What would you do if a university student wanted to bring her newborn to class?

(369 Posts)
camaleon Tue 21-Jan-14 17:04:49

That is really. I have to make a decision regarding this. I need advice. I want to accommodate this student as much as possible but I am very aware of disrupting other students' learning experience.
What would you do?

Mabelandrose Tue 21-Jan-14 17:06:21

I don't think it's appropriate

Surely the uni has Health and safety policies on this confused

It was never allowed where I worked

Mintyy Tue 21-Jan-14 17:07:16

As a one-off or regularly?

sebsmummy1 Tue 21-Jan-14 17:08:49

Gosh I love the idea of it but cannot imagine the student being relaxed enough to concentrate incase her child starts crying and interrupts the class or her classmates being able to concentrate if her baby does start crying.

Id probably say no personally but I am reminded of a European MP who took her newborn into meetings and whilst voting because she was breast feeding and still takes her daughter in now, as a two or three year old.

camaleon Tue 21-Jan-14 17:10:05

I think the health and safety policies on this are normally ridiculous and just a way of excluding children from campus. I don't want to use a protocol to have an easy escape.

We have agreed to be flexible with her attendance but a few sessions involve presentations and she needs to attend those to pass the module

TheZeeTeam Tue 21-Jan-14 17:10:11

I used to take mine. My child minder turned out to be a flake and I couldn't get DC1 into the nursery for another month. It was my final year and I thought I would have to drop out.

My lecturers were fantastic and they came up with the idea. I would leave if he made the slightest peep and it meant that I got to graduate on time, without disrupting anyone else.

OddBoots Tue 21-Jan-14 17:10:15

Offer to try it and see how it goes?

camaleon Tue 21-Jan-14 17:11:48

Thank you very much for all the answers by the way. I will offer and see how it goes as proposed.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 21-Jan-14 17:13:01

I was going to say, does it not contravene H*S policies or insurance?
i'm not sure it would impact other students too much, depending on lay out and size of the classroom. Even less impact if a lecture in theatre.

Onesleeptillwembley Tue 21-Jan-14 17:14:36

No, of course not. What a stupid, selfish idea. She's meant up be there to learn. So is any other student. Bloody ridiculous.

Procrastreation Tue 21-Jan-14 17:15:35

Newborns are pretty inoffensive - mine went everywhere with me including conferences, theatres and work meetings. I took a seat by the door & had my boobs on quick trigger - it really wasn't a hassle - and so much less stressful than getting childcare for a tiny.

Let her do it.

Procrastreation Tue 21-Jan-14 17:17:53

Seriously - assuming she comes with a sling & sits near the door, these are the outcomes:

She comes with the baby. The baby sleeps. She listens.

She comes with the baby. The baby feeds. The baby sleeps. She listens.

She comes with the baby. The baby fusses. She leaves.

I think you're more likely to be disrupted by her mobile phone than by her baby.

frogwatcher42 Tue 21-Jan-14 17:18:57

I would love the idea of it. But having had a similar situation in a meeting at work even though the baby slept through and was no trouble it still put people off.

I think it will disturb the other students who will be distracted by it.

I still love the idea though in theory. But in the real world I think it would be too selfish.

OddBoots Tue 21-Jan-14 17:19:07

Licia Ronzulli took her baby with her to work in the European Parliament and her daughter caused no problem at all. Newborns are usually much less trouble than older babies.

5madthings Tue 21-Jan-14 17:21:44

i took my newborn ds1 to some lectures and classes.

sat by door and fed him, cuddled him as he slept.

it was fine, i was studying history and sociology so no health and safety issues which i guess there could be with a science subject?

SilverApples Tue 21-Jan-14 17:21:53

If the mother is willing to co-operate, I agree with Procrastreation.
If she has to leave the presentation because of the baby, will she fail the module? and if that's the case, might she insist on staying having been given permission to have her baby with her?
I'd definitely like to ban all mobile use in classes, that is very distracting.

Procrastreation Tue 21-Jan-14 17:22:31

The sling.

If she wears the sling she will find it much easier to anticipate her baby, and the baby will be quieter & largely invisible.

We're talking newborn . So not rattly toys and cheesy crackers - milk and sleep.

tabulahrasa Tue 21-Jan-14 17:22:36

When I was a student (a couple of years ago, in case it makes any difference) a few times other students had to bring young children...it wasn't an issue. As long as she leaves if the baby's disruptive I don't see why a newborn is going to cause a problem.

I took DS to a lecture, but as he was 13 and played his Nintendo - I'm not sure it counts, lol.

frogwatcher42 Tue 21-Jan-14 17:23:06

My colleague thought her baby was no trouble. And it truly wasnt - slept through the meetings no problem.

The trouble was it distracted people. They didnt relax the same in truth.

If its only one or two lectures I think it would be ok though. I reread ops posts and it seems as if it is only for a short time.

CailinDana Tue 21-Jan-14 17:23:31

I can't see how it would be a problem. I used to go to special parent and baby cinema screenings with baby ds and even with a roomful of babies and the film at a low volume it was absolutely fine.
I would say yes on condition I could sniff the baby's head and grab it for a cuddle. blush .
A newborn cry sounds loud to the mother but in fact it's a very thin sound.

5madthings Tue 21-Jan-14 17:24:11

frog if people are put off by a sleeping baby that is their problem.

and yes ronzulli took her baby into european parliament, until she was quite big i think.

kelda Tue 21-Jan-14 17:24:52

I've been in lectures with a baby. They were no problem. I've also known lecturers to give a lecture with a small baby in tow - not in the UK where maternity leave tends to be longer - in some countries maternity leave is just a few weeks.

As long as the baby is not crying, I don't see the problem.

CailinDana Tue 21-Jan-14 17:25:53

I think meetings are a different matter. In lectures everyone faces front and will hardly know the baby is there.

Procrastreation Tue 21-Jan-14 17:25:57

Btw - one thing I did once (#veteran )- was ask one of my friends to babysit in the coffee shop next door. He was a bit scared, but I literally left him in charge of a buggy with sleeping DS in it. I expected him to sleep for 2 hours, my meeting was 1 hours - but he had instructions to text if he woke. It went very smoothly - but DS was about 2 or 3 at the time - so more disruptive when awake but also more predictable when asleep.

OneHolyCow Tue 21-Jan-14 17:26:45

My friend had a baby going through teacher training college. I looked after her 2 other boys and she took the newborn to class. Never an issue, it was like Procrastreation said, no hassle. Let her take the baby. If it doesn't work out, I'm sure you can talk.

funnyvalentine Tue 21-Jan-14 17:26:46

I wouldn't mind a newborn as they mainly sleep and feed, though older babies can be far more distracting. Read this yesterday


PeterParkerSays Tue 21-Jan-14 17:27:46

Our university has no changing facilities for a baby, does yours? Just something else for her to consider in case there's a poonami.

HannahG315 Tue 21-Jan-14 17:27:49

Please could you let us know how it goes? I had to defer my university place in 2013 after finding out I was pregnant. Hoping to go in 2014, worried about child care.


frogwatcher42 Tue 21-Jan-14 17:28:13

I was put off by the baby 5madthings. I couldn't stop watching it and all my instincts wanted to play with its fingers!!!!! Funnily enough after the meeting a male colleague couldn't remember a thing about what was said and all he could talk about was how the baby looked so like one of his dds as a newborn!! I think we all ended up watching the baby and listening to its little grunts and watching its stretches and smiling to ourselves.

The meeting was pointless really - no one concentrated!!!

Thats why I think it is distracting.

annieorangutan Tue 21-Jan-14 17:29:17

We were allowed to if needed. Its how I passed with a 2.1 with only 10 days maternity leave. We had a few people in our class do it Our course was all women though so its much more of a normal occurence.

MissMilbanke Tue 21-Jan-14 17:29:19

I did a part time degree and one woman did just this .

Wasn't a problem for anybody - but this was a loooong time ago

Sirzy Tue 21-Jan-14 17:29:19

We are allowed to take children in with us if needed. Its not allowed as a regular thing and they have to be kept occupied (if older obviously!) and not allowed to disrupt the lecture.

The only time we have been asked not to is when the lecture was talking about sexual abuse as it wasn't appropriate (again wouldn't be an issue for newborn)

kelda Tue 21-Jan-14 17:30:42

I wouldn't worry too much about baby changing facitilies - I had a fold up changing mat in my bag that went on the floor.

Procrastreation Tue 21-Jan-14 17:31:47

Frog - I hear you - but that's a weak reason to bar the baby's mother from completing her module.

