Monday, November 12, 2007

Poop at Work

We're back--and with a very bad story, I'm afraid. The kind of story that probably is a very good example of why babies don't really belong at work. Or in civilized society at all, come to think of it.

We've been having some trouble at work recently with our website. Or maybe trouble isn't exactly the right word; we've been trying to launch a new website for the past I-don't-even-know-how-many months. And for almost the past month of that time, we've been ready to hit the "go" button any minute, so we've really been breathless with anticipation (which is pretty hard to sustain for more than a few days, let me tell you).

Anyway, to skip over a lot of details, our website developer switched our webhost this weekend, and so this morning Working Baby and I walked into the office and were greeted by frantic coworkers who couldn't send any emails.

Now, Office Mom is no tech guru--but I'm the best we have on staff, so I'm supposed to be able to fix these kinds of problems, even when I don't have a clue. So the Baby and I got settled, left a message for the website developer, and got on with the day. The Working Baby ate some grapes, looked out the window, got reacquainted with all the toys she hadn't seen all weekend. I caught up on reading some emails. And then two things happened: the developer called back, and the Working Baby climbed up on a box of books and starting squeezing one out.

We're half-assedly working on the potty training now (she's almost eighteen months old), and if we'd been at home (or if I hadn't been on the phone) I would probably have scooped her up to try to make the potty on time. But, alas, I was resetting my outgoing mail server, so there's one more diaper in the ol' landfill (I know: and right after NBC's big Green Week. Shame on me.)

If only the route to the landfill weren't so circuitous. ... Anyway, the developer needed to check on something, and I thought there would be time to do a quick diaper change.

"C'mere, stinky," I said to the Working Baby.

"Not you," I clarified to the web developer, who has been to our office many times and so knew exactly who I was talking to. (Which makes all the difference, right?)

And then I pulled down Working Baby's tights, pulled the dirty diaper out from under her, set it aside, grabbed a wipe.

"Ok, it should be good now," said the developer. "Can you send me a test message?"

"Five seconds," I said, wiping furiously and tossing the wipes into the diaper. (You see where this is going, don't you?) Unfolded the new diaper, fastened the tabs, left the baby on the floor with her new diaper on but her tights around her ankles--there's no dignity in being a baby, really there's not--turned around to the keyboard, fired off a test email.

Who says you can't do it all?

I'll tell you who says: the Working Baby, who by the time I turned back around was sitting up with a ball of poop and smeary wipes in her little hand. Which, seeing my face, she promptly dropped onto the carpet--just as the office manager (who objects to that title and shall forthwith be referred to as the administrative assistant, at least until I come up with a suitable nickname) wandered into the room and scooped the Working Baby up to pull up her tights and rearrange her skirt. Which is, of course, totally not her job, though someone a lot bitchier than I am might credibly make the case that that was the kind of assistance a certain administrator most needed at that particular moment.

Am I completely ashamed? You bet.

Did I apologize and swear on the Working Baby's life that this was the first free-range poop the office had known? I did.

Is that true? Barring a few unavoidable baby-poop explosions, it is.

Did the administrative assistant believe me? I'm pretty sure she did not.

(Though for the record, she tells a pretty hilarious potty training story of her own that involves her actually catching poop on the fly, in the front doorway of her house, while talking to a contractor. So it's not like her hands are perfectly clean...)

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Grand Welcome to the New Office Manager!

Granted, it's probably not every office orientation meeting that features a sixteen-month-old streaker, but then, couldn't most orientations use some livening up?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Working Baby's New Pastime

We were somewhat chagrined last weekend, on an outing to the zoo, to realize that the Working Baby is rather loud for a person her size. She spent much of the day perched on Dad, Esq.'s arm, pointing at animals, plants, streams of water, other children, and crowing gleefully. Admittedly, the zoo is not exactly a quiet place, but still, trailing behind my family in the buildings, jockeying with the other moms pushing child-less strollers (someone's gotta do it, I guess), I could hear the Working Baby's squeal above the not insignificant noise of the crowd.

Since she doesn't have many words yet, the squeal is pretty primal--it sounds sort of like something from Jurassic Park, maybe a cross between the adorable, creaky sound the cute-but-vicious little guys in the second (or is it the third?) movie make, crossed with the T-rex's roar (but much, much quieter). And sometimes it's just the kind of high-pitched scream the humans on the island make as they're being devoured by the dinosaurs.

Thankfully, her noises are generally happy ones; but still ... they're loud. And since her big sound lately is "B," there's a percussive element that by the end of a day at the zoo starts to jab directly into the front of the brain.

