As I write this, my 8-month-old is strapped to me in her Tula, sticking her fingers up my nose. My laptop is perched precariously on a tray table as I sit in what my husband calls my "working mom pose." Balancing work and motherhood can be tricky, but this viral photo of a mom working while her baby sleeps on her chest shows multitasking at its finest, and just how much of a difference a supportive, understanding employer makes. When companies provide employees with the flexibility that they need to both work and care for their families, everyone wins.
Maryland Farms Chiropractic posted the now-viral photo to its Facebook page, showing Melody Blackwell at her desk with her infant daughter along with the hashtag #WorkinMamas. "She makes it look easy. It helps that Baby Nora-Jo is so sweet and content just being with and near her mama," the caption read.
"Would y'all mind sharing this? We need more small and large businesses to see this is doable and should be allowed more often! The newborn months are so short," the caption continued.
Maryland Farms went on to explain that Blackwell usually works from home, but comes into the office from time to time with baby in tow. "She's still breastfeeding and baby needs mama! She has many times for feeding breaks while they are in the office," the Facebook post read.
The post and photo have since been picked up by numerous news outlets, including Yahoo! and CBS News. Along with Blackwell's commitment to her work, Dr. Elizabeth Baker, who owns Maryland Farms Chiropractic in Brentwood, Tennessee, shined as a caring and compassionate employer.
Commenters on the post have praised Baker for working with Blackwell to let her keep her income without sacrificing time with her little one.
One person said that the post made them want to come into the office, writing: "I wish you all were close! Defending your employees and your understanding makes me want to do business there! I absolutely love this!"
Another pointed out how Baker breaks the norm for postpartum leave. "Well done... this really highlights that maternity leave is just too short in the U.S... newborns need their mamas so much in those first few months," they wrote.
To the few critics who misinterpreted Blackwell's return to the office as a lack of flexibility on the side of her employer, Baker wrote on the Facebook post:
We were able to give her 3 full months of paid leave (well above the national average), but as a small business with only 3 employees we needed her back! She has transitioned to work from home but does need to come to the office for a few hours once a week.
For the sake of comparison, it is worth noting that the national average for paid time off after giving birth or adopting is just 10 weeks as of 2016, according to TODAY.
Baker tells Romper that Blackwell has been a very valued assistant since she started at Maryland Farms almost 5 years ago. When Blackwell got pregnant, the team was determined to figure out a way to make it work:
After her 3 month maternity leave we needed her back! Over that time we figured out a way for her to be able to work from home vs coming in every day as she had been. We changed some software and phone systems to be able to accommodate her new life while keeping her on staff. So we still had some tasks that require her to be physically in the office so for 1 day a week she comes in.
“I was excited when she said that was a possibility,” Blackwell told Yahoo!, referring to the fact that Baker lets her bring her baby on the days that she does come in. “I didn’t know if it would be.” She was planning on relying on family members to provide the bulk of baby Nora-Jo's care. "I knew it was going to be hard for me to leave her when she was so young,” she added.
But regardless of how much Maryland Farms needed Blackwell back in the office, Baker tells Romper that she knows baby Nora-Jo needs her even more. "The newborn months are so short and she's still breastfeeding baby Nora-Jo so they still needed to be together," she says. "So she's been a pretty calm and happy baby so far so why not have her here while we can! Patients love to see the baby when she's here. And she's exceeded my expectations on her ability to still perform her job well even with the baby in the office or at home!"
The United States remains the only country in the developed world that does not require employers to offer paid leave for new mothers, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. As such, it falls on employers to do what they can to support their employees who are also mothers.
Kudos to Baker and everyone at Maryland Farms Chiropractic for making life a little easier for one mom and her sweet babe.