by Mary Jessica Hammes
March 14, 2011
How babies-at-work programs work
The success of taking a baby to work depends on highly structured plans made before the maternity leave.
The Guardian reported on Moquin’s work in 2008, and included accounts of two reporters’ attempts to bring their babies to work with them. It was a total disaster, but there was no real plan in place other than to just bring in the baby one day.
The article illustrated how critical structure is. Moquin stresses, “If you have a no-rules, no-expectations situation, you’ll have problems.”
Moquin wrote two books which present research supporting the benefits of bringing babies to work and give detailed information on how to set up a program at your own business. For example, all parties must agree on a timeframe for bringing your child to work (usually until 6 months of age or until the child is mobile), and co-workers should volunteer ahead of time to be designated caregivers when needed.
Guereña contacted Moquin before presenting her plan to bring River to work with her, and the author set her up with templates that could be easily customized for HometownQuotes. Moquin also connected Guereña with other employees, even other CEOs, who had implemented similar programs to get their advice on what works, and what doesn’t.
Moquin is driven both by research and her own personal situation. She was only able to take four weeks off work after her first child was born. When she was pregnant with her second child, both her marriage and financial situation were extremely unstable. She and her husband made the difficult decision to go through with an adoption process just three days after her daughter was born; the situation was later chronicled by People magazine. After she became aware of the success of structured babies-at-work programs, she became determined to enable other families to have more options to care for their children while also being able to provide for them.
“The lack of options caused a lot of trauma in my own family,” says Moquin, who explains that had she been given the option to take her second child to work with her, “it would have meant there was another way to make it work…it would have changed the whole equation and would have made me feel like adoption was not the only option…having that option would have enabled me to feel as though I did have the ability myself to give my daughter the life I wanted her to have.”
“I want to do everything in my power to enable other families to have options my family did not have,” adds Moquin.
Moquin continues to work with employers to make businesses more family-friendly—like the following mothers, all of whom were able to return to work, babies in tow.
Stephanie Ritchie Logan, international accounts manager; W.S. Badger Company, Inc., Gilsum, New Hampshire
The W.S. Badger Company allows employees to bring children to work until they are around 6 months old or walking. Logan brought her son Liam, now 2 years old, to work from the time he was 10 weeks old to nearly 5 months old.
“The extent to which this assisted us in breastfeeding was phenomenal,” says Logan. “I was not prepared at that point to have him fed with pumped milk in a bottle. We were still getting used to one another and developing our breastfeeding patterns. I had some issues with his latch—if I had needed to return to work without him, I’m sure this would have been exacerbated. Instead, he was breastfed exclusively for 5 months, and continues to breastfeed to this day. I fully credit our extended breastfeeding to these early weeks spent together.”
Having an established program gave Logan an easier transition to work. “I can’t imagine going from maternity leave directly to work,” she says. “I do not know how anyone could focus on work in that type of a situation and feel disheartened that this is the case for so many mothers and babies.”
Courtney Kaplan, principal in program planning, and Tanya Herrgott, director of user experience; Hot Studio, Inc., San Francisco, California
Last October, Hot Studio formally launched a babies-at-work program, which welcomes babies until they are 8 months old or crawling.
Kaplan brought her son Aiden, now 9 months old, to work from the time he was 4 months old to 6 months old. Herrgott brought her daughter Mina, now 8 months old, to work from the time she was 3 months old to 7 months old.
When Kaplan first considered the program she was a little skeptical but eager to participate in something that gave new moms options beyond going back to work or staying home with your baby. She was pleasantly surprised over how well it worked out. Co-workers voluntarily visited her baby, hanging out on the floor next to him on his quilt. Both she and Herrgott breastfed while they took their babies to work; Aiden gradually transitioned to formula after he stopped coming to work with Kaplan, but Mina is now in a nearby day care center, so Herrgott continues to breastfeed her on her breaks.
With the support of colleagues, Kaplan and Herrgott both say they experienced a taste of what Moquin described as a village-type experience in childrearing. They now know that it’s possible, but it takes work.
“There’s a lot of intention around creating that,” says Kaplan. “That utopia doesn’t just happen.”
Ambrosha Guereña, agent relations manager; HometownQuotes, Franklin, Tennessee
Co-workers still proudly hang River’s artwork in their offices. Soon after Guereña delivered her baby, the initial company paperwork allowed for her son, River to come to the office until he turned 6 months old or was mobile. When the 6-month mark came, he wasn’t fully mobile, and it turned out, the employees didn’t want him to go. The office approved an extension to 8 months. That deadline came, and went. The company extended it to 10.
“It was awesome,” says Guereña. “It got me back to work quicker, and I wasn’t going, ‘Where’s my baby?’ I had the whole office helping me, a first-time mom, to learn the ropes. He has extended family forever now.”
River went to work 3–4 days a week until he was 10 months old. Having him close made breastfeeding easy, and Guereña breastfed him for nearly a year. “When that time comes to go back to work—until you’re a parent, you think it’ll be no big deal. But it all changes.”
If you are interested in starting a program at your place of employment, contact Moquin or download free sample forms—including a free template policy, parent plan, parent legal waiver, and alternate care provider agreement—to share with your employer. Be sure to present your plan before the start of your maternity leave.
If you are an employer who would like to know more, consider joining the PIWI’s Pilot Program, which enables you to receive free assistance from the PIWI.
Mary Jessica Hammes is an Athens, Georgia-based writer, trapeze instructor, knitter, gardener, comic book enthusiast, and hula hooper. She is mom to Tommy.
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