I'm sure the 'distracting' argument was trotted out when women started to attend universities.

Peter changing facilities are really not such a big deal. I easily nappy change in a regular cubicle. But - FWIW - my uni does have changing facilities.

camaleon Tue 21-Jan-14 17:32:14

I will report back.
No, there are no breastfeeding/changing rooms, etc. at University. Which I find is incredible taking into account many of our female students would not feel comfortable breastfeeding in public. I have a real issue with the Health & Saftey policies justifying policies that in practice involved discriminating women and access of women to education (particularly those with less resources).
I have suffered this myself as a breatfeeding mother in the UK. The irony of it all is that the University has a nursery (!!!) so it is actually impossilbe to implement a 'no-child policy' on campus.
But that is another story all together

5madthings Tue 21-Jan-14 17:32:25

peterparker my uni didnt have changing facilities but they quickly put some in as i had my ds1 and a few mature students started and their partners had babies plus lecturers with kids etc.

i changed ds1 on a bench (with a mat) and one person complainef. i pointed out there were no facilities anywhere and they were installed pretty quick.

the university also had a nursery used by staff and students, it still does. ds1 is 14 now and we still go to campus to walk around the lake and reminise re student days.

students with babies/children is not that unusual now i would expect most places to have somewhere they could change a nappy.

lilyaldrin Tue 21-Jan-14 17:34:36

So long as she is happy to step out if the baby is unsettled, I can't possibly see the issue confused

"Someone might be distracted by the baby's mere presence" is a pretty rubbish reason.

SantanaLopez Tue 21-Jan-14 17:34:37

As a one off, sure, but I think a regular thing is taking the piss.

5madthings Tue 21-Jan-14 17:34:48

well as an adult that is your issue tbh frog you should be able to cope with a baby in near vicinity without being so distracted. yes they are cute and lovely but come on!

Procrastreation Tue 21-Jan-14 17:35:19

I think you're overthinking this. The mum in question will have her own comfort level on things like bf and nappies - and I'm sure she'll investigate & plan accordingly. The neutral assumption would be to nappy change in the loo and breastfeed anywhere she likes.

annieorangutan Tue 21-Jan-14 17:35:28

None of the students on my course used changing facilities as you dont actually need them. I have been in lectures with breastfeeding mums as well. My course was an all female course so we could do what we wanted, and all the mums on it didnt take any time out just because they had a baby. Thats the way it should be.

How long for? Because whatever the arguments for bringing a newborn are (and I tend to agree) will all be pointless in 3 months or so

HereIsMee Tue 21-Jan-14 17:36:00

I don't think it's a problem with a young baby. All she needs to do is sit near an exit in case it cries or needs changing.

MaddAddam Tue 21-Jan-14 17:37:18

It happens occasionally to me (I teach postgrads in a university and they are constantly reproducing!). I'd permit it as a one off or just for a few events, if the university allowed, assuming she took the baby out if it cried.

I have taken newborns to events in universities, just occasionally when there was something specific while I was on mat leave. I was very careful to leave the room at the first hint of a wail.

annieorangutan Tue 21-Jan-14 17:37:22

Stealth once they are 3 months they can go to full time nursery if required.

frogwatcher42 Tue 21-Jan-14 17:37:22

5mad - easily distracted me!!! I get distracted when the window cleaner zooms down on his rope from the roof, when I am in meetings too!!!

camaleon Tue 21-Jan-14 17:38:12

In 3 months time University term would have ended. Last lecture before Easter.

FruitbatAuntie Tue 21-Jan-14 17:39:51

Hmm, I could have taken DS1 along to classes easily. He would just sleep or feed in the sling. DS2, however, I wouldn't even want to take near the building as he is so bloody LOUD, never ever naps and needs lots and lots of attention!

lilyaldrin Tue 21-Jan-14 17:40:16

Managing distractions is a skill we try to teach in the EYFS - I'd expect adults to be able to manage themselves.

TheseAreTheJokesFolks Tue 21-Jan-14 17:40:40

I am going back to 1991 here but a fellow student of mine - the father not the mother - used to bring his tiny daughter with him to one of my weekly lectures/tutorials.
She was gorgeous and he was pretty fantastic at keeping her happy. Aside from the initial cooing from us all including our lecturer at the start of each class it was business as usual.
We were all fine with it as he was an active contributor to class anyway and we all admired the multi-tasking and the fact that he was supporting his partner. Cannot remember the baby being a distraction as she slept mainly and the one time she cried he promptly produced a bottle and sorted it.

annieorangutan Tue 21-Jan-14 17:41:18

I think its terrible if you dont allow it tbh. Then people wonder why women get stuck being sahms. If the student goes out with any crying or noise what harm does it do. I am very glad all my lecturers were forward thinking women.

Fair enough. In that case id say fine.

Finabhear Tue 21-Jan-14 17:44:08

I occasionally took a new born to lectures, the baby was no problem inside a sling next to a boob and not many even realised he was in there.

I also took his older brother to a few practical classes and discovered that he is better at reading x rays than most of my colleagues grin
He now has a fair idea that he wants to be a radiologist.

frogwatcher42 Tue 21-Jan-14 17:44:51

On a serious note (my previous posts were perhaps a bit flippant for such a serious thread!!!) I do think she ought to be able to finish her degree tbh. The worst bit I think is that in this day and age she is being made to attend a lecture at all with a newborn.

I wouldn't have wanted the hassle and would hope that things have progressed enough to make allowances for this and do web connections to the lecture or some other method.

The last thing I would have wanted to do with my newborns is go into university but a video link to home would have been good.

TunipTheUnconquerable Tue 21-Jan-14 17:47:13

One of dh's students brought her preschool age dd to one of his maths lecturers when her childcare fell through and it was all fine except when she piped up in a quiet bit, 'Mummy, your school is really boring.'

If the baby is quiet and the student is strategically sat by the exit it shouldn't disrupt anyone.

SantanaLopez Tue 21-Jan-14 17:48:02

I think its terrible if you dont allow it tbh.

I really disagree, I think you should be able to stop your degree and pick it back up. It's terrible that she's being forced to do her degree with a newborn in tow- if she can't leave them for an hour to go to a lecture, how on earth is she going to go to the library and get all the coursework done?

NomNomNom Tue 21-Jan-14 17:50:59

My uni has a breastfeeding room and baby changing facilities in a couple of places.

I would allow the baby to attend. In my opinion, it's a feminist thing to do. Be very clear with your student that she will have to take the baby outside if s/he cries.

I took my DD to postgrad seminars until she was 2 and a bit and now teach at uni myself.

funnyvalentine Tue 21-Jan-14 17:52:25

One of the things I've found hard having babies with no family/friends nearby to call on regularly, is that you just can't do things like pop into work/uni for a quick lecture/seminar/meeting. It can be really isolating and hard on your career.

annieorangutan Tue 21-Jan-14 17:52:46

I managed it santana I was in lectures on my due date then gave birth whilst it was half term. I them went straight back with no extended dates on anything and passed with a 2.1 degree. I was also told by people it couldnt be done, and I waant the only women who managed it.

The onwhat did get pregnant and quit is now at home on income support as she had grand plans to return but didn't.

annieorangutan Tue 21-Jan-14 17:53:29

*the one that!

Procrastreation Tue 21-Jan-14 17:54:13

Santana I think that's for her to judge - but presumably she worked up to Christmas - so now just has to juggle through 3 months to the end of term. Stopping & picking up wold at least mean having to recap last term. She's much better off finishing her degree & either getting a job or SAHM - but knowing that she;d safely locked in her achievement so far.

Haven't read all the responses, but I would allow it if the student agreed to remove themselves and the baby if it was disruptive.

A colleague of mine brought her newborn to a research centre meeting recently. She was no trouble at all. My colleague, on the other hand…

grin Just kidding.

camaleon Tue 21-Jan-14 17:54:36

SantanaLopez, as you can see many have managed before her.
When I moved to the UK I discovered two things:

1) I was pregnant (just when I decided to stop 'trying') because of the new job.
2) I had no right to maternity leave (2 unpaid weeks).

My line managers (women) were horrible. Nothing directlyl nasty. It was my problem, I had no right to take the baby on campus (another one, different to the one I am at now, but probably same protocols); they did not like people working from 'home', etc. At some point I thought a termination was the only way out and I am by no means in a vulnerable position.

I don't want to be that 'neutral' person who just look at a woman with a newborn and tells her one way or another that she should interrupt her studies without even trying something else.

