Taking a baby to a tech conference (Nemi, to #openhacklondon)

Nemi on a Yahoo! BeanbagUPDATE – Nemi’s hack made Cnet! 😀 (pic 12/25)

Yesterday I descended upon Open Hack London, pram and all, to find out what it was like going to a technology conference with a baby, and also to join in and see what it was all about. Neither of us has ever been to a Hack Day before, and being the owner of some very rusty Perl and PHP skillz I was pretty nervous both as a Mum and a developer to even show my face at the event.

We decided to go to Open Hack London in the first place as a friend of ours, Tom Coates (who works for Yahoo!), was in town to speak there, and had invited a bunch of friends to come and visit. We thought it would be the perfect opportunity to test the waters of conference parenting when we knew there would be some buddies around to look out for.  It also co-incided nicely with Mother’s Day weekend in many parts of the world (not the UK…) which was a cute co-incidence.

Taking Nemi to a tech event has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. Some of my professional life is organising, sponsoring and consulting on events in the technology industry, and a question that frequently comes up is "What about childcare facilities?" – it’s often a heated debating point amongst Mums (interestingly, never had a Dad say it) and event organisers from my experience. Mums want to come to weekend or evening events, but often struggle with finding childcare, and from those I’ve spoken with, can feel let down and left out when there’s no option for bringing children along and thus missing out themselves. (My personal views are identify events you want to go to early, and arrange for childcare in your normal way if possible; but I realise for some people this isn’t always an option for whatever reason.)

In the past, I’ve struggled with the health and safety aspect of allowing children to the events I organise, as there has been access issues, or alcohol involved. I’m ashamed to say that it’s always been easier as an event organiser to just rule out having under 18s there than investigate ways of getting around that. From now on though, I will be taking the Yahoo! approach.. Which goes a little something like this…

I registered for Open Hack London via their website, and put in the special requirements box (great first example that made me feel bringing Nemi might actually be possible) that if I was accepted to come, I would be bringing my 6 month old baby daughter, Nemi, along, and would there be access and nappy changing facilities? I got a swift response from Anil (one of the organisers) saying we were in! And that both access and nappy changing would be no problem at all. His email then went on to ask if we intended to stay the night! I was fairly surprised and impressed at the fact they would even consider this, let alone how included it made me feel. I felt staying over would be a step too far for this new Mum on her first event-with-baby-excursion, so we declined the sleepover gracefully, and starting planning our trip out the following week.

With a buggy loaded to the hilt, we set off. Arriving fashionably late for the Tech Talks but just in time for the Hack Day, we were greeted by two super smiley chaps on the door who helped us find a lift down via an alternative entrance, and shared a few jokes about Nemi signing away her code rights.. 😉

Once in, we were again greeted very warmly and infact, made quite a fuss of by the Yahoo! staff on the event reception who genuinely couldn’t help us enough, and coo’d at and engaged with Nemi whilst telling me all the event details, giving us our welcome pack, and explaining about the nappy change options (one being, "Why not just do it on stage? Give the devs a dose of reality?" heh, a fun idea, but I’m not sure Nemi would appreciate knowing the dev community had seen her bum in 2009).

Once we were in came the hardest part of the whole day – walking into the lobby with a pushchair. Not because of any physical barriers, but mentally I found it emabrassing – "Why is that woman bringing her baby here?", "What the hell?", "Oh God, a BABY!" etc – none of these were in any way said or intoned, but they were the voices in my head as I glided Nemi across the room and found a corner to hide in whilst I found my nerves again.

A quick feed in the corner, and a scope of the room, and I was feeling a bit more confident. At that point, a very friendly and kind hacker came over (whos name I didn’t catch – if you’re reading this, do comment!) and said hello to Nemi and me, and was so welcoming and warm that we felt right at home within the conversation with him. The icing on the cake for me asking if he’d just take Nemi a sec so I could hoist myself up. "How do I hold a baby?" was the reply, "Oh, just under her arms like this" <holds Nemi at arms length smiling, whilst she gurgles and smiles at him/> "Great, thank you" "Wow, that was the first time I’ve held a baby, I’m really glad I didn’t drop her!" 🙂 This was great, Nemi had just taken her first baby-holding-cherry, and both Nemi and Lovely Hacker Man looked proud and slightly shocked.

Spurred on by our experience so far, we went into the Tech Talks to check it all out. At this point I realise a sling would have been good as well as the pram, as pushing a pram round a packed out event is much harder than just carrying your little dude/dudette – so if you’re planning on trying this yourself, do pack a sling. Once inside we hooked up with our buddies before they scarpered for lunch. We decided to take lunch inside, get chance to work out if we could join a hack team, and talk to some more developers.

