How to take a baby to a professional meeting without it ending in tears?
January 18, 2017 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Tomorrow night I need to go to a professional association meeting and I have to bring my 2.5 month old. The meeting is 2 hours long. Any tips for making this go as smooth as possible?

This is a transition meeting for a group I'm incoming chair of, so I can't skip the meeting. There are 15 people showing up and it took lots of time to schedule, so rescheduling is not an option. Originally we planned to have my partner leave work early to watch the baby, but now that's not feasible. (I'm still on leave and home all day with the child.) We have tried to line up childcare but were unable to do so on such short notice. I've let the current chair know the situation. (I'm really not happy about this situation and feel appropriate shame, but I can't get around it.)

I've taken the baby to some other meetings so far, but they weren't quite so long (only an hour) and were more casual (for volunteer organizations). I also was able to step out to soothe them, and they slept most of the time. Hopefully that will happen tomorrow, but the baby has been awake more in the afternoons/evenings.

The other hurdle is that we have to take transit (SF BART) to the meeting, which will add considerable time to the journey. I would normally just use a front pack to carry them, especially to avoid elevators, but I think it'd be easier to stash them in the stroller during the meeting. I have considered bringing a blanket and placing them on a chair (they can't roll yet).

So how can I make this go as smoothly and least disruptive as possible?
posted by kendrak to Human Relations (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can your husband leave his work early and pick the baby up from you as the meeting starts or after the meeting starts?

What is your baby normally like during the time the meeting is on? Sleeping? Active?
posted by exois at 11:04 AM on January 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

1) Please don't feel ashamed! There is nothing wrong with you, this is something that happens, and it's much more reflective of inappropriate societal attitudes/expectations of women than it is of anything you've done wrong. I think everyone will understand and anyone who doesn't is a jerk. Apologize once because yeah it's not ideal, say childcare plans fell through, and don't mention it again.

2) I have a six month old baby and she's needed to hang out in my office during work several times so I just bring a blanket and put her on the floor (as my aunt says, you can't fall off the floor). Even if she can't roll I wouldn't put her on a chair.

Just bring her to the meeting, it's not optimal but it'll be fine and at that age she shouldn't really need much stimulation, just lie her down or hold her as you see fit. Good luck!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:18 AM on January 18, 2017 [13 favorites]

I would bring it all (pack, stroller, blanket), and splurge on an uber to make transit as painless as possible. This to me would be an instance to spend more on transportation if you don't normally. As for childcare - totally know it's hard to find a sitter to come to your home that you trust to leave with your tiny baby on such short notice. Could you hire / pay someone to meet you at the meeting, and they could do the shushing and the holding and the walking while you did your meeting but basically in eyesight the whole time, so that the bar for the sitter needing to being amazing / super trustworthy isn't so so high? You basically just need to hire a physical babyholder you're kind of supervising?

More importantly - "I'm really not happy about this situation and feel appropriate shame..."

NO SHAME. You hear me? No shame. You're still on maternity leave and yet still chairing a professional meeting and are doing everything you can to find childcare options. No shame is the appropriate amount of shame in this situation. You got this.
posted by sestaaak at 11:18 AM on January 18, 2017 [33 favorites]

Are you friendly enough with any of the attendees to ask them to help you out during the meeting if necessary? If you can't find at-home child care, can you find a teenager you may not trust alone with the baby to take care of them during the meeting?
posted by metasarah at 11:19 AM on January 18, 2017

If I had anyone arrive to any meeting I was at with a 2.5 month old - I don't care how formal or not - I'd immediately think "What can I do for him/her? They are obviously going out of their way to be here." I would not judge how you decided to soothe the baby. I wouldn't judge whether you brought a stroller. I wouldn't care if you nursed. If the baby needs a change or spits up, I'd think "that's what babies do." Especially if I knew you were going to be taking on a leadership role, I'd admire your dedication and your attempt to balance. I wouldn't expect any explanation but a comment about "I'm sorry - we couldn't arrange childcare." would absolutely suffice.

But for your own comfort, you can see if your partner can meet you there later. Or ask the current chair/office staff if anyone (you trust) would mind snuggling a newborn for a bit just outside of the room - where I work and also where I serve on a board, people would JUMP to do that. If the baby sleeps better in a front pack than the stroller, I'd go with the pack - my kid has never slept in the stroller except if it was one where I could snap in his car seat. If you do the pack, bring a soft blanket and you can let the kid sleep on the soft blanket in the corner of the room or just hold him or her. I'd also ask for any materials ahead of time - even if it's in draft form. this way you can review at least parts of it under less stress and with more attention.
posted by adorap0621 at 11:19 AM on January 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

My partner works in the South Bay, we live in the East Bay, and the meeting is in downtown SF. Having them pick up the baby won't be feasible with schedules and traffic.

Baby has mostly been chill in other meetings, but they no longer sleep through everything. They do like being held and in the front pack.
posted by kendrak at 11:25 AM on January 18, 2017

This depends entirely on the group - if the group would understand this shouldn't be an issue. Unfortunately not all groups would understand and you will not be 100% engaged in the meeting.

In a similar situation I would take the meeting remotely. Have someone get an ipad and facetime yourself to the meeting place. This will let you both focus on the meeting and allow your baby relax at home. Stepping away from the screen for a second is much easier than needing to physically take your baby to another room at the meeting.

