On Friday, December 4, the Women Archivists Roundtable (WAR) hosted a live tweet to discuss family leave, surviving it, and returning from it. Mothers, non-mothers, and a smattering of fathers participated in a conversation that was a virtual version of a lunchtime stitch and bitch — a breast pump and post, if you will.
WAR co-chair Leslie Van Veen McRoberts and steering committee member Helen Kim hosted the chat and did an amazing job keeping up with the rapid-fire tweets and highlighting comments and conversations that would have gotten lost in the mix. If you missed out on the live tweet, WAR gathered up all the posts tagged #saawar in a Google doc here.
It was very cool, but still slightly jarring, to know that my post on rude people at SAA14 sparked this conversation. Rock on, WAR.
The stories shared were the experiences of parents, soon-to-be parents, and non-parents in the archives field. Compiled, they make a good how-to for non-parent-to-parent interactions. I hereby present a couple of passages from the very unofficial and slightly irreverent WAR Live Tweet Guide for Co-Workers on How Not to Be a Jerk to Parents!!
- First, acknowledge that it is HARD to be a working mother, as well as a worker on the verge of becoming a mother, in America. It’s not just an economic “thing;” it is a socio-cultural thing that is an issue for the whole country.
- New mothers have very specific needs; they lactate and need to express their milk. It doesn’t matter what your issues are with breastfeeding (please keep those to yourself), it is innate and natural. Have pumping rooms (with working outlets, thank you) ready to go. Want bonus points? Be like Case Western Reserve University and HAVE pumps available. That is awesome.
- Life happens to people who are responsible for other people’s lives. If you’re a co-worker or supervisor, accept and understand that schedules might suddenly change due to illnesses or childcare issues beyond one’s control.
- Parents live off caffeine. Want to support a new parent co-worker? Follow this tweeter’s recommendation and keep plenty of cuppa and cups of joe on standby.
- New moms have hormone and body changes going on and they lack proper REM sleep. Regard them as you would a normal person, but don’t be totally surprised if they’re a bit… off.
- There are germs. Germs everywhere! And (nine times out of ten) your co-worker’s baby will catch them and your co-worker will be out of action for a bit.
- It might be hard for non-parents to grasp, but the workplace becomes a sanctuary, an escape for the working parent. It’s a place where he or she can have moments of focus and quiet; where clean clothes can be worn and remain clean; where one can converse with fellow adults in normal voices and tones, on subjects not related to stuffed animals or bodily functions. It is a holy place where one can go to the bathroom to pee whenever one wants, without being in full view of a toddler with no sense of boundaries.
- Men are parents, too. And they are fully capable of taking care of their children! I know, weird, right? It’s a totally revolutionary concept, but roll with it. Have a male colleague who says he’s going to be his child’s primary care-giver? Nod, congratulate, support. Times have changed and child-rearing is no longer a solely feminine act; it’s universal.
- And since men can, will, and do provide care for their off-spring, remember that guys need to change diapers, too.
- Respect the professional’s decision to return to work instead of being a full-time care provider. You don’t know the reasons; you have no right to hop on your pedestal and judge. Don’t be the person who says “Why are you working? Shouldn’t you be with your baby?!?”
- Respect the professional’s decision to be a full-time care provider instead of returning to work. You don’t know the reasons; you have no right to hop on your pedestal and judge.
- Just be nice to people, parent or non-parent, whether you agree with their decisions or not. Ask what can be done to help. As long as the child is cared for in a safe and legal manner, why throw hate around?