*I’ve wanted to assemble a post about attending conference with babies from different points of view for a long time. I’d like to thank my good friend, Kim, for heading up this project for me. I wanted to bulk of this post to come from the point of view of a mom that has taken a baby to a conference and she fit the bill perfectly. Give her a warm welcome to let her know that Loralee’s Looneytunes has the best readers in the world! (Because I SO DO!! Muwah!)
Last year when I went to Blogher, there was no question in my mind that I would bring Libby. She was 10 months old and I was still her main source of nutrition. I don’t leave my babies and I wasn’t about to start for a conference.
Since I have done it, and there are several conferences coming up in the next few months, I thought I’d share some of the wisdom and experience that I have gained.
When you bring a baby or child to a conference with you, there are going to be certain obstacles that you face. First are the logistics; travel, hotel, dining. How are you going to do it with the baby? Do you bring someone with you to help, or do you do it alone?
I was concerned about sharing a room with someone, I mean I love my baby, but who else will love her and her baby noises in the middle of the night? Lucky for me, I found one such Mama, and Heather loved my Libby as much as someone not related to her could!
I figured out how to use the car seat in the Limo (I know, swanky huh??), and really had no problem with travel or hotel or even dining. I thought I was doing good until I got to the hotel. After checking in and looking up everything that was going on, I realized there was so much more than I had even thought of.
First off, the parties. I am the type of Mom who just brings my babies with me wherever I go. If it is not somewhere that I can take my wee one, it is not somewhere I am going to go. So on the first night, after going to the Social Luxe Party, then getting dinner with some friends, I took Libby to our room, got her in her pj’s, and set off to The People’s Party. I had a couple of folks stop me and say how surprised they were that I was bringing a baby to the party. I didn’t think twice about it though. She went with me to all of the parties, and it wasn’t until the last night there that I did stop to think a bit more about it.
On the last night of the conference, Stephanie and I had a very eye opening experience, one that neither of us will soon forget.
“At BowlHer on Saturday night we had an absolute blast. In the music room there were mini concerts and plenty of room to chill and let the babies crawl around. Ivy was dancing and clapping and at one moment I turned and said this was the best moment yet.
Only I didn’t say it. I had to shout it. And I looked at my baby and asked myself if I was an idiot. If we had to shout to hear each other, what were we doing to the babies’ ears? The set ended and we took the babies out before the next musician came on. I felt like everyone was watching me and, although I am honest and make plenty of mistakes here on the blog, it seemed like in real life? I wasn’t allowed to make any mistakes. Because shame on me if I just had a learning experience like any other Mother.”
I remember this moment so vividly because it was such an A-HA! Moment.
Both Stephanie and I realized that maybe, while we had thought out other parts of the conference, we hadn’t considered the parties. Maybe, just maybe the parties weren’t the right place for our babies. We both realized at that moment that while the conference it’s self was baby friendly, not all of the parties were.
The next big challenge for me was the conference. Blogher was SO huge and SO overwhelming, I really was glad to have my Libby strapped to me. I could hide behind her and not have to worry about much else. I was not the only Mom with a baby either, so that gave me comfort. There were babies in wraps, slings, strollers and on their feet. I couldn’t go very far without someone wanting to touch Libby’s soft head and smell her. Several new friends even told me that she made their ovaries ache!
In the classes, if she got fussy or restless, I would simply leave. I wasn’t about to sit there and interrupt someone else’s experience just so I could listen. So, I went to 2 sessions and wasn’t able to stay for either of them. I was not the only Mom who did this, as I saw several of my fellow comrades in the hall with their babes.
Sadly though, that is not always the case. Loralee has been to several conferences and has seen both successful and un-successful conference moments with children and brings her point of view as someone who has never taken her baby along with her.
“Because I am a Mom, I empathize and have a lot of patience and admiration for Moms who bring their babies and toddlers to conferences. I think that women-oriented blogging conferences have a much higher tolerance than many other situations we try to navigate as mothers with infants.
