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How Baby-Friendly Is Your Workplace?

Alberta Councillor Brings Newborn To City Meetings

Having kids really does put pressure on your career. Finding a work-life-family balance is one that every parent struggles with, some more than others.

For many it's a cost/benefit equation that must be performed to see if both parents can continue to work once the cost of daycare is subtracted from one spouse's income. Is that take home pay enough to put the day-to-day care of your children in someone else's hands? It's a calculation we all do.

In the end, many of us do find it worthwhile to return to work. But what do you do when your kids get sick, your teachers go on strike, dentist appointments etc.? Parents can end up burning their own sick days, holiday time, and employer good-will quickly.

So is there a time when bringing your kids to work is a solution? Two high-profile cases recently have seen elected officials bring infants into government meetings.

Sana Hassainia, a Quebec NDP MP, brought her infant son into the House of Commons to take part in a parliamentary vote. When MPs scrambled over each other to take photos of the child, Hassainia was asked to remove her child from the chamber.

“The rules are that no strangers are allowed in,” Hassainia told CBC News. “So certainly, yes, my baby is a stranger. But, it’s not like he was a threat to national security.”

The Speaker ultimately ruled the infant wasn't a distraction, but rather the Members of Parliament fussing to take pictures of the child was the problem.

Hassaina, who was pregnant when she was campaigning for office, has said she won't do it again.

This week another elected official is causing a disruption by bringing an infant to work. Kara Westerlund is a city councillor in Brazeau County, Alberta. She took a week off when her daughter was born in January, but has since been bringing her to day long council meetings.

Westerlund has drawn the ire of fellow councillor, Pat Monteith, who wrote to the local Breton booster newspaper with her displeasure.

"It appears that our new council chambers and meeting room has been turned into a nursery,"  wrote Monteith. "I am finding it disruptive and distracting. More importantly, how do you feel about your tax dollars going to pay someone to care for her own child?"

There are challenges every parent has to face when looking after our kids. We all have to make sacrifices when balancing work and family, for some that sacrifice might have to be not taking on very committed careers when having a young family.

Some argue letting kids in the workplace is a way to help the economy get back on it's feet. The Parenting In The Workplace Institute works with companies to create family friendly environments where infants are in the office.

Zutano, a children's clothing manufacturer, allows children in the workplace for the first year. Considering the company, and the fact it was started by a husband and wife with kids under feet, it makes sense for their culture.

These sorts of policies might make sense in the US, where maternity benefits last weeks, not months, and parents are expected back to work much sooner than in Canada. Here, families can take up to 12 months off work (maternity or paternity leave). Granted E-I benefits while on mat leave are not the same as pulling a full salary, but it is still a great perk.

What's your take? Should elected officials be allowed to bring infants into public meetings? Would you like to take a pack and play and put it in your office?