These parents can't get a daycare spot so are bringing their kids to work.

Growing waitlists for daycare and preschool mean parents are increasingly bringing their kids to work. In childcare deserts or when family support networks are unavailable, parents can find themselves with few options. Some families are also opting out of daycare because of affordability issues and quality concerns related to the national shortage of educators.

Kayla* is an Executive Assistant for the ACT Government and combines working from home with bringing her son to the workplace. "They have an entire kitchen, playroom, TV and feeding room which is amazing," she explains. "I found daycare way too expensive for my budget and I wanted to be with my son day to day, so I feel very blessed."

Kayla attributes the success of her arrangement to the supportive culture of upper management and also the layout of her building. "The building itself is very family friendly and I'm lucky enough to have a boss who supports me still being the sole carer of my son. I do feel like I'm treading water but I'm sure most parents feel like that at times so I just try to do as much as I can." While some workplaces pose safety risks to children, many parents like Kayla are finding the arrangement to be safe and with benefits that outweigh the drawbacks.

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Video via Mamamia.

It's not just parents in office jobs working with kids in tow. Mamamia heard from midwives, vets, farmers, teachers and filmmakers who had arrangements where their kids were present at their workplace. Many parents in regional areas lacked access to formal childcare arrangements which resulted in their children being present at their place of work. "I work with my children daily because we're self-employed on the land," Ellen explains. "It's not easy, we're constantly making modifications to keep our children safe and realistically we have no choice but to accept that this hampers productivity."


Some parents experience support, and workplaces that are inclusive of children while others find children are not welcome. Earlier this year a pilot program was introduced in the US state of Arkansas which legislated government departmental employees could bring their children to work under certain circumstances. The trend is signalling a promising shift away from traditional western cultural beliefs that the care of children is strictly a private responsibility. The idea that caring for young children is a collective social responsibility, evident in the frequently quoted phrase 'It takes a village to raise a child', could be key to developing alternative and flexible care arrangements.

Child development experts have pointed out that there are clear benefits of having children more included in their parents daily work life. Research from the University of Minnesota found that contributing to family life at preschool age was the best predictor for success in adulthood. Children often thrive on exposure to work communities and having a degree of responsibility. Ellen believes her children have benefited from being included in her workplace. "I have a four-year-old who is more capable than most 9-year-olds, is responsible and understands the natural world and where food comes from better than many adults," she explains.

Children being totally absent from workplaces is a relatively recent development of modern society, with children historically being included in aspects of a family's work life. Obviously, there are instances where child labour is harmful and illegal, but zero tolerance for children in the workplace can rob them of a valuable learning tool and a chance to see work role modelled in real time. It may also help with separation and their concept of where parents go when they are 'at work'.


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Anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy studies communal child-rearing practices which allow adults to work while remaining in the proximity of their children. She told The New York Times that the future of the planet depended on improving care models for children. "The conflict is not between maternal feelings and ambitiousness, but between the needs of a human infant for constant, attentive, extended care; and the fact that a woman's ambitions must be played out in workplaces with no tolerance for children," she said.

With a formal childcare system under pressure and shrinking 'village' or family support systems, a future where kids are more commonly included in workplaces may be more realistic than we first think. If work is our life, out of necessity or by choice, then children will need to be included to some extent. As our lives become increasingly work centric and our social networks develop in the workplace, the line between work and family is increasingly blurred. It seems natural that family life might bleed into the workplace in the same way that we bring work home.

* Kayla is known to Mamamia but chose to remain anonymous for this article.

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Feature Image: Getty.

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