Making It Work
Negotiating Solutions at Work
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 4 July-August 2001, p. 146-147
"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.
When my son was five months old, I began teaching a swim class for babies, keeping him with me during classes. He loves the water. He is great at helping when I demonstrate skills, and most of the parents in my classes love having him there. However, we just got a new director for the swim program and she has been pressuring me to leave my son, who is now 13 months old, in the child care facility. I'm not sure what her reasons are, but it seems as if she just believes instructor's children should not be in classes. She also seems uncomfortable about the fact that he occasionally nurses during classes. How have other mothers balanced teaching classes to other children while bring their babies or toddlers with them? Does anyone have suggestions for negotiating with our new director?
It is possible that the new director is not comfortable with a breastfeeding toddler. You might talk to her and see what her feelings are concerning breastfeeding. It may also be that she feels that your attention should be directed toward the other children in the class. Would it be possible for you to have a mother's helper with you in class, someone who could be responsible for your child if you were needed to help another mother/toddler? It seems that your little one is a real asset to the class. Seeing you interacting with your child must be a great example to other mothers and their babies. Maybe the addition of another adult to help with your baby would solve this situation. I wish you the best in your negotiations!
Everyone has tools or things that help them do their job better. Doctors have stethoscopes, writers have computers, and firefighters have trucks.
The same is true for you! I'm a former swim instructor and lifeguard. As a swim teacher, your "baby" is your tool. He can be used to show the other mothers how to hold their baby for the swim classes. He is also a living, breathing example of how the benefit of learning to swim continues to a toddler. Who knows, it might even spark interest for a toddler swim class! Beyond the scope of swimming, you are keeping your baby with you and showing the other mothers the benefits of breastfeeding. I would tell the director that your child is your assistant and helps you teach the class. Also if you have a few regulars in your class, I would encourage them to tell the director what they think of having your child in the class. A few positive comments to the director from class members such as, "Wow, I think it's great she has a live model!" could go a long way to making her see the positive in the situation!
Isn't it frustrating when the rules change with a new boss? Being direct may be your best option. In my experience with juggling breastfeeding and working, it often worked for me to simply state my position. In my case, I either needed a flexible schedule that would allow me to meet my baby's needs or I would quit. I didn't share this with my boss as an ultimatum, simply as the facts.
Faced with the hassle of hiring a new employee to replace one with years of experience and special skills, many employers will be willing to be more flexible. I think women make the mistake sometimes of thinking that the employer is the one with all the power in negotiations. I'm sure you have special certification and experience that will be hard to duplicate in your community. Good luck!