Children Welcome

childrenwelcome.JPGKids can get a bad rap; presumed to be whiny or on the brink of tantrum, and I was reminded yesterday during a meeting with the folks over at Daily Grommet (an in depth look at them is forthcoming on this site) of how appreciative I am when people: a) trust my judgment about my kid, and b) welcome children without the aforementioned presumptions.

The situation was this: I was invited to a meeting scheduled for a day that I’m without childcare. And while I suppose I could have cast around for a babysitter (admittedly though, our options are very limited…), having met some of the Daily Grommet folks at BlogHer Boston, plus knowing that their offices are in Lexington (i.e., not corporate downtown), plus suspecting that Laurel would think it was a fun little adventure to accompany mommy to a work meeting, I decided to do something I never would have done during my postdoctoral fellowship…I asked whether I could bring my daughter to the meeting. I explained that Laurel tends to be well mannered, and that she’d actually probably hide behind me the whole time, but that I would understand if they didn’t want a kid at the meeting. I also said that if they were in fact OK with her attending, I would vacate the meeting if Laurel proved too distracting.

I couldn’t have received a more sincere and enthusiastic response from outreach manager Barbara Gordon, who welcomed Laurel to the meeting with open arms and asked whether there were any dietary issues she should know about. I truly was overwhelmed by her kindness, and even more so yesterday, when I arrived at the meeting to find that Barbara not only brought in toys and markers and paper for Laurel, but also set out kid friendly foods and juice boxes amidst the pretty lunch spread.

While I chatted with the other attendees, Laurel engrossed herself in Barbara’s toys, then during the lunch meeting, she sat on my lap, munching on food then working on an activity book. All told, she let mommy talk with the grownups for well over an hour (particularly impressive given that before we arrived she said that she didn’t want me to talk to anyone except her). Even more impressive was once the meeting broke, Laurel went off to the next room to explore some of the cool gizmos in Daily Grommet’s product area (note: she’s normally firmly attached to my side when we’re in unfamiliar territory). I saw another DG staffer kindly engage with Laurel about a colorful gadget she had picked up, and I again felt incredibly grateful for the welcoming space we were in.

Obviously, this was a 2-hour window of the day, and taking one’s child to work is not an optimal regular solution, particularly in a typical office environment. But in reflecting about this event, as well as about the many moms I saw deftly nursing or caring for babies while participating in sessions at BlogHer Boston, and the moms I know who have left graduate school or work environments that offered zero flexibility in special mom circumstances, I felt more strongly than ever that employers and parents alike could gain enormously if a welcoming environment were afforded (assuming realistic parental judgment about the viability of the scenario given child's age, temperament, work or school environment, etc.). Temperament and age of child obviously are huge factors, but perhaps the assumptions of whine and tantrum, and subsequent non-welcome, also don’t allow kids to rise to the occasion. Indeed, last night as we recounted the day’s adventures to Jon, Laurel said, “I liked being at the work meeting with mommy…and the Daily Grommet people were really nice.”

My sentiments exactly.

Image: kid-inspired wall art (those are suspended toy pigs and stuffed animals) at the offices of Daily Grommet.