Lunch was yummy, and Nemi had a play in her pram whilst I chatted to some devs and found out their plans. I worked out pretty quickly we were going to be more of a hindrance than a help to any team, so we decided to just be the mascots for the day and cheer everyone on from the sidelines. We also had a charming chat with a young hacker Dad who’s son was away for the weekend with Mum, and he came over for some baby hugs as he was missing the little dude. He showed us some photos of his son, who had the most *gorgeous* smile ever 🙂 If you’re reading this lovely hacker-dad, do say hi in the comments 🙂

After lunch, we did a quick nappy change, and then chatted to a few of the Yahoo! folk, who were genuinely really happy and glad that Nemi had come along, and frequently offering help, and checking in that we were ok and didn’t need anything. Nemi was loving all the attention, and thankfully, in a great mood – she had a lot of fuss and photos taken (even by a chap from Cnet at one point!) and was even videoed interviewing me by Y! Studios. Although by that point (it was late afternoon by now, and we’d been there 3 hours) she was getting hot and a bit tetchy. But still managed a raspberry and an attempt at eating the mini boom mic. (I’ll update with a link to the video and photos as I hear from people)

All in all it was a great day, and we really enjoyed ourselves. The Yahoo! staff really went all out to make us feel welcome, included, and confident from the minute I sent the first email asking to come, until we left the building.

Points to take away for any parents thinking of taking their baby (under 12 months) to an event would be:

  • check with the organisers it’ll be ok, and if there are the facilities you need and if not, ways to work around that. I know, totally obvious, but thought I’d best put it in here.
  • could be wise to check people you know are going, it was quite intimidating walking in – it was nice to know friendly faces would be there if I had felt uncomfortable.
  • sadly, don’t expect to be able to participate as much as a non-babied up person. Again, obvious, but just want to point that out 🙂
  • take a sling. Babies get heavy after an hour or so of constant carrying.
  • plan ahead that baby may not eat/sleep as much during the event by stocking them up on both before going. I made sure Nemi had a few ounces more milk before we set off, and a good morning nap before getting to the venue (we arrived around noon).
  • take toys. Perhaps not a Sophie Giraffe that we did, which made a very cute squeaking noise throughout some of the more quiet bits of the hack afternoon 😉
  • be prepared to leave early, and don’t forget to listen to your baby – when they’re hot and tired, it’s time to go. Even if you’re not done yet, chances are they are. It’s a lot to take in for the little flump! This may mean planning to have whatever is the most important part of the event happen half an hour after you arrive, so you have chance to get there, do a feed and settle, and then having a happy baby whilst you see whatever it is you wanted to.

Also, a last point – I took Nemi along on the understanding there would be no childcare there, and although there were many willing baby holders, this doesn’t really help the debate around professional childcare at events such as these, which would in turn help the parent to participate whilst being able to check in on little sausage every so often. This is something we could do with addressing – with future tech as a leading economy, it seems only right to me we should perhaps lead the way in every facet we can. Perhaps if more of us do join in with our babies and children, the need will then become clear for a more structured approach and we can work with event organisers to provide the facilities that would help everyone who wants to, attend. Not forgetting single Dads, or even Dads who just want to make sure their weekend time (which is for a lot of Dads, their only time) with their child can be inclusive to their hobbies and professional lives (pretty much every hacker I spoke to (all were male) couldn’t wait to show us photos of their little one, and tell us how great they were).

Nemi and I are available to test your event for child-friendliness if you want us to – drop me a line. I’d also welcome any discussion on how to help events cater for parents and their children, and would be very interested in helping set up or find out about childcare options at events if you run an event and would be interested.

Thanks for reading, and thanks again to the staff at Yahoo! (especially Anil, Sophie and Havi) for making it such a fun experience.

EDIT – TRAVEL – for interest sake to other Mums, we travelled in to London from Kent, which is an hour train journey, plus central London travel time, and back again all via public transport.  You may find it easier to stay longer at events than we managed (3.5hrs) if you live more local to your chosen event, or if you own a car and are able to drive to your event.

FURTHER EDIT – I’ve been coming under fire from some people on Twitter and other places (sadly, not addressing me personally, but just bitching behind my back) that taking a baby to a conference makes me a Bad Mum.  That I am Selfish.  That I am Not Considering The Baby’s Needs.  Utter rubbish.  Nemi loves being out and about, and prefers to be with her Mum (and meeting lots of cool new people) any day than cooped up inside, or I would imagine (she’s never been, so I don’t know) being in childcare from 7am – 7pm which she would have to be if I wanted to keep my income coming in to support us.

As anyone at the Hack Day will validate, she didn’t cry once, was full of smiles, and other than guzzling a bottle of milk and a snooze on me was playful and engaged the time we were there.  When she got a bit too hot and flustered around 3:30pm, we left to go and have a walk round Soho Park.  So please, if you have an issue with my parenting, feel free to address me directly (with either @Thayer if you’re Tweeting, or email me) and I will be happy to respond and set your mind at rest.

