Why you should take your baby to the next medical conference.
By Kathryn Woolfield (with help from her baby Charlie, who was 7 weeks old when he attended SMACC and NoWEMxFemInEM in Sydney this year).
Reasons to take your baby to a medical conference
1. Maternity leave can be boring. Sometimes it is just nice to get out of the house and talk to people. It was lovely to see my current work colleagues, old work colleagues and friends from conferences past.
2. Networking is easy. Charlie and I met a host of speakers. Andy Tagg even held Charlie while I got lunch one day. Strangers give you smiles and come up for a chat. And there was the large number of other mums I met in the parenting room changing, feeding and pumping. It was all very supportive.
3. You get a break from the toddler (mums of >1 children special edition). To be honest it felt like a holiday leaving the toddler at home. I only had to respond to the needs of a baby, which at that age just slept, pooped and fed. Piece of cake.
And more importantly:
4. Because parenting is normal and should be treated as such. We already know that women’s careers stagnate after having children, compared to men. Maintaining our professional development activities is a start – inspiration, knowledge and confidence can come from a good conference. And I strongly believe that by having babies and children visible, it helps to remind everybody that parenting is normal. Which can hopefully translate into improved flexibility in the workforce irrespective of gender.
Is there a downside?
1. Baby noise. I was fortunate that Charlie mostly slept during lectures, but I sincerely doubt that the odd squawk of a baby is as terribly distracting as we fear it is. The tiered and dark nature of the theatre at SMACC meant it was particularly easy for me to stand up and baby carry to get Charlie to sleep without fear of disturbing anybody else. And it was easy to slip in and out. Smaller venues won’t be quite as easy but it’s not hard to find an aisle seat near the back.
2. Missing out. I missed the opening ceremony because I prioritised sleep but I’m pretty sure that doing this is not unique to parents.
1. Take a small pram and baby carrier of some sort.
2. Change of clothes for baby and self.
3. Take your partner (maybe, unless you have a toddler see above). Unfortunately, my husband tells me he won’t come to a critical care conference unless he can take professional development leave as an invited speaker (hint hint - anybody want an interventional cardiologist with a special interest in ECGs at their event?)
4. Don’t set up a parody twitter account for your baby and make jokes about boobies. (@mastercharles12 no longer exists as I thought it was unfair for him to be considered a misogynist from such a young age.)
To future conference and event organisers:
1. Promote this as a thing.
2. Have a creche for older children
3. Live-stream – at SMACC there was a live stream into the main foyer so parents of babies who wanted to play could still watch and listen. This would have been awesome if it was broadcast into a parenting lounge of some sort.