There was a street fair outside our office a few weeks ago, and since the Working Baby had been all about pointing out balloons in her books, and there was a private school handing out balloons practically next door, I got her one. Big mistake: who would have thought a balloon would be a loud toy? She spent the rest of the afternoon walking around screaming BALLOON--or, at least, her version of that word, which is a little short on the LLOON part but still sounds significantly different from her version of BALL, of which she has two at the office. Very small ones. And when she learns how to throw them, they will leave. But in the meantime she enjoys a little game of fetch with the Cool Boss when he stops by of an afternoon. Really, sometimes it's like having an office puppy. (More about that later: have I mentioned that apparently 20% of American employers let employees bring dogs to work?!)

Anyway, Cool Coworker has been holding the Working Baby up to the window (we're on the second floor) to look out at people lately, and the other day she started trying balancing on part of a radiator to get a good view on her own--which was a disaster waiting to happen, especially since the radiator in question is in the other room. So I've set her up a box under the window next to my desk, and she can climb up and look out the window and--this is the not-so-good part--yell out when she sees BOYS! or BABIES! or BALLS! or BALLOONS! or DOGS! But it does keep her busy for a good long time.

Except today she made a proud squawk, and I looked up to see she had climbed from the box on to the top of the garbage can next to her, which is maybe a little to high and too unstable for her to jump down from, so we may need to tweak this system a bit...

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Is Office Mom Paranoid?

So, a couple of months ago our office manager quit to get married and move away for the summer. This was sad for several reasons, not least that as a former anthropology student she was very keen on the opportunity to work in an office with a baby--she found it to be an organic antidote to years of being artificially surrounded by only her age-peers at college.

And, without getting too wubby-wubby and starry-eyed about it, this is an excellent point: the world is full of people of different ages, sizes, races, etc. etc. etc., and shouldn't the workplace reflect that? Do people become useless at 65? Does it make sense to regard women who have had children--which, let's face it, is still by far the majority of women--as some kind of liability? (More about that later.) As if, by having stopped to take care of their children--or, increasingly, aging parents--they have somehow given up their minds?

Anyway, we've been in the market for a new office manager. And one of the things you quickly realize at a small nonprofit--maybe anywhere--is that finding the right person to fill a position involves a sort of alchemy. We, for example, need someone who's flexible but responsible; detail-oriented but adaptable; experienced and competent but not too expensive and not in need of benefits--and if you think this is an easy combination of attributes to find, well, I'm guessing you haven't been interviewing job candidates lately.

But we thought we had found someone. Or rather, my Cool Boss (as I'm dubbing him, because a. I'm no dummy and b. he actually is pretty cool) thought he had found someone--as it happened, I didn't know he was actually seriously interviewing candidates until he popped his head in the door the other afternoon and said there was someone he wanted me to meet.

It was 4:30 or thereabouts, and the Working Baby and I had been at the office since 11 or so. It should be acknowledged that because it was rather late in the afternoon of a hot, stuffy day, the W.B. was not at her absolutely most charming. And, since no one else was around--I had had a meeting earlier, but the intern who would have been in the office had called off sick--I had sort of let her wreak havoc on the office: she had emptied her toy hamper completely, so there were bits of plastic and stuffed animals and wooden blocks spread out all over the floor, and she had pulled her collection of library books from the shelf and scattered them everywhere. Admittedly, this is not exactly an unusual state of affairs. but when there are people around and particularly when we're expecting company, I do tidy up regularly, make sure the books are shelved and the toys in the hamper, etc.

So Cool Boss popped his head in, with our newly-hired office manager in tow, to introduce her--a woman who had taken years out to raise her now-grown children and had recently retired from managing a small business's office but had discovered she wasn't quite ready to retire. Potentially just what we were looking for.

She was wonderful--friendly, polite, eager to get started, excited about being able to wear jeans to work. She even coaxed a smile out of the rather cranky W.B. We made plans for her starting date, shook hands, smiled all around. ...

A day later she emailed Cool Boss to say she had changed her mind, that there were "things" she hadn't considered fully when agreeing to take the job.

And, yes, as a defensive mother, the first conclusion I leap to is that the "things" were the mess and the small child squealing and tugging on the refrigerator door.

I'm conflicted, though: after all, this is a mother, someone who dropped out of the workforce for 17 years to raise children. Surely she wasn't shaken by a little squealing?

Or maybe--because it's no secret that women can be harder on other women than even men, sometimes--she believes babies should simply squeal at home, or in daycare?

(Did I apologize for the cranky W.B. and for the mess and try to explain that they were unusual? Of course I did. And would I have believed me? In the absence of other evidence, perhaps not.)