I did my final year of a Masters when ds was less than 12 months. Though I had significant family support, I've still brought both dc onto campus both as a student and an academic. As long as people are considerate of others, I really can't see why it should be an issue.

Rosierubies Tue 21-Jan-14 17:57:22

I completed a degree with three small children including a toddler and newborn. I took one or the other of the little ones to lectures on occasion and studied predominantly from home (and in cafes where I could breast feed and ds2 could look at the interesting people and not eat my books).

Without this accommodation on behalf of the uni I couldn't have completed my degree. I didn't want to leave and come back later as I was afraid I would lose momentum.
I had some fabulous lecturers who made me feel like anything was possible despite being a teenage parent. It made a huge difference to my life and the way I perceived my future.

Procrastreation Tue 21-Jan-14 17:57:41

Exactly a little bit of flexibility gives the student much, much more than it takes away from the other people involved. It is potentially lifechanging for her, versus a risk of a limited distraction.

Childcare cost between £5 and £10 ph round here (prob top end for a newborn). Unless her mum lives locally - that's unaffordable on a student budget.

Now I remember, I had one mature student who, on occasion, brought 3 young dc into class. They were fine. Better behaved than some of the other undergrads smile

I'd say accommodate her (and encourage her) as much as you can without disrupting the others.

pootlebug Tue 21-Jan-14 18:00:08

I would suggest to her that if she hasn't got one already, she invests in a stretchy wrap - a lightweight one like the Hana Baby would be perfect. Reasons:

- babies tend to sleep longer in slings. They are also proven to reduce crying. A baby under 3 months would probably spend the whole lecture asleep.
- It is hands-free for her, for making notes etc
- It keeps the baby a little more out-of-sight, for all those who are 'distracted' by having a small baby in the room, since he or she is attached to the mother's front for the whole time.
- You can also use it as an additional support for breastfeeding - put the baby through one cross, support with one arm, leaving one arm free for note-taking etc. It's not hands-free (their head should stick out for safety, and you support with an arm), but it does ease arm strain and make it easier to do something else with the other hand.

PenelopePipPop Tue 21-Jan-14 18:01:51

I'd have no problem with allowing a student to attend a lecture with a newborn, though I'd also check if she'd prefer to have the lecture put up as a podcast on Moodle or recorded in some other way for her and offer the choice.

Small groups would be a prob, we have tutorials with 4-6 in and I can imagine even a teeny baby being quite distracting for other students. OTOH they only last 50mins and we run lots of them so a good accommodation if she has friends on campus would be to find a time when a friend can 'hold the baby' so to speak for 50mins whilst she attends a conveniently timed class (even allowing her to duck out if the baby gets distressed and needs her).

I do remember when I was an undergrad a fellow student became pregnant and the chair of the Exam Board wouldn;'t even allow her to take a cushion in to ease her backpain during long exams. That struck me as unbelievably petty.

AngelaDaviesHair Tue 21-Jan-14 18:01:52

My father took my toddler sister to lectures, and he was the lecturer. It was an old-fashioned stepped lecture theatre and she sat on the stage next to my father playing dolls while all the students cooed. (Sorry, irrelevant).

I think, try it and see. Then if it is genuinely disruptive, distracting others, not working for her you have an honest re-think and chat. Good on you for not just saying 'No'.

SantanaLopez Tue 21-Jan-14 18:03:43

Hats off to you all who've managed it! My own student days were hard enough without a baby attached.

On reflection, I do think both options (carrying on, with flexibility and being able to take a break and come back) should be available. I know that I couldn't have completed my degree to the best of my ability with a 3 month old, but now mine is nearly a year, I think I would be able to.

Spottybra Tue 21-Jan-14 18:06:39

Please say yes and let her. I'm begging you. Because, quite simply, we need to be more child friendly.

A newborn needs its mother as much as a mother needs to know her newborn is fine. She can bf in theatre and u d'état and that if her newborn cries and she can't sooth the baby by moving position (as in wind, moving them upright) then she needs to leave until the baby is sorted.

I would love to see this in practice much more.

Spottybra Tue 21-Jan-14 18:07:37

Know, not d'état e stupid phone!

5madthings Tue 21-Jan-14 18:11:03

penelope thats crap re the cushion. my uni werent great to begin with but i had exams when heavily oreg and some were quite long exams. so they arranged for me to sit near a door and that someone was available to accompany me (to check no cheating i guess) if i needed the toilet.

i found 'the system' was inflexible but actually most individual lecturers etc were happy to try and help. i did end up taking some time off, the rules wouldnt allow me to have time off for having a baby... i had to get a medical note from.gp and then another note when i started back 8mths later. i graduated with a 2:1 and ds1 came to my graduation ceremony, again not technically allowed but aided by a friend who worked for the uni. smile

holidaysarenice Tue 21-Jan-14 18:18:34

As a student one or two lectures as a one off fine. All the time too distracting.

Especially to other students doing that important presentation. I would be really put off.

Even her feeding the baby will mean movement, fussing, noise etc.

The uni wud be better put to giving her extra funds for childcare.

Plus if h and s policy says no kids and you go against that policy would that not be an issue?

annieorangutan Tue 21-Jan-14 18:21:13

holiday - Nurseries wont take newborns so that would be pointless.

Procrastreation Tue 21-Jan-14 18:33:31

Seriously - what kind of uni did you guys go to where 'movement fussing and noise' in a lecture is a noteworthy event....? Is the norm that everyone sits like statues for the entire time? A baby latching on makes less noise that a scratchy pencil or a folder opening. I think this is outrage in principle, rather than in response to actual or likely disruption.

VelvetGecko Tue 21-Jan-14 18:37:40

I would say it depends on the baby. No way could I have taken my high needs screamer for example. I gather most babies sleep a lot though.
I waited until ds started school last year, sometimes take him up to the library if I need to pick up books, with a prior 'no talking' warning.

GlassCastle Tue 21-Jan-14 18:38:18

Students sucking on bottles of water like a giant boob are far more off putting than an newborn sucking on a real one.

slightlyglitterstained Tue 21-Jan-14 18:38:27

I've taken a newborn to talks and presentations - they're virtually invisible if in a sling and asleep.

I would have been delighted to see a baby in any uni presentations I did, if I'd actually noticed them. Actually, maybe there was, I can't be sure there wasn't grin

SantanaLopez Tue 21-Jan-14 18:56:21

My lectures were silent. I remember getting insanely pissed off with typers, people taking jackets off, pencils, you name it grin

A newborn needs its mother as much as a mother needs to know her newborn is fine.

Maybe the question should be why does a mother of a newborn NEED to go to university? Why isn't a woman allowed time off to recuperate and heal from giving birth and get used to taking care of a tiny human without dealing with the pressure of university too?

Procrastreation Tue 21-Jan-14 19:01:36

You'd be fuming now then - last time I sat in on a lecture about half of them were writing notes on laptops!

I hear what you're saying - but there are pressures on everyone that stretch beyond maternity leave. I think it is much easier to take a break when your qualification is in the bag - gaps are very risky - there is the emotional side - and also the university might change the course structure so that you need to jump through complicated extra hoops to finish.

lilyaldrin Tue 21-Jan-14 19:02:06

Maybe she just wants to get on with it and finish her degree without taking time out?

I've never been in a silent lecture either - people coughing, shifting in their seats, typing/writing, turning pages, asking questions.

SantanaLopez Tue 21-Jan-14 19:04:56

Oh god, probably. And in the library! I am twitching just thinking about it!

I really do think that there are ways to reduce the problems caused by a gap. Obviously, I am basing this on my own hugely stressful final year and completely non-silent baby grin but I don't think saying 'yes! bring all your babies to lectures!' is really the improvement it looks like, iykwim.

annieorangutan Tue 21-Jan-14 19:04:59

Babies were silent in the lesson the mums just stuck them on the boob, or left them in the car seat.

salonmeblowy Tue 21-Jan-14 19:56:56

My wonderful PhD supervisor allowed me to take my son with me to a few of our meetings. I know it is slightly different as we were the only two involved, but I have always been so grateful to her for being accommodating.

OP, it is wonderful that you are willing to try and help the student achieve her potential. I now teach undergrads and would have no problem if one of them needed to bring a baby in, providing the lecture/seminar could still go on as planned.

poorincashrichinlove Tue 21-Jan-14 20:13:42

I also took my newborn to a couple of lectures and to a dissertation meeting. It was the diefrtence between finishing my degree to provide a better life for my family or not. My supervisor wrote me an excellent reference complementing my ability to meet deadlines whilst taking care of a newborn.

