Dual Science Family Dilemmas: The Two-Conference Week

An important part of being scientists is to attend scientific conferences where we share our work, learn about recent progress in the field, and liaise with collaborators and colleagues.  We were presented with a fairly unusual situation a couple of weeks ago, even for us. Both Simon and I had scientific conferences during the same week – in different cities. The acoustics meeting (Simon) was in Indianapolis, Indiana and the optics meeting (Lauren) was in Portland, Maine. A few years ago this wouldn’t have mattered aside from us missing each other, but it was a pretty big challenge to figure out how Joey would be cared for during that week. Normally for work travel we would employ one of the following strategies:

  1. All three of us travel to the site of the conference. The parent who is not involved in the conference takes the lead role in caring for Joey, while the other tends to scientific duties. The family would reunite in the evenings and during midday break sort of like a normal working day at home.
  2. The parent involved in the meeting travels alone. The other parent stays home with Joey and takes the full care load. During work hours, Joey is with his nanny.
  3. Joey is left at the grandparents’ resort while the two parents go to their meetings.
Thanks Uncle Joe!
Thanks Uncle Joe!

The fact that we each had a meeting at the same time in different cities completely ruled out 1 and 2, and 3 was not an option on this particular week. We first weighed the importance of the meetings and decided we would both very much like to go to our respective events. We then began emailing our friends, asking if they would like a free trip to Maine in exchange for hanging out with a fun one-year old during the day. This was surprisingly successful, and before we knew it we had booked a third flight on air points for Uncle Joe to come along to Maine to care for Joey.

How It Worked:
Crib with a view - Joey's digs in Maine
Crib with a view – Joey’s digs in Maine
Joey’s favorite part of the hotel room was this mirror

All 3 Freemans went to Maine first for a long weekend, where we stayed in the conference hotel. Joe arrived on Sunday night, also staying in the hotel with us. Simon stayed until Monday night to give Joe the down-low on childcare, and then took another flight to Indianapolis. For the remainder of the week, I got up with Joey each day and prepared him for his morning events, then left J&J to eat breakfast and go to various sessions. I ran back upstairs at 11:30 to take care of Joey’s nap-time routine. Joe stayed in the dark room working during nap-time while I returned to meeting activities. The evenings varied, but at a minimum I met the guys to take care of bedtime.

What We Thought:

IMG_9964First off, we felt extremely grateful to Joe for taking time out of his own life to care for Joey extensively and spend relatively little time with me. I felt guilty often during the week for leaving him in a dark room for 3 hours while Joey napped and the sound machine played rainforest noises… all the while I was having an enjoyable social lunch at the pub next door.

IMG_9933Overall, I don’t think we could ask for a much better setup. I wasn’t comfortable hiring a local caregiver without meeting them first (which there wasn’t time for). Joey adores his Uncle Joe, and I daresay vice versa is also true. I was able to participate actively in the meeting, show off Joey to fellow scientists at key times, and develop meaningful collaborations. I left the main social event (awards banquet) for half an hour to put Joey to bed, but managed to eat my dinner first and get back in time for dessert and entertainment. Joey was very happy all week, and enjoyed Portland’s prolific parks, crisp weather, and excellent children’s museum.

Herschel Supply Co Review

I'm stoked to be part of the Backcountry.com trusted community review program, and wanted to share some of my favorites here. Big thanks to 
Backcountry.com Logo Banner - Doesn't Expire and Herschel Supply Co for hand-
selecting me to trial and review their products to benefit the backcountry.com community, and you my readers!

Review for Hershel Supply Co Small Network Pouch

TIMG_0121his is my first Herschel product, and I am blown out of the water by the high quality. Being a female over the age of 12, I’ve gone through countless purses, pouches, bags, bag organizers, etc. Many of them tear, develop holes, or have the zips break within a few weeks of life. After two weeks of use, I can tell that Herschel is different.

