Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Inquisition Tuesday: Working with Children

A friend of mine sent me a message I wanted to share here to spark some discussion.

I've been thinking a lot lately about childcare and working mothers. It just strikes me that of all times in history, I think this is the time in history where women have more "opportunities" but less opportunity to actually be women. We have more access to jobs similar to men, but we have to work like men, when it's not necessarily in our nature to do so. This is why you see so many women make the choice to be stay at home moms, because they don't want to be away from their children at this important stage of development. But why should that be the only choice they have? It seems to me that through the ages, women who have worked have worked with their babies and children right along side them, and there is something broken now that has brought us to a place where that can't be done. You're a feminist, but to me, a feminist the way feminism should be, fighting for the rights of mothers, not just trying to get us to be able to be men. And it strikes me that this is the logical next step. Why should people have to choose to stay at home to be with their children? Why can't women work with their babies? I'm really interested to hear your thoughts on this, especially having children, since I don't have a great idea of how the every day aspect of it would go. Anyway, I just think it is worth starting a discussion about, and getting the idea out there, so that more people can join the discussion and find solutions that would work for different situations.
I have lots of thoughts on this issue. I think it depends on the job and the baby/child. Babies are very portable and I think many workplaces can accomodate a baby. Blacktating wrote about this and included at picture of Licia Ronzulli with her baby in a wrap. And even when her daughter was older, she brought her to work. There are obvious safety concerns in some workplaces, but a baby in a wrap could be feasible in probably a lot more situations than we think. Mail carriers, many retail associates, lecturers, and many more could wear a baby, especially if the baby was sleeping or nursing. As a child gets older and more mobile, that might be a little more difficult, but even kids Isaac's age (2.5) enjoy back carries. And if you work with other people who have small children, you might be able to set aside and block off a room or area for the small kids to play or set up an on-site daycare. Where I live in Oakland/Berkeley, there is an art space for moms to work on their projects and can bring their children along with them called Hackermoms. Small babies are free in the space and older kids cost a little for the babysitter. It's a great idea and everywhere needs a place like that.

And lest this seem like only a problem for small children, you can't really leave kids at home alone until they are 11 or so. For more than a decade, if your work schedule means weekends, you homeschool, or if your kids have holidays or vacations from school, you need to find supervision or watch them yourself. If you have to bring a 9 year old to work, she can probably keep herself occupied or even help out with small things like sweeping or washing windows (though... I guess you need to be careful about child labor laws). When I was a preteen, my dad would take us to work occasionally and I vacuumed and cleaned the microwave and other odd jobs.

For what I do right now, I either bring my children with me when I go help moms breastfeed, have the mom needing breastfeeding help come to me, or bring my work (knitting) with us to the parks or classes. Some design work and my own classwork needs a computer, so I have to do that work at home. McKay and I have been discussing options of me working outside the home in the future and depending on schooling options for the kids, I might seek out support groups for homeschooling and working or other transportation options for local schools.

I think society needs to be less childist and learn how to be patient with people who are learning how to speak and understand their emotions, who walk at a slower pace than most people, and who need to be taught about how to interact with people. Kids don't need to wait until they are 16 to learn how to talk to customers and sales people, or where money comes from and how to manage it.

It wouldn't would for every situation, but I think it'll work for many more than we think.

Some other reading:
PhDinParenting: Adult privilege is exacerbated when children are a minority
HoboMama's Two part post on having a home business with kids, part 1, part 2

What do you think? Do you think you could bring your child to work? What changes would need to be made for that to  happen? If those changes happened, would you take advantage of them?

And if you know of good articles or posts on this topic, share those as well!

3 comments:

  1. Being a creative, I've never actually been interested in any kind of work that didn't fit into my idea of motherhood. I used to want to be a school teacher so that if I *had* to work, I could work while my kids were in school. Then I realized I didn't actually want to do that. But I did pursue photography, and my son has come along numerous times, as a baby on my back, as a toddler/preschooler who knew how to stay out of the shot, but nearby, and when he gets older yet, I hope to have him assist me. Actually, he could probably do a little of that now. I also write, which is totally doable at home with him around. Have toyed with the idea of selling on Etsy, too. That's a great tool for WAHMs.

    I've seen my chiropractor's kids at his office. His wife works there a few days a week, and she would bring the kids in for a few hours after they got out of school. One of my best friends growing up would work in her parents' store. Of course, it's easy to do when it's your own business.

    I used to assume I'd be a SAHM if I could at all avoid working, but I've realized that as long as it doesn't overwhelm me, I like doing work outside the realm of "mom" and "housekeeper" and "cook." Variety is nice! (So is additional income...)

    With all that said, I wouldn't have brought a child to my last job I had before becoming a mom because it was too dangerous. Some workplaces just aren't safe for children (some aren't really even safe for adults). In same cases, children themselves can be a hazard (such as spreading germs around in a hospital). But it would be nice to see more jobs where children are welcome. It's unfortunate when a mother wants to be with her kids but can't.

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    1. "I used to assume I'd be a SAHM if I could at all avoid working, but I've realized that as long as it doesn't overwhelm me, I like doing work outside the realm of "mom" and "housekeeper" and "cook." Variety is nice! (So is additional income...)"

      This made me think about how quitting work was great when Margaret was born, like having summer vacation from school. But just like summer vacation, after a while,I want to go back to doing something other than hanging out at home all the time.

      Or maybe it's like de-schooling when homeschoolers take their kids out of school. It seems pretty common for the student to spend some time "wasting" time and decompressing before they get bored of that and start being interested in learning again.

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  2. My work (harp teaching) usually come to my home and I have been fortunate enough to have students patient with my boys (as well as boys able to stay out of my hair for 30 consecutive minutes). But this wouldn't work if I took more students; I am pretty sure the boys would be too disruptive for me to teach back-to-back lessons.

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