A University of Tennessee at Knoxville student missed class this last week because she couldn’t find childcare for her three-month-old daughter. She wrote an apology email to her professor, and received this response that went viral:
Child and Family Studies professor Sally Hunter tells single mother Morgan King she doesn’t need to miss class again if she can’t find childcare. Just bring the baby to class, she says, offering to hold the adorable little person while she teaches so Morgan can pay attention and take notes. Yeah, I see what you did there, Dr. Hunter. Turning another person’s minor personal emergency into some personal baby time. Smooth.
King’s tweet above has gotten more than 25,000 likes, and the response feed is full of encouragement.
I dont even know you Morgan, saw a retweet, but keep working hard. Inspiring 2 see young people going 4 it even with added responsibilities.
— Eric Arnold (@EricArnoldTN) June 17, 2017
Morgan, thank you for showing us challenges college students face. Prof Hunter, thanks for being a part of the solution #WomenHelpingWomen
— Beverly Davenport (@ChancellorDav) June 21, 2017
Hunter seems to have long been supportive of her students who are mothers:
The twins are now 5 and about to start kindergarten. You can update Dr. Hunter that they are doing great! pic.twitter.com/V10Gd4DWzb
— Misty Brown (@MrsMSBrown) June 17, 2017
I just have to share a similar personal story that illustrates how important it is for us all to support families, especially as family life becomes more shattered. Not only are fewer people having children, the children who are being born are increasingly entering at-risk environments — homes with no father attached, either through lack of marriage or divorce. Both of these trends portend increasing unhappiness for increasing numbers of Americans, not to mention poverty, antisocial behaviors, and mental illness.
A good number of people, when hearing a story like this, might say “Well, that’s great for Morgan and Korbyn, but what about the other students in their class? A baby is distracting. Bringing baby to class might help Morgan but by disadvantaging her classmates.” A similar sentiment might be said about women bringing babies to work or other professional and social obligations.
When we lived in Washington, D.C. with an infant, we’d bring baby with us to evening events. Our son already had to be away from mom half the week while she worked in an office, so we didn’t want to separate in the evenings also; plus, we were married with starter salaries, college debt, and no nearby social network, so finding childcare was essentially impossible. Some people were nice and supportive, but others were rude and nasty. We heard comments like “What is a baby doing on the Metro (subway system)?” I thought internally, “He’s a person, just like you!” People would roll their eyes and huff at our attempts to get the stroller onboard, and quiet places to nurse baby were often difficult to find.
This social friction contributed to our plan to leave the coast as soon as possible to get back to the Midwest. What helped us stay longer was the gracious, pro-family attitude I found at my employer, the American Enterprise Institute. My boss, Nick Schulz, greeted my pregnancy news with boisterous excitement and sent me scholarly articles about the benefits of breastfeeding after I mentioned that was my plan. He told me how great it was that we were starting a family young, because he had started older and could hardly keep up with his little rascals. He made it possible for me to work after baby with less stress to the little fella (and me!) by working from home half the week.
I was really nervous about having that baby. It was my first, and it was way earlier than I had planned (even though I was, thankfully, married and had that going for us). Like Hunter, my employer eased that angst and therefore made for a happier and fiercely loyal employee. Yes, I had to pump at work. Yes, I sometimes came late because of one last nursing before jetting out of the house. But I worked longer and harder to attempt to make up for it. And I will forever be grateful to AEI and Nick, and attempt in my own private and professional life to pay it forward.
That little boy they helped me start in life is now six years old. He reads at a fifth-grade level and wants to be a scientist and professional musician before becoming president.
I do not think all employers or colleges should be forced to give moms extra perks. That may work for a family studies class, but not a high-level engineering class. It may work for an office environment where work can be done from home, but not a factory floor with stationary machinery. All employers should be free to negotiate and accomodate with employees as individuals. If a mom is starting to lean on her perks too hard and hurting the class or company, that company or fellow students should be free to express that to her and their supervisors and renegotiate. All relationships should be free and to mutual benefit as decided by the participating parties. In short, I don’t support government mandates. Forcing people into arrangements only produces resentment, and that’s bad for democracy.
That said, given that there are more moms like Morgan in our society now than ever, and only going to be more in the near term, employers and other institutions such as churches and schools should be considering what they can do to create a healthy society in which all life is treasured. Those who are strong and able to help others should reach out and offer their strength so others can stand. To the extent that they don’t, we’ll have not more single moms who are able to support themselves and their kiddos thanks to the extra support they needed and received, but more single moms dropping out of work and college, and forcing the rest of us to support them less optimally anyway.
Also, fewer babies (and therefore happiness and economic development) because women will get the message that they’re an unwelcome hindrance. Yet how can you parrot that disgusting lie after looking at this blessed little face?