Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Heigh-Ho!: The Montessori Baby Goes to Work
Ever thought of taking your baby to work? Ever thought of doing it every day? The Montessori Baby is here to de-mystify the world of the working infant. Right after we finish sweeping away the cobwebs from our blog.
After three months of maternity leave (on April 3 of this year), I went back to work as the director of a small Montessori preschool. Before the baby, I loved my full-time job, the children, the parents, the environment. It was a beautiful thing. It had been my plan from the start to return to work with the baby in tow, but as my maternity leave ran short, I began to understand (and share) my employers' apprehensions. It was decided that part-time was best.
So, Nuvy and I went back to work part time in our Montessori school. Does going to work with your baby sound like a dream come true? It is! Sound like your worst nightmare? Yep, that too.
Are you crazy?
I don't think so. The Montessori environment is meant to mimic a family dynamic by integrating children of different ages in the same class. This allows a kind of social development seldom found in single-age-group environments. Older children seek new challenges, but they also enjoy nurturing and caring for the younger ones. Their perspective tends to make them precociously empathetic. Nuvy has been wonderful for our community in that way. Even the youngest children had someone to care for, and I found their intuitive gentleness remarkable.
Don't you worry that she'll get sick?
No again. She has been a very robust baby, and I made a few common sense rules, mostly those I heard from teachers with children and other parents. Wash your hands before touching the baby, and don't touch her face or hands. The second was harder to enforce, as holding her hands is irresistable. In the time between April 3rd and June 15th, which was the last day of school, she had one cold. If she had an older brother or sister in school, the exposure to school germs would be about the same.
But can you get anything done?
Depends what you need to do. I was able to operate pretty well with my three-to-five-month-old baby in the sling. She could ride with me to bring the children in from their cars and take them out again, to make snack or coffee, and to supervise the playground or lunch time. If I needed to be in the classroom, she was the star attraction. In mobile, child-oriented parts of the job, she was fine.
There were times, however, when I needed to hand her off. Any kind of computer work, meetings or long phone calls, more office/adult-oriented tasks were harder, and everything got done a little more slowly. Time out for feeding and changing added up, and long jobs had to be saved for nap times or taken home. I delegated shopping and other in-and-out errands to other people, and I was lucky to have very supportive colleagues, children and parents in my school, who welcomed us both back in as loving and uplifting a way as I could have imagined. Colleagues frequently stepped up to have baby visits in their classrooms or to take her out to the playground with the rest of the children.
Will you keep doing it?
For the summer, yes. A wonderful partner and I are operating a summer program at the school, and I have an on-site babysitter. It's an absolute dream.
In the fall, no, but it could be done. My school is not equipped for infant care, and both liability and productivity issues loom large (less so for summer, as the program is small and I am self-employed). If I ruled the world, I would make on-site infant care the norm for Montessori teaching staff.
Picture this: a nursery area, just for the infant children of teachers, with a small staff and limited access to the primary Montessori classroom, plus separate space for naps and the ups and downs of baby life. Imagine the relief for young mothers who teach. Imagine the enrichment of life for the infants and the preschool children. Imagine being able to go to work AND be with your child.
But you don't rule the world, so what now?
It's true. I don't (yet) rule the world. After summer, I'll join the ranks of SAHM's with pride and delight. We'll be on the playgroup circuit and among the park-walkers and weekly bloggers again, and we'll continue our Montessori baby adventures until it's time for school.