I also took my DD to meetings with my postgrad supervisor when she was a bit older. She happily doodled pictures and we got on with it.

I'm grateful for the flexibility I was afforded and would encourage the OP to see how it goes.

zzzzz Tue 21-Jan-14 20:24:17

I'd like to live in a world where small babies can go to lectures with their mums. Make it so OP.

How many lectures are we talking about here?

I used to wheel my friend's baby around campus while she was in her lecture - lucky timetabling meant I didn't have anything scheduled at that particular time. Rest of the time the baby was with his dad.

PintameElCielo Tue 21-Jan-14 20:42:40

I would be fine with it as a one off but not as a regular occurrence (especially if H&S would have something to say about it, you might land yourself in hot water!)

LauraBridges Tue 21-Jan-14 21:04:57

New borns are pretty silent and when it's breastfeeding it will be quiet too. There are so few lectures these days it seems fair to let it in and given the amount of noise your average 18 year old youth makes I would think the baby would be very silent by comparison, no talking to it's friends, giggling, messing around. However once it got to a few months old 6 may be? it might start to get impracticable.

HorsePetal Tue 21-Jan-14 21:14:08

What zzzzz said grin

Hope it works out for this mum either way OP, you sound fantastically supportive x

MissPryde Tue 21-Jan-14 21:24:55

I was a child development major at my junior college. As it goes, most students were female, and a large percentage had small children. We had a strict no children allowed in class policy. Campus had a nursery, but it didn't have enough space to accommodate everyone.

I understood the policy, because in this case, if children were allowed, they easily may have outnumbered the students.

This scenario is different. One newborn is not disruptive, as long as she agrees to walk out if baby cries, especially for how short a time is left in term.

I often wish my college's policy had accommodated newborns. Many women had babies in the middle of term, and so often they came back to class heartbroken and stressed a week after giving birth as they weren't ready to leave their newborns yet. The only problem I could see would be that all of us nursery teachers and development experts would have gone mad fussing and cooing over the newborn. grin But we're all adults, we would have settled when it was time to focus on class.

Catypillar Tue 21-Jan-14 22:15:49

I once had a student ask if she could bring her 3mo baby to a tutorial as she had no child care that afternoon (she came back to uni and her husband stayed at home with the kids, but he couldn't look after them that day)- I said it was fine and planned to have a few minutes at the start so we could all coo over the baby before getting started on the tutorial, in the end she got childcare sorted out so no baby in class, I was disappointed sad

We wouldn't have been able to let her bring the baby to all the classes though- lectures and tutorials wouldn't have been a problem as far as I'm concerned but it's a medical school so not in most clinical skills/ward sessions. I did take DS to work a couple of times when my husband was ill and I didn't have childcare- asked my boss if he'd rather I took the afternoon off or came in with the baby and he said he didn't mind so I took DS (8mo at the time) in the sling and showed him to the patients. It was an old age psych ward and he cheered up most of the patients better than the tablets I prescribed! Couldn't have done that in other jobs though, can't carry a baby around in A+E...

dillite Tue 21-Jan-14 22:42:55

I've taken my daughter to uni with me a few times when my childminder has cancelled at the last minute, 4 or 5 times for a full day 10-4 and have never had any trouble with her or the tutors. Other students either ignored her or played with her. The only time when she has caused a distraction was in the middle of a lecture on council housing stock when she loudly announced that she had to poop, and she had to do it now. Tutors are always very happy to see her too.

scaevola Tue 21-Jan-14 22:58:57

If it is not too intrusive, the. I think you need to find out mre about her childcare plans. Bringing a baby to a class occasionally (for example when childcare breaks down) shouldn't be a problem.

But she is there to learn, and she cannot do that effectively if soothing a cranky baby. And even when tiny you cannot rely on babies being calm and sleepy, especially if poorly or just had jabs or are early teethers or atny of the other random things that can throw them completely off kilter for a while.

She needs, really needs, some sort of childcare. For contact hours and for some study time.

Now, even if the reality hadn't fully dawned on her during pg but she surely must have considered childcare at some point. What options does she have? What will she do if there does turn out to be some sort of institutional policy that bars children (and a complaint is made)?

Now, it can be difficult to arrange and expensive. But it's an area you might be able to help her with, or at least signpost to the people with pastoral responsibilities.

And work out what happens to keep her on track should she be unable to attend, or is frequently having to leave early (this might be the single thing that makes the biggest difference to whether she completes the course and gets an adequate result).

zzzzz Wed 22-Jan-14 09:55:32

The concept that you can't learn/think/interact with a baby there is odd. People do all sorts of "important" things and look after small children. They are not lobotomised by childcare.

scaevola Wed 22-Jan-14 10:14:53

I wasn't remotely suggesting she would be "lobotomised"

Simply that if your attention is divided, there is less of it for each responsibility.

Onesleeptillwembley Wed 22-Jan-14 10:19:59

There's a time and a place for most things. Taking babies into lessons isn't one. It's selfish. And it's people advocating this as the norm that gets feminism a bad name.

Onesleeptillwembley Wed 22-Jan-14 10:20:43

Sorry - people advocating things like this as the norm

lilyaldrin Wed 22-Jan-14 10:27:04

Why is it selfish?

Onesleeptillwembley Wed 22-Jan-14 10:28:09

It could end up being very distracting for other students.

lilyaldrin Wed 22-Jan-14 10:29:52

In what way?

Onesleeptillwembley Wed 22-Jan-14 10:32:01

I'm guessing it's deliberate, but I'll humour you. Babies cry. Even if rushed out it would still be very distracting. Even sleeping babies can be quite noisy. I'm guessing you're not going to accept the obvious though.

Onesleeptillwembley Wed 22-Jan-14 10:33:00

And yes, lot of 'guessing' but I'm tired after a long night shift.

CailinDana Wed 22-Jan-14 10:33:32

Yes onesleep far better that she stay at home. Who does she think she is? She's a mother, there's no point in her being educated! Selfish. Of course when she fails the module and goes on benefits she'll be selfish then too.

Onesleeptillwembley Wed 22-Jan-14 10:35:24

Don't be ridiculous. So if say a policewoman has no childcare, or a surgeon, they take child to work? As I said, there's a time and a place. That isn't one.

CailinDana Wed 22-Jan-14 10:36:30

Sitting in

Procrastinating Wed 22-Jan-14 10:40:39

I'm a lecturer. I wouldn't mind at all as long as she took the baby out if it was unsettled.
I don't think it would distract my students either.

CailinDana Wed 22-Jan-14 10:41:27

Sitting in a lecture hall in no way compares to catching criminals or performing surgery. Plenty of people on this thread have brought babies to lectures/given lectures with a baby in the room without problems. In most lecture halls it would be possible for her and the baby to sit metres away from any other students. For the students to be distracted they'd have to insist on sitting right next to her or sit facing away from the lecturer. Why they would do that is beyond me.

AwfulMaureen Wed 22-Jan-14 10:41:41

At first I thought "no way" but then I really thought about it...I know workplaces and places of study need to be quiet at times but children and babies are part of the world...perhaps until we can take them around with us, there will never be equal rights for Mother's and women in general.

I like imagining a board meeting at a bank...with everyone discussing the important issues whilst caring for their babies...men and women together. Perhaps a designated nursery nurse or two milling about. grin

I don't know what your lectures were like Onesleep but in mine people make noises, need to leave the room, forget to switch off their phones and then need a few red-faced moments to scrabble around to resolve the problem.

People do not sit in complete silence and stillness. That's not a good learning environment for many people. For one thing, there's the interaction between students and lecturer, during which <brace yourself> people speak, react, raise their hands, even stand.

So yes, a screaming baby in the middle row would be a distraction. A mother with a newborn sitting in a sensible place (i.e. one with easy access to the exit if needed) would be no trouble.

CailinDana Wed 22-Jan-14 10:47:12

Indeed Buffy. In fact when I did my first degree there was a guy with Tourettes in my class. He had very loud verbal tics. The very first time he ticced we got a fright but after that no one took any notice. He ticced during every lecture for 3 years. Had no impact whatsoever on any other student.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that what is more distracting to a lecturer and group of students isn't a committed student who needs a bit of flexibility to cope with (what shouldn't be) an unusual situation, it's students who can't be arsed to do the reading or participate. They are a far worse influence on the learning of the group.

chemenger Wed 22-Jan-14 10:58:02

I would have no problem in lectures, the person most likely to be disturbed would be me (the lecturer), sometimes it feels like I am the only one listening anyway wink. I would be cautious in assessed presentations, simply because I have seen students kicking up a huge fuss about the slightest thing that affects assessment. If you have bent the rules (if, for example, your H&S rules forbid children) then a student would probably have their complaint listened to, however tenuous it was. Hell hath no fury like a student denied a mark.

