Six weeks seems like a long time until you’re recovering from having a baby. But there I was, my first child 6 weeks old, and I was dropping him off at day care.
I found out I was pregnant right before I started job hunting and got a call for a phone interview for a job working for an Army newspaper. I wasn’t showing yet, but I took a risk and told them I was pregnant to avoid any resentment once I started showing.
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“I’ll only take 6 weeks off,” I told them, using the Army’s standard leave time as a guide.
I’ve always prided myself on being a good, hard worker. And I wanted to prove that having a baby hadn’t changed me. At four weeks, I wasn’t back full time but I was attending sporadic military events taking photos with my baby strapped to my chest. We had a staff of two, and I wanted to pull my weight. And then, during my leave, I got promoted. More responsibility, more work, more weight. I shared an office, but would close the door to pump (I put a photo of a cow on the door to indicate that I was, ahem, otherwise engaged). I went to the day care on my lunch breaks to nurse. I would pick up my son from day care and sometimes come back to work to finish up an article, edit an article or conduct an interview.
I was doing it all. My mom game was on point.
I thought back to those moments seven years ago as we discussed what is formally called Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. I didn’t wait for a day to bring my kid in; I would regularly bring my son in when I had a ton to do and needed to work a little later than the day care was open.
For the most part, he was good (read: quiet) but was sometimes fussy. I very rarely answered the phone after hours, but for whatever reason decided to late one afternoon. A woman called to complain about something we’d published. I remembered my son fussing a bit and me apologizing. I don’t recall if the call ended there or if she called back, but I do remember her asking to speak to my supervisor. “I call here and there’s a baby crying in the background and it’s so unprofessional.”
My manager laughed it off; he thought the complaint was ridiculous, but I was crushed. I’d been working so hard, juggling it all, and with one sentence, she’d undone the professional image I thought I had.
Even so, that wasn’t the last time I brought my kid to work, but each time ended up pretty similar, especially after I had his brother. They would be entertained for about five minutes, then go about trashing my office. They weren’t being unruly; they weren’t being naughty. They were just being kids. I get it, maybe the “holiday” isn’t for kids the age of mine. And I’m thankful for such supportive bosses throughout the years that didn’t mind my impromptu “bring your kid to work” moments.
But what I’d like more than a once-a-year observance is a little help, a little patience and a little understanding for moms who have to bring their kids to the office, no matter the reason.
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