update: I brought my baby to a grad school talk

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer who brought her baby to a grad school talk and was wondering if she should handle it differently (#2 at the link)? Here’s the update.

Thanks for posting the question and for your response. I was busy all day so I just got to read through the responses, some of which are really nice, others which are super anxiety inducing. I really don’t want to get dog-piled on in the comments any more than I already have been, so I’ll just address a couple things here that came up in the comments.

1. Cooing and giggling *were* the sounds that my baby was making. I’m aware there’s a difference between that and the louder noises my child is capable of. Yes, she does screech at the top of her lungs at times. No, she did not screech in the talk, or I would have described it that way. And I did in fact take her out when she started needing to move more. We came back in after giving her a break. After she settled with her bottle on my lap, my advisor asked me to take her out again. Which I did immediately upon her request.

2. The previous talk we attended was earlier this semester, scheduled at the same time of day, and at that talk several people were surprised to see I had a baby on my lap because she’d been so quiet. It wasn’t unreasonable to expect a similar outcome this time. The baby is not walking yet, and she was far from running around the room. I understand that lots of 16 month kids are noisier and more mobile, but I’m not naive or mind-bogglingly optimistic about my kid’s probable behavior.

3. I don’t feel entitled to bring my kid anywhere I choose, but I get grilled at the end of every semester about my progress as a student, about my student teaching, and specifically about how much I participated in department functions. I’d only been able to make it to one previous talk this semester, this particular function was organized by my advisor and it was a speaker she recommended I meet, so I did feel a strong obligation to go. It would definitely have been easier to stay home, but as I’m working on my dissertation right now, I’ve also missed the intellectual outlet that regular classes provide for pre-qualifying exam students.

4. Since people asked, yes, I do have a partner, who happens to be a man, and yes, he is also in school and has a class at the same time as the lecture was. It’s a metal-working class and is even less baby-friendly than a lecture, because it’s literally unsafe for a kid to be in there.

5. Regarding childcare. Yes, the university has a single free childcare program. It is full. We’ve applied with no success. We’re rearranging our budget and cutting other costs to do a daycare next semester so my husband can finish his last semester of study, at which point I’ll be able to attend *all the talks* without inflicting my child’s presence on other people, not to mention make more progress on my dissertation.

6. Regarding my grad program and life choices. My program actually provides the sole income for my family. Suggestions from commenters that I should simply stop my program of study are frankly absurd. My stipend and the income from teaching in my department feed me, my husband, my kid, and our cats. Dropping out is impossible. This *is* my job right now and it leads into a career in academia, with a bit of luck. Also, I’ve invested 3 years in my PhD plus the 2.5 year MA plus the 4.5 year BA. I have just over a year left and there is no way I’m stopping now.

Thank you again for your response. I will probably talk to my advisor again and let her know I’ll be able to attend talks more frequently next semester without the small human, which believe me, will be a more relaxing and pleasant experience for me, too.

{ 2 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Please try to resist the temptation to rehash the same “don’t bring your baby” points made in the comments section on the original post. That was thoroughly covered the first time.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I woke up to find an enormous number of comments ignoring that request so I’ve closed the comments on this post (and have wiped the comment section on this post clean, in light of what a mess it became; apologies to people who took the time to engage in a kind, thoughtful way).

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