About Thayer Prime

Tall. Eats a lot. Talks too much. I tweet over @thayer
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45 Responses to Taking a baby to a tech conference (Nemi, to #openhacklondon)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great Post!
    It’s nice to see that the UK is starting to learn how to deal with children! When I had my son 12 years ago, I stubbornly took him along with me most everywhere right from the start. Sometimes the response I got was unreal- like I wasn’t carrying a baby, but a bucket of effluence instead.
    I learned very quickly that restaurants staffed by Italians, Spanish or Greeks were the very best places to go with children as, unlike the British, they LOVE children and make you feel extremely welcome when you walk in with one.
    I was told to leave “an independent terrestrial broadcaster” I was freelancing for because I had my (8 year old) son with me for a couple hours because of childcare issues. He wasn’t bothering anyone – by that time he’d learned how to exist in the adult world – but I was told he wasn’t welcome.
    I’m 3 weeks away from having my second child, so it’ll be interesting for me to see what changes have occurred. And who knows, maybe we’ll turn up at the same conferences!
    Actually, it would be very nice for a conference to offer creche facilities for parents with toddlers or older kids. Babies are easy cos they are portable… once they start running around, it would become far more difficult to keep them ‘contained and quiet’ in a conference.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “Points to take away for any parents”
    It’s interesting that your “points to take away for any parents…” doesn’t include considering the impact an infant will have on other people or on the event itself. Have you ever stopped to think how unreasonable it is of you to expect others to put up with your child at what is, after all, an adult event? Don’t mistake a couple of people cooing over your offspring as the norm – contrary to what most parents like to believe, very few people are at all impressed or delighted at having to put up with their kids.

    • Thayer Prime says:

      Re: “Points to take away for any parents”
      Thanks for your response, “Anonymous” – would you mind letting us know who you are? Would love to know more about you, and your demographic. Would be useful in trying to work these issues out.
      I would say your point certainly highlights the need for proper childcare at events even more. Afterall, we want these events (esp when done in “normal life time”) to be inclusive to everyone that wants to attend – whatever their circumstances. The ideal would be a safe and appropriate-for-the-event style of childcare.
      But yes, I take your point, and thanks for sharing.

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: “Points to take away for any parents”
        well, I don’t see how knowing my name and my “demographic” can help here – my point was suggesting that you consider people’s feelings other than your own and your child’s, not providing childcare.
        Okay, my name is Sara and I’m an IT professional – does that help? Probably not. (And for the record, I’m not a mother – by choice.)
        I have to ask: you want “safe and appropriate” childcare at these events – but paid for by whom? Fine if you and other parents are going to bear the cost of this and be happy paying extra to have those facilities which only you will use. If that’s the case then that’s something you can suggest to event organisers. Not fine, however, if you expect the cost to be absorbed by everyone.
        You made a lifestyle choice to be a mother – fine, I have no problem with that. But that’s your life, not anyone else’s and it’s unfair of you to inflict your child (and its associated “needs”) on everyone else.

      • Thayer Prime says:

        Re: “Points to take away for any parents”
        Hi Sara, and thanks again for replying, it’s really insightful to see it from the other side of the fence.
        I am not proposing anything at all regarding cost yet, haven’t even got that far, however, personally I would be very happy to pay for Nemi to be in a creche/childcare part of an event I was at. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who wouldn’t be. Childcare is a hard thing when you’re a parent – just dropping your kids off with anyone is tough and requires all sorts of homework on standards etc, but if I knew mine were in easy access throughout the day, and with an accredited bunch of people, that would be really useful.
        I would certainly *never* expect anyone to pay for my children, but then your tone suggest now that you’re trolling (even if you don’t mean to be) so I’ll leave that there.
        I am trying to acheive a dialogue between relevant people (of which you are certainly one) to see if there’s a way we can events more inclusive. If you feel put out by that, then perhaps you should ask the organisers before you attend an event if there will be children present – it may save you the feelings of angst.
        If however, you’d like to be involved in anything I try and set up to see where a solution lies, I would love to have your points put across (so long as you can keep your manners in check) just drop me an email and I’ll be sure to involve you.
        If you’d like to reply, please do, I will post it (so long as it’s not offensive) but this is my last post to you, as I find your tone and assumptions somewhat abrasive.

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: “Points to take away for any parents”
        Sara, wow. You’ve made me angry. I might expect your attitude from a 20-something year old boy, but not from a *woman* – childless-by-choice or not.
        For the record: I have a 12 year old son. I was a single mother (financially UNsupported by his father OR the state) for most of his life. I am now with a new partner and we are a few weeks away from having another son.
        Have you ever thought about what percentage of *men* attending conferences have children at home? Children, of course, who are being looked after by their (female) partners so that they can attend the conference? Have you ever wondered why tech conferences have so few female attendees (other than those lucky enough to have childcare on tap or, like, you choose to be childless)? Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult for women over 40 to rise to positions of power in the workplace unless they remain childless? Do you think that women who choose to have children are somehow intellectually inferior to you, as if they lose their brains when giving birth? Do you think that women with children have nothing to add to the world?
        Why shouldn’t you consider the feelings of -and SUPPORT- intelligent, talented women who happen to have children who *want* to continue to contribute to the world outside their home yet sometimes find it difficult or too expensive to arrange childcare?
        Like probably ALL parents, I would be more than willing to pay for creche facilities at a conference as it would cost CONSIDERABLY less than paying £8-10ph for a babysitter at home which can really add up- 2 hours traveling to the conference, 8 hours there adds up to an extra £100 to the cost of spending a whole day outside the home…
        Maybe you are like one of my- female, childless-by-choice- bosses who didn’t renew my contract when she found out I was pregnant because she didn’t think women with children should work… Interestingly, I was immediately re-hired at the same company by a MALE boss who had two children…
        What an absolutely appalling, bitter and shameful attitude you have. Tsk.

