Cambridge Policeman’s Public “Baby-sitting Issues,” Symbolic Shift in Work+Life Reality

Kudos to Beth Teitell, a correspondent for the Boston Globe, for noticing an important, yet subtle, milestone in the evolution of work+life issues that occurred during the Cambridge police union’s press conference to discuss the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  It was announced that the president of the Police Association couldn’t attend because of “baby-sitting issues.”

Here’s a preview of and link to her 8/6/09 article, “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby-sitting Issues: As work habits change, moms–and dads–juggle child care demands,” for which I was interviewed:

You’ve come a long way, baby-sitting issues

As work habits change, moms – and dads – juggle child-care demands

By Beth Teitell, Globe Correspondent  |  August 6, 2009

Given the gravity of the situation, the comment went mostly unnoticed. Except by working parents and work-life balance advocates, that is. To them, it called out loud and clear.

Attorney Alan McDonald was introducing the cops who’d assembled to show support for the officer who’d arrested Henry Louis Gates Jr. when McDonald dropped this surprise: The president of the Cambridge Multicultural Police Association couldn’t attend the press conference, the lawyer explained, because he had “baby-sitting issues.’’

The statement – delivered casually and causing no stir onstage – shows the degree to which the workplace has changed to recognize the needs of working parents, according to human resources professionals. And although they’re quick to add that difficulties persist for working parents, that moment at the podium would seem to mark a notable if slight shift.

“It moves [child-care issues] from an excuse and a failing to a statement of fact that we all deal with,’’ said Cali Yost, author of “Work + Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You.’’

“I think it’s very powerful,’’ she said, particularly since the “baby-sitting issues’’ claim was not only made in regard to a man, but one working in a traditionally male-dominated field “where life and work never used to intersect at all publicly.’’

The conversation about men and child care has picked up since Barack Obama took office, Yost added, although the president himself may have an easier time being an involved dad than do his staffers, according to a July 4 New York Times story, “ ‘Family Friendly’ White House Is Less So for Aides.’’

Time was, of course, when child-care problems were thought to be the mother’s alone. It’s hard to imagine a “Mad Men’’-era dad in a gray flannel suit hustling home because his child had to leave school with a fever.

But it’s not just gender roles and parental expectations that have changed in recent years. Our jobs have transformed, too. Armed with BlackBerrys and laptops and VPN networks that allow employees to work from home during the day – and at night and on weekends – there’s a growing acceptance that, for many white-collar professionals, the work will get done, no matter where or when it happens, said Alexandra Levit, career coach and author of “They Don’t Teach Corporate in College.’’

“People have to get their work done,’’ she said, “but there’s not this concentrated 9-to-5 you have to be there.’’

That’s a helpful change for many families who have two parents working full time.

“We are now in a world where the typical family has all their adults working in the labor market, which means there is not a parent home to deal with a sick child or a child-care crisis,’’ Jane Waldfogel, a professor of social work and public affairs at Columbia University School of Social Work, wrote in an e-mail to the Globe. “I think parents speaking up about this is a very positive development – so long as both men and women are able to do so.’’

Of course, that’s much harder for blue-collar or hourly workers, Yost points out. “Right now too many hourly and non-exempt workers don’t have access to the work-life flex tools that [managers] have, even though their jobs could accommodate some form of all of them.’’ (Click here for the rest of the article)

One thought on “Cambridge Policeman’s Public “Baby-sitting Issues,” Symbolic Shift in Work+Life Reality

  1. That is very intersting. It’s nice to hear that daddy’s are judging are a little too.

    Once it becomes a parent issue and not a “mom” issue, companies should start to work harder to help workers find a good life work “fit”.

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