People will understand - we have all been there...but you should think about what makes your participation in the meeting most effective. If you think people will be upset by your remote attendance for a good reason, then I would suggest they are the same kind of people who would judge you harshly for bringing a baby to a meeting...
posted by NoDef at 11:32 AM on January 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Tomorrow night? Is it normally a time when the baby sleeps soundly? Because if that's the case I would bring a pack and play or similar and set it up close by, put baby in pjs, and see if they can snooze most of the evening. Could you get an Uber for this one time to help with gear?

I admit this is based on the fact that my kids were OUT by 6:30PM when they were that young and in fact would have been very pissed at me for waking them.

And yes, people will absolutely understand. Babies gonna baby and the world keeps spinning!
posted by lydhre at 11:50 AM on January 18, 2017

No shame. Things happen.

I might ask colleagues who I know would be sympathetic and/or useful if there would be a way to potentially arrange child care at the meeting (possibly a work colleague who could stay late in exchange for something nice like a small gift card, six pack, whatever your local currency is). Like literally for an hour or even someone who wouldn't have to do much but could scoot outside with the baby and distractions IF there was a thing you absolutely needed to do AND the baby was feeling fussy.
posted by jessamyn at 11:52 AM on January 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Have you looked at emergency or on call nanny services in San Francisco?
it seems less distracting if you can have a dedicated person with you at the meeting to keep an eye on the little one.
you might still have to take a few moments and temporarily leave the meeting but you can do so in a more planful manner.
posted by calgirl at 11:59 AM on January 18, 2017

I don't think you should feel shame, but be prepared that depending on how professional this meeting is, how little people know you and what demographic they are, people will judge you and not take you seriously.

It sucks and is ridiculous and unfair but it's very likely.

What you do depends on how important it is to you to be present and how inportant your reputation with these people is to you.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:04 PM on January 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

No shame at all.

Personally, but this will depend on your baby, I would get there really early to get settled. Plan a nurse/feed before (unless this inevitably creates results right away at the err...other end) and see if a walk around the building a few times puts the baby to sleep in the stroller. If not, I would wear the baby during the meeting. Then you could get up and jiggle a bit if you need to.

That evening timing is awful though, unless baby's an excellent sleeper. Worst time for strange lights/noises/people.

If you need to retain the meeting you might want to record it.

Brainstorming alternatives: Do you have a friend who could come along and take the baby out for a walk during the meeting? I would if I were your friend.
posted by warriorqueen at 2:07 PM on January 18, 2017

I should add the "worse time" is sympathy. At that point you just muscle through with whatever goes down, be as cheery as possible, and move on after. Signed, I did a major interview in a Sears change room while bribing my toddler with a bag of cookies.
posted by warriorqueen at 2:09 PM on January 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

A lot of this depends on what the baby is like at that time of day. Does baby nurse and then conk out for a bit? That could work okay if you can transfer baby to stroller to sleep. Is baby awake and interested after eating in evenings? Hopefully there will be a baby lover at the meeting who will offer to help hold baby or watch baby on a blanket on the floor for a shift. I'm a huge baby lover and I've worked in offices where this would be considered a delightful addition to a meeting. I know that's rare, but keep in mind others at the meeting are likely parents or grandparents or loving aunts and uncles. You're chairing a meeting during maternity leave! Please try to feel proud of your resilience and erase the "shame" from your mind. In situations like this I've found it most helpful to adopt an air of "leaning into it" as best as I can. Baby might be a whiny mess, but baby is also in an age where the lights and noise of the meeting may exhaust them so much that they sleep the whole time. I think 2.5 month infant actually has a very good chance of sleeping through the meeting. A 2.5 year old toddler on the other hand... that would be something else.
posted by areaperson at 4:47 PM on January 18, 2017

No shame at all! If it were me, I would wear the baby and probably end up standing / swaying the entire time to get/keep them asleep. Definitely bring the stroller and plan to get there early, but NOBODY is going to fault you for this.
posted by checkitnice at 5:18 PM on January 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mom of a six month old here so this age is very fresh in my mind. Never took my baby to a work-related meeting, but we DID schlep her around to various long-form activities at that age (an evening wedding, some house-buying meetings, appointments, etc).

For our kid, the front carrier was key because she would calm right down in it, would sleep in it, and could be bounced and soothed with a pacifier in it. So in your situation I would probably stroller on public transport to give my back a break and give her some scenery to look at. Get to the meeting early enough to diaper change and nurse. Then, back in the stroller or on a blanket on the floor while the meeting starts. The moment she hits fussy/sleepy, straight into the carrier to be bounced and calmed. Then hopefully she would sleep in there for the rest of the time and you can do your meeting stuff while standing up and bouncing.

GOOD LUCK! I agree with everyone else that there is NO shame in this but, I do understand how you feel. There's nothing quite like the feeling of having your baby somewhere in public that you'd rather not have the baby. Be matter-of-fact, people will understand, and you'll get through it. And it will feel much better after you are done.
posted by cpatterson at 6:02 PM on January 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Something to remember- while there are a subset of ppl who might consider this unprofessional, there's also a group who will think you are an awesome super woman. Try not to excessively focus on the former (I'm in the latter :)).
posted by jojobobo at 12:21 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Everyone has great tips above, but I just wanted to echo that your comment about feeling an appropriate level of shame made me so sad to read, because the appropriate level here is ZERO. I had a few meetings while I was still on maternity leave and found that people were far more disgruntled on the occasions when I didn't bring the baby because they'd been secretly looking forward to seeing/holding/fussing over her! I hope you will be similarly pleasantly surprised. Good luck!
posted by anderjen at 11:10 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

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