Not long ago, while availing myself of a mode of Public Transportation, I overhead a conversation involving three grad students: two women, one man. They were discussing a recent conference they had been to in their field of Science. When I tuned in, one of them had just mentioned an FSP who had attended the conference with an infant. The FSP had brought the sleeping infant to talks in some sort of snugli carrier. Their conversation went something like this:
The male grad student (MGS) said "I thought that was a bit much, that she had her baby with her at the conference."
One of the female grad students asked him: "Too much for what?"
MGS: Well, she had that baby with her all the time, and it just seemed like a bit much.
Other FGS: You mean, it was a bit much for you? Did it bother you?
MGS: No.. no, of course not. No.. it didn't bother me. I just thought that it was kind of a lot of Science for the baby. It was a lot of Science to take in.
FGS 1: Umm, the baby was not taking in any Science. The baby was asleep during the talks. I think it bothered you to see a baby at the conference. I think we need to figure out why it bothered you. Do you think women with babies should just stay home and not go to conferences?
MGS: No, it's fine with me, really, it was just weird.
FGS 2: Well, get used to it.
Yeah, get used to it. I suppose it can be strange to see a rather personal side of someone in a professional setting, but as long as the infant is sleeping through the talk, just like 34% of the audience is or wants to be doing, it shouldn't punch a hole in anyone's conference experience if someone in the audience is strapped to a sleeping baby.
I was impressed that the two FSGs were very polite and friendly, yet relentless in their effort to convince the MSG that he needed to rethink his views on babies (and their mothers) at conferences. Maybe next time he sees an infant at a conference, he won't think it is so strange. And then some day he may find himself at a conference, with an infant strapped to his chest, trying to figure out which conference sessions will correspond to naps and which will not.
6 months ago