Thursday, September 13, 2012

Babies, Breasts, and Books - Yes or No?

Did you hear about the university professor who brought her sick baby to work, then nursed her during the middle of class?  It's a lot of issues all wrapped up in that one little story - the values of nursing, challenges of being a working mother and a single mother, what's appropriate in the workplace, and, yes, that ongoing debate I've chatted about before - can we have it all?

Despite the professor's assertions that this is not news-worthy, it has become news.  I've got to admit, its not earth-shattering, but at least its more interesting than which reality-show-wanna-be-celebrity is breaking up with which other reality-show-wanna-be-celebrity.  And Professor Mom teaches a feminist anthropology class, so that just makes it all the more ironic and interesting.

The discussion centers around several decisions and choices she had to make (and many working parents have to make) and folks may agree or disagree with some, all, or none of them.

#1 - What do you do with a sick baby?  As a mother, she had to decide what to do with her baby and her cold.  Go to work and leave her with her childcare provider; take leave/a personal day or whatever is the day off procedure at her university; or take the baby with her to work.  She reasoned that she didn't want to take her to her regularly scheduled daycare (and most likely it was against the health rules) and she didn't want to cancel the first day of class, so she went with option "C".  Okay, plenty of folks take their kids to work, whether they are cleaning office buildings or working behind a desk in one.

#2 - What do you do with the baby now that you are at work?  Let's see, Professor Mom could have left the baby in her office or brought her to class with her.  Easy, right?  This would be a whole 'nother argument if she left the baby sitting in her office and she'd probably be giving an interview from a jail cell.

#3 - Baby's hungry - now what?  Sometime during the lecture, baby got hungry because baby's don't realize its not really a convenient time for a snack break in the middle of work.  Assuming Professor Mom tried to distract baby and convince her she wasn't hungry (moms - you know you've done that when you're busy), she could have given the baby a bottle or breast-fed while sitting in the front of class giving her lecture.  She choice the latter and that's when the milk hit the fan.

The university said they didn't have a policy on such a situation.  Note - I always find it funny when you see what seems to be an obvious rule or warning posted somewhere, because you know someone did something to make it necessary to post it.  "Warning: Contents are extremely hot" on a coffee cup?  Okay, back to the topic...

So, the University didn't have a policy, but don't work places have some general rules about professionalism and what's allowed or not allowed at work?  Breastfeeding is of course, the issue here; this would not have been news if she had popped a bottle in baby's mouth and kept going.  And I do admit - I wonder if she had changed the baby's diaper in class would this have become an issue?  Or what if Professor Mom taught Accounting rather than Anthropology - would she feel as justified in her choice?

Wherever one falls on this debate, it does raise that question again - can we have it all?  I say no, but that's okay.  We just have to choose what's the most important, grab that, and try to get as much of everything else that we can.

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