Monday, July 07, 2008

Tilting in one direction.

I just returned from a conference I have attended annually for the last 7 or 8 years. Since I started going to this conference, I have noticed more and more attendees bringing along their families. I think this is not because there have actually been MORE attendees bringing along their families, but rather (1) I have been paying this kind of thing more notice in the last few years, and (2) the demographics of attendees have been shifting as some of the old guard retire and the conference gets a little younger on average, and there are thus more spouses and younger children as opposed to just spouses and the occassional teenager.

The conference tries to cater to the guests as much as possible, but they're evidently more used to the old demographics because the planned "spouse/guest" activities are things like shopping trips and a crafting and needlework show-and-tell session. (My husband was not as amused as I was when I asked him if he was sure he didn't want to attend, since I know he likes to show off his cross-stitching.)

So most of the families of the younger attendees don't do any of those events, and make their own schedules entirely.

I noticed something for the first time this year, though. Three different times, I was heading over to this or that technical session, and came across a (different) little kid, 8 or 10 years old or so, sitting on a chair in the hallway outside the conference rooms, watching a movie on a personal DVD player.

I realize that we all struggle to get keep that notorious work/life balance, but that seems weird to me. I can't quite put my finger on what bothered me about it.

Is it that I felt bad for the kids? I sort of did, but then I thought that was pretty narrow-minded of me, because if it was just one afternoon or so of movie-watching in a week of otherwise fun stuff, then likely going along with mom or dad on work-travel is cool for the kids. And the kids probably get to see and do lots of different things in much of the rest of their time. And of course, it's not like I expect that when the kids are at home, they are being actively engaged/edified/entertained by one or more parents. I watched a lot of movies and tv as a kid, travel or no.

Is it that the kids were out in the hallway essentially unsupervised? Possibly. I mean, that does bother me, but I don't know if that's over-protective or not, and I'm not sure that's the only thing that bothered me.

Is it that the conference seems not to notice the trend and keeps offering these antiquated (not to mention mildly or strongly gender-biased) guest programs? That does irritate me.

1 comment:

Ms.PhD said...

Yes, that is irritating. In my field, spouses tend not to come along unless there are children involved, then it sometimes seems easier to make it a family vacation if the locale is appealing.