The fabric is a heavy canvas, with a sturdy, smooth lining (Herschel signature poly) in a contrasting color or print. The zipper is heavy brass and functions smoothly, with a nice leather pull. There are an impressive range of cute prints and solids on backcountry.com, ranging from subtle to bold. The pouch lays flat and measures 7.25″ wide by 4″ tall.

Slide1I started out using the pouch as an on-the-go wallet (my ‘regular’ wallet is huge) for a couple of credit cards, cash, and a house key. The pouch does this well with room to spare. I’ve branched out to use it for storing office supplies for days that I work in cafes (USB sticks, chargers, pens, and sticky notes) – an elegant grown-up pencil bag. I haven’t had the chance to do any overnight travel since receiving the pouch but checked that it would definitely accommodate compact toiletries for a long weekend trip, too. It is so useful that I’ll definitely be needing more than one!

I cannot reiterate to you how impressed I am with the high quality over similar products I have used in the past. Joey loves to play with the pouch and make the zipper go, and I often find myself holding on to it in my pocket or bag because it is just so pleasant to have in your hand. I’ve paid more for items far less nice. This is well worth it – go for it! If you’re looking for a fun holiday gift, start with this pouch and fill it with camp utensils, travel toiletries, or bike tools 🙂

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Just Enjoy

I'm a little behind on posts due to lots 
of mini-adventures alongside hectic work 
schedules. We'll try to get the blog back 
up to date over the next few weeks! This 
post is long overdue, as I find myself offering 
these same words of advice to friends and 
colleagues in a myriad of situations. Enjoy!
I made Joey's first birthday cake from scratch so that it wouldn't have eggs, and Simon and I decorated it together complete with fondant shark fins. Joey was not impressed.
I made Joey’s first birthday cake from scratch so that it wouldn’t have eggs, and Simon and I decorated it together complete with home-made fondant shark fins. Joey was not impressed.

The best advice I received as a new parent was to “just enjoy your baby.” It was a revelation. I was getting stressed and depressed about my inability to breastfeed Joey (before you suggest a helpful tip – we really tried everything). But a good friend reminded me with that short sentence that it is far better to let go the things we can’t change and enjoy what we have. It felt like our lives changed overnight (in retrospect – in the moment it was probably not quite that immediate!) from constant stress and worry, being ashamed to take Joey in public because of our awkward feeding system (he was given baby formula through a small tube while I nursed him), and feeling that no one had ever had this problem before (a lot of people have), to letting go. Suddenly, I cherished my moments with Joey even if feeding him was awkward. After all, he would never be that tiny again! That’s not to say every moment was perfect and happy. But I managed to exchange hopelessness for hope. That made my life, Simon’s life, and Joey’s life so much better.

Whenever Charlie is around, he receives >75% of Joey's food.
Whenever Charlie is around, he receives >75% of Joey’s food.

This seems to be a particularly poignant thought as we enter the holiday season. It is so easy to become distressed over planning every detail – the Thanksgiving turkey, the perfect holiday card to send out, getting thoughtful, useful, gifts for everyone on your list, baking tasty treats for social and work functions…

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all take a step back and just enjoy it?

When Joey thought it would be fun to go swimming fully clothed in 50 degree weather, I followed him around the tide-pool until he got cold and bundled him in a warm towel for the boat ride home.When Joey thought it would be fun to go swimming fully clothed in 50 degree weather, I followed him around until he got cold and bundled him in a warm towel afterwards.

We are far from perfect, but we are all three far happier to laugh off the kinds of events pictured here than to let them gnaw away at us, building angst and distress. At the end of the day, if we have a happy, healthy, child, we feel that we can rest easy.

Science has shown many times that what kids want and need most are happy, loving parents. So if things don’t go exactly as planned, say your cookies get burned because you were building the biggest snowman in the neighborhood, instead of feeling hopeless try laughing and just enjoy what you have.