Dr. Elizabeth Baker, who owns Maryland Farms Chiropractic in Brentwood, Tenn., was walking past the desk of her employee, Melody Blackwell, when she spotted the new mom bringing new meaning to the term multitasking. Blackwell had recently returned from a 3-month maternity leave and was bringing her baby, Nora-Jo, into the office once a week while working from home the other four days. In an instant, Dr. Baker knew she had to capture the moment and share it on Maryland Chiropractic’s Facebook page.
“That was one of the first few days Melody brought the baby in the office,” Dr. Baker told Yahoo Lifestyle. “I honestly was taking it to post onto our office Facebook page for our patients who had been asking about how mom and baby were doing since she had been gone for three months. I wanted to share that with our little following for the office. I never thought it would get so many comments and shares!”
In the post, the chiropractor praised the “sweet and content” baby as well as Blackwell, who “makes it look easy.” She asked people to share the photo — and to share their own photos — to encourage “more small and large businesses to see this is doable and should be allowed more often.”
Dr. Baker said it was she who suggested that Blackwell work from home and bring the infant in once a week for a half or full day, mainly so she could attend the weekly staff meeting. In fact, the conversation started as soon as she learned her employee of more than four years was expecting.
“Once she got pregnant I knew we needed to figure out a way to make this work,” Dr. Baker said. “We had nine months to plan, at least!”
While Blackwell was on maternity leave, Dr. Baker says she and her other two employees started shuffling the responsibilities and trying to pick up the slack.
“We did have to bug Melody sometimes,” the chiropractor admits, but she says they largely realized that a lot of what Blackwell does — insurance billing — could be done remotely. So when she revisited the conversation with Blackwell at the end of the 3-month leave, she officially extended the offer, and Blackwell accepted.
“I was excited when she said that was a possibility,” Blackwell told Yahoo Lifestyle. “I didn’t know if it would be.” She said her plan, if Dr. Baker hadn’t had such a flexible policy, was to work something out to have family watch her — but she assumed she’d still have to bring the baby in from time to time. “I knew it was going to be hard for me to leave her when she was so young,” she added.
Blackwell says she empathizes with moms who don’t have that option. “I know it’s hard to drop them off at daycare when they’re just 2 or 3 months old.”
Dr. Baker told Yahoo Lifestyle that as a chiropractor, she’s holistic-minded, so she’s inherently sensitive to the fact that baby Nora-Jo, who is now 5 months old, and her mom need to stick to a strict schedule of breastfeeding, napping and diaper-changing. The flexible work schedule seemed to strike a perfect balance between honoring the mother-infant bond and retaining a valuable worker.
Blackwell says she’s grateful that she gets to care for her daughter and work full-time. She told NBC affiliate WPTV that she usually breastfeeds Nora-Jo as soon as they get to the office, and that the baby will then either nap in her mother’s lap or in a nearby carrier. “All the patients love to see her when they come in,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle. “But so far no one has asked to hold her, probably because she’s so young.”
Blackwell’s colleagues, on the other hand, love lending a hand. Dr. Baker says she and the whole staff takes turns tending to Nora-Jo when she gets fussy or if Blackwell is too busy. “We’re an all-female staff, so we all have that mothering instinct,” Dr. Baker said. “It really does take a village.”
Blackwell is also grateful for the help but says she certainly doesn’t expect it. “I know it’s not their responsibility, so I never ask them, but they want to.”
Dr. Baker said the hefty costs of daycare also inspired her decision. “It’s sometimes worse than not having a job at all,” she said. Blackwell added that she knows a couple of moms who decided the cost of daycare was outright prohibitive. “It made more financial sense for them to quit their jobs,” she said.
The chiropractor realizes that remote work situations — and allowing babies in the office — are not always possible everywhere, but she encourages employers and employees to at least open up a dialogue about it. “If it’s an environment where baby crying is okay,” she said, “I think more small and large businesses should look more toward allowing that.”
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