This is a guest post by Karelys Beltran. She works as an office manager for a small company. She has a toddler son, and just this month Karelys had a baby girl!
My child comes to work with me. I am not so much of a hot shot that I can dictate that my workplace revolves around my wants, and especially not around my children. But I made a way to take my child to work because my priority is to be close to my son. It became a priority once I realized that for my sanity, I had to work outside the home.
This post is not to convince you that it’s a good idea to take your child to work, or that it’ll be easy and dreamy and that everyone will love you for it. This is a strategy for those who want to pull it off against the odds because no matter what, time with your child is a bigger priority than the biggest hurdle you face at the time.
Sometimes a simple strategy can also be easy to execute. But this is not one of those strategies.
1. Decide why you want to bring your child and get ready for what you’ll give up.
You need to be clear on why you are taking on this challenge and how big of a priority is. It will be difficult, more than you even expect, and you need to remember why you’re doing it so you can push through.
Some people decide to live in poverty so they can be present for their children. I decided to give up on my ego and put on hold pursuing high-focus, impressive jobs for something that required less mental energy and wasn’t impressive in order to bring my child to the office with me.
2. Find a job that will allow bringing your kid to work.
I roll my eyes when people whine that they can’t homeschool or bring the kid to work because their job would never allow it or finances are a problem. It’s like when girls whine that they can’t find a decent man to date but they allow themselves to be pursued by mediocre men that do not respect them just because they are too scared to be alone.
No one is forcing you to stay in your job. If you can’t make a lateral move and then step it up one notch then you’re doing it wrong. If you don’t have open doors you’re bad at selling yourself. Good news: this is an easy fix.
I took everything I learned in Penelope’s career blog and went job hunting with a specific need in mind: bring my child to work with me. Implementing the advice gave me job offers left and right. If the interviewer refused to give that flexibility I interpreted it as: “this is not a two-way street. We want to use you, we want your commitment, but all we offer in return is just a paycheck.”
I valued myself more than that. So I cut the interviews short and told them there was no sense in wasting each other’s time. We were not a good fit.
Soon I found the perfect fit. I talked about work and personal life balance being a lie. I was about to invest a large part of my life to help someone realize their goals and asked the same in return.
Initially it was very difficult because I was a new mom with no idea how to make this work, and my kid was very high strung, I was breastfeeding, the job was new to me, and I was on a major sleep deficit. But I was ready to make it work no matter how hard Penelope tried talking me out of it and back into being a stay-at-home mother.
I would put on lipstick, curl my hair, and pretend I couldn’t hear my fears, then head off to work.
3. Do a partial day and make it fun for the child.
My son was in daycare for four months and we knew we hated it but we silenced our fears and pretended everything was great. Not being with my child during the long 9-5 workdays was ruining my life. I felt too guilty to go out with my husband after work, go exercise or go out with friends.
An entire workday is too long for a child under two years, so we do half days.
I am thrilled to tell you that everything is dreamy right now. He is not disruptive anymore. If we spend uninterrupted time in the morning and fill “his emotional tank” then he only comes in once in a while for a hug and I can work in peace.
We play games to encourage motor skill development: stacking paper cups on the floor and knock them down with a ball like in a bowling alley.
We read a book. Then he goes off to play alone or tinker with his electronics. This made our child much more relaxed because I give him a choice cut of my day, not the leftovers of me after work when I am wiped out.
4. Stand your ground.
Bringing your kid to work is going to be a steep learning curve. I was constantly worried that I would come across as an employee that cannot be taken seriously. A man can bring his child to work and everyone melts. A mom brings a child to work and she looks pitiful.
I just had to be okay with being frazzled and sometimes being lost. Develop the mental discipline and do not indulge worries of “What are they really thinking?” I made a deal with my boss, not with anyone else. I would not worry but only take action if someone said something directly to me. I planned to talk it out and find the best arrangement for both parties.
No one ever said anything.
5. Be valuable and restore the balance for your employer.
There is no perfect job and no perfect employee. There is going to be something annoying about everyone. I made sure that I was giving everything I could so I would be close to perfect. You don’t have the luxury to break the societal rules of no kids in the workplace regularly while still being mediocre or bad at your job. You have to deliver results and quality work on time and make up for the discomfort you’ll bring people for disrupting their preconceptions of how things should be. I made sure to be reliable and ready to be help at the drop of a hat even if it was after office hours.
Look, your kid will be annoying for only a little while or you are doing it wrong for your situation and you need to recalibrate. Let that be the one bad thing about you.
I am not a revolutionary and have no interest in rocking the boat. I want what I want, and I want people to be so happy with me that they’ll hand me what I ask for in a silver platter with a smile. There are so many jobs where kids can accompany their parents just fine– especially if they are older children. The reason we don’t see more of it is because people are convinced kids should be at very specific places and out of the way just like women were supposed to be at the kitchen and out of the way, back in the day.
If I’ve made waves it wasn’t on purpose but I don’t back out in fear either. I work really hard to strike a balance of asserting myself without irritating people. And fail miserably sometimes. I focus on pleasing people so that they will be happy to work with me and I can have the life I want. People are willing to compromise if you’re worth it to them.
So be worth it.
Don’t neglect to delight your coworkers.
It’s hard work but your options are either to only see your kid for a few hours a day outside of work, or to get creative to pull this off. If you’re not willing to give up what you currently have, then just call it what it is. Say that your lifestyle and everything else is more important to you than to make yourself over and be present for your kid during the formative years.