I LOVE having babies at conferences and am happy when conferences make things as easily as possible for mom’s with babies. I support feeding your baby whenever, wherever and I will probably be the first one to come and ooh and ahh over your wee bundle of cute. When I saw Catherine’s infant Jasper at Blogher 8 in San Fransisco, something inside of me shifted, and I knew I was ready to have another baby. I like hearing them coo and seeing them do cute baby things during sessions just adds to the experience, in my opinion. (Note to conference-attending-moms with babies: I am an EXCELLENT baby holder and snoggler. Hint, hint!)
BUT, because these events and the majority of attendees ARE so empathetic and welcoming of babies, when a parent allows or causes behaviors with their children that crosses the line into disruptive, rude and thoughtless to others, it seems more offensive than in any other situation.
When you are in a session or listening to a panel it is not the place to let your infant cry it out. And, if you have a toddler, I don’t mind them toddling at the back of the room at all, but if they are toddling all over the front, up on the dais,on the people in the panel or around the audio equipment, it is not appropriate and is very distracting not only to those in attendance, but to the panelists and speakers who have paid to be there and deserve to not have their experience disrupted and ruined. It’s not right or fair.
Also, getting frustrated or lashing out at your child, the other attendees or organizers (especially if they are child-friendly conferences) if you have a disruptive child or if you allow the situation to escalate with your child to the point that people or organizers must indicate that you need to be more considerate of other people in the panel is a big bad NO as well. Children and conferences are difficult. Appreciate that and think long and hard before you go that you simply cannot and will not have the same conference experience and time as someone attending that is childless.”
I appreciate so much Loralee’s input about this subject. I know my experiences, and what I can say to do and don’t do, but to have someone who is on the other side of the coin to share is very enlightening. We live in a time when Attachment Parenting is steadily on the rise and more and more Moms are bringing their babies and children with them wherever they go. We also live in a time when more and more Mom’s are in charge of events and can plan for those who will bring their kiddos.
I am lucky enough to be friends with two conference organizers, Kelby Carr, The Type A Mom herself, and Allie Worthington, you know, Mrs. Blissfully Domestic! Kelby has created a kid’s conference at the Type A Mom Conference for this very reason. She is a Mom and knows the challenges we all face.
She said, “From a conference organizer perspective, I wanted to set a standard at Type-A Mom by having affordable, accessible and trustworthy childcare for all attendees. I set up Kid Con so that moms could enjoy the conference and children will not just have babysitters, but their own camp style version of a mini conference.
It always seemed odd to me that there were few options with many conferences targeting moms. So that means attendees are not only allowed to bring children, but encouraged. What that means, of course, is that many people are attending with babies, and that is totally welcome.”
Allie shares her perspective not only as a conference organizer, but as a Mother of young children. “At BlissDom we welcome babies. We especially welcome cute and quiet babies. We have been lucky that all the babies that have attended the conferences have dutifully taken notes, been amazing mic wranglers, and have yet to have any terrible meltdowns. In all seriousness, young babies in strollers and slings are always a joy to have around. A sweet little baby face, a few toys and hundreds of instant Aunties ready to play makes bringing a baby to an event easy.
My favorite bit of advice is to expect to need help and plan ahead. When I had a baby in tow, rather than worry about what I would do with my infant son during hectic moments, I picked out a few friends in advance. There was always a set of willing and familiar arms for him.”
My biggest advice for those bringing babies to conferences is to keep your expectations low, that way you won’t be disappointed. I didn’t get to go to very many sessions last year, but that was okay. I knew going in that it was a possibility and I was ok with that. I was able to meet so many online friends, make new ones, and make connections with businesses on the Expo floor.
There are advantages and disadvantages to bringing your baby and how you will feel about it after the conference is entirely dependent on your attitude. If you don’t over schedule yourself and remember that you are a Mama first then you won’t be as disappointed. If you do over schedule yourself you and your baby will be overwhelmed and no one will be happy.
I am not bringing Libby to Blogher this year. I will get to go to whatever parties I want to, sit in on all the panels and classes I can muster, and have adult conversations without being interrupted by a wee one. But at the same time, I am losing my travel companion, my ice breaker and instant conversation starter. So, while it may take a lot more to bring your baby to the conference, it might take just as much to leave them at home. Do what you are comfortable with and whatever you do, remember to have fun.