Working On It
Birth Matters: November 2019
By Laura Maxson LM
Parents work hard – there is no question about it. It is a constant juggle to keep schedules running smoothly. Different ages and stages of family life have differing needs, as do the wide variety of family units – single parent, blended families big or small, teens to newborns. Families are all unique. What is not so unique, however, is how overbooked and overwhelmed many parents feel.
While the first weeks as a new family can be exhausting – at least it is expected. If parents-to-be have been paying any attention in childbirth class, to their midwives, doulas and doctors (and just about every book ever written on the subject of newborns), they will have lined up some support. Food can magically appear on the doorstep at dinnertime thanks to a supportive friend to coordinate meals or even easier -Mealtrain.com. Some lucky families might have grandma come stay for a few days or weeks; or may be it’s a postpartum doula that is easing the stress of those first few weeks.
The outpouring of support naturally diminishes as everyone gets back to what is generally referred to as “normal.” But what’s normal? The ages and stages of children and families are always evolving – babies are crawling, walking, weaning; parents are back to school or work, carpooling, nursing, pumping, and everything else.
As life goes on Mealtrain.com is no longer delivering, but the schedule is still full – preschool, kindergarten, baseball games, junior guards and on it goes. Families can flourish in this whirlwind when they find support and community. Friends and extended family, of course, fill this bill but, surprisingly, more and more parents are finding help in an unexpected place – at work.
It might be the boss or a coworker in a small office, or the support of a specific workplace policy at a large corporation, that really makes a difference for parents. Finding ways to help balance work and family benefit both employer and employee.
While we can’t actually make more hours in each day, parents can sometimes move those hours around to their advantage. Flex-time can be a boon for any busy family. Whether it is an everyday occurrence or just for special situations, the ability to tweak the work schedule can be tremendous. Telecommuting can make it easier to work around baby’s schedule or be there to greet the kids after school. Sometimes just having a predictable schedule can be a game changer when dealing with childcare or pumping schedules.
Helping to keep the milk supply flowing when returning to work also keeps parents at work longer with fewer sick days and more company loyalty. Workplaces can help by welcoming baby visits for breastfeeding, or by providing a private place for pumping milk. It might be as simple as adding a lock to the office door for privacy or it might take some real brainstorming to find a space for a dedicated lactation room. Even better for a room to have a fridge and a company breastpump, eliminating the need to bring one from home every day.
Promoting positive feelings for families around the office can make a huge difference. At some workplaces, occasional visits from employees’ family members are not only tolerated, but seen as a pleasant occurrence. Bosses can acknowledge the importance of attending a school conference, important game, or field trip to make employees feel valued.
Paid time off is one of the best forms of support. Larger companies can often offer more substantial maternity leave. It is important to speak with the workplace to understand expectations around planning for and coordinating maternity leave, disability and/or paid family leave.
One employer offered to pay for any employee’s homebirth when it was discovered that their current insurance policy didn’t cover it. Encourage discussion within the workplace on how parents can feel more supported. Businesses that create onsite daycare may be eligible for tax credits. A written lactation policy can be really helpful, is there one in place? It just might take an interested parent to motivate an employer to create one.
California paid family leave – edd.ca.gov/disability/about_pfl.htm
Birth Network of Santa Cruz County – birthnet.org
Lactation Accomodation – dir.ca.gov/dlse/Lactation_Accommodation.htm
Laura Maxson, LM, CPM is a retired homebirth midwife. She currently provides lactation home visits and is the director of Birth Network of Santa Cruz County. [email protected]