  3. Thayer Prime says:

    Thanks Harry, lovely to meet you & see your little one too, even if it was just on your iPhone, loved the Yahoo! babygrow haha! 🙂

  4. Thayer Prime says:

    Re: “Points to take away for any parents”
    OK, ding ding, and with the end of that round, I am not going to accept any more comments to this particular comment thread – I think we all have our own opinions, and that is a *good* thing, makes the world an interesting and challenging place. However, don’t want anyone getting personal with anyone else, and this isn’t really getting to the issue I’m trying to attack – the discussion (JUST THE DISCUSSION for now) of possible answers to the childcare at events question.
    I think it’s a valid one, and if you feel strongly enough that it isn’t, please do write about it on your own blog, and set up your own think tanks to work out how to stop it if you like, totally fine by me – the more discussion around it the better 🙂 Perhaps the answer lies in lobbying governemnt for better childcare overall, perhaps everyone should just stop having kids – or those without kids get a reduced pension, NHS, other services and that percentage of money our kids would be paying for via their taxes go back to invest in our kids, kids…?
    Anyways, shutting this one thread down, but still very much open to comments on my post. Please be constructive though. I would be very interested to hear what solutions people have, I think this covers the rather shortsighted/unrealistic view of “Don’t have babies”. So, let’s move on 🙂

  5. Anonymous says:

    Is this really a matter for event organisers?
    I’d have thought they have plenty of things to be doing without needing to organise childcare for parents. If someone asked me to provide childcare for a conference I was organising I’m afraid I’d have to refuse. Sorry, but sorting out childcare is a parent’s responsibility. If they can organise childcare in order to go out to work, and hence be in a position where they require to attend conferences, it shouldn’t really be a problem, should it?

    • Thayer Prime says:

      Re: Is this really a matter for event organisers?
      Hi, and thanks for the comment. It’s a very good question – and one I think can only be answered on an event by event basis.
      Just want to point out, at no point have I said that it should be the event organisers responsibility – I have just said childcare at events is an issue we (as an industry, and both parents/non-parents) need to address.
      I’m going to make some calls today, and find out what sort of options there are out there, and see if I can start finding some solutions.
      I think event organisers could play a role in this, certainly, by working with parents in the industry jointly, and offer whatever services they feel they are able – if any. And if they aren’t able, or don’t want to – that’s their choice, of course. I think from both my view (being an event organiser) and others I know in this space, we’d be up for it if someone did the leg work of working out how this could work. So, I propose I’ll go off and start digging around! 🙂
      Also, with regards: “If they can organise childcare in order to go out to work, and hence be in a position where they require to attend conferences, it shouldn’t really be a problem, should it?”
      I’m specifically addressing events that happen during “normal life time” as I wrote in my post. So, weekend ones, evening ones, etc. And no – normal working childcare wouldn’t cover weekends, so if like me, a parent wanted to attend a Hackday for example, they would be a bit stuffed. Also, don’t forget, Mums and Dads do actually like to keep their hand in for when they return to work – it’s absolutely imperivtive in this industry to keep up with it all, as I’m sure you know. So suggesting it’s only those already at work that need to go, doesn’t really figure in my book. And lastly, people like me who work from home, or have family look after their babies wouldn’t have the sort of childcare I think you’re talking about.
      Also, please bear in mind childcare has long waiting lists, and often minimum weekly purchases – I don’t have childcare for example – I look after Nemi 5 days a week, with her Nan and her Dad taking the other 2 days (because they want to, not because I need them to) so I don’t have any organised childcare. As a Mum who feels that spending time with her baby and involving her in as much of my life as possible is paramount, the option of a daycare/childcare at an event I would go to would be a massive bonus for both me and Nemi, not to mention the commercial and kudos benefits the event would receive for being so forward thinking…

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: Is this really a matter for event organisers?
        I don’t think you’ll find too many single people without children caring to be perfectly honest.
        Anyway, sounds like a potential business opportunity for you if you want to set up to provide day care services to the events industry. Good luck.

