I work full-time and though our ever-evolving patchwork of childcare has worked well for us, it’s not a perfect system. Daycares close; sitters call out sick; there are meetings or deadlines my husband and I just can’t miss. Luckily, my partner and I work for the same parent company, and can at least tag team supervising our children if we need to bring them to work. As charming as this scenario seems, it also is less than ideal and usually leaves me with a few thoughts every mom has when she brings her toddler to work. (Hint: not all of them are positive.)
As a working mom, I’m constantly toggling between the caregiver side of my brain and the writer-producer side of my brain. Though studies have shown that working mothers tend to be more productive than child-free employees, it’s not because I’m multitasking (and I’ll never know why work culture celebrates the art of multitasking). For me, it means I’m doing many things at once, poorly.
That’s why taking my kids to work can be a recipe for disaster. Can I really do my job if my three-year-old is throwing a tantrum under my desk? Can I really be fully engaged with my child at lunch if I’m anxiously awaiting a commercial cut that needs my focus and feedback? The one good thing about having my kids at work is that I can show them what I do when I’m not with them. I value my professional skills and I work to help keep a roof over our heads, but I’m lucky enough to have a job I love that taps into my creative side. I want to demonstrate to my children how meaningful work can be, despite it being called “work.”
But the wonder and awe I see on their faces when they enter my office, with their artwork proudly displayed on my bulletin board, evaporates after the first 30 minutes. Then we’re just stuck with each other, in a cubicle, for the rest of the day. And though I may not say them, here are some thoughts this working mom has when I bring my toddler to the job:
"I Hope My Kid Isn’t A Jerk"
My kids tend to clam up in the company of adults they don't know, which is totally common behavior. In fact, I’d be a little concerned if they were acting too friendly with people four times their age. However, do they have to embarrass me by hiding behind my legs when a co-worker greets them? Or by forgetting their manners when someone offers them a treat at the office? I talk them up so much, I’m afraid it might be impossible for them to live up to their reputation, especially if they get instantly shy at the first sight of my colleagues.
"I Hope He Doesn’t Have To Poop At The Office"
My kids really enjoy their bathroom experiences. I guess it’s their “me time.” They read books, they sing; my son even takes his shirt off, George Costanza style, to really get comfortable on the toilet. However, the workplace is not the right environment to “settle in” when using the bathroom.
So, I hope my kids can keep it strictly business in there when I bring them to work. Though it might amuse my co-workers, I’m sure they’d be a lot more comfortable not having a toddler parked in the stall next door, practicing their ABC’s, on repeat.
"Please Let There Be A Seat On The Subway"
Rush hour sucks. Rush hour with small children is the worst. I usually give unburdened, able-bodied, seated men the stink eye, hoping to shame them into standing up so my whining, suddenly weak-kneed child can sit down and stop swinging from the pole. This tactic yields varying results.
"Please Like My Kid"
Even if my child plays the painfully shy card, I hope they at least emit some cuteness into our cube farm. I don’t actually care if my coworkers like my kid as a person. I just need them to like the fact that my kid is quiet and polite, which will reinforce what a capable working parent I am, even when I need to leave early to get my cranky, overtired kid home after being cooped up in my boring office all day.
"Please Don’t Curse"
Children are rare at the office, so not everyone is on their best behavior when it comes to language. Given our open floor plan, it is likely my kid will hear some colorful words occasionally uttered (the candy machine tends to eat money, and I hear people screaming at it on the regular).
I just hope my co-workers can curb their "bad word" usage. If not, I expect my child to turn to me, wide-eyed, upon overhearing that language, and then store it in that steel trap of a baby brain to use in public when I’m least expecting it.
"I Will Not Have Him Stare At A Screen All Day"
As tempting as it is, I can’t just let my child watch television or play video games, just so I can get my work done. I toted in lots of activities to keep him busy: coloring books, playing cards, action figures. Who needs a tablet?
"I’m Just Going To Give Him A Little Screen Time"
OK, just an episode or so, so I can meet a deadline is completely acceptable. I mean, I work at a TV network. Staring at a screen for a bit is practically inevitable.
"Three Hours Of Screen Time Will Not Kill Him, Right?"
"I’m Not Buying Snacks To Keep Him Quiet…"
Coming to work with mommy does make it a special day, but not one accompanied by a constant supply of packaged processed foodstuffs. You’ll eat the cold turkey sandwiches I packed for us and love it.
"…Except For These Pretzels, Gummy Snacks and Granola Bars"
This means I’m off the hook for dinner, right? I’m sure he’s gotten a few nutritional needs met today. And really, you have to look at the entire week to properly evaluate one’s health. What’s one day of vending machine meals in the grand scheme of a child’s life?
"I’m Never Going To Get Any Work Done"
Taking my toddler to work exemplifies the pitfalls of multitasking, but it’s not without its benefits. True, I wasn’t as productive as I would have been if I was child-free at the office, but even when I don’t have my kid with me at work I’m still tending to their needs. I’m keeping my eye on the phone throughout the day, ready for a call from the school nurse. I’m texting the babysitter about to reheat for dinner. I’m doing a mental inventory of lunch items, in case I need to let my husband know he has to stop at the supermarket on the way home. In some way, my children are always with me and when they are physically with me on the job, it makes me all the more aware that I can’t work and take care of them at the same time. This is important for me to remember. Some parents can work from home with their kids around, and I am in awe of that ability. That’s a superpower I don’t possess.
Since I only bring my kids in on days I anticipate work being slow, I think the pros outweigh the cons of having them onsite with me at those times. It’s a way for me to show them, and not just tell them, why my job is important to me, and to our household. They may not always like that I go into the office instead of hanging out with them, but work is part of our family’s life.