I posted about this on Facebook, but I figured I'd bring it here for wider discussion.
One of my favorite bloggers, The Skeptical OB, posted about a female professor who got in trouble because she breastfed her baby while giving the lecture.
Apparently, her baby was sick, so she couldn't bring her to class. She instead brought the baby to the lecture she was teaching. Instead of asking her teaching assistant to look after the baby, she instead let the baby roam around the lecture hall. At one point, she had to stop the lecture because the baby was eating a paper clip. Another time she had to stop because the baby was getting close to an electrical outlet. And then she decided to breastfeed while giving the lecture.
I agree with Skeptical OB that there's pretty much nothing appropriate about what she did. As a professor, I think you owe your students more respect than to simultaneously babysit while you're teaching a class.
And while I think breastfeeding is wonderful and would never want to discourage it, I think I'd be pretty distracted by a professor breastfeeding while trying to teach me.
I agree that the baby should not be in the class and the professer definitely shouldn't be breastfeeding during class. I do not think it is the job of the TA to watch a sick baby either though. My husband once tried to get me to take our sick child to work and "just let your nurse watch her while you are in with a patient." It's not her job. She would do it but I don't feel I should put her in that situation. It's similar to bringing your sick child into work and asking a medical student to babysit. Just not appropriate.ReplyDelete
I agree that it's not appropriate to ask the TA. But it's MORE appropriate to do that than to basically ask the entire class to watch your kid. If you had brought your child to work, it would have been better to have the nurse watch her rather than bring her into the room with every patient. You'd have to make it clear that it was a personal favor and just due to a one-time emergency.Delete
I'm distracted when students bring their infants to class- I can't imagine how difficult it would have been to focus on the lecture that day. As a student, I would have rather had a cancelled class than a preoccupied professor, and this is coming from a mother who loves to multi-task.ReplyDelete
I initially thought it was a student bringing her baby to class, and I thought THAT was a bad idea. I can't even conceive of a professor trying to pull that off.Delete
I'm just copy=pasting my few rants from fb. Typos and all! I was using an itouch, so please forgive!ReplyDelete
I did it. Oops pregnancy that had me delivering three days before school restarted. Thanks to being a university proff and no paid leave for me. Proffs do not accumulate sick or vacay time due to the 9 mo work schedule. My choice was to leave class in the hands of a part time professor ( if we could find some one who would take the crappy pay and one who certainly had never taught it), screw over my coworkers by overloading them with an extra class,or come back to work 1 week after my c section and teach it myself. I did the last as it was best for the students and my coworkers
. I took my baby in a carrier to class about 1/3-1/2 of classes and breasted during lecture- though probably students couldn't tellb/c of carrier and the lecture hall was dark and I was behind a podium. . I received no bad evals or comments from students (anonymous too). And my chair was well aware of what I was doing.
College life's completely different from reg work. I am susprised this even made news. At my university MANY Proffs who had babies during a semester brought them to office hours and class.young infants are pretty quiet. Toddlers, not so much. It is pretty easy to deal with a baby in class the first 4 mos. I routinely brought mine the first half of the semester.my attitude was if you are going to guilt me into not taking a (completely unpaid) maternity leave, then I'm bring my kid the first 6 weeks to meetings, class, etc. no one said a word to me, ever. And I doubt behind my back. Small school and people talk.
Second kid was better planned and came three weeks after school was out for the summer. MUCH easier! And took them sick a few times. Low fever, runny nose took them. Vomiting diarrhea, did not. Just depended on how sick. To me it sounds like her kid and a uri, which honestly is not really sick.
I did have someone to baby sit (and a backup). But 1 week after having a kid, you don't want to leave them all day to go to work. And it is detrimental to bf establishment. Baby did cry a few times. At which point I gave the class a 10 min break (3 h class would have this anyway). And by then he had calmed down.
Yes, students do pay tuition. So they have a right to receive quality education and not have classes canceled b/c of illness, etc. for those students that semester, if I had not taught the class they would have had inferior instruction. They would have been either taught by a prof who had never taught that class and had no Peds experience, or they would have been taught by a prn hired teacher with little lecture experince and who was not frequently on campus (VERY common . Issues we have had students complain of in the past when we have had tos switch out proffs.
And at the time (for above mentioned reasons of guilt and no paid leave) I didn't/ don't really care if anyone thought less. Actually one proff brought up the idea to me as a solution to the issue. A dietetics teacher in the college had done it before me and it worked surprisingly well.