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: Is this really a matter for event organisers?
        As Thayer will attest, I’ve returned to this topic several times over the years since my own kids were born (now 5 and 3), and answering a few points that have been made from my own pov, I’d say that I agree, the crunch time comes not when they’re tiny wee’uns as such (very portable, don’t move much, you provide the required nutrition pretty much yourself) although, I am reminding myself that I did have some real issues finding breastfeeding places. No, the real issue comes when you’ve got a 2-3 year old in particular, I think. They have the amazing power that only a completely immature mind with the potential for utter distruction and disruption can give.
        To return to the point “Why? Why not arrange childcare externally, you do it to go to work, don’t you?” Weeellll… yes in theory, but alot of un-conferences tend to take place at the weekends, which are the only times that full time working parents get to spend with their kids. It’s not a lifestyle choice you want to make – leave your kids behind and probably not even be home to put them to bed, even if you miss out of the inevitable pub afterwards. If it’s feasible to bring along your young child, I really would want to. It’s a brilliant day out for them, making new friends and playing with new toys – and you get to be there, caring for them, as much as you can. So there’s an imnperative not to be away from your child (I would say, because I am biased in that way, particularly being a Mum) but it’s also healthier and more positive for the child involved to be with you too – to see you taking part in something positive and creative, as well as receive v1-1 care at intervals throuoghout the day, from a primary, loving carer.
        The economics of this make sense to me. I certainly wouldn’t mind bearing the cost, and the lack of childcare is a positive disincentive. As a result, not only are a currently unknown number of parents fairly well excluded from the creative conference circuit but the conferences themselves must miss out on contributions from committed people.
        I took my daughter to Geekyoto last year, and we had a lovely time for about 3 hours – in as much as, Nora watched Charlie and Lola episodes on the laptop for most of it with a pair of headphones. Not really perfect, and the conference was also not full! (as far as she was concerned though she had a whale of a time, obviously ;). We;ll be going back this year but as to taking my 3 year old son – well. I’ll just have to not see him all day instead, on one of our precious Saturdays, so Dad can take care of him at home. I know that my husband would love to come to the conference, but with no childcare provision, there won’t be any choice.
        And yes, that definitely is a challenge 🙂

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: Is this really a matter for event organisers?
        It’s absolutely a matter for event organisers, if event organisers want mothers to attend conferences! Many conferences have babysitting built in – like the MLA conference, the 10000-people a year annual convention of English and language teachers in the USA. They have an agency set up the childcare facility and charge $45 a day. I was there but didn’t use it this year – my husband’s in the same field as I and so we were both at the conference and took turns babysitting. To be honest, I missed a LOT of the conference, though – if you want to participate, bringing a baby does complicate things. That would probably have been a lot easier had we used the childcare.
        Here’s a short article reporting on the childcare at the MLA – they hid the kids nearly a mile away from the conference, which seems kind of mean, because yes, you would want to be able to check in on the kids if you’re leaving them with strangers, even accredited strangers.
        (Jill Walker Rettberg – @jilltxt – http://jilltxt.net)

    • Anonymous says:

      Re: Is this really a matter for event organisers?
      I think it’s just another thing to be considered when catering for the needs of a diverse group of people you want to attract to an event. Do many organisers tell vegetarians to go “sort out your own non-meat requirements as that is a vegetarian’s responsibility resulting from your life choice”? It’s about supply and demand – sufficient vegetarians have demanded it to make it economically viable for organisers to cater for it (or rather, uneconomic to avoid it). It used to be a weird thing, now it’s mainstream. Don’t see why childcare should be any different.

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: Is this really a matter for event organisers?
        There is a difference. 10-15% of tech event attendees are typically vegetarian and non-vegetarian attendees can still eat veggie food (I usually order 25-50% veggie food). The veggie food costs the same as ‘meat’ meals and doesn’t add any logistical overhead.
        We’ve never had a request for childcare at an event before, so we assume there is no demand for it. Organising it would add to the costs and time needed to put on an event for seemingly very little benefit.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hi Thayer,
    You’ve done a great post and highlighted some key issues for parents and conferences here. The idea of having a creche at events is a good one and isn’t new but does seem to make a difference to families who want to attend tech events. The one that springs to mind immediately is BlogHer and others seem to be following.
    You’ve been very sensible about your approach to the events and I applaud you for that and your handling of the conflicts that have already arisen within the comments.
    As you say the issues aren’t just women’s issues but the trials & tribulations of being a parent at an event like Hackdays. I don’t pretend to know how much of a balancing act it all is but it does seem to be that the current generation of parents are starting to take their parental responsibilites forward in a positive way within the IT industry. It’s encouraging to hear how you and others are finding ways to balance everything.
    I would love to hear from you which events you find parent friendly and where they can improve. And I like that you have done this blog post so that Yahoo can make improvements for next year that make it acceptable for both parents & non-parents.
    The idea of bringing children to these sort of events is a great idea and I do think that it will help them to understand the industry better too. 🙂 It’s an interesting way of bringing new blood into the industry potentially. And why not take it one step further by suggesting that there is a children’s hackday where they can work together to do their own hacks too (when old enough).
    Keep coming to events and do let me know any suggestions you have for making ggd events family friendly. It’s something we would like to be able to do… Suggestions advice etc are always welcome.
    Something for parents to also bear in mind is that some events are organized solely by volunteers and that it may not have occurred to them how to best serve the parents. As such suggestions are often welcomed (especially at early stages of organizing events).
    Sorry this comment is so long.
    Sarah Blow
    Girl Geek Dinners

    • Thayer Prime says:

      Re: 🙂
      Hi Sarah
      Many thanks for your post, and no apology needed, this is exactly the sort of input I’m after.
      You mentioned letting children hack, and funnily enough 2gether already have a children’s day as part of their festival style conference this summer. I think that’s just awesome 🙂 Kids love this sort of thing! So, yes, very good point.
      Thanks for being open and suggesting Girl Geek Dinners are interested in being part of the conversation, I will definitely keep you in the loop with any of my findings and chats.
      Likewise, if any of your members are interested in this as Mums or organisers, please do put them in touch.
      I think if we all do our bit and take responsibility for what we want to acheive, we can totally nail this, or at least offer up solutions for people to consider. I’ll post a new post on any of my findings from calls today and this week.
      PS – thanks for the smiley! 😀