StormEEweather Wed 22-Jan-14 11:02:27

Amazing responses. I have chaired meetings and attended choir practice with a newborn, they spend 90% of their time feeding or sleeping. Why would there be any problem if she left as soon as baby cried? As for the comments about other people being distracted, they need to take responsibility for their learning. For heavens sake isn't it better that this young woman complete her course and breast feed her baby, rather than making her choose?

Hell hath no fury like a student denied a mark

Yes, that is a very good point. Tread very carefully around this.

zzzzz Wed 22-Jan-14 11:14:44

Many women even in the most archaic of households do a myriad of things with their children present, they do the accounts, budget, pray, cook, drive, plan events, supervise employees, educate other children, renovate homes, plan plans plan. Some even study! Of course no one worries about it being possible for them to learn in their own homes with a baby.
A small baby sleeping or feeding is FAR less intrusive than most students.
I'm not sure that this would get "feminism" a bad name. How do you work that out?

woodrunner Wed 22-Jan-14 11:25:34

I'd say yes, on the understanding that she sits somewhere that she can get up and leave discreetly without disrupting the lesson, as soon as the baby makes any noise that might disrupt the class. And that if it doesn't work out, she needs to make other arrangements without fuss. Those would be non-negotiable terms.

I teach AE and one year let a student bring her baby in until he was crawling age, when it had to stop. Tbh, the baby did distract the students a fair bit, but it also created a strong bond within that particular class and they all went on to do well. I think we can be too narrow minded about what enables education. The addition of the (very easy going, quiet) baby opened the class up, and even the shyer students contributed far more than they might otherwise have done in more conventional circumstances.

But I was trying o work in a public library the other day and a mother was rolling round on the floor singing her heart out to her baby who was chuckling loudly. In many circumstances, very cute but I wanted to push her out the door. So insensitive.

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 22-Jan-14 11:29:32

'The addition of the (very easy going, quiet) baby opened the class up, and even the shyer students contributed far more than they might otherwise have done in more conventional circumstances.'

That's a very interesting point. I can imagine that dynamic. In all my years of teaching the group that learnt least were the group that didn't gel and hence weren't brave enough to contribute in front of each other. The social aspect is often underplayed, I think.

Farahilda Wed 22-Jan-14 11:31:15

If the baby will be sleeping or feeding quietly, then it wouldn't cause a problem.

But that's an assumption that cannot be relied upon.

And of is qualification is needed for her future career and financial security, then proper childcare so she has some hours when can put full attention on her studies could put her in a far better position in the long run.

As an emergency measure, taking a baby along needn't be a problem. But it's not a good arrangement as the risk is missing a lot of lecture time because you cannot count on a baby being co-operatively quiet.

Freyalright Wed 22-Jan-14 11:52:40

I think you have to ask the students. Education is very expensive these days. The students indirectly pay your wages.
I wouldn't advise it in schools or 6th form but if it's going to work, it might in university. The problem maybe if others bring their children too. 10 children aged 1month to 4 years maybe a problem.

scallopsrgreat Wed 22-Jan-14 11:53:12

Blimey. I read it and thought that this was a no-brainer. Obviously not. I think the consterrnation with this is because the workplace (and in this case Universities) are set up for men with no childcare responsibilities. It isn't the norm. It is a bit scary to go against the norm. But tbh this needs to change. If your student is happy and comfortable with doing that then I'd say go for it.

I also think the point about the baby changing the social dynamic, really interesting and possibly really useful in a collaborative environment such as a univeristy.

The students indirectly pay your wages


Yes, but what they don't pay for is us pandering to their every whim and fancy. They pay for our expertise, and sometimes they pay for us to give them experiences that we think will be positive but that they don't like. Learning isn't always a comfortable or easy process.

Apologies for the derail.

Freyalright Wed 22-Jan-14 12:11:16

Buffy- isn't allowing children in lectures pandering? Tuition fees are overpriced. I think if they are paying and the fact that children were allowed in lectures, wasn't stated in the prospectus, then you should ask the students.

Bonsoir Wed 22-Jan-14 12:12:08

Just say no.

Bonsoir Wed 22-Jan-14 12:15:23

If my DDS1, who is in his first year of university, told me a baby came to lectures, I would be on the telephone that instant to the Vice-Chancellor to complain!

I wouldn't call it pandering, no. I would call it attempting to provide equality of access to learning. As we attempt to do for students with disabilities or who experience other problems.

I would call it pandering when students who have no significant issues themselves object to the accommodations others need in order to have equality of access. I don't think it serves those students (or our society) very well to allow the demands of a relatively privileged majority to push out the needs of a struggling minority. Within reason, of course.

University is not just about passing modules. Learning is a social as well as an individual process and students are supposed to be adults who can make decisions about their study as adults.

Of course, it might not work. And of course a tutor needs to balance the needs of one student against the needs of everyone else. But the fact that it might not work isn't a reason not to try and see if it can.

I'm sure the VC would be enormously polite to you on the phone Bonsoir. Universities absolutely adore parents who want to have a say in how their adult children approach their studies.

Bonsoir Wed 22-Jan-14 12:21:04

I know him so there is no issue there!

<shakes head in despair>

Well I am extremely glad that you seem to be in a minority in your views Bonsoir

claraschu Wed 22-Jan-14 12:24:50

My English teacher when I was in year 8 brought her newborn to class and taught with him sucking away. She was African, and I think it was normal for her; we were studying Chaucer, and she was a great teacher.

Freyalright Wed 22-Jan-14 12:26:59

Buffy - you assume the students would say, "no". I think the best thing is to ask them. Its the students investment.

Courses for mothers with young children would be a good idea though. Not practical for every course provided by an institute but with the high fees, they would easily turn a profit.

Oh Freya let me clarify that I mean in somewhat exceptional circumstances, not as a free-for-all. I would be fine with a sleeping newborn on a semi-regular basis because childcare for a newborn, especially a breastfed one, is problematic.

I would also be OK with an occasional well-behaved dc visit in an emergency. But the regular attendance of students with older dc would be more of a problem, especially as there is a nursery onsite and financial support available. Hopefully that clarifies somewhat smile


If I knew in advance that a newborn might be a regular for a short while, then I think it would indeed be courteous to involve the other students in the discussion.

Because my subject is a social science, we could do this with reference to stuff like privilege and power relations between groups and I think most would find the idea acceptable once they saw that their learning wouldn't be disturbed.

If it was a childcare emergency, I'd just have a word with the student beforehand and agree some ground rules about noise and disruption etc.

And we're forgetting about how much technology is used now. So if there was a student who had regular childcare issues, I'd get my talks recorded and made available, I'd run online discussions etc. Solve the problem by removing the barriers rather than trying to get everyone to fit into a system that wasn't working for some. Lots of students find the flexibility technology allows to be very helpful.

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 22-Jan-14 12:35:20

Good point Frey.

When I was doing my postgrad degree one of the PhD students got pregnant and the college was going to turf her out of college accommodation (she was in married accommodation but in a block with the single rooms) because of the risk of the baby disturbing other students. The graduate community was very supportive of her even though we were the ones who would supposedly get disturbed and we persuaded the college to let her stay.

Tiredemma Wed 22-Jan-14 12:39:52

I wish I could have taken my DD into University- I have had to put the remainder of my MSc on hold sad

peggyundercrackers Wed 22-Jan-14 12:40:54

i wouldnt allow it - once you allow one you have set a precedence, where does it stop? what if all your students wanted to bring their babies with them the following week? you cant say no because you have allowed one, if you said no to all you leave yourself open to being accused of favouritism/discrimination.

Of course H&S rules come into it. what if the baby, with all its bits and pieces, were sitting by a door and a fire broke out and the rest of your class clambered to get out that door - who would be responsible for a baby getting injured or worse - would everyone be able to get out safely in a panic?

MaddAddam Wed 22-Jan-14 12:43:42

You can make the precedent quite clear. Agreed on a one-off basis, for specific instances, if the lecturer is happy and the other students agree (on my courses they'd tend to agree. Lots of mature students with children). And on the agreement that if the baby cries it goes out.

Not a general, all-children-welcome frenzy.

Of course H&S rules come into it

If I felt one of my students was experiencing what might amount to discrimination because they have had a child, I'd be challenging these policies.

