‘In my dog-friendly office there’s nowhere to quietly breastfeed, let alone pump — just the word makes people want to run away and cuddle a dog.’ Bubble app co-founder Sarah Hesz on the pup.v.baby workplace debate
ast month a hoohah (technical term) was made when the MP Stella Creasy brought her baby to vote in the House of Commons. As someone who feels grateful I can keep my kids and my work as separate as possible (I cherish working in an office), my feminist outrage antenae flickered, but moved on.
But it’s one of those things that has sat in my head like the pile of dirty laundry in my son’s bedroom — niggling away at me whilst I’ve refused to address it.
The reason I’m bothered is not because babies should necessarily be accommodated in workplaces, but I wonder why we’re all so much happier to welcome pets. When did pups get prioritised over babies?
I work in a shared office which is full of dogs, sometimes quite rowdy ones. There is no option to avoid them if you are allergic or a bit scared of them. My best friend and I can no longer meet without her lockdown dog taking at least 25 per cent of her attention, and pet-ernity leave is now a real thing (whilst paternity leave still is far from sorted). Even the app I run, Bubble babysitting, now offers a much soughtafter pet sitting service.
The irony of people being grossed out by Stella Creasy doing her job with a baby in a sling the same week the Speaker welcomed his new cat to the House of Commons and just a few months before the annual Westminster Dog of the Year is celebrated is what irks. It’s OK to bang on about your new puppy, but talking about your baby at work, let alone bringing them in, makes people uncomfortable and impatient.
Pets are important, and never more so than in the last few years. We are a nation of dog lovers and undoubtedly we are a better nation because of it. Dogs help with mental health — babies are known to do the opposite. My kids may never forgive me, but I just can’t understand why so many of my friends are adding additional caring duties to their already complicated lives. Pets are amazing, but, like children, they can be pretty annoying too.
It shouldn’t be a controversial thing to suggest that we should be nicer to babies and new mums. Women are still being shamed for breastfeeding in public while every cafe in London now provides dog snacks. In my dog-friendly office there’s nowhere to quietly breastfeed, let alone pump — just the word ‘pump’ makes people want to run away and cuddle a dog.
I did a board meeting with a baby who was a few weeks old and it wasn’t terrible; it was just very awkward. I set the security barriers buzzing with my buggy and then had to pace the corridor with a newborn slung on my shoulder dodging phone-gazing colleagues who looked up long enough for panic to register on their faces, before returning to their screens.
New mums and babies are not appalling. They don’t cause allergies and very few people are actively afraid of them. Maybe they aren’t as cute as puppies, but they are arguably more important. We should extend at least the same level of care to babies in the workplace as we do to dogs.
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