We landed at 11 am, hopped in a taxi, and off-loaded at the Conference center. I checked my suitcase, grabbed my conference badge, and met my coworkers outside my session. They took Paul while I changed in the ladies room, put in my contacts, and slapped on some make-up. A quick lunch and a venti coffee later, I was up on stage speaking to 100 Chinese museum professionals. And while I knew Paul was safe outside the meeting room, I heard him cry a few times and I knew he was as exhausted as I.
We spent most of Monday in the exhibition hall, meeting vendors in person and scoping out the coolest freebies to bring home. We did go to the general session, and I'm glad I did. The speaker was fabulous (and Paul was quiet). Monday was great. I was on a high from my crazy Sunday itinerary going off without a hitch and I felt confident in Paul's easy personality.
Tuesday brought sessions I wanted to hear. And I tried. So hard, I tried to sit through sessions. But a crying baby in a crowded meeting room isn't fair to anyone. So I left every session I went to within the first 10 minutes. And I sat in a corner and cried for feeling like bringing Paul was a mistake.
But that was stupid. I didn't go to the conference to hear things, at least that wasn't my sole reason. I went to the conference to represent my museum. To speak and be heard. And actually, yes, to be seen as a strong working mother with my child in a front pack on my chest. There aren't a ton of working mom role models in my field. I am proud to be one of the few.
Tuesday night, after telling myself it was ok to skip the sessions, I went to a fabulous evening event. The venue was packed, so imagine my surprise when several people elbowed their way to me - me! - to tell me they had seen me all week with Paul and that they were inspired by seeing us together at the conference.
So when I walked into my second session Wednesday morning I didn't have Paul strapped to my chest (he was at the hotel with my aunt), but I was carrying instead pride and confidence. My session was fabulous - a packed room with great audience response and questions.
I hope my fellow conference goers attended great sessions and went home with some fun freebies. I didn't attend a single full session, but I came away with the best freebie there is - a great deal of confidence in who I am as a woman, mother and professional.