Alissa Terry Parker
Thanks for reposting.Delete
I'm still of the mindset that this kind of behavior is not professional and hurts all women by making us look like flakes. But I suppose it depends on the environment.
I totally (and respectfully see your point), just did not feel that in my environment it was an issue. Perhaps I was Super Oblivious (but doubt it). I guess I should be more thankful that I was lucky.Delete
It probably had to do with the environment. I'd say in the majority of cases, it's NOT okay, as evidenced by the fact that I've not once personally seen a professor bring their baby to lecture or into a working environment.Delete
Maybe my babies are super behaved too? I certainly wouldn't have brought a kid that could roam! My kids spent class time doing one of three things: Looking at me, eating, or sleeping. I never brought one older than 4 mos to class. And the classes they did come to were during naping times that assured me (as much as possible) that they could be quiet. I was as respectful as I could be under the circumstances. Faculty meetings (in dept- NEVER took one to a college meeting) were another matter, but honestly, most f the faculty act like toddlers during these things anyway, so my baby really wasn't a problem- and we are a close- knit dept faculty about about 15- all women.Delete
I think the baby carrier and the age of the baby makes a big difference. I was a little appalled this made national news though. Don't we have anything more important to get our panties in a twist over?Delete
I think it depends on the university a lot too - I know the professors here work year-round and are mostly funded by grants, and when one professor had her baby mid-semester, she was covered by another and it worked out fine. Though I know she brought her baby to her office (or had her husband bring the baby) often, she never brought her to class.Delete
So I think it depends on the University, too.
Likely it was well received because I teach in a nursing program and the college was mainly women Proffs. But it happened at other colleges within the university as well. I know an English teacher who did the same thing, and did it the same year she won the largest teaching award given at the university.ReplyDelete
Fizzy, glad you brough this up. I've continued to think about this issue. I guess I have been really lucky with my personal experience, because this kind of stuff has always been tolerated- both when I was a student and as a teacher. As an undergrad I can remember about 6-8 times when my proffs brought their kids to class and lectured instead of cancelled. Two were over 5 years and the rest were infants. I don't remember it being a pain for me. I DO remember being thankful they lectured because being tested over material that was not lectured on sucked.
In grad school I had a teacher bring a newborn/young infant and breastfeed in front of us often. It was a small class with lecture/discussion. 8 of us. 7 female, one male. Again, I don't remember it being a problem or anyone complaining. We were a close group, so we definately would have cpomplained to one another about it. She was an awesome teacher. It was at a large public university (bigger than the one I teach at).
I have had students bring kids to my office (without asking- no biggie for me) when they have scheduled meetings with me. I have watched their kids for them while they have reviewed tests or taken exams for other courses. I never thought less of them or viewed it as poor behavior. Just figured crap happens and sometimes you do what you can with what you've got. I am working on a doctorate and we have teleconferences for class. One of the teachers at times is obviously at home dealing with kids/ bf, and a few of the students. 99.9% of the time it also does not interfere with my learning. The once or twice it has- again crap happens. Honestly the program that runs the telecommunication is more of a PIA than the kids in the background. Maybe being in peds makes me feel this way, and being in a female oriented career. I was just totally suprised re: theblowup over this one time.
Alissa Terry Parker
I am a PNP, and never BF in front of my pts (obviously), BUT I will say that while I was BF my kids, when I did exams on newborns (even formula fed ones), they went out of their minds rooting on my breasts b/c of the milk smell! It was sooo funny. I did work with a pediatrician (who owned the practice) who brought her baby to the office after her 3 month maternity leave. Kid was there every day she worked until she was 5-6 mos old. MD had a tolerant attidtue of kids, and I remember a few of the staff bringing in their older kids/ infants who were sick a few times when babysitters and family fell through. We worked though it. Honestly, picking up slack in a small office sucks way more than someone bringing a sick kid that hung out in the employee lounge. (For me anyway). I never utilized the bring your sick kid to work, since I didn't have kids at the time. I do not EVER remember toddlers coming to classes or worth though- and we all know why. :)ReplyDelete
The pedi I work for now, talks about BF her newborn during some med school classes back in the 80s as well as pumping during lectures in the back (with a cover). OK. Fizzy I think I have made more comments here than on any board or fb page. I will shut up now. But interested in others thought on this. Surely I can't be the only one who has been in such repeated tolerant environments- AND I live in the mid-west/ south!!
