Last week, I brought my 4 month old to RailsConf. In a game-day decision, rather than drag a two year old and husband along on the ~5 hour drive and send the dogs to boarding, we decided it would ultimately be easier on everyone (except maybe me) if I attended the conference with the baby, especially since a good amount of the conference would be live-streamed.
Daily morning photos at the conference.
While I was there, I was asked often how it was bringing a baby to a conference, so I decided to write a blog post. As with all parenting advice, the circumstances are a strong factor in how the experience turned out. RailsConf is a casual three-day multi-track tech conference with many breaks and social events – it's as much about socialization as it is about technical know-how. This is not my first baby and not my first time at RailsConf, so I had some idea of what I might be getting into. Minus a few minor squeaks, baby Skardal was sleeping or sitting happily throughout the conference.
Here's what I [qualitatively] perceived to be the reaction of others attending the conference to baby Skardal:
In list form:
- Didn't Notice: Probably about 50% didn't notice I had a baby, especially when she was sleeping soundly in the carrier.
- Stares: Around 50% may have stared. See below for more.
- Joke: A really small percentage of people made some variation of the joke "Starting her early, eh?"
- Conversation: An equally small percentage of people started a conversation with me, which often led to more technical talk.
Here are some reasons I imagined behind the staring:
- That baby is very cute (I'm not biased at all!)
- Wonder if day care is provided (No, it wasn't. But with a 4 month old who hasn't been in day care yet, I probably wouldn't have used it.)
- Too hungover to politely not stare
Pros & Cons
And here is how I felt after the conference, regarding pros and cons on bringing the baby:
|Pros ||Cons |
And finally, some tips:
- Plan ahead:
- Review the sessions in advance and pick out ones you want to attend because you may not have time to do that on the fly.
- Walk (or travel) the route from your hotel to the conference so you know how long it will take and if there will be challenges.
- Be agile and adapt. Most parents are already probably doing this with a 4 month old.
- Manage your expectations:
- Expect the conference with a baby to be tiring & challenging at times.
- Expect stares.
- Expect you won't make it to every session you want, so make a point of talking to others to find out their favorite sessions.
- If not provided, ask conference organizers for access to a nursing or stashing room.
- Bring baby gear options: carrier, stroller, bouncy seat, etc.
- Research food delivery options ahead of time.
- Order foods that are easy to eat with one hand. Again, another skill parents of a 4 month old may have developed.
- Sit or stand in the back of talks.
While in these circumstances I think we made the right decision, I look forward to attending more conferences sans-children.