|I have a vision.|
But I was unable to participate fully in this summit. The reason was childcare. Struggling to find care for my 2-year-old, I took him to the summit. During the seminar sessions I had to leave my chair from time to time to breastfeed, to change diapers, to calm the fuzzy child, and my chair was often taken when I returned. So I spent a good amount of time looking for new spots while trying my best not to disturb other attendees. A hard position indeed.
And I am sure I am not alone. Primary caretakers of dependent children face inequitable hurdles to fully attending and participating in conference activities because of responsibilities related to pregnancy, breastfeeding, and care-taking. A breastfeeding summit is one of the most family-friendly conferences that I can imagine and the organizers kindly showed us empathy, yet I face hurdles. At the summit Sen. Scott Wiener talked about making a difference for working parents in the new decade. I honestly think the childcare—conference conundrum shouldn’t be overlooked.
How might this conundrum be addressed? I think supporting child care would overcome a major hurdle to conference attendance. There are a number of ways to do this. I attended the California Breastfeeding Summit as a volunteer but if I were to go to a conference for work, my current employer would provide parents with children under 2-year-old financial support for individually arranged childcare. I attended National Breastfeeding Conference and Convening last summer where onsite childcare was provided and I absolutely appreciated it.
There are clear social-justice concerns when certain groups are excluded from participating fully in the academic field. When conference organizers consider parental needs, everybody wins. I look forward to seeing a parent-friendly environment and culture being promoted by professional societies.
This post originally published on San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Newsletter on Feb 18, 2020.