If you work in a shared office, the chances are that your patience is tested daily by colleagues who talk too loudly on the phone, or have a nose blowing habit which shakes the walls. So how would you feel if one of your colleagues was allowed to bring their baby in every day? Apparently this happens in some workplaces in the US and some UK companies are considering adopting the same policy.
For those who love babies and can cope with the idea of Farley’s Rusks ground into their keyboard, this is fine, but surely I can’t be the only one who is filled with horror at the idea? The workplace is a professional and adult environment. It is not possible to present a professional image to a colleague or client, or concentrate fully on a task with a baby screaming in the background.
It is probably true that many workplaces are not flexible enough when it comes to childcare arrangements. However there are many people, particularly it would seem in the public sector, who regularly cover for parents who are looking after sick children, or attending school concerts. Then there are those who can only book annual leave once their colleagues with children have bagged all the good weeks throughout the summer and are are expected to work every Christmas and bank holiday.
The harsh and maybe unacceptable truth of bringing up children in the UK, is that one parent, (generally the mother), has a difficult decision to make about their career. Having a child is a huge responsibility, but it is also your choice. Personally, I would not want to have a baby sitting next to me at work, but if my work place adopted it I may not have a choice.
The answer to helping women advance in their careers will not come from allowing them to take their children to work, or expecting others in the workplace to be more flexible to accommodate them. It will only come from a change of attitude and money the UK does not have have. Every time the issue of childcare is raised in the media, somebody mentions how Scandinavian countries appear to have the matter sorted, so why can’t we follow their policies? For one thing Swedish parents are able to share their considerable maternity/paternity leave and they pay so much more in tax than we do that it is not unreasonable for them to expect free childcare. In the UK it is still considered odd for a man to take on even an equal share of childcare even though he might like to. Yet it makes sense to have a second parent on hand when one can’t make a doctor’s appointment due to a work commitment.
Until we are happy to pay more tax, (research shows we claim to be happy to until it comes to voting for parties with higher tax policies), or prepared to be more enlightened with the division of family chores, there seems little hope for change in the near future. In the meantime, be prepared for breast milk in the office fridge, the smell of dirty nappies and baby dribble on your Blackberry.