"The dog was created specially for children. He is the god of frolic." - H W Beecher

June 11, 2008

Yesterday, I attended a meeting at a local business that specializes in dog-related products. Their office is that special kind of creative chaos that is full of bright color and music and dogs and little kids. In some ways, you might even consider it to be a model for the "parent friendly" office - there is a little playroom set up in one of the offices, and there were young children playing happily there, in sight of their parents. One of the employees has a 17 week old son, and she is encouraged to either bring him in or to leave a couple of times during the day so she can nurse him. All the staff are cheerful, fun people, and they clearly love their work environment.

But when I was there, something odd happened.

The wife of the founder and CEO brought in her adorable one-year-old daughter. It had apparently been prearranged that the CEO's assistant (who is the mom of two young children) would watch the daughter for an hour while the wife had an appointment. From the way the daughter and the assistant reacted, it was fairly clear to me that this was a regular thing - that the little girl regarded the assistant as a regular caregiver and trusted adult. And fortunately the assistant (I'll call her L) is clearly very attached to this lovely little girl.

I'm not sure "family friendly" is supposed to mean "free drop-off childcare" is it? Somehow I had the silly idea that the days when you could ask your husband's secretary to pick up the dry cleaning or watch your baby for an hour had past.

Obviously I don't know the details of the arrangement. It is clear that the folks who work for this company consider each other to be "family" so I suppose its possible that this is a task she volunteered for. But it seems to me that there is a line there that maybe shouldn't be crossed. The assistant is a bright, talented young woman with a gift for organizing chaos. Its pretty clear to everyone that works with her that this is an entry level position and that one day she's going to move on to bigger things within this fairly small company. I hope, for her sake, that she doesn't feel obligated to do this in order to make a good impression with the owner. I also hope, for her sake, that her willingness to watch this child for an hour or so here or there doesn't get her pigeonholed as "the sitter" and make it impossible for her to move up when the time comes.

Edited to add: Work It Mom just pointed me toward this article from last week's Boston Globe: Bringing up Babies at Work. It kind of runs around the edges of some of the issues I'm talking about here. (Also, I had no idea that Zutano was based out of Cabot, VT.)