Asking about childcare

A reader writes:

I will be presenting at a major week-long philosophy conference when my baby is six months old. I don’t see anything on the conference website about childcare so I’m assuming there won’t be any. My question is what would it be okay for me to ask for without sounding like I want special treatment? I’d like to ask for them to set aside a room that my husband (not a participant at the conference) and I could have access to so I can feed my baby in private without leaving the conference. Would a request like that be appropriate? Has anyone had success making requests like this in the past? Thanks!

10 thoughts on “Asking about childcare

  1. Off the top of my head: you could frame the request impersonally. Will they have a private area available for nursing mothers? If not, could they suggest what one who needs such an arrangement could do.

  2. I think one ought to ask. If we don’t ask, nothing will ever change. Last time I asked the organisers said ‘noone else has asked for it’. I imagine that if they were to offer childcare though, they’d find that there is a demand…

  3. Please ask! I agree with wahine1 above; it is a perfectly reasonable query (rather than a request for special treatment), and unless one asks, the conference organizers are unlikely to be aware of the demand. I am involved with organizing a large biennial conference, one that I attended regularly in the 1990s with my three (then) young children in tow. At that time, childcare at conferences just wasn’t on the map, but thanks to requests from parents of young children, it is now. Now as an organizer of that conference, I work with others to make sure childcare is available at the hotel, and I very much appreciate ideas that, if enacted, would make the conference as accessible as possible to parents with children (on that note, I’ve made a note to myself to arrange a private area for nursing mothers).

  4. I agree with all of the remarks above. You have every right to ask, and you do others (including conference organizers!) a service by asking. (P.S. — If, perchance, the upcoming conference is the CPA, do contact the programme chair for the above-mentioned reasons, but also consider sending me an offline message at I can easily make the necessary arrangements for you.)

  5. I agree that you should ask. At my college, we have a lactation room and it would be super easy to make it available to conference participants, but I’m sure I wouldn’t have thought to make the arrangements if I weren’t prompted by a request.

  6. All presenters at conferences can ask for ‘special treatment’! If someone’s organized a conference and invited you or selected your competitive application to participate, then they already want you there and they are inclined to think you are, in a way, already special. To many of us out here who are conference-organizers, you are welcome and wanted, even if we have utterly fallen short with respect to announcing that you should ask us about childcare. And in my experience, MEN whom I’ve invited/accepted for a conference seem, at least outwardly, to be comfortable contacting me to say, “I’ll need X before/during/after my presentation in order to be able to participate.” I hosted a man with a temporary but demanding physical situation who didn’t see anything on our cfp about the accommodations he’d require, so he just wrote me and said, “I’m delighted to participate in this conference, but at this time I find that I’ll need accommodations x, y, and z. Could you direct me to the appropriate sources of aid?”

    They want you there or they wouldn’t have you on the program. It is reasonable to inform organizers that you will need particular arrangements which will promote your participation. Having said all that, if you would feel more comfortable asking someone to submit a third-party request for information to the organizers, gee-mail me: profbigk [at] gmail [dot cahm]. I’d totally ask on your behalf.

  7. I’d ask. I gave several talks shortly after having a baby and always talked about my situation with conference organizers. They were in every single case happy to accommodate and in many cases offered much more than I had asked for. For example, one conference organiser found me an excellent babysitter and paid her 8 hours per day for three days to take care of my baby. (I had asked the organizers only whether they can recommend a babysitter.) Two conference organizers changed the talk schedule to accommodate my baby’s breastfeeding schedule.

  8. Thanks for the advice. Knowing it’s likely I won’t be the only person who will make a special request helped. I emailed the conference organizer, who said setting up a lactation room should be no problem. I’m so glad I spoke up!

  9. Please do ask. I attended a conference with my nursing 7-month old, and was able to use the light booth of the auditorium. It was private, sound isolated, yet I did not need to miss the presentations.

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