Babies, boobs and rooms full of geek men

My six week old son has just rolled up his first D&D character, charisma stat 20:


Image by Andrew Bennetts, all rights reserved

Just kidding. I’m actually pretty wary of identifying children of geeks as geeks themselves. They’ll tell us what they are when they’re ready, right?

Now that I have my cute kid pic out of the way, what I did want to discuss though is mothering and geeking. Fathering and geeking seems pretty routine in my circles: lots of the Free Software Planets (blog sites) are full of announcements of newborns, pictures of kids shot by photo geeks, and so on. Parenting is not secretive in my geekdom, at least.

Of the mothers here, though, do you feel the same way? Do you feel able to talk about your kids to the same extent that your male geek buddies do? Do you feel comfortable caring for kids in geeky spaces? How about breastfeeding in public among geeks, if you do (did) it? Do you wish there were more kids+carers friendly geek events? (I sure wish there were more daytime events now!) If you have a geeky co-parent (or more than one) do you switch your geek time back and forth, or does the whole family geek together, or are you doing a lot of kid-time while the other adults geek out? Do you feel like you’re a closet geek mother or are you loud and proud? Alternatively, is geekdom your respite from mothering or simply an adult time for you?

Note: since I shared a cute kid pic, I can only say that you’re welcome to do the same in comments… fair’s fair!

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About Mary

Mary is a women in tech activist, a programmer, a writer, and a sometime computational linguist. She writes at Her previous projects include co-founding the Ada Initiative and major contributions to the Geek Feminism blog. She's @me_gardiner on Twitter.

11 thoughts on “Babies, boobs and rooms full of geek men

  1. Sara

    Oh, I breastfed everywhere. But then, I was militant.

    But yeah, a lot of social stuff has entirely fallen by the wayside since we had kids, because most social events that are set up for younger adults are no longer set up to accommodate those adults having children. Which is too bad — I am spending this coming Friday night at my daughter’s school’s “Bingo Bonanza,” not because bingo is my idea of a happening night out, but because it’s a social thing we can go to and take the children.

    I have certainly found having online folks to talk to an absolute lifesaver as a parent; I think I would have felt much, much more isolated pre-internet, since I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years at home with the kids and my spouse and I both work from home.

  2. Rebecca

    What a cutie! Definitely a charisma of at least 20 (if not more)!

    Our three-year-old comes with us every Thursday night for game night. We go over to some friends’ house, who are his godparents (but don’t yet have any kids of their own). I did not breastfeed my son so no data on that.

    The boy likes to roll dice and in fact we now call D&D “Twenty-five” after he came to the table one night, rolled some dice, and shouted “Twenty-five!!!!” in anticipation of the result.

    At work (high-performance computing) I have pictures of my son at my desk and I tell my (90% male) colleagues cute stories about my son. The people I work with are awesome and if they were not accepting of the fact that I have a son and a life outside of work, I would want to find a different place where I was accepted. So I don’t hold back, but at the same time my son is not the center of all conversations.

  3. Brenda

    My turn for photos. Here’s me breastfeeding a 5 week old Caseyt at / LCA2010

    here’s us again, during the hackfest at DrupalSouth
    Br3nda and tiny

    but you asked – is parenting the same? I have noticed some equality differences, though there’s little to be done about it. Most of my fellow geeks who have had babies have continued to go to user groups, hackfests, and various beer-related geek events. These I can’t do so much. I gotta get home by 7pm at the latest because i’m the food source. Likewise while pregnant i just didn’t have the stamina for things like Perl Mongers which finish past 8pm.

    I wanted to attend the post webstock tweetup a couple weeks ago, but 8pm – 9pm was much too late for someone who needs to get up at 3am to feed a newborn. My male geek friends didn’t have this limitation on their geeking while their children were newborn.

    Exceptions for one geek friend who has a child allergic to breastmilk – so either parent can feed the same stuff.

    Boobs – one thing still holding back equality in parenting.

      1. Brenda

        for me it’s gadgets – first an ipod touch and later an android phone to keep me entertained during breast or bottle feeding.

  4. Tansy Rayner Roberts

    I chaired a science fiction convention while breastfeeding a 5 month old baby! After that, I was pretty relaxed about breastfeeding *anywhere*…

    Also the awesome thing is that, while running a con, fewer people bring petty complaints to you when you have a baby strapped to your chest!

  5. Joyce

    I’m so happy I found this blog. I agree with Sara. Finding support online certainly saved me in terms on new mommy isolation. I took my newly adopted little one ( adopted at 12 mo) to a geek event my company was sponsoring and people fawned all over her initially but in the end I felt it created a divide between me and the other geeks. I am no longer as “in the know” or current. But hey, I can talk your ear off about organic food, diapers and the virtue of glass or steel bottles! I’m afraid I lost some geek street cred becoming a mommy.

  6. Kristin King

    Hmm, when I was breastfeeding I mostly didn’t have time or mental energy for cons or geeky events, though I did turn up at a Doctor Who fan club meeting and nurse in another room. (I had so much trouble with nursing at first that I pretty much had to take off my shirt to do it.) Once I got more comfortable nursing, I nursed in public and would have done it at geeky events too.

    I love taking my kids (4 and 6) to cons, except that then I can’t go to panels because the kids would have too much trouble sitting through them. I heard Norwescon once had childcare but no longer does – some insurance issue? Unfortunate. So I leave them home with my spouse when I can.

  7. Jonquil

    When my two were tiny, I basically used the Internet to get the adult geeky communication my day-to-day life was sorely lacking. I eventually began telecommuting to a software company on the opposite coast, doing most of my work at home. So my kids have seen Mom geeking out (and Dad) since they were babies. Ask me some time about my toddler’s discovering the Resource Manager on a mac….

    I will say that there was a sad moment when our middle-schooler son came home saying “Mom, they called me a geek at school!” to which we replied, “Honey, your mom’s a geek, your dad’s a geek, your sister’s a geek, you’re pretty much doomed”, and then talked about what “geek” meant to us.

    Nowadays he embraces the title, using it, as I do, to mean “person who’s really interested in technology/geeky things”. He’s severely ill and at home, and the Internet is his lifeline to the broader world and to friendships. His (now-former, thank God) therapist used to go on and on and on about the importance of restricting Internet time, and never really registered our statements that Internet time *was* the family social life, that we considered it a valuable part of our children’s social lives, and that we didn’t consider introversion a bad thing.

  8. Yatima

    The only really depressing rejection I had taking a kid along to a geek event was at FOO Camp, believe it or not. Meh.

    I sort of make a point of being out about motherhood at work, especially because my work’s so corporate, and especially because a colleague who left on maternity leave not long after I had Julia never came back to work after that. There was certainly no real expectation that I would come back, either; let alone that I would come back energized, kicking ass and taking names, which is what I actually did. I pumped at work and was defiantly out about that as well.

    The childcare issue has eased off dramatically as the kids have reached 7 and 4 and have developed geek interests of their own. Claire does martial arts and math circle, and Jules is perfectly happy to visit science museums and Maker Faire. It helps to be in SF, and it helps way more to have a tight community of geeky parents with compatibly-aged kids.

    That said I am frequently, frequently reading blogs or LiveJournal while the children play around my feet…

    1. Brenda

      I heard about an incident at foo camp – if we’re talking the same incident, i gather the grumpy “get off my lawn” kid hater was ignored.

      Jenine and Nat’s primaryschool aged kid pretty much runs the Kiwi foo camp now.

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