The Federalist: Does Your Professional Conference Welcome Mothers?

You’ve decided to off-ramp while raising young children, but you don’t want your professional muscles or networks to atrophy. So, what do you do?

The best solution this independent writer has found is attending conferences. Many organizations talk a good game about work-life balance, but professional reality often clashes with parenthood. There is little understanding or flexibility for the competing demands parents juggle. Conversely, the short duration and opt-in nature of conferences makes them manageable commitments.

Every conference design sends different signals, though. Do organizers want mothers to attend and, if so, how do they support us? When we attend, do other professionals welcome us?

Mothers are natural multi-taskers. For instance, I’m typing this article one-handed while nursing my two-month-old daughter. We innovate because we must. I always appreciate clients, membership organizations, and others who understand and accommodate that truism.

I have toted Baby Braunstein to several recent professional outings, altering my view of what otherwise might have been unremarkable networking events. In September, we attended a political conference. I liked that two speakers gave my daughter shout-outs rather than complaining about her presence. The new father seated beside me also kindly offered to snap my baby carrier when she needed to nap. Only one woman in the overwhelmingly male crowd glowered at us.

That month, I also spoke on a panel about motherhood’s empowerment. I appreciated that the conference organizers let me speak while wearing—and caring for—my daughter, and that the audience similarly supported my decision.

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Melissa Langsam Braunstein is an independent writer and communications strategist in Washington, DC, as well as a staff writer for the cultural blog Acculturated and a contributing writer for the parenting blog Kveller.



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