Babies At Work

20130426-192852.jpgI’ve spent the last few weeks wrestling with people who believe business leadership is barely a place for a woman, and even less so for a mother with a newborn. It’s unfamiliar territory for most because our culture has practically required that women become masculine in order to be successful. Books about successful businesswomen practically advocate for cutting off our breasts and pretending we have a penis in our pants. In spite of cultural bias to the contrary, women are capable of playing multiple roles in the workspace. We are wives, mothers, and professionals – yes, sometimes all at the same time. A few of us do it all while lactating with a growing little person periodically attached to our body.

“No way a nursing baby is ‘business functional’. Wanna have a business career? Don’t have kids. Wanna be a mom? Stay at home with your kids. God’s plan.”
~ quote from a post on my Facebook wall a few days ago

Much to the chagrin of women like the one who commented on this Facebook post, not only do I take my own baby with me to work, I also believe employers, in general, should allow mothers with young babies to have their baby with them at work when safe. We walk this out with our staff at Cotton Babies. In jobs where it is safe, we allow parents to bring their baby to work until the baby is mobile. Occasionally, we will even have a handful of older children around when mom wasn’t able to secure childcare for a day. When things get intense at work, a baby present tends to put life back in perspective for the adults. Largely because we allow babies at work, many of our staff members are experienced parents, turnover is lower, and the atmosphere at work is more relaxed. While babies at work present a challenge to the traditional mindset, we have found it to be a benefit that works both to the employer and the employee’s advantage.

If you’re a business owner considering this benefit, feel free to ask me questions in the comments below. I’ll be happy to explain more details about what we’ve learned along the way.

Women can be mothers. Women can also be professionals. At the same time. In the same room. Between 8 and 5. Let them prove it.

Jenn is the Founder and CEO of Cotton Babies. She holds an Executive MBA from Washington University. She was awarded Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award in the Emerging Category for the Central Midwest Region in 2011. Among many other awards, she recently received a 2017 YWCA Leader of Distinction Award for Entrepreneurship. Jenn holds many patents on various inventions in a number of different countries and is listed as one of 50 Missourians You Should Know. She is particularly fascinated by languages, chickens, and children (she has four) when she’s not reading economics journals. Jenn offers mentorship to product developers at any stage in the journey from idea to shelf.