OhI also remember in my master's program a few students bringing babies to class. One was a larger lecture (50+ students) and the other was small discussion class (8 students). Neither got on my nerves or made a problem. I don't even remember crying.
Again, maybe the tolerance experience is because I was in nursing programs which were majority female in proffs and students- so more tolerant?
That was about 5 fb postings!
Alissa Terry Parker
So who watched the three month old while the doctor was seeing patients?Delete
I think it some environments, it may be okay to bring in an older kid in an emergency situation. Some of my coworkers have done that and it has been fine. But not a baby! And not while teaching a class!
Pretty much everyone. 3 mos still sleeps quite a bit. I remember it being a very communal experience. Sometimes we set a play pen in the nurse phone area. And one of us was always around. I used it at a charting area between pts myself. It wasn't ideal either, but if it came to having her there with her kid, or seeing all the pts myself (which I had already spent 3 mos doing that), I say bring on the babies. I will also say that that MD gave her MA 12 weeks of paid leave when she had a baby (and did not take any of her sick or vacay time away).Delete
But doesn't that end up obligating people to do things that aren't in their job description? I mean, if I was hired to be a nurse and my boss expected me to babysit their kid, I'd probably be kind of pissed off.Delete
The downside of small, private practice is that one missing link screws up everything. As I said, it certainly wasn't in my job as an np to watch her kid, but that was better than the alternative of running the office by myself. And knowing that she would return the favor or something similar made it easier. I've done lots of things at all my jobs that weren't in my job description. You do it because it is better than the alternative, you do it because sometimes it is the right thing to do, and you do it because sometimes sucky things happen to your coworkers and they need some help.Delete
I also think the majority of nurses have a huge co-dependent streak, and I certainly have some too. But really her kid was ok, and it wasn't Abig deal. That was also they year I got a HUGE Christmas bonus- which was pretty sweet.
I agree that it depends on circumstances and environment. I work in an office, where people expect (and need) relative quiet to do their jobs, especially because we are in close quarters and no one has a true office with a door they can close. I have seen parents bring in kids of all ages to my workplace. It's never really been a good idea. Older kids are often worse than babies, because they get bored and then get whiny. And then don't stop whining until they get to go home. I am ok if a parent brings their kid(s) to work once in a great while, because I understand that sometimes, they have no other choice, but I would never condone it as a regular practice in an office environment.ReplyDelete
I think it depends on the age and temperament of the child, and on the work environment. I don't think mobile babies belong in the work place. They have to be watched, and no matter who is doing it, it is distracting and isn't what they are being paid for. It's not really fair to the employer, or to the client/student/patient. Older kids who can safely be left alone with a coloring book, portable DVD player, or homework and can quietly occupy themselves might be okay for a couple of hours in a lot of work environments. A full work day would be pushing it, and constant bored whinyness is not fair to anybody - parent, child, or coworkers. I have coworkers with 6 year olds who can handle doing this (and I was one of them as a child, my Mom brought me to her evening classes sometimes when I was 5 and she was in graduate school). But I know that my 6 year old son can't do it, and I have coworkers with 12 year olds who can't handle it at all. But really, the occasional lecture with a distracted professor or unusable breakroom full of bored, whiny pre-teen aren't the end of the world, as long as it isn't a regular thing.ReplyDelete
What bothered me about this story was that the child was mobile but not old enough to keep itself safe, the mother WASN'T keeping the child safe (your students shouldn't need to tell you your baby has a paperclip in her mouth, what if they were actually paying attention to your lecture and didn't notice?), and the child was sick. Asking the TA to watch her ensures the TA is probably going to get sneezed on and catch her cold. Having her in the lecture hall is less likely to pass germs around, unless somebody decides to pick her up or something, but it doesn't seem that worked out in a particularly safe way. And it's not really fair to the sick kid, either. If the babysitter says your baby is too sick to be at daycare, the baby should probably be at home.