Or, third, fourth, fifth possibilities: she didn't like the colors of our office walls; our dingy and unvacuumed carpet spoke volumes about our general disorderliness; our somewhat lengthy discussion of the computer programs with which she's unfamiliar convinced her she wasn't right for the job; she contemplated the abysmal parking situation in our chichi neighborhood and decided it would be a major hassle; she got caught in traffic on the way home from the interview and rethought the commute; she did the math and figured it wasn't worth her while to take the job; she just didn't like us, whether as an organization or individually.

And since once can't exactly write back to a gracious "thanks for the job, but no thanks" note to ask for clarification, I suppose we'll never know.

But I'll always secretly worry that it was the baby...

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tushes at Work

Here's the thing about taking a new baby to work: it's actually pretty easy ... at least, on the baby. Most newborns don't really care too much about where they are, as long as their basic needs are taken care of. And since you're not sending the baby to work alone, you're covered here.

(Now, taking the baby to work may not be easy for you, but this is a slightly different issue, and I'll tackle that another time.)

Newborns don't really do much besides sleep, eat, and go to the bathroom. Baby sleep is good; it lets you get work done. And eating is pretty easy, too, assuming you're breastfeeding and it's going well. Granted, you'll probably have to stay more or less in one place while you're doing it (though in a crisis or if you just really, really can't wait to get something from the printer, it is possible to walk around and nurse at the same time), and you may have to give up one arm for a few minutes, but generally this is not such a big deal.

But to change a diaper, you pretty much have to stop everything. And with infants, sometimes you have to stop everything NOW. (And a few times, you may have to stop everything, change the baby, and then change your own clothes--seriously, take an extra set of clothes to work and leave them there, just in case of baby explosions. And even one set may not be enough, especially for the baby. I had a couple days when I thought I might have to send an intern out on a Baby Gap run.)

In most cases, though, the question is simply, where are you going to change that diaper? And what are you then going to do with it?

Ideally, I suppose, you would change the baby in the bathroom (I think there's some set of "taking your baby to work" rules somewhere out there that insists on this, as a courtesy to co-workers, etc. etc., and that makes sense), but that assumes you have a bathroom big enough to change a baby in, which my office does not. Ideally, of course, your spacious office bathroom would also have a diaper-changing station in it--but I'm guessing there aren't too many of those out there, either.

There's always the floor, though with a tiny little baby this may feel a little precarious. (Plus there's the whole dignity factor, which may or may not matter to you.) If you can swing it, the best solution here is probably a port-a-crib with a diaper-changing attachment. True, this takes up a fair amount of space, but since it serves many functions, it's terrific if you have the room for it.

The diaper-changing thing on mine was sort of a little box with rigid sides and a flat, padded bottom. It cleaned up easily, put the baby up higher than she was in the bassinette attachment (I suppose you could also change a baby in the bassinette, except maybe in the case of the worst explosions, though since it's lower, it would be a little awkward and hard on the back; by the way, if you're getting a port-a-crib for the office, you definitely want one with the bassinette attachment), and was a nice place to store the nursing pillow when I wasn't using it. I forget what the weight limit was, but it worked until Working Baby was pretty big and solid and easy to put on the floor. (By the time the baby is crawling and scooting around, you're going to end up on the floor no matter what, dignity be damned. And, to tell the truth, this is the point at which many offices with official bring-baby-to-work policies make employees come up with other arrangements).

As to where to put the diaper after you've changed it, this one is a little harder. Maybe if you're in a big office with a daily cleaning service, you can just throw them in your trash, except for the stinkers. We have a once-a-month cleaning service (oh, how I love cleaning day and wish it came more often!) and otherwise take out the trash ourselves, which means it doesn't get done until absolutely necessary. (In a related note, dumping and/or digging in the wastebaskets is one of the Working Baby's least adorable activities, which is another reason not to put the dirty diapers there...)

When the diapers were smaller, I bundled them up pretty tightly, closed them up in ziploc sandwich bags, and threw them away at the end of the day in the garbage can out on the street. The really messy ones I ran out to throw away immediately. Not a perfect system, and there was more than one day I got to the street and realized I didn't have the diapers, and even a few days when I didn't realize I didn't have them, and then felt guilty all night after remembering, even though they were non-stinky diapers bundled up in baggies and so actually not all that disgusting, but still.

