In the Office: A Look at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh’s Babies in the Workplace Program

Amiena Mahsoob and her sonToday is the first day that my work isn’t being punctuated by coos, and the rhythms of feeding and burping my four-month old baby boy. He has started daycare, and I am back to working as most adults with children do: kid-free.

Though my husband and I were lucky to have found a wonderful daycare early in my pregnancy, we soon realized that the start of the baby “academic” year and the end of my very generous maternity leave would leave us without childcare for over a month and a half. So for the past seven weeks, my son and I have benefited from an innovative approach to this gap in childcare: a Babies in the Workplace program.

I first heard about baby-friendly workplaces when an acquaintance worked alongside her infant at Rhiza.  Shortly after I learned I was pregnant, I stumbled across the idea again when reading this article written in response to Melissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo! bringing her newborn to work. As summertime is when my colleagues and I at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh collaborate and plan our school year programs, working from home for seven weeks or taking additional time off were not options for me. When I proposed the idea to our CEO and Vice President, they took to it immediately. After ironing out the details and referencing a Babies in the Workplace template from the Parenting in the Workplace Institute, our counsel gave it the okay. Audrey Russo, our board chair, who was responsible for implementing babies at work programs at Rhiza and Maya nearly a decade ago, was delighted.

10477114_10152587387894253_3906887940984784147_oSo it was that my little guy had the opportunity to work with me this summer. He attended our summer program for high school students, the Summer Seminar on Global Issues, where he met 36 students from twenty high schools, including three students and their chaperone from the Roots School in Islamabad. He napped through an otherwise engaging conversation via video conference with Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children, who gave a talk on the crises facing migrants and refugees in the Middle East and on our borders. He smiled when we video conferenced with our partner, Helenne Ulster, the Principal of United Church School in South Africa. He giggled during another video conference with our partner school in Taiwan. He made comments during meetings with Pittsburgh-area teachers. He even had the chance to babble to students in Bangladesh.

Though our organization is small, we work in a large bank building in downtown Pittsburgh. As my son and I came into the building each day, everyone from bankers to security guards greeted our youngest summer intern. It was delightful, and a great way to start the day.

Working with an infant, I found, was both more difficult and much easier than I anticipated. Once we both acclimated to the office, the rhythms of infant life provided a structure to the day. Anything that required concentration could happen during naps or feeding, while meetings worked best with an alert baby, who would also serve to entertain and calm the grownups in the room.

As many working parents have experienced, there simply aren’t enough great options for childcare in the United States. While bringing an infant to work isn’t for everyone, I am incredibly grateful to have had such a wonderful transition. And our youngest summer intern now has a little something for his baby CV.