  7. Anonymous says:

    Fomr the event organisers
    Hi Thayer
    I’m so pleased it worked out having Nemi along at the event. We really loved having her and you there 🙂 I heard only positive comments from the hackers.
    It was a first for us, too, and really helpful to hear what worked and what we could improve in future.
    Sophie (Yahoo! Developer Network)

  8. swissbunny says:

    reboot in Copenhagen: kid-friendly
    Just thought I’d point people interested in the topic to reboot, in Denmark. I attended in 2007 and it was kid-friendly with childcare. You’ll find details and photos at the bottom of this post: http://bub.blicio.us/reboot9-part-iii/

    • Thayer Prime says:

      Re: reboot in Copenhagen: kid-friendly
      Hey Swissbunny, that’s great – thanks for sharing! I’ll get in touch with them and find out what they do, see if we (I) can learn any lessons 🙂

  9. Anonymous says:

    Well done
    I took my 13 month old to the office on Friday for a meeting because my wife and I couldn’t quite co-ordinate childcare. It was a disaster!
    The little one slept on the way into the office, guaranteeing that she would be restless on arrival. The meeting started late by which time it was encroaching on her dinner time and the more she cried, the more tense I became and the more she cried.
    That notwithstanding, it’s worked well in the pats. But I think mostly it’s down to the child being in a good mood.

    • Thayer Prime says:

      Re: Well done
      Hi Matthew, thanks for the comment.
      Wow, you poor thing – must have been tough for both of you! I totally understand how having a baby in a good mood makes all the difference, Nemi is in a great place right now where everything is exciting and wonderful, and she’s full of smiles. Just 2 months ago she had colic and so I hardly even left the house apart from our daily walk, for fear of her getting upset/tummy pain in public – it is *tough* when that happens, and I think some of the comments here (and on Twitter) really reflect how badly people view a crying baby. I can understand that though, it’s never pleasant for anyone – it’s not like we want them to cry ourselves!
      Well done you for getting through it though, and taking the brunt of what was going to be a tough day either way – great to see Dads getting in on the work-life-balancing-action 🙂

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: Well done
        Thanks for the sympathy! After the (abysmal) meeting I took her to a children’s cafe where she ate a baby mix and played on the rocking horse and I drank beer.
        The aversion to crying babies is one I still understand. There’s a time and a place for childcare and if my daughter cries in a music concert, a nice restaurant or a library, I will do my best to get out!

  10. Anonymous says:

    A point to any conference organisers considering these issues: your event liability insurance may not cover children, leaving you liable. Always double check with the insurer if a child turns up.

    • Thayer Prime says:

      Re: Insurance
      Very good point indeed. I am going to do some digging this week, and do a follow up post on what I find about childcare at conferences, and best case examples, along with any parts we should be aware of – this being one of them!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Mixed feelings
    Interesting post. I don’t really have a point to make, just a few observations.
    I recently attended a web related conference (Bamboo Juice) at the Eden Project and dragged my family along (wife, 2x 6 year olds and 1 yr old baby). It was brilliant having them there and I’m really glad we did it. It got me thinking that there could/should be more conferences at family friendly places. As you suggest our schedule was (as it is always) dictated by the kid’s needs and I had to leave early when they (and my wife) started getting fed-up, but this was expected.
    However the kids were not involved with the conference part themselves so I was able to fully focus on that (when I wasn’t hanging out with them) and they didn’t disrupt the event as they were elsewhere doing all the cool eden project things being looked after by their mum.
    I think if I were at an event like that or a barcamp and other people’s kids were there then I would find it disruptive if they were not creched elsewhere or that should they start being noisy that they were not whisked away by the parent. I do think that with a baby you can (as you did) get away with it assuming they are in the right mood on the day but the second they are old enough to be moving around then I think it’d be a nightmare for all concerned. At networking events or general meet ups then I see no problem whatsoever with kids being present.
    For older kids it should be easy enough to keep them entertained at a conference proper for a few 1hr stints to let parents see some talks by simply providing a – parent funded – area with a telly, some crayons and then do a childcare swap. I had to solo look after my 6yo twins this weekend in Cornwall where I was engaged pretty much full-time in grown up activities and the parents in the group mucked in to juggle things so that we all had productive time and that they were not disuptive. There is obviously a security issue here to consider, though, and I wasn’t at a conference proper.

    • Thayer Prime says:

      Re: Mixed feelings
      Some really good and interesting points here, thanks @bealers. One thing I really haven’t a clue about (yet – uh oh! heh) is a child older than 6 months, so I wouldn’t pretend to have a clue how that might pan out. That’s where I’m going to seek out the experience of the events listed in other comments above, and involve other parents and see what options we could work out. You may find me knocking on your Twitter door for help and feedback when I get that far 🙂
      Thanks again, great points.

