I presented at April’s CreativeMornings Ottawa event on the theme of ‘Inclusive’, where I did a five-minute lightning talk alongside my two children, Ethan, who is a little under three years old and Conor, who was 10 months old at the time.
Baby In The Boardroom: Creating Parent-Friendly Business Spaces + Experiences
Scroll through to watch the video recording, listen to my talk in audio only format via SoundCloud or read the transcript of my talk in its’ original format (you’ll have to watch the video or listen to the audio to get the baby and toddler sound effects!)
My talk is from 5:47 to 12:50 in the video clip:
This edited SoundCloud audio file is just under 8 minutes and contains only my talk:
Transcript Of My Lightning Talk For CreativeMornings Ottawa In Real-Time
Excuse me, could you please hold my baby for me while I load my pitch deck?
Is there a baby change table in this building?
Do you mind if we eat snacks during the meeting?
These are all questions I have asked complete strangers over the past three years since becoming a parent.
When I first had Ethan, I was living overseas, away from family and I didn’t feel like as a new mom, I could leave my baby with a stranger that I could trust.
So I just started bringing him with me everywhere, and that included to startup accelerators, networking events, conferences, meetings, workshops and even a job interview, which I’m pleased to say, I got the job.
No one ever gave me permission. No one asked me to do it. I just never thought that I couldn’t. And for the most part, I was right.
We just wouldn’t always be, should we say, the most comfortable.
I’ve changed both of them on floors, tables, sofas, car seats, my stroller. One time I was told that I could walk across campus five minutes in the middle of winter to use the mother’s room in minus 20 weather. That’s why I did what I did.
I’ve had my stroller break down on a train platform before I was meant to do a presentation and one time I drove off from Invest Ottawa, Bayview Yards, leaving my stroller on the sidewalk because I forgot to load it into the back of my car.
I’ve never left me children though, just their belongings – so far – knock on wood.
I like to summarize our experiences as the good, the bad and the ugly over the past three years and luckily the bad ones have been few and far between.
I’ve had my heart warmed by kind strangers offering to cut my food for me, make me a coffee, hold my child and just complimenting me on how they thought it was brilliant that I was doing what I was doing and they hoped that their children could do the same some day.
I’ve had people smile and nod at my pitch for professional development that was child-friendly, only to be met with:
“But there wouldn’t actually be children in the building, would there?”
Yes, that would be the whole point!
And I’ve had someone at a conference compare me bringing my baby with me to people who travel with children and inconvenience others on the flight or at the airports. Even though he was sleeping in the carrier at the time.
What started off as me validating a business idea, gradually became more and more about theses encounters that I kept having when I brought my children into business settings.
Why does it feel like parenthood and professional development have to be mutually exclusive?
Why does it feel like a special request to ask if there’s a baby change table in the building?
Why are most events held during daycare or school drop off or pick up times?
How many people are we excluding when we don’t ask these questions or when we do, but we don’t actually address them?
So, I started going to more child-friendly places, parks, libraries, IKEA, even a recent CreativeMornings event where I saw another woman with a baby.
And I asked them, do you feel the same as me or am I just the only one?
And it turns out that most people did.
And what I found as I pitched to other people in business settings, was it wasn’t just parents who felt this way, it is also caregivers who have to and choose to, look after their loved ones.
Young or old, people who don’t want to have to compromise time with their loved ones feel like these experiences, events and programming are just not designed with their needs in mind.
So, how do we make space for ourselves and how do we as event planners, make it more inviting for people to bring their loved ones into these spaces and participate?
If you’re an event planner or creative professional, business owner, volunteer, in an organization who’s hosting events or programming for people, these are just some considerations that I’ve created in mini guides, that we’re going to link to after the talk.
The time of your event, the time of day, if it’s held during a time when people are traditionally having a family meal or have to do drop off or pick up, can you enable them to participate remotely or live stream your event so they still feel connected and can access the content?
Can you provide mini baby microphones so the babies also feel…
[Ha ha, jokes! At this point Conor had been grabbing my mic for the whole talk and I pointed it out.]
A friendly atmosphere makes all the difference and if you don’t have the facilities but you have a warm smile and a welcome, I’ve been places before where I’ve just felt like I belonged, and I’ve been places before that had facilities and I didn’t feel like I belonged.
Those things are free.
If you can also provide baby change facilities, that’s amazing, I’ve even seen pop-up childcare lately over the past year for people who they recognize, if they want target audience to attend, they’re going to have to remove that barrier for them.
Lastly, I have some tips for people who want to venture out into business spaces and maybe haven’t done it before and that’s all designed with the belief that…because we believe that parenthood and professional development…
[At this stage Ethan and Conor are pushing a stool loudly across the concrete floor and it’s screeching, so I start laughing, move it out of the way.]
…I didn’t rehearse this with props – other than them!
We believe that parenthood and professional development shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.
So, this is –
[Until Ethan decides to do the same with his toy car! Screeeeech.]
– Ethan, just –
[I pick up the car.]
This is the first time we’ve presented in front of a group of people like this, usually it’s a smaller group.
So I thank you for your time and if you’re interested in learning more, we’re hosting our first pop-up event next week that’s child-friendly, we’ll have a play area, feature successful business owners and everyone is welcome.
And I also provide a newsletter and post about my experiences bringing my children into business settings, so thank you for your time and have a great weekend!
[Hand off the mic, pick up Conor, grab the baby carrier and exit stage right. Ethan follows us and we go into the hallway for a midmorning snack break.]
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There is a panel Q&A at the end of the series of talks
I was asked a question by an audience member that touched on fertility and ‘waiting to have children, sometimes too late’.
That was a loaded question and if you want to watch my answer where I mentioned my personal experience when deciding to start a family (surprise, surprise, it doesn’t always go as planned!)
And then I swiftly tried to make it less about fertility and family choices (because there is definitely no one-size-fits-all approach) and moved it along to more about living your life the way you want to, doing what you want to and seeking guidance, mentorship and support in professional settings, when you aren’t quite where you’d like to be (yet).
This question and answer exchange took place while I was holding Conor and trying to keep an eye on Ethan, you can watch from 38:05 to 39:27 on the video recording above.
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Babies, Business + Breakfast is focused on providing parent-friendly professional development, through an online newsletter and face-to-face event series, designed to start conversations, share ideas and create a sense of community.
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Read about my previous experiences bringing babies into business settings in the following blog posts:
- How She Built It event recap: Mixing babies + business
- Reciprocity and parent-friendly event planning
- Parent-friendly presenting in real-time at CreativeMornings Ottawa
- Visiting Algonquin College’s DARE District with kids
- Visiting Invest Ottawa with kids
- Participating in Impact Academy with a baby
- Attending Creative Mornings Ottawa while babywearing
- Touring coworking spaces as a parent
- Bringing children into the boardroom