Bring your baby to work, at a school? Yes it’s possible!
In 2003 Brandan and I welcomed our son Kai into the world, in Johannesburg, South Africa. I left the Red School to teach in America for two years (2000-2002) and then moved to Johannesburg (2003) where Kai was born.
In 2004, I returned to the Red School,as a part-time remedial (learning support) teacher for two days a week. I was doing my Honours in Education, specialising in special needs at the time. I was a full-time human, wife and mother and part- time teacher and student (so I spent a lot of time doing fractions and balancing equations.)
A MAJOR draw card which helped make my return to the Red School a very easy one, was an innovative reason. We had the option of bringing our babies/toddlers/children to school with us to be cared for while we were teaching.How it worked is that the parents made an arrangement with the carer/nanny and the school provided a room off the foyer in the hall as a ‘nursery’ during the day.
Kai then joined me at school under the watchful eye of Lynette Rowley from the age of 1 until he was 2, and was ready to join a playgroup. She would take him for walks, run her errands at the local mall, read her books when he slept and his books to him while he was awake, she took him to watch the shows in the school hall with all the other children, to listen in on music lessons, to play with the ducks and learn about the flaura and fauna on our school grounds. The school was his home away from home. Lynette was amazing, no- nonsense, knowledgeable and caring.
During break times, Kai would be brought to the staffroom, like the babies before and after him…and this was an area I experienced reservations about, being a slightly neurotic mom. For example, I was worried about Kai getting fed lots of odd bits and bobs by the staff. If I did not like something, I just mentioned it and eventually I just chilled out. For those staff who liked babies and children they loved interacting with them, for those who did not they just happily ignored them. It was sometimes a very tangible source of pain for staff who themselves or their spouse/ partner were struggling with infertility issues. What this did though was allow for very honest discussions about babies, fertility, infertility, death, life, child rearing and the different choices people make or are faced with. Inclusion in action was when you could see your little person, who makes you the most vulnerable, being loved and encouraged into their humanness by other people – your colleagues, friends and fellow staff, despite and inspite of the different paths we were all walking at any given time.
Lynette Rowley ( who was retired and happened to be Ann Morton’s mom) looked after more than four staff members’ children over a period of about 6 years! Sadly, when she fought a very brave fight against the cancer that claimed her life, it was so devastating to have to tell our children that she was no longer with us. She had started out a relative stranger to us and at the end of her life was a significant caregiver to all these children.
In 2007 when our daughter, Ella was born, Lena Muirhead was the angel that took care of her from when she was 1 until she was 2 years old. Lena had worked as a Teacher Aide at Pinelands North for about 10 years and had ‘retired’, she then looked after Ella and she was brilliant! She was kind, caring, gentle and absolutely focused on Ella’s needs. She remains a close family friend to this day.
The magic and the gift it was to have your child be included, I appreciated then – but today see the absolute value for the child, parent and the organisation. See, inclusion is about making space, moving from the known to the unknown and sometimes scarily the other way around too. Inclusion is about vulnerability- will people like my child, will they embarrass me, will they be safe? To discover that people are kind, they can care, if it is too much they can ignore and that is their right, is immeasurably powerful.
Babies are the most vulnerable, they must be kept safe, they must be loved, they are entitled to that. At a place of work, learning tolerance, acceptance and generosity is possible when you embrace inclusion of, in this case, the babies of the staff. We had many children who were cared for at school, more than 6 children with 4 different carers since 2003. Every parent and child would have had a different experience; there were challenges,but that is what life is all about, we would be naive to expect anything less.
Is this happening at your workplace? Suggest it, it is possible, there is no reason it should not work… Inclusion of the youngest among us who cannot speak for themselves and need to be advocated for- this is a good place to start, it’s possible!!!
💚 In loving memory of Lynette Rowley who passed away in 2011.💚