Reboot 9: experiences of going to a conference with your baby
Although we did it on a smaller scale before (project meeting and BlogWalk), this was a first experience of going to a full-scale conference with a baby. I thought I'd share my experiences (in case you consider something similar ;)
Context - 2 days of Reboot, mama, papa and 4 months old Alexander, ~700km by car to get there.
It's nice to feel accepted. Bringing your child to a conference still sounds strange for many people, so small signals that it's 'normal' are important. Seeing other people with kids, babysitting downstairs, general smiles and nodding make a lot of difference (I also loved the 'role-model' picture it gave to still-single-geeky-guys :). A few people I talked to said they would consider bringing their kids next year.
Your primary channel is babychannel. Forget blogging, be happy if you manage to go to the sessions you want to go and participate in some conversations. I put my laptop away pretty soon after Reboot had started – it's an extra weight to drag around, my hands were usually occupied with toys and there were hardly any moments than I could give online world some attention.
So I missed quite a lot. Not that much of the sessions, but mainly of networking around. There were extra things to do during the breaks and we had to skip some evening activities (including missing pre-/post-conference parties, eating in turns and need to 'evacuate' at the moment my dessert was served).
But being there with Alexander also added a lot. Not only he was a great ice-breaker / conversation starter (from 'how old is he' to 'my kids are…' to blogging/technology/work :), but I also enjoyed moments of sharing parenting experiences with others. It was also about fun, closeness and feeling empowered experiencing that it is possible to be a parent and a professional at the same moment.
Logistics at the conference
- Finding a place on the edge (on the back, along the walls, in a doorframe) – where I could play with Alexander, feed him without attracting too much attention, move around to calm him down or escape if he starts being too loud (or just before the applause would wake him up after so much effort to put him asleep).
- Easy clothes – not only for discreet breastfeeding, but also for sitting on the floor (which makes bigger and safer playing area).
- We brought our stroller and bouncing chair as we use them a lot at home, but we hardly used them – there was too much stimulation around and it felt better to have Alexander close to give him a sense of security in the middle of people and noises. We used our baby carrier (Baby Bjorn) a lot – this was probably the most important item to have with us.
Logistics around the conference
- Taking more time for driving. Driving to Copenhagen in one day was a bit too much for Alexander even given all the breaks we took (it's too boring to be awake in the car and one can only sleep so much during the day). I was happy we could drive back home in two days, having a nice stop-over at a little beach town in North Germany.
- A place to stay. We booked B&B outside of the city centre. I liked the independence and quiet time it gave to us, but it also didn't give us any opportunity to do any meaningful things to do in the evening. I wonder if staying in a hotel with other participants, downstairs lounge and good-enough babyphone reception would give us an opportunity to have some time to network and be with others after Alexander went for his night sleep (on the other hand – missing late night buzz gave us enough rest to enjoy the baby and the conference the day after). I was happy we were in a place with more than one room, so we had somewhere to go in the evening.
- Did I tell you that we haven't seen any of the Copenhagen? Staying in the city center would probably make a difference here, although we would probably have lots of parking problems.
Some other things
- Babysitting. We hardly used it (probably since Alexander is so little), but I guess it was helpful for parents with older kids. It was definitely helpful for grown-up kids, giving them a very nice wii-break :)
- Name tags for kids. I asked Reboot crew for an empty one and made a name tag for Alexander, so he could fully participate :) I can imagine that for an older kid this could be fun.
- T-shirts. I was extremely happy to find out that there were kid sizes of Reboot T-shirts and then very sad since we didn’t manage to get one for Alexander. I guess they were taken by parents with kids at home as souvenirs… This could actually turn into a very nice twist for the conference T-shirt theme – making those to take-away for your kids (I never take T-shirts for myself, since I don't wear them, especially those of a nightgown variety).
And, most important thing – I'm very happy that I get support of Robert in all this. The logistics around the conference make it too difficult to do it alone and it actually helps that there are moments to enjoy the conference 'old-fashioned-pre-baby-way' knowing that your child is happy at another session with your partner.
Photo credits: Ludita, Ton Zijlstra, Mark Wubben