  12. Anonymous says:

    A View From A Dad
    I frequently take Sydney with me to events and have been doing so since she was about 4 months old. Interestingly, in the pre 9-11 days, most people complained (not always to my face) and right after 9-11, people started saying that they wished there were more events that allowed children. Sadly, that feeling has gone away as we’ve gotten further from those days.
    After one conference in NY where I was a speaker and I was with Sydney a day early to pick up registration information and they told me that she couldn’t actually attend the next day when I was speaking. Sydney immediately said that I needed to make it part of my speaker contract that she got to go with me. It doesn’t always work, but she was been to some great locations with me when I’ve been speaking (like Sydney, Australia) and she’s going with me to a conference in Amsterdam next month.
    Some of the conferences I’ve attended realized that it was actually important to allow children to attend, like IAAPA, the theme park conference. After all, how can adults really know what kids will like to play with without seeing kids play with them? Other shows, like SIGGRAPH, don’t allow children on the main show floor, but do allow them to attend many of the other sections of the show.
    Yes, there are insurance issues at some events, but I think that the educational opportunities that we can create for children can easily outweigh the other issues. I have suggested to events like PopTech that they create programming for children. Let’s get them involved in helping solve issues, after all, they’re the ones who will be stuck with the problems. Sydney at 8 years old is a lot more tuned into the problems of the world then when I was 8.
    I also feel that in our over connected world, us parents do spend too much time away from our families and as a Dad, I sometimes have to really balance my business needs with my personal needs of a Dad. Yes, she can be very distracting at times (but hey, I’ve seen Twitter be pretty distracting at a conference!), but that’s when I need to take responsibility for her. I don’t expect anyone else to take care of her, well, except when I need help braiding her hair, but it’s always been easy to find someone to help with that!
    But, I’ve also found that Sydney can really interact with adults much better then some of her peers because of her time spent with me at these conferences. As she’s gotten older, she also asks a lot of great questions (once during a conference on games she asked “Why are we just talking about games? Why aren’t we playing games?) and I think she’s learned a lot as well. Plus, many times I get to see her reaction to things and that “real audience” feedback can be very important at the conferences I attend.
    Glad to see that your post has generated some good discussions and maybe there will be more conferences that open up to children in the future. And if you’re in Amsterdam in early June, let me know. Sydney & I will be there!
    David Polinchock

    • Thayer Prime says:

      Re: A View From A Dad
      David, great to hear your views, thanks for taking the time to reply. No plans to be in Amsterdam right now, but if that changes will defo ping you to say hi 🙂 (I can even do backwards braiding, and french weaves, donchaknow)
      On a sidenote, love what your company does! Sounds like what I want to do when I grow up 😉

  13. Anonymous says:

    I think it’s really great that you’re making an effort to include your daughter in your life, I’d want to continue with my life if I had a kid but it does sound difficult and really all depends on the behaviour of the parent, not the child. As a mature student, I’ve had to sit through classes where people (always women, unfortunatley) have brought in small children who screamed and struggled, the kids could have been calm but the parents continued to make a fuss and draw attention to the situation. I understand it’s tough (I’m an aunt who’s babysat lots) but for the rest of us- and them- it’s a waste of time being there if you can’t even hear the tutor. I’ve also had some classes where mothers have brought their child who pleasantly sat and entertained themselves while we worked, occasionally checking on them. You can’t lump all parents together so I definately feel that suitable creche facilities are necessary- then the parents don’t need to leave the child at home and no one else needs to sacrifice anything to accomodate them.

    • Thayer Prime says:

      Good points Bonnie, and thanks for not lumping all parents in the same boat. Which is perhaps something I can mull on too – what about parents who don’t share similar child friendly values, or those experiencing the joys (!) of toodler tantrums I’ve heard so much about (ah, the future holds fun times for me, heh).
      Good food for thought, thank you.

    • Anonymous says:

      Leaving aside my own feelings (“keep that small person away from me!one1!!”), I simply hate the idea that someone (read, usually, “a woman”) must give up on life as soon as they reproduce.
      On the other foot, when I attend a conference – at least one with pretensions to seriousness – I wouldn’t dream of bringing my adult friends who have no interest in tech, let alone a baby who can’t even be politely quiet during boring speeches.
      I’m firmly in favour of being inclusive to everyone who wants to be there, but if the baby doesn’t want to be there, he or she is capable of ruining the experience for the people who do in ways that would get an adult quickly ushered out. Unfortunate but true. Babies are babies.
      So, childcare seems the only sane middle ground. As for who should provide it, I suggest finding out how this is managed in some other industries that are more traditionally seen as parent-friendly.
      Mutt B

      • Thayer Prime says:

        Mutt, great reply – thanks for your honesty.
        From my own experience, Nemi wasn’t noisy at all – however, as I’ve said, that was her in a great mood, on a good day, and no two babies are alike. So I agree with you – moving forward, if we want to be inclusive (and that includes babies on a bad day, not in a great mood etc), we need to make sure the solution(s) meet everyone’s needs – parents, non-parents, babies/children, and events.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Way to go!
    I’m so glad you blogged about this Thayer, I also want to start getting out and about to more things, but haven’t been confident about bringing the little one (now 4 months)
    You obviously need to know you child and work it into their daily routine to keep them on an even keel, but I think it’s great to be able to expose them to new experiences while keeping your own brain in 5th gear.
    I think I’ll dip my toe in the water and start out with a Tuttle visit with her in the Pram. Should make it easy to pop out for feeding time or take a walk when she needs to nap.
    It’s so hard for me to imagine anyone being disrupted by a baby being present, as long as the parent is responsive and leaves the room as soon as crying or tantrums break out…. a two or three year old might be another matter.
    But a bit older and it can work out just fine – there were some young kids (5ish, 7ish, and 10ish) out for parts of Over the Air last year who had a blast, and also had their whole world opened up!

