Back in January I wrote about being invited to speak at a conference– well that conference was last week. Since the conference was taking place in Boston, and we lived for 3 years in the Boston area and still have many friend up there, Mac and I decided to make it a family trip.
Overall it went really well. The conference was interesting (even if few of the talks were particularly relevant to my work), my presentation was well-received, the hotel suite was comfortable for the three of us, Mac and Mabel went on lots of adventures, Mac and I took turns having nights out to catch up with friends, Mabel got to swim in the pool, travel to/from was easy, and since it was a DoubleTree, there were lots of chocolate chip cookies.
I’ve written in the past about traveling for work, in general, but also specifically as a scientist, wife, and mother. However, on that particular trip, it was just Mac and I, Mable was home with her Nana and Pop. This time around we went as a family, so it’s a lot harder to break it up so cleanly into those kinds of categories.
Scientifically, I think it was good to have Mac and Mabel for company. I was presenting at this conference, and I was more nervous for a presentation than I had been in a long time. It was my first opportunity to present my work outside the company and I was presenting on aspects of the project that had been done before I arrived- so I was not as familiar with that material. Also, having had to prepare the talk far in advance (so that it could be approved by Project Management) and having to incorporate someone else’s slides, made it harder to prepare. Mabel was an excellent distraction from my nervousness, and Mac was an excellent person to practice my talk on.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much at the conference that was directly germane to my work. The conference was small, less than 100 people, and while they did cover a lot of topics, I was the only talk on my type of research, both in terms of model system and research focus. While I did find all the talks interesting, it was a little disappointing not to return with some concrete information that I can apply to my work.
As a mom, it was as hard as a typical week just about. While I was at the talks, Mac and Mabel were off adventuring and exploring Boston. Tuesday they hit up the New England Aquarium, Wednesday it was the Children’s Museum and lunch with one of Mac’s friends, and Thursday they hung around The Common. So, as it is on any typical week, I missed out on all the fun by having to be at work. Every morning I gave out hugs and kisses and disappeared. However, unlike a typical week, I got to see more of them. I was able to run up to the room during breaks- bearing the ever present chocolate chip cookies, even share lunch one day, and since the conference was just downstairs, I didn’t have to commute. It was also really nice to relax on Thursday after my talk in the morning and the conclusion of the meeting in the afternoon. A dear friend from college came to our hotel with her 3 kids (between the ages of 5 and 16 months) for a swim in the hotel pool and a pizza party in our room! It was great to catch up and for the kids to get to play.
As for the practical aspects of traveling for work as a family, the hotel was a good fit. The DoubleTree has suites, so our suite had a bedroom with a desk, TV, 2 twin beds and a pack n’ play for Mabel, then the front room had a microwave, minifridge, table with 4 chairs, and a pullout couch (which was so comfortable I tried to find out the manufacturer). We were able to put Mabel down in the bedroom and stay up doing as we pleased. It stunk having 2 twin beds at first, however, on the second night there, Mabel climbed out of the pack n’ play, so the rest of the week was a game of musical beds- with Mabel either in her crib or in one of the twins and one parent on the couch with the other on the second twin bed.
I was so glad that Mac was game to come with me. I don’t think I would have gone if he hadn’t. I don’t like being away from him and from Mabel. On Wednesday night, when I was fighting nerves and trying to get to sleep, he was there to help me relax, remind me that I would do well, and have our typical nightly talk before bed (even if he then had to go sleep by himself in a twin). I don’t think I would have been able to get to sleep without that- and a late-night phone call doesn’t always cut it.
Mac is so good at being a dad all the time, but especially when we travel. Mabel had a tough time sleeping in the hotel, and Mac handled it much better than I did- even handling it entirely so I could sleep. (If he hadn’t been comatose at 6am Tuesday morning, after being up in the night with Mabel for hours, I’m pretty sure he would have objected to me putting her in the pack n’ play in the front room and turning on Cartoon Network so I could go back to bed for an hour). He was also gracious when I ditched him one night to meet up with grad school friends for dinner. Thankfully I was able to return the favor, and happily encouraged him to ditch me on Thursday so he could catch up with his buddies until the wee hours of the morning. I feel like it’s so rare that he gets time for himself- being the SAHD/WAHD- that I relish the chance to give him some time and parent solo for a change.
It was Restaurant Week in Boston last week and I had entertained the idea of taking advantage of it. However, without a babysitter on hand, we were reluctant to take our toddler to a fancy place. As it turned out, being at the conference all day then working on my talk in the evenings left me too tired to go out, and taking Mabel on adventures all over Boston during the day did the same for Mac. So, we opted for ordering in Thai food to our hotel room and just took it easy on the one evening we had free.
I have one more work trip to take before my maternity leave- it’s a one-day conference, again in Boston, and I’ll be 38 weeks pregnant. Mac and I are entertaining the idea of a mini-babymoon the weekend before, but the logistics might prove too much of a hassle. So, I may go solo, but will probably only be spending one night away from home.
Overall, last week was a great trip. I’m glad we went, and I’m glad we went as a family. I don’t know what the likelihood is of us doing this again in the future. We’ll be a family of four, and 2 kids in a hotel room might not be as conducive to work travel. I guess we soon shall see!