Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Babies and bats: Surviving Academia with a Baby in Tow

Baby’s first bat meeting. With M, then 3.5 months old, in a mei tai ready to hear more talks at a conference in Portland, Oregon. (Note name tag clipped to mei tai.)
When my first child was born in 2009, I was deep in the throes of graduate school. I quickly found babywearing to be an asset for, among so many other things, getting work done while meeting the needs of my baby (not the mention the free snuggles). While my new son napped in a carrier, I had hands free for typing and data analysis.  When he was about seven weeks old, I resumed attending lab meetings, with the baby tucked snuggly into a ring sling. 

While these activities were made easier by babywearing, I felt the benefits of wearing quite acutely when it came to attending academic conferences. Since becoming a parent 6.5 years ago, I have traveled to and given presentations at about half a dozen conferences, and in all but one instance, I had at least one of my children with me at the conference.

When my first baby was 3.5 months old, I flew alone with him across the country carrying no more than two small bags and two carriers, to attend and give a presentation at a meeting on bat biology in Oregon. Babywearing first came in handy during the travel portion of this adventure--  he stayed in the sling in the airport, on the airplane, and while taking public transit to the hotel. Then, because he still napped a lot and wasn’t mobile yet, it was relatively easy to keep him contained in a mei tai while I listened to presentations, viewed posters, and shared meals and conversations with colleagues.
1-year-old M is worn by his grandmother while I attend a conference nearby in Williamsburg, VA.
While I was fortunate enough to have a family member with me to help with childcare for later conferences, babywearing—by both myself and those caring for the baby while I attended sessions—made life much easier. My mother wore my then one-year-old son in a sling while she watched him at an animal behavior meeting, and I strapped him on when it was time for meals or crowded poster sessions.
In between sessions at the animal behavior conference in Princeton, New Jersey with 7-month-old E asleep in the SSC.
My mother wearing 7-month-old E in an SSC while caring for her at a conference in Princeton, New Jersey.
At a conference when my daughter was seven months old, our hotel was situated on the opposite side of a college campus from the meeting proceedings, almost a mile away. Using an SSC, I easily transported my daughter back and forth from the conference site to my mother, who was watching my son and sometimes the baby back at the hotel. Most recently, I attended a conference in Florida with my nearly-two-year-old daughter. Both my brother, who came along to watch her, and I carted her around on our backs through airports, at the conference, and on a couple of post-conference outings.
22-month-old E on her uncle’s back outside the conference center in Jacksonville, Florida.
As with so many other things, baby- (and toddler-) wearing has made the experience of attending meetings and caring for my children immensely more doable.  As many parents have learned, being able to continue to pursue other avenues of one’s life—whether it is a career, volunteer work, education, or caring for other family members— while spending time with and meeting the needs of your child—is a large part of what makes babywearing such a wonderful and valuable resource.

Posted by: Genevieve

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