The Irish Examiner on the challenges of finding balance once children come along. Extracts:

Having a workplace creche like Cois Laoi at UCC means you spend more time with your children and it’s comforting to know they’re only minutes away.

Parents are struggling with the work/life balance. So is it ever ok to bring your kids
to work, asks Kathy Foley

Is it ever acceptable to bring your child to work with you? Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, a member of the minority opposition Green party in Australia, thought it couldn’t hurt once in a while. Earlier this month, the senator was at work in Canberra and saying goodbye to Kora, her two-year-old daughter, who was about to be taken back to Adelaide by her nanny.
In the midst of the fond farewell, Hanson-Young was called into the Senate chamber for an on-the-spot vote. Once the bells ring for such a vote, the senators have just four minutes to get to the chamber. Kora’s nanny was in the senator’s office, a floor up and more than four minutes away. So the senator did something she had done before and took her daughter into the chamber for the vote. The Senate President, John Hogg, promptly ruled Kora should be removed from the chamber by a staffer, as she was technically a “stranger in the house.” As the senators voted, Kora could be heard screaming loudly outside the door of the chamber. Her mum said it was the “most humiliating” moment of her life, indicating she hadn’t found herself in too many mildly embarrassing situations prior to that. The senator, a vocal campaigner for more childcare provision, was later forced to deny the episode was a publicity stunt. “I think it’s an issue that affects all parents,” she said. “I just happen to be the one that’s in the spotlight at the moment, but the constant balance juggling family and work is always going to be an issue.”
It’s so rare for children to be allowed in any workplace that a small creative consultancy in Pittsburgh was featured in Fortune magazine, precisely because its employees may bring their babies into the office whenever they like. “Babies at work, four-week vacations, continuing education — it’s important to strike a good balance between work and life,” Mickey McManus, the CEO and president of Maya Design, told Fortune. McManus is certainly an exception among bosses. Irish experts say it is almost never seen as acceptable to bring your child to your workplace.
“I can think of only two instances when it is acceptable,” said Rowan Manahan of Fortify Services, a career and workplace consultancy. “First, it is bring-your-offspring-to-work day at your office. Second, your company is conducting focus groups with kids in your offspring’s age bracket. Most workplaces just aren’t suitable places for children. The facilities are designed for adults and there isn’t usually a whole heap of things for kids to do, unless they persuade someone to let them photocopy their face or play in the stationery cupboard. To be fair, I have seen instances of self-sufficient pre-teens tootling away on their Nintendo or being parked in a spare cubicle to do their homework with no apparent interruption to the working day; but unless your place of work operates some kind of after-school care facility, I wouldn’t recommend doing that more than a couple of times a year,” said Manahan.

… Whether you work in a surgery, a shoe shop or the Seanad, bringing your child to work is just not the done thing, unless it’s a dire childcare emergency. What about bringing work to your children, however? Is it okay to work at home while there are children in the house? President Barack Obama, in an interview with The Today Show, said he is delighted his new job allows him to see more of his children. “It turns out I’ve got this nice home office and at the end of the day, I can come to do, I can have dinner with them, I can help them with their homework, I can tuck them in and if I’ve got to go back to the office, I can.”

… Some fortunate parents have the opportunity to take their child to work, after a fashion. Those working for a handful of Ireland’s largest employers including RTE, UCC, the ESB, Eircom and Trinity College, can avail of workplace creches provided by the organisations concerned. These are often subsidised and can give parents peace of mind. If their child is sick, for example, they are just a few minutes’ walk away. Workplace creches usually discourage parents from dropping in during the day, however, as it can disrupt the children’s routine and stop them from fully participating in creche activities. Although a good idea in theory, workplace creches are not for everyone, says Manahan. “Some parents like the company and the chance to interact with their children on the way to the creche and get panicked at the thought of being late in the evening because of traffic difficulties or a slight overrun in the working day. An onsite creche, or one close to the workplace, satisfies those needs. But for commuting parents who want, or need, to be able to take calls in the car, that’s obviously not going to work.”
… Manahan advises companies to think laterally when it comes to childcare at work. “From the employer’s perspective, this is fundamentally a productivity issue. Neuroscience now tells us that multitasking or distraction  has a significantly adverse effect on productivity. If a parent is worried about their child, worried about leaving in time to beat the traffic or what have you, they cannot be focused on the task at hand. Large numbers of your employees are going to reproduce. It’s a simple reality in the workplace and if you don’t help your employees out in some way, they are going to be distracted and you are going to feel that pain. Or, they will seek to work with an employer who is cognizant of this and who provides peace of mind to their staff who have young children,” he said.