Friday, March 19, 2010

Babies at Work


I taught a class today, created a learning object, talked with colleagues and conquered my fear of breastfeeding in front of students.

Two weeks ago my head of department gave me the okay to return to work with Eleanor on an informal basis. I was excited initially, but then found myself unsure about how to return. What would I do when I got there? Would my bubby and myself just be a distraction? Would parents make phone calls if they found out I had fed my baby while in the same room as their teenager?

By complete accident I purchased a book, via my kindle, all about returning to work. "Babies at Work" by Carla Moquin1 talks in depth about setting boundaries, being realistic about productivity, understanding the need for a transition period, and knowing when your baby has outgrown the program.

Inspired by the book I sent an email to my departmental head explaining that I needed to be given something to do, rather than just turning up and visiting. I want to assist in classes as well as help with resource development. My email coincided with him being away and feeling like his senior students were being neglected. That was how I ended up taking his class the next day.

I rehearsed speeches in my head about how natural it is to breastfeed, I prepared anecdotes about my brother seeing more of me than ever before and I prepared to lecture students about maturity. Instead, when I finally stood in front of the class, I simply said "um boys, if she needs a feed I will. But I will let you know...". Not my most eloquent speech, but you cannot say I wasn't straight to the point. It turned out she did need one feed. I was in the middle of helping a female student with a programming issue. I had thought I would sit in the corner of the classroom away from students if she did need a feed. However the male students were all facing away from me, I asked the female student that I was working with if she minded if I fed while I helped her, I told the whole class that I was about to feed her, and then I did.

Once she was on, which was accomplished as discretely as possible, I was able to finish solving the programming problem. The rest of the lesson went just as smoothly. One of the boys laughed when I gave her head a few kisses as I sat down to help him with a problem. I told him that his mother would have kissed him the same way when he was a baby. This prompted some gentle jibing by his classmates that she still does.

One of the girls asked if she could hold my baby. I had already thought about this and declined. I believe it is important to have some boundaries and policies in place regarding having a child at work. One of these is that students will not be allowed to hold my baby. I am going to take my time working on the rest, including having my head of department review them.

At the moment I am kind of operating on an it is easier to apologise way of doing this. I am unsure of what procedure I should follow. There are two hundred staff at our school and I have never even met the executive principal, although I would like to make a time to present my case to him. My thoughts are that at the moment I am being invited into the school by a senior member of staff, who is well aware that I will have my baby with me, and that I will feed her when necessary. I would love to undertake some paid work when my maternity leave is over. However my baby will be seven months old at that stage, she will be beginning to be mobile which might not make for the best work scenario. At any rate, I would like to be prepared with my own personal guidelines, as well as evidence from other resources, for the time that I do talk to the executive principal.

I enjoyed being at work today. I created useful resources for my colleagues, I was able to notice classroom issues that I could relay to the regular teacher, I was able to see and help students with their work in the classroom. I loved that I was able to use the skills that I have, and I love that I did not have to be separated from my beautiful four month old daughter in order to do so.

1Moquin, C. (2008). Babies at Work: Bringing New Life to the Workplace. Lulu.

2 comments:

  1. That is so incredibly wonderful to hear your day at work went so well! I am really happy that breastfeeding in front of your students was so comfortable, and I love your 'speech', nothing better and easier then straight to the point! :)

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  2. That sounds like it went really well! Congrats! :) Wonderful that you have put some thought into boudaries, I think you have made a good choice for your baby to be repsected as well as yourself and your students. What a great way for them to learn how normal breastfeeding is. Probably better in the end that your 'speech' was short and to the point, they probably won't think as much about it that way :) Keep up the awesome work while you all adjust- hope it goes smoothly.
    JD

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