through the article, I began an internal slow-clap for Meesha as I realized what guts it takes to not only put the question out there, but to stick to her guns. She is completely unapologetic for prioritizing her career and her child equally and doesn't worry about any potential push-back she may receive. Why? Because, it actually may benefit these companies to take her request seriously and implement comprehensive policies re: children in the workplace for ALL new parents.
Off the bat, the brain-drain of mom's deciding to leave their careers in favor of staying with their children would decrease, therefore employee retention would increase. The impending doomsday feeling of returning to work after maternity leave ends would no longer be an issue, and therefore, potentially encourage a return to work earlier with a cost-savings benefit for the company, and of course, create a happier environment/lift employee morale all around, because babies are magical!
I still vividly recall the manic dash that the working mom's in my offices made each day to catch their trains home. Most, if not all, were living in the various suburbs of NYC at that point, whether in NJ, Long Island, Connecticut, or in the Upstate area. All had commutes of minimum 1 hour. This crazy ritual they practiced every single day landed them home just in time to perhaps bathe their child and kiss them goodnight. When I think about what a game-changer it would have been for them to collect their baby from the onsite nursery versus rushing off to daycare, and spend that hour on the train bonding instead of anxiously trying to rush through their door, I realize that this is a real request with real benefits and that anyone making this request is trying to pioneer change not just for her own benefit, but to shape a new way of thinking about work/life/balance for all parents.