Chapter Eight: As Mothers Go, So Goes the Country
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As Mothers Go, So Goes the Country
Lorri pulled the baby bottle out of her briefcase and smiled. It had been a tough morning. A mother of two, Lorri woke up around 5 A.M.to the sound of the phone ringing. It was her childcare provider calling to say she was too sick to watch children that day.
The marathon began. Her children, aged six months and two years, were still in bed. That quickly changed as Lorri and her husband raced to get them to her job-sponsored “back-up day-care.” Adding to Lorri’s stress was the fact that she had an important meeting scheduled for 7:30 A.M.
They all got in the car, commuting as a family since her husband’s work was just a few blocks from her own. First stop was the Juice Joint, her husband’s restaurant, where the family breakfasted on spicy egg wraps, cereal, and, of course, juice. Lorri called the back-up daycare center from the restaurant to make sure there was space for the kids. Thankfully, space was available, and Lorri breathed a sigh of relief.
Professionally dressed, with a backpack on her back for the two-year-old’s diapers, snacks, extra clothes, wipes, one toy, and blankie—all labeled at 6 A.M. with brown masking tape— and another bag for the baby on her arm, Lorri pushed an outdated 50-lb stroller down Fifteenth Street in Washington, D.C. “It was so hard balancing all the stuff, the backpack, the bag, the babies in the stroller with my briefcase in the basket under the stroller,” recalls Lorri.
The kids, wired from the change in routine and the unfamiliar sounds of D.C. rush hour traffic, kept dropping things from the stroller as Lorri pushed them along. She picked the items up and stuffed them in any available spot as they rolled down the sidewalk.
The drop-in daycare opened at 7:30 A.M., the exact time Lorri was supposed to be at work, so she rushed to fill out the requisite forms and organize their food, toys, bottles, and blankies.
Ten blocks of speed-walking back to work brought a film of sweat to her body. Her pantsuit rumpled, she entered the conference room where her meeting was about to begin, opened her briefcase to take out the meeting materials, and found a leaking baby bottle, a bag of halved grapes, and random cheerios mixed in with her agenda.
One of the secretaries asked, “Did you forget something? Is there a baby here?” And Lorri broke the ice with her laughter.
By providing back-up daycare for children at $15 per child per day, Lorri’s company ensured she was able make it to work on this particular day in early September and do her job well. She was able to maintain a high level of work productivity, and, quite importantly, didn’t miss her meeting with several new hires. Without the company program, Lorri would likely have missed an important work day.
In the end, Lorri notes, “When you are a working mom, you really have to learn to laugh at yourself.” Being a mother has made her “more organized at work and better at time management...You really have to use time more efficiently after children, I don’t know how you’d survive if you didn’t.” Lorri is one example of how changes in workplace policies can increase worker productivity—improving a company’s bottom line while providing a structure of support for families.
Another company, Google, one of America’s fastest-growing companies, has also taken steps to keep valuable employees in their workforce as they raise families. Google offers employees with children three months maternity leave at 75 percent pay, two weeks of free meals on wheels to new parents’ homes, two weeks off with full pay for fathers, comfortable breast pumping rooms and a lactation program with free lactation consulting, special parking spaces for expectant mothers, childcare centers, healthcare coverage for the family, up to $5,000 per year for adoption assistance, and flexible work options.
Why go to all the effort? Stacy Sullivan, Director of Human Resources at Google, comments, “The goal has always been to create an amazing search engine to get information out into the world, and also to make this an incredible place to work for employees—a company where people really want to come every day, and a company that helps people take care of worries and stress at home so employees can be happy and more productive at work.” This effort is paying off.
One employee, Ninette, a real estate planning manager, started about six years ago at the company. Her daughter, now two years old, stays in the Kinderplex—Google’s workplace childcare facility—and is learning gymnastics, dance, preschool curriculum, and art while her mom works in her office, which is about five minutes away. The transition to working mother has been easy for Ninette—after having her daughter, she took three months off with 75 percent pay and came back to work part-time for a few weeks; then she later transitioned to a four-day work week until her daughter was older. Ninette kept her job at Google as her daughter grew into the cute little person she is today, practicing “Jingle Bells” for her preschool holiday show in the car, on the phone with her grandmother and aunts, and at other times only a two-year-old would think to belt out a holiday tune long after the season is over. “She really enjoys it, and it’s cool to see her taking these things home with her,” comments Ninette.
Ninette continues, sharing her feelings about the Kinderplex as well as support she’s received from Google, “It’s been a godsend for me. I drop her off, and once I’m gone she has a great time. I don’t worry about her while I’m at work, and it’s pretty flexible because the company has always stressed work/life balance from the top. If you ever have to leave early, it’s understandable.” The company was able to keep a terrific real estate planning manager, and Ninette was able to balance her job with her growing family. It’s a win/win situation.