Friday, March 25, 2016

Sciencing It Up with Baby at the Business Table

I'm beginning to be a little more open about something I've mostly kept quiet about: I work at home with my baby. This may not be surprising if know that my baby is young, just 3 months old. My two-week maternity leave coincided with the Christmas and New Year holidays, and I've been working part-time ever since. I'm no stranger to working at home. I worked at home in my previously job and only drove into the office when it made sense to. I love working from home and feel that I'm more productive and happier here than in an office environment. Plus, it's a big money saver: no daycare costs, no commute, and no office lease. It's not for everyone, but it is for me.

With one exception that I've already already written about, I separate myself from my baby when I attend professional gatherings. Any time I've gone out as a professional for a meeting, workshop, or lecture, I leave the baby at home. Thankfully, my husband also has the freedom to work from home occasionally. Part-time daycare doesn't exist here and we haven't interviewed any babysitters yet, so we've been fortunate that either one or the other of us can watch the baby during working hours.

Yesterday, it just so happened that a meeting I had was at the same time as back-to-back meetings my husband had. My choices were to either cancel or take her with me. I strapped her in the car and brought her along for the ride. Josephine's first science meeting!

I can understand the disruption that some babies might cause. There might be screaming so loud and continuous such that conversation is futile. There might be banging of toys or shaking of rattles. There might be babbling. There might be smells.

At this time, my baby is pretty easy-going. When I wrap her to me, she discretely eats and sleeps. When she's unwrapped, she looks about and stares. She might start softly complaining, but I can quiet her pretty easily now (until 10 PM when she's overly tired and just won't sleep). The biggest disturbance she causes is just by being cute and drawing the attention of those around her.

The meeting yesterday at my alma mater, Florida Institute of Technology, was productive. University faculty and students met with NASA Kennedy Space Center scientists and myself in an effort to move forward with a Martian regolith biochemistry experiment. We got to check out the huge vacuum chamber that NASA KSC gifted the university, currently being refurbished. Martian regolith simulant will be processed in Martian atmospheric conditions. Separate temperature and humidity controlled containers will house crop experiments in the Martian simulant soil. It'll be fun!

Florida Institute of Technology's NASA vacuum chamber, in progress - March 24, 2016

A decade ago, I walked those halls carrying a backpack filled with science books, notes, and dreams. Yesterday, I walked those halls carrying a baby, a bit of science expertise, and even bigger dreams. How times change!

For her part, Josephine did just great on her first trip to a college campus. She was quiet, attentive, and only had one moment of projectile spit-up as we were heading for the elevators. I'm grateful that the colleagues I met with yesterday were so understanding and welcoming of a baby.

I'm hoping that I can continue to take the baby with me to professional meetings and gatherings as circumstances allow. I remember my mom the lawyer taking me with her to her office and to court when I was young. If I can do that, if I can to set an example and help change mindsets, maybe the business culture will change. Women who feel that they must disappear from their professions for months after a baby is born will either avoid those professions or avoid becoming mothers. If I can do both, so can others.

Baby Josephine says, "Fly me to the Moon, and let me play among the stars." - March 18, 2016

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