In my experience, universities have a genuine commitment to providing equality of opportunity and while they might not allow a blanket welcome to all children, my uni would support me in adjusting things so as not to be exclusionary.

And do you know what else? A student who is so committed to their studies that they are looking for ways to carry on even though they have a newborn is a student I would fight very hard to help.

camaleon Wed 22-Jan-14 12:49:46

I will see how it goes next week and tell you about it.

It seems that those who had to share the classroom with a baby have not had bad experiences.

If it works it works. I cannot care less about the precedent to be honest. I would love this to be a precedent. I have fought my own battles with University regarding the H&S rules.

Peggyundercrackers, following your reasoning, anybody with restricted mobility should not be allowed in a public building. I have students in wheelchairs, many times sat by the door.

Freyalright Wed 22-Jan-14 12:59:09

Buffy - I think the students would feel the same. I think all students with children would want the same treatment. Being accepting of one mother may cause a situation where you have to exclude others. This isn't a reason not to allow the baby in the lecture, necessarily. However, I think it will inevitably cause problems. You making a decision on what age is older enough for a child to be in a crèche, policy being made where birth certificates are required, etc.

I think parent/child courses may work as seperate entity.

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 22-Jan-14 12:59:23

Peggy, of course OP will need to do a risk assessment and think about fire evacuation, but I can't see it realistically being a problem - a baby in a sling is about as portable as it gets.
People used to use 'fire risk' as an excuse to exclude people with disabilities and thank goodness we've moved on front that. If the logistic issues around evacuating people with mobility issues can be worked out then a baby should be a doddle.

I think it would be kinder to explore some technological solutions -- skyping, podcasts, videos, etc. These are all relatively easy these days.

Life with a newborn is not always easy, your student may be shattered from sleep deprivation, have trouble navigating public transport, classtime might be baby naptime, etc and so on. Having the classes recorded in some way so she can access them when her schedule allows would be nice, I think. Also it may be less stressful than sitting through a mandatory presentation worrying your baby will cry and you'll have to leave.

On top of which, you don't have to worry about distracting the other students.

Procrastreation Wed 22-Jan-14 13:05:04

It's not that 'special'.

Anyone making a disturbance will be expected to leave, and asked to do so if the interruption persists, possibly with consequences for their long term participation in the course.

Exits must be kept clear, and bulky personal possessions should be stowed where appropriate.

These apply to all students - you don't need 'special' rules for mums. The arguments on this thread can be equally applied to disability, race and gender.

EleanorWaldorf Wed 22-Jan-14 13:05:29

I don't understand the scenario really. If these presentations are so vital, then the suggestion that she just leaves if the baby fusses isn't really an option.

You can't rely on a newborn to be quiet.

Procrastreation Wed 22-Jan-14 13:09:24

Yes - but study by Skype is very isolating. The option is nice - the insistence isn't.

I'm failing to see an issue if even twenty babies come to a lecture. (presumably not everyone has a tiny baby!). It would create a critical mass of support, and, yes, it might trigger a drop in crèche in due course - but while the babies are small, quiet & slinged they make no more trouble than an adult.

(p.s. how about piercings? They attract attention and an clink annoyingly. Should they be barred from lectures?)

I agree, Eleanor. If the presentation is so important that she has to be there in person, then saying she'll leave if the baby fusses sort of defeats the purpose.

My friend's newborn vomited copiously after every feed. My own son grunted like a pig when he napped! these are not small distractions.

What is the actual aim here? It's not bringing a newborn to class -- the aim is for the mother to complete her education. There are ways for her to do that, thanks to technology, that have zero chance of distracting other students from learning, and may even make things easier for her.

Procrastreation Wed 22-Jan-14 13:11:53

I have had 4 babies who were pretty high needs.

A sling next to my chest with the occasional quiet suckle was their bliss place. I could reliant take any of them anywhere like that.

I think 99 times out of 100 the student will be able to benefit from the lecture.

camaleon Wed 22-Jan-14 13:14:54

From what I read, people who have experienced the situation don't report that 20 students more wanted to bring their babies.

Bonsoir, I cannot imagine a single situation where it would not be massively inappropriate that the mother of a University student called the VC as a first reaction to a Univeristy issue. Even more so (much more indeed) if she knew him (I presume it is a he) personally.

It would be much more entertainment than the baby (and much more likely to disctract your son from his studies).

EleanorWaldorf Wed 22-Jan-14 13:16:17

Procrastreation you seem fixated on this- are you the mother?!

I've never heard a piercing clink hmm

The issue is that babies are not always quiet! Mine had the uncanny ability to make a noise precisely at the wrong times. It is completely contradictory to say that attendance is compulsory and that you can leave part-way through.

camaleon Wed 22-Jan-14 13:17:20

This is not a distance-learning course. There is a presentation within a team of students working together. I don't want to give more details since I don't want to out her and myself.
There are benefits from going to class and this is why not everybody enrolls on learning-distance courses. I am going to try to give this woman the opportunity to attend the important sessions she wants to attend.
Obviously, if the baby is disruptive or if her mobile phone goes off every 2 minutes she will be asked to leave.

You making a decision on what age is older enough for a child to be in a crèche, policy being made where birth certificates are required, etc

It wouldn't be my decision at all what age a child would be suitable for childcare shock I'm just telling you what I would probably imagine as reasonable myself. I do understand your concerns, but university teaching does allow more flexibility to accommodate individuals, within reason. We can't and don't operationalise everything into a policy that has no exceptions ever.

In fact, this thread is really making me think about how the traditional mode of university learning (you turn up at a pre-set time and do a lecture or tutorial) is actually quite exclusionary for lots of people.

If we thought about these issues more carefully, we could offer students much more flexibility: for instance instead of the typical mode of assessment being a personal presentation, students could also make a film or podcast. All depends on what they're supposed to be learning, of course. But these discussions will make me think more about who is being excluded from what, now.

It's been really enlightening, thanks for raising it.

I don't see any harm in distance learning for a couple months. Millions of people do entire courses online.

As I said, she may prefer that option anyway.

camaleon Wed 22-Jan-14 13:21:34

But this is not a distance learning course, and it is not designed as such. If this does not work I will try to find alternative solutions for her.

peggyundercrackers Wed 22-Jan-14 13:23:49

if the university has a nursery why doesnt she use it? why is she not providing childcare instead of taking the child to class? it is impossible to listen and give a lecture your full attention and look after a baby at the same time.

Freyalright Wed 22-Jan-14 13:24:22

Isn't her funding contract linked to her attendance. I think if you allow the baby in lectures and seminars then she has to attend them all if she is not ill. You can't give her the option to pick and choose, as well as bending the rules to allow her to attend. If she is unable to attend then she will have to consider part time or postponing her studies, IMO.

Freyalright Wed 22-Jan-14 13:26:10

Buffy - and you could work every other weekend ;)

camaleon Wed 22-Jan-14 13:30:19

The baby is a very small baby, a newborn. The nursery does not take them that small
This may not work. I am not sure I understand those who insists on not giving her the opportunity just based on the presumption that it will not work a priori.
I appreciate all the views and I am ready for changing my mind. However, I think that trying it is the right thing to do and this is what I have already communicated to the student.
I will be as flexible as I can.

zzzzz Wed 22-Jan-14 13:30:40

it is impossible to listen and give a lecture your full attention and look after a baby at the same time

I really cannot agree with this. The concept that you can't function because you are caring for a baby is just not based in fact. There may be some women who can't do anything but lactate and coo in the presence of their child, but I have yet to meet one.

Peggy It's the university where I work that has a nursery on site, the OP hasn't said whether her uni has one.

Freya I can't answer your question about funding contracts. It doesn't work that way with my students, though we do of course prefer that they do attend and find that those who do so regularly do better overall.

Well, it's also not a nursery, and not designed as such.

A technological solution is a good one because it offers the best chance for everyone to learn, not just your one student.

I would like to see us supporting new mothers more by not making it compulsory from them to go everywhere in person, not when so much can be done online these days.

There is not a massive difference between attending a lecture in person and over skype, she could even ask questions and participate in discussion. It's actually even more likely she can sit through the entire presentation because she won't have to leave the room if the baby cries, she can just turn off her microphone.

EleanorWaldorf Wed 22-Jan-14 13:34:48

I just can't understand the scenario, as I've said before. If these are regular lectures, where it's not the end of the world to duck out, there's no problem. But you have indicated that these are compulsory/ vitally important- what does this student have to lose before you decide it's not working?

