Saturday, 20 August 2011

Babies, toddlers and conferences

Number One Son is a conference veteran – not to mention conference nurseries and other facilities. It is OK when the talks and sessions you want to hear are not at the same time and you can share the child minding duty. However, if both of you are giving talk, what is a chance that these talks will run simultaneously? It is almost guaranteed that you are on at the same time. In addition, if you are presenting a joint paper, you need services.

Increasingly, archaeological conferences in UK have some kind of child care provision. Since we are talking about archaeological conferences, these come with an added cost. Although we have not been the only archaeologists heading to a conference holding a baby, this is still a minority pursuit and the services are not that sought after. However, this means that your child will get almost one-to-one attention. TAG has lately organised either a childminder or a crèche but not all conferences do that. In the recent Oxford TRAC there were no facilities so I ended up e-mailing the childminders on the Council’s list. Luckily, there was a willing person available on a Sunday morning.

The major problems when in a conference with your baby are the amount of stuff you have to take with you and the lack of sleep. Since the latter is only the way of life at this stage with a small child so let’s not dwell in it. The packs of nappies, wipes, a buggy/stroller, a travel cot, change for day and night and toys mean that you really cannot go to a conference and carry all this without a car. If you are lucky and can breastfeed, you do not need milk powder, milk bottles and bottlebrush. Not to mention porridge powder, fruit puree and other foods when the baby is older… As every parent (mother) knows, this all requires planning and preparations. It is a good thing one has run fieldwork and had some practise!

So it takes time but is it worth it? You move around with a mountain of luggage and enter the sessions blurry eyed. Face accommodation behind stairs and keep your neighbours awake when the little one wakes up in the middle of the night (not so much a problem at the TAG on the Christmas party night). Have to make a chart of the talks you alternate the babysitting with. Oh yes, it is worth it – at least to the mother. You will hear fewer talks but you will appreciate them more and enjoy the intelligent content on your favourite subjects after all those nappy changes. You see your friends. And the hubby archaeologist actually enjoys all the attention from the ladies and chats with all those other fathers with hands-on experiences. Just not mention discussing who goes to the party…

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