Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances last week, my working-at-home days had to be rescheduled and I brought The Dormouse into the office with me. She's always great fun in the office and it makes me long for the days when she was an infant and I brought her to work with me every day.

After my maternity leave, she still wasn't gaining weight and I was feeling very, Very, VERY uncomfortable with the thought of leaving my six-week-old with anyone who wasn't family was untenable, not to mention the ridiculous cost of decent (not good, just decent, mind you) day care in this area, so I went to my boss one day with tears in my eyes and basically begged her to let me bring The Dormouse to work with me for a month and see how it worked out. One thing my boss is very good about is trying to allow those of us with families to find a way to continue to work and be a parent in the way that we want and so she agreed to try it out.

I ended up bringing her to work with me in one fashion or another until she was over a year old and started becoming more mobile. Then fears of a lawsuit after my child had pulled the copy machine down on her head or gotten tetanus from a staple embedded in the carpet got the better of my employer and my boss asked me to work out some other situation. Personally, I felt that if something happened to her while in the office, she was still under my care and therefore it was my responsibility, but everyone had been more than understanding in letting me bring her to work this long, so I bit my tongue and looked for something else. That's when I worked out the "work at the office, work at home", arrangement we have now.

It was a very interesting experience, having a child at work with you, and other than the times when I was talking on the phone and she started to cry and I was forced to fess up to the person on the other end of the receiver and feel completely unprofessional it turned out to be much better than I thought. More often than not the person on the phone responded incredibly positively and was impressed at the forward-thinking management style of the business. Without attempting to sound humble, I am a master of multi-tasking and a big part of my job already required me to keep multiple balls in the air at the same time. This was simply one more... and one that kept my head in my office and not constantly worried that someone wasn't feeding my child enough or that formula was, as some magazine articles inferred, actually poison and in not being able to continue nursing her, I'd doomed her to a life of being ugly, unloved and two feet smaller than the other kids in her age group. I loved being able to have her with me without being forced to quit and still have the income to pay for some of those "extras"... like a mortgage in a crappy neighborhood, food, water, and heat.

But something else I hadn't anticipated happened. It totally changed the office environment. And not in a "hey would you close the door so I don't have to listen to that screaming kid" sort of way. We'd all been having some issues with s-t-r-e-s-s up until that point and having her around made things so different. People were happy to come in to work in the morning and stop by my office for a good morning cuddle. When someone needed a break from working at their desk, they entertained themselves - and The Dormouse - by riding her around the office for a minute or two on the hand truck. If someone had had a bad conference call or a difficult meeting, they'd come in for a "baby fix", take my child and go sit and their desk with her for a few minutes before returning to work happier, and with more perspective on life in general. People brought little toys for her to play with... all the chochky loot they'd bring home from a conference which would normally clutter up people's desks became my daughter's playthings. During that year, I enjoying working at my job and with my coworkers than I ever have before or since. And many of them have said the same thing to me.

My child took her first steps in that office - from one co-worker's arms to another's. She said her first word to a coworker while lying in the bassinet behind my back while I answered an email. I got support, encouragement and mom tips through all of our nursing/sleeping/weight gain issues. Every new hurdle I came to when I needed advice or just someone to commiserate with, I talked to the other moms in the office who'd been though it before. They were incredibly understanding and non-judgmental. I can't fully describe the gratitude I have for having had that time with my daughter, time that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to have, but also the time with my coworkers and friends. I doubt that without that option having been granted to me, I would have continued on in this job. And I know that not only did it make my life easier, but it helped others' too.

Now, The Dormouse is in preschool a few days a week and I telecommute on the days she's not. But every once in awhile, I'll have to physically be in the office for one reason or another and since I don't have family or... you know... friends that like me enough to watch her for me, so I'll bring her with me for the few hours I have to be in the office. But when I walk through that door with her tiny hand in mine in the morning, it becomes old home week. She runs from office to office, giving out kisses and showing off whatever special outfit and toy she's chosen for the day. People get up from their desks and exclaim, "Good morning" as they reach down to hug her. And we go out somewhere to lunch with her if our plan is to stay around that long.

Last week, we passed the security guard in the building on our way out to lunch and a squeal erupted from this big, burly man that sounded like an old woman had seen a mouse:

"Oooooooooh! Aren't. You. Cute! Here's a dollar." and he whipped a dollar bill out of his pocket faster than a pickpocket on his best day. It was already in my kid's hand and she was skipping away singing about her 'golden ticket' as I tried to tell him he did not need to pay my child for simply looking cute.

"But... I don't have any candy", he apologized, "I had to give her something."

This left me thinking that maybe the last three years of trying to hold down a job and feel like a decent parent at the same time had been wasted and all I really had to do was stand her out on a street corner, dressed up in a nice outfit with a sign saying "Pay me, I'm cute." and a hat upturned next to her. I guess I would have missed out on all the conference kitch as toys though.