Child care at conferences is awesome but not for the reason you think it is. We think it helps women who have no other options for kids to attend. Really it helps all parents be closer to their kids, helping people in technology build strong families, relationships and communities.
Child care helps attendance for local meetups
Child care is often toted as a way to enable women to attend conferences. I think that’s really true when the conference is local. It’s not that women (or men) couldn’t find someone to watch their kids but it’s one less impediment. The meetup is posted, you see there’s child care, you can just rsvp. Later you might find child care or you might use the meetup child care.
Most people that travel for work have child care
But as anyone that travels a lot for work knows, it’s much more work to bring your child than it is to leave them at home. If you have to travel for work, you probably have child care options for your kids at home because there aren’t enough other options while traveling for work these days. (Luckily, I have an awesome extended support network at home.)
But child care at conferences is vital for our extended community
The reason I think child care at conferences is awesome is that it allows me to share my work, my travel and my colleagues with my kids.Â It allows me to bond with my child in an environment that I don’t get to share with them very often.
My kids love attending conferences with me. They get to share my love of traveling, stay in hotels (which they still think is awesome), get swag, meet all the people I talk about and play with colleagues’ kids.
My kids have met my colleagues – really smart, funny people. They have played nerf guns and games with the kids of my colleagues like at the kid day at SCALE or the daycare at Grace Hopper.Â They see what I do when I travel – my youngest turned the slides for me at my talk at SCALE and helped out at both the Kids on Computers and Mozilla booths. They’ve enjoyed exploring cities with me the weekend before a conference.
Hopefully they’ve learned more about the world, how technology makes it works, why open source is important and how people debate and collaborate on things that make the world a better place.
One Reply to “Why child care at conferences is great”
Amen to that! I actually started pushing to include childcare at maths conferences.
I am myself a mother, both my husband and I need to travel for work regularly. We try to cope with family duties by following each other in turns and sometime we have to give up. Certainly it would reduce the stress a lot to have childcare! Everytime I follow my husband, I need to spend days to plan activities, find child friendly places on Tripadvisor… sometime the local language is an insuperable obstacle (both for checking websites and to manage in loco). Let me add we are lucky ones, with a family friendly society backing us up (meaning that we can take days off whenever we want basically!), retired parents ready to step in even if it means taking a plane, and open mind to have each other’s back in career advancement… but how about single parents? Or breastfeeding mothers who may be stuck with the baby for 1,2, even 3 years? It’s a matter of equal opportunities.
However, if we want to step back and think in productivity terms, I think we would get the same conclusion. Would you be happier having your family back at home, struggling without you, or knowing you’ll see them for dinner? Happy people work better, that’s a FACT.
And then… costs. They are much lower than you think. You don’t need much to organise basic childcare services. For a 500 participant conference we payed about 150 euros total (they gave us space for free, so let’s round to 300 with the rent). It’s mostly about providing an information package, a contact person and basic facilities (breastfeeding space, highchair, microwave oven, changing table… many you find often on spot already). If you have greater budget, you can do more of course: childcare grants (they are already offered by many institutions), child carers or a deal with a local babysitting agency, etc.
Almost everyone has kids, with all the life-work balance difficulties… so why we keep on avoiding this?
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