The current Weekly Writing Challenge got me thinking about children in one of the most adult-oriented of all places – the workplace. Yes, I admit that I have brought each of my three children to work with me at various times, usually because of an unlucky confluence of sickness and pressing work deadlines. It certainly isn’t my first choice, but in my experience it has worked out fine for short periods of time. (Unless you count the unfortunate incident when my co-worker Peder accidentally got his finger chomped by my oldest son, who was teething. New baby teeth are razor sharp. Peder claims that he saw stars, just like in the cartoons.)
But whether or not to bring children to work is an issue that many working mothers have grappled with at one time or other. It is, in fact, the issue that has made European Parliament Member Licia Ronzulli so popular with moms like me. The photo above, taken in September 2010, of Ms. Ronzulli at work with her baby has made her a cause célèbre for working mothers around the world.
Although she doesn’t bring her daughter to the European Parliament regularly, there are other photos of Ms. Ronzulli and her daughter Vittoria. During a vote on the Eurozone debt crisis on February 15, 2012, reporters snapped several photos of Vittoria with her mom at the European Parliament.
I think that the reasons that these photos resonate so much with moms here in America is that they symbolize so perfectly the work-family balance that all of us working moms struggle with every day. Ms. Ronzulli’s employer, the European Parliament, has rules that allow women to take their baby with them to work. Unfortunately, this is just not an option for most working moms. So we share the photos on Facebook and hope for a day when working mothers have better support.
Support such as adequate parenting leave, for example, is important. But Ms. Ronzulli herself was entitled to a parenting leave, but chose to take only 1 month of it. She makes the point that it is about personal choice. In 2010, she told The Guardian “It’s a very personal choice. A woman should be free to choose to come back after 48 hours. But if she wants to stay at home for six months, or a year, we should create the conditions to make that possible,” she said.
I think that Ms. Ronzulli is right. I think that we should create the conditions to make it possible for a woman to choose the best thing for both her family and her career. Sometimes, that might mean bringing the kids to work with her. (And yes, I think this goes for dads as well.)