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.

Recent Thoughts and Reads

How’d it get to be February already? Geez.

Things are good around these parts. I’ve been working and reading a little and hanging with my guys and skipping through snowflakes. Oh winter! Here are some things I’ve been thinking about.

I just caught this great discussion on NPR’s On Being with physicist Brian Greene. He’s a spirited guy and I especially like how they touch upon the popular approaches to getting more young people into STEM seem to be borne out of fear of America “falling behind” rather than a sense of the importance and pure joy of scientific pursuits.

Slightly dated (2011) but still informative (especially in light of recent discussions of data breaches and public cloud) breakdown of various cloud technologies from Simon Wardley’s dense and educational blog.

Cleaning out my inbox, I stumbled across a link to  Gunnar’s New to Open Source Reading List that I’d sent to myself three weeks before I gave birth. I somehow thought (hoped?) I’d be able to get some reading done during maternity leave. Well it’s a week before my kid’s first birthday and I am just getting around to giving it a second glance. Baby steps, people, baby steps.

The Center for the Public Domain put out a list of books that could have gone into the public domain this year were it not for the 1976 Copyrightwrong Act.

Finally, for those of you who are still scratching your head about what we actually do at Boundless, here is a really informative writeup of one of our biggest current projects, the ROGUE project for the US Army. It is a distributed system for gathering, updating and sharing geospatial data from terrain to desktop.