Friday, January 8, 2016

Why I Took My Baby to a Professional Networking Event

I wasn't looking to make a statement. Initially I wasn't going to take her to the Florida Space Day pre-event reception. It's a professional event and bringing a baby would be seen as unprofessional, I concluded. My newborn is not yet taking a bottle, so for survival, she needs to be with me at all times. If being away from me isn't an option and taking her would seem unprofessional, then I would need to skip the event.

But then I began to question my own assumptions. Why would taking my baby to a professional event be unprofessional? When she is wrapped around my chest in three layers of what is essentially a very long scarf made to carry babies, she doesn't cry or fuss, she can barely be seen unless I uncover her. She silently eats and drifts off to sleep. She herself is not a disturbance. But her presence is a disturbance, one can say. Babies are a nearly universal conversation starter and many parents love sharing stories about their experiences. Baby talk when a baby is around is inevitable.

But that's no different to the disturbance my pregnancy caused. I didn't stay locked away when I was visibly pregnant. I was professionally active up until a week before the birth and even gave a talk 10 days before she was born. Anyone who saw my giant belly connected me to motherhood and baby talk was plentiful. No one deemed it unprofessional to attend professional events with my baby in my womb.

I polled social media, looking for outside opinions. Three men and two women thought that I should skip it while seven women thought that I should take her. Even my own mom the attorney mentioned that she brought me to hearings when I was a baby. I wasn't looking for consensus or majority opinion, I wanted perceptions and points of view.

In the end, I decided to attend. I sacrifice a lot for my child. I shouldn't sacrifice something that I want to do because of someone else's opinion of my child. The venue was a restaurant and the event was casual and celebratory. Nearly everyone in attendance had known me for years and had seen me pregnant over the months. Some were genuinely excited for me. Josephine was a big hit and did take up a lot of the conversation. But I also got to talk shop and be part of the Space Coast space community that I so very much love.

This is my first child but not the only child I hope to have. Should I as a mother be banished from professional society each time I have a little one? Although no one said anything negative, I'm sure that there were people in attendance who disapproved of my decision and think less of me professionally because of it. I'm unconcerned by their bias. My mind and my professional capabilities are not diminished because I reproduced.

More importantly, several people, mostly women but also one man, were grateful that I had brought the baby with me. One young lady a couple of years younger than me made a point to thank me twice throughout the night for being such an inspiration. It seems to me that babies at an event like this may seem unprofessional because it's uncommon. We just aren't used to seeing it. Although I did not set out to normalize it, I'm glad that my action may have contributed positively. Professional women should not be ashamed to also be mothers.

Florida Space Day kindly welcomed my little Josephine on their social media accounts with this photo.

Josephine and me at the Florida Space Day pre-event reception - January 7, 2016

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