By Jennifer Wissman
Thursday, May 8, 2014
The gradual downtrend in U.S. workforce participation by women with children suggests an inevitable disconnect between newborns and professional performance. But what if employers treated women with newborns like this?
Credit: Jens Hessmann
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WOMENSENEWS)--There's been a gradual downtrend among U.S. women with children dropping out of the workforce. Presumably that's due in part to the way workplaces and babies just don't get along.
But if the employer decides to value the mother, that doesn't have to be the case. I discovered this in a very pleasant way during a two-week graduate school stint in Germany.
My professor Rachel Rosenstock is not only a linguist, but also a mother. Her newest baby, Yaron, had been born just a few weeks before the start of our "block seminar," an intensive on-site set of classes where we met with our professors and classmates, as opposed to the online format we use for most of the semester.
Despite that, the university kept her on our schedule for three days, allowing Yaron to be in the classroom with us.
She did a brilliant job lecturing with her baby on her shoulder. And no one thought it strange. Her fellow lecturer, Jens Hessmann, a male colleague who is senior to her, was incredibly helpful, holding Yaron for her at times and walking him out in the hallway if he was crying.
I was astounded! What supervisor in the United States would enable one of his professors to teach by helping to care for her baby?
Also, when we were doing research in groups, Rosenstock was always available to answer our questions and assist us. Another colleague of hers, a man who was working as our international sign interpreter, also took a turn caring for Yaron so that Rosenstock could have her hands free to assist us.
When Yaron was hungry, Rosenstock simply nursed the baby at her desk in the front of the classroom while we did our work. Amazing!
For me, this was the most beautiful and wholesome picture of a woman I have ever encountered. I will not soon forget it.
Jennifer Wissman is a professional sign language interpreter and a student in EUMASLI (European Masters in Sign Language Interpreting).
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