In the past three or four months, I've been alternating disposable diapers with gDiapers. (gDiapers are biodegradable, if you have a farm-sized compost pile going, and flushable. Also very cute, particularly in the new colors they just came out with. Also not particularly inexpensive, especially if you pay to have them shipped to you. But good for the planet--or at least the conscience, and can you really put a price tag on that?) The gDiapers are ok, and since our office toilet is pretty hardy, it mostly works to flush them, which helps with the "what to do with the diaper" problem, though the trade-off is spending a little extra time in the bathroom stirring up a bowl full of diaper sludge. Plus, one time we had a gDisaster, and that didn't make the downstairs neighbors very happy, and since then I've been a little wary of the gDiaper...

The disposables, I mostly dispose of right away outside, since it's summer.

Now, the big question is how to work potty-training into the day (and to fit a potty into our tiny bathroom)...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Boobs at Work

One of the biggest benefits of taking your baby to work--if you're a mom, at least--is that you can breastfeed on demand. Not that you can't pump if you don't take your baby to work--see, for example, The Milk Memos, a book assembled in a lactation room at IBM--but having the baby right there obviously makes the whole business easier.

While we're on the subject, a few words about what a good thing breastfeeding is: breast milk helps babies develop immunities, keeps them lean, may make them smarter, and may even help prevent certain kinds of disease down the road. Breastfed babies have a lower risk of diabetes, more robust digestive systems, and may have lower cholesterol. And for moms, breastfeeding helps get rid of that pregnancy weight, helps lower the risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancers, reduces the risk of osteoporosis, and even cuts down on the risk of postpartum anxiety and depression. Plus, it just makes sense: a woman has a baby, then she lactates, and coincidentally enough, the baby's gotta eat...

To sum up, nursing is healthy and natural and good, and airlines and Victoria's Secret employees and everyone else who has issues should get over their hangups. And yes, we should all remember that breasts are also healthy and natural and good, and women all have them, and so on and so forth.


No matter how relaxed your office is and how comfortable you are with your coworkers of whatever sex, it's slightly less than professional, shall we say, to show everyone your tits.

How do you avoid this?

One way, I suppose, would be to have a special space set aside in the office for nursing--and if you have one, great. Though I suspect having to leave your desk to nurse would get annoying, not only for you but possibly for coworkers, maybe in the same way one would develop a simmering resentment toward the office chain-smoker who's always ducking out for a smoke. I know, it's totally not the same thing, but the net effect might be similar.

Or, if you have your own office, you could simply close the door.

Since my office is only two rooms (plus a very small bathroom), I don't have either of these options.


I have the world's best NURSING PONCHO.

Not to brag, but it really is. How great is it? Let me count the ways:

1. It's plain black cotton jersey (unlike some of those "privacy" ponchos that are bright red with clowns and balloons all over them--I'm sorry, can someone please explain the logic here??)

2. It's basically a big circle with a big (but not too big) neck hole cut in it, so there's ample coverage all the way around. You can pull your shirt up to your chin underneath, and no one will see your leftover pregnancy belly (Not that you're going to have one, for long, if you're nursing AND shlepping a kid to work with you...)

3. On a trip to South America that involved six separate flights, we didn't come anywhere near being kicked off a plane. (And believe me, I was ready for that fight.)

4. On the same trip and many other occasions, people have walked up to me as I was nursing, have engaged in conversation, and then have stopped to look around and ask where the baby is. Yes, it's that good. And, finally,

5. it's darn cute when you drop it over the Working Baby and let her toddle around in it. Like she belongs at Hogwarts, or something.

Unfortunately, I have to share the sad, sad news that one short year later, apparently it's impossible to buy the nursing poncho I bought. It was from Motherhood Maternity, the actual brand was Motherhood, and now they don't sell them anymore. And no one sells anything exactly like it. I know--I've looked. Because the world's best nursing poncho would definitely be my go-to baby shower present, if only I could find it. (There are, of course, other options, which are also pretty good, and I've listed some of them on the recommendations page.)

The Working Baby is fourteen months old now, and still nursing before bed and before nap time, and occasionally just for comfort when she's cranky or teething. (I know, I know: Office Mom is NOT a pacifier. Except sometimes, when I am.) Admittedly, there are times when I'm ready to be done with the whole business, when I feel like she's draining the marrow from my bones (though apparently, given that lower risk of osteoporosis I just cited, I'm imagining this one). Plus, lately she's started dragging the poncho to my desk and holding it up to me, like a dog would with a leash, which makes me feel the tiniest bit like I'm getting played, or at least like she's getting too old for this. But here's the thing: this is how the Working Baby goes down for a nap. And I'm sure I could rock her or sing to her or work out another routine--and will have to someday--but for now, this is so much easier. And I get a lot more work done this way, too--I can nurse her while I type (at least, if she's nursing on the left side; the right is a little trickier, since I'm right-handed), get up to dump her in her crib as she's dozing off, and hardly skip a beat.