Procrastreation Wed 22-Jan-14 13:35:57

No - but I've come out of the other side of strapping my babies onto my chest & getting on with it.

The subtext here is that the student has made a drastic personal mistake in getting pregnant. Given that university studies can stretch to up to 8-9 years for some career paths, and given that they overlap with prime fertility age of women, I think that the attitudes to mothers in education contribute a lot to opportunities for women in general.

Like I said, I've come out of the other side of this. Keeping a baby super quiet for a 90minute lecture before going home for quiet study is a doddle compared to juggling a baby and a graduate work program - which often include travel away, and would be hard to start part time. A typical family would have two or maybe even more kids - which quickly builds into an insurmountable career break.

Supporting this student does send a message to her classmates that you are supportive of motherhood. However - I don't think the response will be a flood of guerilla babywearers taking the piss. I think it may, however, make someone else more confident about attempting the balance.

I see overtones of social engineering in making it highly penal for educated women to have children at biologically optimal times. For my daughter - if she had the opportunty and was ambitious - I'd advise her to give birth in her early twenties, and then to lean on me, her father and her spouse in order to balance building a career and a family. The model of career building first, and then slotting in babies can be very hard.

Freyalright Wed 22-Jan-14 13:37:09

Buffy - they are supposed to work that way. The university is supposed to communicate with the student finance company, but they don't (for obvious reasons). Normally, universities have an attendance policy of 75-80 %, and any absence being proved as genuine.

camaleon Wed 22-Jan-14 13:39:27

Yes Eleanor,
I don't understand why this is so important to you Eleanor. The question remains whether or not facilitating attendance of a mother and a newborn.
However, here it goes: The module requires to present 2 papers to pass it. Those are papers resulting from team work, but assessed based on individual presentations.

if she cannot make it I would have to follow other procedures to change the form of assessment. Something that is not normally possible at all since it would introduce a real difference in methods of assessments for different studies. If she cannot attend and present I will speak with my head of department, Director of Programmes and External examiners to 'bend the rules'. However, it would be almost impossible for her particular case to change the assessment mode and she will have to defer (most likely)

camaleon Wed 22-Jan-14 13:41:21

...difference in methods of assessments for different students...
Apologies for my badly written messages. I am typing fast and trying to do something else... a bad combination.

I don't see that subtext at all, Pro, at least not on this thread.

I think the distinction is between people focusing on what's best for this one student vs what's best for the class as a whole. And between people who have never met a noisy newborn in their lives vs people who do see babies as potentially very distracting.

I had a baby midway through my phd so I am well aware of the challenges of motherhood and academia. But I don't think the answer is to bring babies into the classroom. It's not really a zero-sum problem --surely we can think of much more creative approaches.

funnyvalentine Wed 22-Jan-14 13:41:55

it is impossible to listen and give a lecture your full attention and look after a baby at the same time

I have given talks, attended meetings, volunteered at events, even chatted to a potential employer, all with a young baby in tow. Would have done more if I felt more places were willing to accommodate.

Sure, the baby doesn't always comply, and you need contingency plans, but it's not normally distracting smile most people will coo before/after and not during, then they're perfectly capable of paying attention to the matter in hand.

EleanorWaldorf Wed 22-Jan-14 13:43:12

Supporting this student does send a message to her classmates that you are supportive of motherhood

I think it's more of a question of how to support this student. Is it fair to her to say you can come, but you will have to leave (and therefore miss out) when the baby cries? Is it not fairer to look into recording things and using technology so she can do things at her own pace?

Really Freya? I've never known that and usually stuff like this is made into a policy that's communicated to everyone. I will go and check.

EleanorWaldorf Wed 22-Jan-14 13:44:55

Are these her own presentations then, camaleon?


So she would have to actually present while caring for her newborn?

How is leaving if baby cries a realistic plan if she's presenting?

Could she do the presentation for you personally, not in front of the whole class? Then you have more flexibility.

camaleon Wed 22-Jan-14 13:47:26

The subtext is very much here.
The balance between individual and collective interest is something every lecturer with some experience is used to. All of us have a student or two per group trying to monopolise the class with endles (and sometimes irrelevant) questions or comments; students who arrive late disrupting the session; mobile phones; students who eat in class; even those who start kissing... We deal with it making sure everybody gets a fair chance at learning and finishing their course.

if you have a child and you are a woman you have to interrupt your studies is very much implied here.

At no point has anybody suggested that other students should cope with a baby crying or in any other way noisy.

SantanaLopez Wed 22-Jan-14 13:48:01

Goodness, I really hope I've misinterpreted this.

I don't think it's fair on the student to present (and be graded!!) on something while her baby is there. Have you any idea of what you'll do if the baby cries and she has to leave? What about the rest of the team she is working with?

camaleon Wed 22-Jan-14 13:49:20

They are her own presentations but prepared and discussed within a group. I cannot made this 'private'/ in my office without changing the nature of the assessment.

And I still don't see how this is relevant in relation to my original question.

SantanaLopez Wed 22-Jan-14 13:50:08

There is a massive difference between an assessed piece of work and a lecture.

camaleon Wed 22-Jan-14 13:50:25

It is much fairer to exclude her all togther Santana. Even when she claims to be able to do it

camaleon Wed 22-Jan-14 13:51:30

There is SantanaLopez but I don't think it is my role to tell her she can't do this because I know better.
Need to leave now. Will keep reading later.

Procrastreation Wed 22-Jan-14 13:58:18

I've presented to 35 people with my 2 year old holding my hand the entire time! It was to kids at my daughters school - and my daughter was primed to entertain her sister if she caused trouble - but it was fine.

I can't see the assessed part of the students presentation being longer than 15 mins just for logistical reasons. So schedule her to speak first - and have the option of her swapping to a later slot if her baby is not asleep. Suggest
To her that she nominates a buddy to take baby out on the small off chance of a meltdown while mum is speaking.

SantanaLopez Wed 22-Jan-14 13:58:53

I claimed I could learn Spanish on my maternity leave...

I don't think you are saying to her that you know better. You are saying that you don't know what you will be able to do to help her if she has to leave during her assessment. The chances of her having to leave, with a newborn, are, quite frankly, high.

I actually don't know what I would do in that situation. It's definitely completely different to the original question, there's a lot more at stake.

It's a tough one. Students have to make these sorts of calls with assessments all the time though. Dodgy tummy? Do you try and get through the assessment or take the risk that extenuating circumstances won't be granted and your retake is capped?

It's not a problem that's exclusive to mums with newborns.

Of course it's relevant -- how could it not be?

There's a huge difference between someone sitting in the back of the class listening to a lecture and ducking out if need be, and someone having to give an assessed presentation. I mean, I admire all of you who can stand on your head and juggle cats while breastfeeding, but not all newborns are placid little souls 24 hours a day.

Yes, there are all sorts of possible distractions in class -- and surely the goal is to limit them, for the good of all.

I don't think it has to be 'have a child and you must interrupt your studies'. Continuing your studies and being physically in the classroom are not synonymous. You can study on your own, you can see your lecturer outside of class, you can follow lectures on skype and podcasts -- all of this is still learning, without disrupting the learning of others. That seems fair to me. It might not be ideal but it is also temporary and hopefully manageable with a lot of support.

To say that if women can't bring their babies to class they can't continue their education is just so short-sighted. There are all sorts of ways to address this if you want to be creative rather than dogmatic.

With due respect, presenting to a primary school audience and doing a university-level presentation is not the same thing.

BrianTheMole Wed 22-Jan-14 14:19:28

I would give it a go if she wants to. I took my baby into work when she was 2 weeks old, as I had a research project that needed finishing. It worked out well, I got it finished and then went back on mat leave.

SilverApples Wed 22-Jan-14 14:26:43

You could try it out, if it doesn't work, there will be protests from other students and the trial fails, or it is a success and emboldens others to do similar.

DuskAndShiver Wed 22-Jan-14 14:40:23

Sorry if I have missed this, but is your student considering this in pregnancy, or does she now have the newborn?

I am not sure that the kindest way to manage the horrific damocles' sword that women find hovering over their heads wrt to career vs. childbearing is to say "fine, women can do everything they have to, and bring their babies". I needed maternity leave. Physically, emotionally. I needed it.

However, if she already has her baby, and is saying from a position of knowledge that she really wants a chance to present, I think the correct thing to do is allow her the chance, not to be one of those people slamming doors in faces. Bigger picture, though, it's not a solution. If someone had said to me "you can keep your job after the baby - if you come back to work straigh away - keep the newborn with you, that's fine by me" that would have amounted to dismissal.