Yes, I question the safety of the situation. Also, it's clear that the baby was very distracting to the students if they were the ones that noticed she had the paperclip in her mouth.Delete
I agree that the appropriateness of bringing a child to work depends a lot on the child and the work environment, but I can't imagine breastfeeding in front of a class ever being an appropriate thing. While I have no problem with my friends breastfeeding in front of me, I would feel very awkward with someone doing the same in a professional setting, and I imagine there are many people who would feel the same way.ReplyDelete
That situation- with the paperclip- sounds problematic. But breastfeeding while teaching? Wouldn't bother me in the slightest. Use a nursing cover, and keep going. I don't see why it should be a problem at all, in most teaching situations. Maybe if you were a female lecturer to an all-male class it might be weird, but otherwise? I'm used to lots of students breast-feeding in class, so why not the teacher too?ReplyDelete
Maybe it wouldn't bother you, but it might distract other students. I have no problem with breastfeeding in public, but being *forced* to learn from someone while they're doing that is ridiculous. I mean, how would you feel if your male professor showed up wearing nothing but a jock strap? Would you be able to focus on the lesson?Delete
In my institution, we have a lot of visa students from very strict Muslim countries where women often are required to cover part/all of themselves for "modesty". I can't imagine how they would react if their professor were breastfeeding, even with a nursing cover.Delete
That's the ultimate in multi-tasking, but I think totally unprofessional and inappropriate.ReplyDelete
I know. You people are all right and righteous about being apolled. But questions is does college/univ where she is teaching offer on-site child-care or emergency babysitting, or sick-child babysitting? I know of places in medicine, where I interveweed and was told about on site day care, and sick baby room. Sick baby room is staffed with RN who cares for sick child while medical profession is at work, medical professional also has a chance to visit with the child during lunch break. Looks like that woman had a choice of not giving a lecture(loosing contract that is renewed every single year) or doing what she did.ReplyDelete
No, she had a choice between cancelling the first lecture (which happens sometimes and honestly would not have been a huge deal), finding someone to cover it for her and staying home, or doing what she did. Yes, shit happens, and I am more tolerant than most, but having a crawling baby in class plus the professor breastfeeding is just crossing boundaries for me.Delete
I mean, I like cute babies, and would be much more interested in the baby than lecture. So...major distraction there. I'm the type that doesn't like kids in class at all, though, so. YMMV.
There ARE emergency babysitting services out there. Short of that, she should have imposed on a friend, colleague, or family member to do her a *favor* even if it wasn't in their job description and watch her sick baby for an hour or two. If not, yes, she should have cancelled one class. I can't believe canceling a single class means loss of her job. (And if it did, that's all the more reason she should have had a back-up in place.)Delete
Does it change your position that she is a single mother or that this was a class on gender?ReplyDelete
This is very cultural. I had a friend do peace-corp in a country in Africa - babies were with mothers continually for the first year. Doctors, lawyers, teachers everyone. She said, it took a while to get use to it, but the babies were so content and happy, they really didn't disturb anything.
Personally, I think that this is exactly the class that she should have breast fed and babywatched in. As long as the baby wasn't screaming the whole time, I don't see the issue.
It doesn't change my position that she's a single mother or what the class is about. Maybe in a place where this is the norm, there's a better support system and someone could have kept an eye on the baby when she was actually teaching. But I know that I can't concentrate on so much as reading an online blog when my baby is crawling around, so how was she supposed to give her full attention to teaching?Delete
Honestly its the crawling baby part that gets to me. What in the hell would make someone think they could keep a crawling baby safe and give a lecture at the same time? The only thing I can (maybe) do simultaneous to minding a crawling baby is pee. Even trying to watch my other child has resulted in crawling baby eating dog food, unplugging fan & chewing on cord, getting ALL THE WAY up the first flight of stairs, throwing toys in toilet, taking my wallet out of my purse and putting it in the bottom of the toy bin (and that is just this week).ReplyDelete
A little one that could be content in a baby carrier or sleeping in a carseat throughout the lecture is OK, but a mobile one? Crazy. And she should have freaking brought a bottle of milk to hand the baby should she become hungry (clearly the baby could drink from a bottle, she was in child care when not sick, it seems)
But we all make poor choices from time to time. She should have owned up to it and moved on. Instead she chose to victimize herself and make this an anti-breastfeeding, anti-feminist case. Its cliche and transparent and makes her look like even more of a flake.
You can pee while watching a crawling baby? I'm impressed :)Delete
You make a good point though. I wouldn't have minded the story if the baby had just been sleeping in a carrier through the lecture. But a crawling baby needs to be watched carefully. And it sounds like from her story, she was making her students pick up the slack of watching the baby.
And yeah, I agree about the bottle.
Yep -- This pretty much encapsulates my thoughts on the subject perfectly.Delete
Oh and nobody else brought this up, but what I would have done? Load her up on motrin and drop her precious butt in daycare for the duration of the lecture. don't ask don't tell is my motto when it comes to low fevers & daycare. If she was too sick for that, then cancel the lecture.ReplyDelete