Beyond “Childcare Available”: 4 Tips for Making Events Parent-Friendly

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I was just talking to a group of activists about the fact that while a lot of events both in the activist and tech space do offer childcare, that childcare always seems to be sort of dashed together by a bunch of people who clearly have little to no sense of what people with kids need in order to feel welcome/ like they can attend. The people I spoke to admitted they were clueless about what was needed and felt that “Childcare Available” was part of the standard for inclusive events and not something  to which they actually gave much attention.

*sigh*

So, in the spirit of illuminating people and moving our communities forward, I’ve pulled together a few ideas to help move “Childcare Available” from just words on a page to an actual living breathing service that empowers people with children to learn/grow alongside their peers, engage in projects they care about, and frankly just have a little break from the rigors of childcare.

1) Schedule the Event At A Child-Friendly Time

Children — especially small ones — generally need to get to bed at a certain time, which varies from family to family but usually is sometime around 7/8-ish. At the very least, parents want kids home in the evenings to settle down, not trying to hustle them onto a subway or pull them out of their carseats and get them to bed at 10pm or later. It happens — and I certainly can’t speak for everyone — but if you want people with children to participate, consider scheduling some childcare-available events on weekend days.

2)  Childcare Provided By? 

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The ChiChiCo Team

Again, the gesture of providing childcare is a kind one, but as a parent, it’d be helpful to know who the childcare providers are ahead of time. I know, for example, in Chicago that the Chicago Childcare Collective (ChiChiCo) partners with many groups to provide free childcare at meetings, protests, and other events. Here in NYC, Regeneracion does much the same.

Whenever possible, partner with groups like this and let parents know who will be available to watch children and what sort of activities are planned. I am much more excited to bring my kid to a gathering if I know they are going to be engaged in fun things with other children and supportive like-minded adults.

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The Team at Regeneración Childcare NYC

3) Childcare Money Available

While it is great to be able to bring my kid to events and share my interests, sometimes it is easier for me to focus if my child is not on the premises. In those cases, it’d be great if organizers — and here I am focused mostly on the corporate-sponsored tech events — could offer childcare reimbursements. My kid is most comfortable at home with a trusted caregiver, so if I could provide that rather than having to take them to say a hack day or an all day skills-building event — and inevitably have to do care work — it would be preferable.

4) Center Mothers/Caregivers 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of things you can do to make your event more parent-friendly (for example I imagine nursing moms would want a clean, comfortable place to pump/breastfeed), so whenever possible just ask people what would help them attend/participate. Don’t fall over yourself making accommodations based on assumptions. Just ask, listen, and see what you can do.

For further thinking on this topic, see this excellent two-part series on conference childcare by by Allison McMillan.

New Year – New Links

Interesting Links & Recent Thoughts

  • Save time this year (and always) with Betteridge’s Law –  Betteridge’s law of headlines is an adage that states: “Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.” It is named after Ian Betteridge, a British technology journalist, although the general concept is much older. The observation has also been called “Davis’ law or just the “journalistic principle”. (Thanks, Gunnar!)
  • Location Based Messaging? My family recently got back from vacation in California. It would have been really helpful to send out a note of some sort or an email or a text to everyone I know who lives there or happened to be there at the time so I could let them know I was there and then perhaps coordinate to meet. Does anyone know of any sort of location based friend-messaging service? Maybe from Google?
  • Open Source Finishing School – I just mentioned to dear friend Karl Fogel that I think there is a valid market out there for organizations who want to use open source but are afraid and people who want to sell open source but are uncertain of how to assuage aforementioned fears. In my experience, most lawyers dealing with tech are either fervent cheerleaders for traditional IP approaches, clueless and/or wary of open source. More guidance is needed! The work Karl is doing at Open Tech Strategies is surely one organization doing this sort of thing, but they are a small shop. Does anyone know of any other such organizations? Also, Karl, when can we expect some case studies and customer testimonials?
  • More Leaning In About Lean InPalo Alto Software’s Sabrina Parsons weighs in on the neverending Lean In debate. 

    “So, lean in, but do so while nursing your baby, or while your son sleeps on the couch in your office because he’s feeling sick — and don’t apologize for it. Pursue your goals, take risks, and go above and beyond, but don’t give up your role as a mother, wife (or husband, for that matter), and community member to do so. We can do better.” 

Through The Looking Glass


I’m still with the same company, but we recently moved to a new office. Lots of great changes are afoot and this is the third office we’ve worked out of in the two years I’ve been there…and the third office in a row with no private rooms. The issue of privacy bugged me a bit before I had a kid, but now that I am a working and pumping mother it has become absolutely crucial. I need a clean, quiet, and wired (electrical and internet) place to pump for 20 minutes, two times a day. I can pump hands-free so whenever possible I’d like to be able to take my laptop with me and keep on Leaning In and shit. I’d like to know that I can sit somewhere, undisturbed and un-spied on for forty minutes a day. I can only imagine there are other people, pumping and non, who would like the same.

Transparency is good. Open doors and visible co-workers, that’s all great.  But sometimes we need privacy. Sometimes we need to have uncomfortable conversations, sometimes we need to hammer out the details of Top Secret Project X. Why do media/tech companies keep designing offices where that can’t (shouldn’t?) happen?

I recently heard this interview on CBC’s Radio Q with architect Raphael Sperry who’s organized other architects to stop designing solitary confinement cells in prisons. He says that architects have a social responsibility to uphold human rights. I agree with him wholly (in fact I think architects should stop designing prisons full stop!), and I’d argue that architects also have a responsibility to push for spaces that work for many different types of use cases, not just when 20-something year old dudes are programming together, drinking beer and getting along famously with no need for any privacy. I don’t know any companies where that is the case all day long, five days a week, do you?


If you have any thoughts, just ping me. I’ll be sitting on the bathroom floor pumping.


Related:

(WSJ) Indecent Exposure: The Downsides of Working in a Glass Office 
(BusinessWeek) Working Moms Need More Than Subsidized Breast Pumps 
(Yahoo Finance) A woman’s place is in the home and the office: The case for breastmilk pumping stations in public spaces 
(Why Is Her So Stroppy Blog) The silent breast pump and other lies by power mums