This was only my third time bringing Zoe to a conference because of our recent better options to drop her off with grandmother. But it was definitely the right time and the right conference. This one is a fairly small one with only 360 attendees, at least half which are core-participants of my research community and therefore "mommy's friends", as I explained to Zoe. It also meant that there were several other parent attendees who had brought their children. Five of the six children were between one and a half and almost three years old, two being a set of twins that Zoe has played with before and who she is very fond of.
We arrived at the hotel a day before so we had the chance to explore (this is a rule of mine, particularly when bringing Zoe, because of often unpredicted travel changes). After half a day going to the park with the twins to play, I realized that we were not going to be able to go much outside the hotel without a stroller. I had not brought one because of our extensive travel schedule but Zoe was now a bit too keen on being carried and my back does not do well with her lovely 34 pounds anymore. Luckily, at the local CVS, they had an orange with blue and green x'es and o'es umbrella stroller for $24.95, which I then 'rented', because obviously we could not bring it back home with us. Five days later I left it in the hotel room with a note asking them to give it to charity. It was worth every penny because I was now able to take a sleepy baby out for dinner and Zoe's dad took her to the Zoo with the twins one of the days.
This brings me to the reason why this conference was such a success: Zoe's dad was there and took her for a full day and half of the next one. When she was actually in and around the rooms of the conference we hung out with the other kids in a corner and played. She dealt well with my colleagues approaching her and talking to her. The only time I tried to take her with me to a session was the closing plenary. After talking to her for five minutes, explaining that she had to be very quiet and that she would get to play games on the iPad in the back, I slowly opened the door in the back of the large staged room (we were 15 minutes late because she had napped in our room). Zoe stepped inside and then let out a scream that left the full room of 300+ people to turn around and stare at us. I quickly guided her outside again and decided that the closing plenary was probably boring anyway. And that she will have to be at least five before I try this again.
We spent the last night going out for very nice dinner with two newfound colleagues and one very old friend. Next morning we packed an overfull suitcase and took off for the airport. We have a very easy route home with only one layover and will wake up in Stockholm 8am Friday morning. Can't wait to see my own 'new' apartment.