When I was the managing editor for my college newspaper, I remember writing an in-depth story about children in the workplace following a new campus policy on the topic that was met with heated discussion and anger. Work-life balance has long been a hot topic of debate across the country. Today is no different with Marissa Mayer, Yahoo! CEO and new mom, in the news for both building a nursery next to her office and ending telecommuting for all employees.
For as long as I can remember, spending time at my parents’ work places was as natural as brushing my teeth. My earliest memories include making paper dolls with my grandma when she’d work as a secretary at my dad’s insurance office and coloring under my mom’s photo retouching desk in the days when they still painted on the printed photo. Later I spent many afternoons doing 5th and 6th grade math and grammar homework at my mom’s desk while she managed our family’s bicycle and cross country ski store.
When I was in college a few guest artists from the Twin Cities came to our rural Minnesota campus, kids in tow, to teach us hip hop. We were all in awe of the kids putting us to shame as they danced up a storm behind us. But it wasn’t just their talent I remembered. I fell in love with the idea of that kind of work-life balance, not realizing until now that it was precisely what my parents had modeled.
Two years ago when my youngest was an ill-sleeping newborn and my husband was a nursing student, I apologetically brought the baby to an evening gig in which I was choreographing for a high school musical. Sleeping for a while in her infant car seat and then contently hanging out in the carrier as I paced around the auditorium watching the rehearsal, yelling out a few corrections and taking notes on others, she was the perfect helper.
Still, for the next two years, despite having several dance studio owners encourage the practice for years before I had my first child, I feared appearing unprofessional if I brought a child along to work. No longer holding onto an office job, the dream I’d fallen in love with about ten years ago was within reach but my hesitancy kept it at arm’s length.
Today I marched my two and four year olds down a set of auditorium stairs with a bag of quiet toys, a box of chicken nuggets, and a couple of suckers. We quietly and without apology set up camp at a high school musical rehearsal that had been rescheduled with short notice. It wasn’t perfect, but it went pretty well. I feel good about the example I set for my kids as well as the students I was there to support.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary in April, the Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work® program believes this experience shows kids “the value of their education, helping them discover the power and possibilities associated with a balanced work and family life, and providing them an opportunity to share how they envision the future and begin steps toward their end goals in a hands-on and interactive environment.”
I’d love to hear how other teaching artists feel about this type of work-life balance and how to decide if it’s professional or unprofessional to bring your children to the workplace.