Choosing family over work an option for the privileged few

In this Feb. 26, 2016, file photo, Chicago White Sox's Adam LaRoche picks up his gear after taking live batting practice  in Glendale, Ariz.

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File

For many working parents, the ability to bring children to work is limited to the annual Take Our Children to Work Day held each April. But what if you could bring your children to work every day?

Plenty of parents do, and Adam LaRoche was among them -- until this week. On Monday, the Chicago White Sox first baseman walked away from his $13 million contract, after he was asked to limit the amount of time his son spent in the team's clubhouse.

Fourteen-year-old Drake LaRoche had been a fixture, alongside his father, on the field and in major league baseball clubhouses for years -- complete with his own personal locker and jersey.

According to the White Sox, the issue wasn't Drake's conduct, but rather, whether the boy was a source of distraction to his father.

LaRoche's decision to call it quits raises the larger question about children in the workplace and how parents balance the needs of parenting and work.

According to a study released by the White House in 2014, workers struggling to balance the their work and family obligations are increasingly choosing to work for employers that offer flexibility. And, in some cases, workers are leaving jobs that don't offer the flexibility or time off they need to address family responsibilities.

The report noted that a vast majority of Americans (89 percent) believe employers should offer workers the flexibility to meet family needs, so long as the job gets done.

At Palo Alto Networks, parents are encouraged to bring their children to work -- albeit not everyday.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Palo Alto Networks CEO Sabrina Parsons said, "when the nanny needs an afternoon off, school is suddenly canceled, or someone's child is not feeling great, we welcome and encourage them to spend the day in the office."

As the head of a high-tech company, Parsons, who tweets as @mommyceo, understands that attracting and keeping top talent is key and that "[p]roviding an environment where an employee can be loyal, work hard, and get rewarded for innovation will bring both better results and more talented people to your company."

But even the most talented workers can find it hard to deal with distractions. As author Kara Basking wrote in the Boston Globe, "[T]rying to work while simultaneously parenting is an impossible task: Can anyone really multitask at 100 percent, all the time?"

Of course, many working parents don't have the luxury working for a forward-thinking technology company, focused on results rather than hours worked in the office.

It's tougher -- much tougher -- for employees where a time clock must still be punched. For example, among fast-food workers, more than 1 in 4 (26 percent) are parents to at least one child. Many earn no more than minimum wage and are afforded few benefits, such as paid time off. When a child gets sick, low-wage workers such as these don't have the option of bringing their kids to work. They simply don't get paid.

The U.S. remains the only developed nation that doesn't have mandatory paid parental leave policies; legislation to provide working parents with paid time off has been stalled at the federal level for years now.

So while many of LaRoche's teammates applauded his decision to quit (and reportedly almost boycotted Wednesday's spring training to support him), the reality in America today is that choosing family over a job is a luxury too few workers have.