Have you seen this pic?
If not, I’d like to introduce you to Professor Sydney Engelberg. He teaches an Organizational Behavior class at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. That baby he’s holding? Not his. Nor is he a prop illustrating Social Identity Theory (whatever that is). Rather, that baby belongs to one of Engelberg’s students. He started crying during the class (as babies do) and — as the mother was preparing to leave — the professor took the baby, calmed him down and continued teaching the class.
Let’s just pause here for a second and let that sink in.
This is a professor who not only encourages his students to bring their babies to class, but is quite comfortable lending a hand when they get a little restless so that their mommies can stay in class and continue learning.
My first impression of this pic and the above story was: “That’s so awesome!” Literally. That’s what I posted when it popped up in my newsfeed. It has since gone viral (more than one million views on Imgur alone) so I’ve obviously seen it a few more times. While I still think it’s awesome, I’ve also started to feel kind of bothered by what its popularity implies.
People love babies… in theory. You know, when they aren’t crying, pooping or spitting up.
They love moms too, if the billions spent on flowers, chocolates and greeting cards a couple of weekends ago are any indication. However, it’s not often that mothers are encouraged to bring their babies into environments that aren’t explicitly child-centered. I’ve seen people giving mothers dirty looks when their kids melt down on public transportation or in stores, so the idea of being allowed to carry a child to a university lecture is pretty radical, let alone the idea of a professor who’s willing to soothe a cranky baby in the middle of it.
Isn’t that a problem, though? Shouldn’t it be a fairly normal thing? I mean, if moms are working, studying, eating out and getting pedicures just like other human beings, what’s so weird about the idea that their children might be with them? And why is it so strange that someone would decide to help a mother with her anxious baby rather than let her leave and miss out?
With mothers leaving the workforce in droves due to poor childcare options, maybe we ought to look towards Professor Engelberg as an example rather than a marvel. In the past 18 months, I’ve worked full-time, part-time and freelance. Regardless of my employment situation, or how carefully I planned everything out, one childcare hiccup could (and often did) toss everything up in the air. Add to that the fact that having a child actually damages a woman’s image in the workplace (due to the stereotype that a mother must be unreliable and distracted by said child) and you might understand why only a few of my clients even know I have a daughter.
But what if we lived in a world that was kind to mothers on a daily basis? Imagine a world in which all jobs provided childcare services so that you could drop your child off as you walked into the office and work all day with the peace of mind that comes with knowing your child is being well cared for nearby. Or, what if more jobs offered flexible hours and results-based appraisals, so it wouldn’t matter so much how many hours you spent working, but whether or not you get the job done. Seems to me everyone would win in such a scenario — from the employer, who’s getting results, to the mother, who can work secure in the knowledge that her child is safe or can flex her hours so she gets to spend more time with her little one.
Are those unreasonable suggestions? They shouldn’t be. Mothers tend to be some of the most organized, diligent and focused people a company can hire. You have to be when you’re responsible for the life of another human being, and then there’s the added incentive of needing to keep food on the table. Why wouldn’t a savvy employer invest in that?
I remain impressed by Professor Engelberg’s support for the mothers in his class, but as a mother who refuses to give up the work she loves, I demand more. I want a world where his actions are mundane because everyone does it. I don’t expect to encounter such a world by the time I leave the workforce, but I have hopes we’ll be closer by the time my daughter becomes a working mom herself.
What did you make of the pic? What are your thoughts about support for studying/working moms? Tell us in the comments!
Calisa is the exhausted mother of an energetic, (generally) good-natured and ridiculously sharp toddler whose sole mission in life is obviously to keep mommy on her toes. She spends much of her time reading board books, changing diapers and saying “Ah-ah-ah! Mommy said ‘NO’!” while counting down the hours to bedtime.