    • Thayer Prime says:

      Re: Way to go!
      Hey MobileMaggie, good to hear from you! Glad it’s going well for you and the little one, been meaning to catch up for a while. Tuttle is a great idea for a first outing, let me know how you get on! 🙂 x

  15. Anonymous says:

    Great post
    I don’t have kids yet, so I don’t really think I can comment on the specifics of how I’d feel doing this personally. But what I can say is that I utterly commend your detailed and very honest account of what this is like. It sounds like both you and Nemi had fun, and as for it being a harmful experience for her, what rubbish! Surely it’s more traumatic for a child to be separated from their parent than to be included in what they are are doing? Within reason of course.
    I’d certainly have no problem with inviting a parent with child, whether female or male, into an event I was attending. One of the best things about ‘unconferences’ like these is in the informal atmosphere, as well as a focus on breaking down stereotypes and existing walls.
    Good on you Thayer, I hope I can be as brave when I’m a Mum too.

    • Thayer Prime says:

      Re: Great post
      Aw, very kind of you to say so, thanks Vikki 🙂 Hopefully by the time you’re a Mum we’ll have nailed this a bit better, so it can be easier for you to work out your own work/interests/life balance.
      Thanks again for the support, it’s never easy (or fun) putting yourself in the firing line, but it’s great to have this being discussed and out there as an idea 🙂

  16. Anonymous says:

    Creche services
    Hi Thayer
    Great post 🙂
    I’ve heard of a mobile creche company called Teddy Weds (see http://www.teddy-weds.com); although they promote themselves as a wedding service, I wonder if they, and other wedding-focused creche companies, might also do conferences. Possibly this info might be helpful to you / conference organisers.
    Rachel x

    • Thayer Prime says:

      Re: Creche services
      Great stuff, thanks so much Rachel, I will definitely give them a call and find out about prices and how they work around liability etc in varying venues.
      Thanks! x

  17. Anonymous says:

    Re: Further Edit
    As a Dad who works in IT and likes to take his sprog places I think that anyone who says “Bad Mum. That I am Selfish. That I am Not Considering The Baby’s Needs. Utter rubbish” is one of two things:
    * Not a parent and may even means “Eww, baby! Keep it away from me!” – if that is your opinion, fine – but at least be honest about it
    * An over-protective mollycoddling parent who needs to be given a reality check.
    Children like going places, they like meeting people. They do not like being shut in a house all day long where all they can do is bounce off the padding stuck to everything in case they actually learn that falling over hurts.

  18. Anonymous says:

    What the trolls seem to forget is that a) kids are humans too and have as much right to be anywhere as we adults do, frankly, and that b) they were screaming kids too once upon a time.
    Given the bitter attitude, I suspect their parents kept them locked indoors, “seen and not heard”, at all times 😉
    Good on ya, Thayer. Free range kids – with parents who know when it’s time to Give In and Go, is exactly what’s needed. The more the merrier.
    Alice. x

  19. Anonymous says:

    Taking kids everywhere
    FWIW, since our wonderful child was born, we have taken her everywhere. Movies. Fancy restaurants. Parties. Work (not all the time). Visiting. Shopping. I guess in some people’s books we’re selfish and inconsiderate. However, we know our child, we know her limits, we know when she’ll be well-behaved and when she’s had enough. We are prepared to leave if she needs to go, but it’s barely happened in her 6 years. We believe it’s partially because of the personality she was born with, and partially because that’s what she’s always experienced. New places and people don’t bother her – in fact, she likes them. She is bright and interested, she asks questions, she listens to the answers, she tries to understand things that are complex.
    Why did we do this? We started when she was a baby, because she was a calm, good-natured baby and didn’t fuss when we were out. We took that to mean she had a good time, so we continued to take her along. We always asked if there were others involved. Another reason is that we didn’t have a lot of babysitters available, so if we wanted to go out, she had to come with us (that’s still true now). I never perceived anyone to have been disturbed by her presence; her behavior was not disruptive most of the time, and if she started to get disruptive, we left. I admit I didn’t take her to a conference, nor did her father, though I did have her in work occasionally for a few hours (often at the request of others who wanted to see her).
    People tell me what a bright pleasant girl she is, and I’d like to think that it is partly due to the broad experience she’s had by going to all sorts of places (not just kid places).
    The Droid
    P.S. I breast fed her in the Pump Rooms in Bath. I doubt anyone could even tell I was doing it.

  20. Thayer Prime says:

    Re: hack day
    Hi, thanks for your comment. Yeah, the hindrance was definitely the fact that I had a baby to look after as my absolute priority, and yes, had there been childcare, I would have attempted joining a team; but in all honesty I would have still probably been a hindrance 😉

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