If I were to sit down and count how many meetups and conferences I missed in my life after I became a mother, I would probably end up crying. When those little guys are born we put all our passions on hold and they become the whole world to us. After a year or two when we snap out of it and start craving our life back we face the fact that it is gone. Forever. And we unlocked a higher, more difficult level of life.
You’re supposed to do everything you did before and more, but now with your permanent plus one. Go shopping, go to the toilet, take a shower. And it’s ok, you get used to those things after a while. But what happens when you want to go to a meetup? At a conference out of town or out of your country? What happens then? Well, the lucky ones can leave the kid with the co-parent if they have one and they’re free in those days, or maybe with the grandparents, if they live nearby. But what about single parents with no close family around?
Guys, seriously. How can we talk about diversity, inclusiveness and women in tech if even the biggest and richest conferences don’t provide daycare? What am I supposed to do with my 100%-dependent-on-me child when I want to invest in my career at a conference? There are simple solutions out there, but we need the good will to do it.
A few tips for conference organisers
Every event, especially longer events should have a kids’ corner. If the venue itself doesn’t provide it (which it should), the organisers should set it up. If it’s a profitable event, they can invest a little bit of money and buy some toys they can re-use every year. If it’s not they can start a media campaign for toys donation.
The accidents insurance
This is a very small amount and most parents will be happy to pay it.
Provide free water and a microwave for heating up baby food. Toddlers are usually fussy eaters, but there are some universal constants like pizza for example that almost any toddler would be happy with. It would be nice to have more variety, vegan and vegetarian options, but I think that most parents would be happy to bring food and snacks themselves if you provide the rest. Just make sure you notify them about the options so they can plan ahead.
Maybe one day, when kids’ areas are the norm we will come back to this point and talk about it in more details, but let’s take it slowly, one problem at a time.
If the event can afford it – it should definitely include daycare in the ticket price for all parents who’ll come with their kids. That would be the noble thing to do. If not they could try and get a sponsor for it. If that doesn’t work either, then get one professional caretaker, calculate the costs and split it between the parents (who would need to register the kid up front, obviously). Since one caretaker is not enough, they could go ahead and give free conference tickets to a few computer science students who would spend a few hours helping with the kids and would then have the rest of the conference free, to see the talks they’re interested in or just go, network and talk to developers about the “real world out there”.
You see, everybody wins in this scenario: the conference – cause it gets a good name and more audience, the parents – cause they get to attend the conference, the kids – cause they get to socialise and hang out with other kids, the students/volunteers – cause they get to go to the conference for free, the hired nanny – cause she gets work… It sounds perfect, right? So why isn’t it done more? This article by Tara Tiger Brown was written in 2012 and it’s sad to see how little has changed since.
I created this repo where everyone can add resources and tips to make life easier for conference organisers and indirectly for us, parents.
Kids’ corners should be the norm already; banks, hospitals, restaurants… basically everywhere you need to spend more than 15 minutes. Let’s make some noise and make this happen! We are a community and we should take care of each other. This time around let’s send some love to all the hardworking, loving parents out there and help make their lives easier, at least a little bit 🙂 Tweet with the hashtag #kidscornerseverywhere to your favourite conference, your local event, offer to help… Heck, maybe even volunteer to be Elsa, IronMen or Santa for an hour. Why not? And who knows, you might end up having a lot more fun than on the event 😉
Big thanks to Anna Filina for the review and ideas.