I agree very much, Dusk.

I think the best ways to improve work-life balance and make work/education more family-friendly is not bringing children into work but making it possible for parents to achieve their goals without having to always physically be in work or school.

I don't think we should assume women can't do things because they have a baby. But I think assuming women can do everything the same even when they have a baby can also be damaging, because it's just not true for everyone.

EleanorWaldorf Wed 22-Jan-14 14:53:23

I don't understand the dodgy tummy comparison. It would be rather wonderful if you got 9 months notice of a 3 day bout of D&V!

I would really respect someone who was trying to come to classes and maintain their studies with a newborn.

I would not be impressed by someone being unable to arrange a babysitter for 2 presentations which were graded and counted towards their degree. How does she plan to take exams or go to job interviews? How on earth does she plan to study if she can't leave the child for the presentation?

Indith Wed 22-Jan-14 15:03:26

I brought my baby to a few classes. Small groups, with agreement from group members and teachers.

The class was one which was rearranged from the original timetable to be after the creche closing time.

He sat at my feet and played during a couple of additional revision sessions.

As a tiny newborn when dh and I were both students we used to swap him in the corridors between classes so whoever wasn't in class had him. However every fortnight there was an hour where we overlapped and I took him to class until dh could come and get him.

So long as the student leaves if he is being disruptive then fine.

However, for her presentations she might struggle a bit more. If he stays asleep/quiet then I have no doubt she could present but there is no guarantee he won't decide to poo/fuss/want to feed at the wrong time and it won't just be her work suffering it will be her whole group so it might be more practical for her if she can get a friend to take baby for a walk or something during her presentation.

It wasn't meant to be a direct comparison, more an example to illustrate my point that many students go into assessments in less than ideal circumstances sometimes.

I am mulling over whether having a baby is completely different from those other (expected and unexpected) problems that many students face all the time.

You have some warning of a baby's arrival and it is a life-changing event, but I wonder whether the idea that it requires a total change in a mother's life has to be everyone's reality or whether we are conditioned to think that way because it harks back to the idea that mothers should only be mothers, not mothers and…

I am allowed to ponder this, because this is FWR!

So for instance:

Student in wheelchair, totally reasonable. Student with baby in pram, unreasonable.

Student with tourettes, possibility for disruption but needs to be accommodated. Baby making a noise, unacceptably disruptive and unfair on other students.

Student with long-term illness has flare up and struggles to do assessment, must be accommodated. Student will have newborn during assessment period, they should have planned better.

From a feminist perspective, is there anything worthwhile about these comparisons?

Please note I'm not saying we shouldn't accommodate disability or whatever (in case that's what you were thinking?) but I wonder whether our idea of a student is of a young, unattached person who has lots of free time to study. And whether we should reconsider?

freyasnow Wed 22-Jan-14 15:10:44

I would just leave it up to the student to decide whether it is in her best interests to present with the baby or make other arrangements. She surely knows better what her personal circumstances are and what the consequences will be than a bunch of random people on the Internet.

I have seen babies and children in lectures, the university library etc and honestly don't think a lot of students would finish their degrees if there were lots of people doing this ooh health and safety, are we insured, somebody else (but not me personally) might complain and we have to think of their entirely speculative feelings sort of thing. It very much reminds me of the arguments that rumble on about Muslim science students wearing the hijab in labs, students with disabilities requiring a note taker with a lap top etc, etc and of course every argument that has ever been put forward for why women shouldn't be educated. Yes, there are potential problems in all these situations, but there are with everything. Too much of this is assuming the worst when it will probably all be fine.

I've even seen staff to out and take scientific data on field trips with young babies in slings, which is their decision. All this woman is doing is giving a presentation, which she already believes she can handle with a baby. The most likely outcome is that if the baby does wake up and make noise mid presentation, another student would take it out, because most people are not self absorbed. Which means one student would miss the learning experience of this woman's presentation, as opposed to everyone missing it if the student can't turn up because she has a newborn.

Buffy, it's an interesting thing to think about, but I would argue the difference is that a student with a disability cannot remove that disability, whereas it is possible to arrange childcare for a baby.

If gyms and rec centres have creches, why can't universities?

In this case one compromise might be that the student can bring the baby to lectures, provided she ducks out if need be, but should really arrange childcare for the presentations, both in her own interest and that of others. I think it's particularly unfair to expect her group to do their own assessed presentations with the possible distraction of a baby, given it's not their choice to take on that risk.

freyasnow Wed 22-Jan-14 15:34:39

I don't think a baby and a disability are comparable, but a lot of accommodations put in place for disabled students are not essential. Students could complete degrees without some of them, it is just more ethical to make their studies easier if we can. The same applies in this situation; it isn't in theory impossible for this woman to get childcare (although the reality may be that it is impossible); it would just make her life easier if you let her attend with baby.

Procrastreation Wed 22-Jan-14 15:36:32

Childcare only takes from 3 months. In terms of the precedent set - childcare can also fall through, or become prohibitively expensive, leaving the student no choice.

Procrastreation Wed 22-Jan-14 15:40:11

( and the same DD that slept thorough conferences, lectures and meetings, and held my hand while I presented, screamed blue murder when left in the gym crèche - leadIng to the lifeguard being paged to ask me to come and get her. So I walked right through the centre dripping wet to get her. Childcare isn't a magic bullet for working mothers, any more than being able to bring your baby is).

Yes, but that's why I think the answer is to make childcare easier and cheaper, or make it easier for students to study from home, or to get deferments or adjusted assignments. There are lots of solutions besides bringing babies into the classroom.

DuskAndShiver Wed 22-Jan-14 15:44:46

Buffy, I struggle with the "I wonder whether the idea that it requires a total change in a mother's life has to be everyone's reality". Not with the wondering, but where it would lead in a capitalist world. The tone kind of reminds me of the "blue sky thinking" you hear in the workplace that usually leads to about a third of your team getting sacked. "So where is it written that we actually need a whole separate contracts admin team?" you know the sort of thing.

It depends on changing from what. I would happily take a no-longer-quite-newborn baby on my back into certain kinds of work situation (chatty, informal, I know everyone reasonably well, not too intellectually demanding, a certain amount of routine work done with the hands, no strict timetabling that will stop me pottering off to change a nappy or stopping to bf when needed) but not others (negotiating something tough, designing something, creating systems, working to tight deadlines, doing things in real time which are irrevocable should I want to change them later). It's a long time since I was at university but that second group of things looks a lot like what university used to be like.

And I think it should be. I think people at university should be able to work to the best of their intellectual ability, not just show up and mean well and put the hours in.

I am a feminist and I think that looking after a newborn baby is bloody hard work. I welcome the idea that I don't have to do that and much else, for a little while.

I find babies knackering. I am introvert, and a baby is another person, and having that demand on me all the time is a significant drain on my mental and emotional resources. Some people are all "the more the merrier" about every situation - and if they are studying to their personality are perhaps learning in a subject where it is entirely appropriate to consider it part of the eventual job to be organised and cheerful while people are making constant small and large demands on you from all directions.

Actual academic study in its traditional sense is something entirely different. Being unable to do theoretical physics while someone is even looking at you quizzically wondering if that chair is taken, is not making you unsuitable to be a theoretical physicist. (I am that kind of person.) I kind of think it is fine to have enclaves where people only have to do their goddamned subject. All the people in the class that is. And don't have to juggle emotional and social needs of others at the same time.

Your student in a wheelchair, your student with Tourettes, your student with a long term illness are still individual single human beings who ultimately are well organised and considerate people who don't infict emotional neediness on those around them. Bringing a baby into the mix is bringing a great big ball of needy. They are exhausting.

OK, perhaps I phrased it wrong smile what I meant was imagine if we could remove all the social conditioning and structures that say women with young babies can't work and study while their babies are with them.

It might be that they can't. I, too, have had a newborn (two in fact) and I also wouldn't have wanted to do what this student is proposing. In fact, having had two emcs deliveries, I wouldn't have been able to…

And maybe you're right that if we do engage in a well intentioned attempt to tackle the barriers that face new mums we will accidentally end up putting more pressure on them to conform to systems designed to work for single people (and men, of course, who have their partners to take care of their babies wink).

I do take issue with your statement that 'Your student in a wheelchair, your student with Tourettes, your student with a long term illness are still individual single human beings who ultimately are well organised and considerate people who don't infict emotional neediness on those around them.'

You can't be saying that new mums are not well organised and considerate people? Because while babies inflict their neediness upon their parents, it doesn't automatically mean that parents are emotionally needy. Or that they can't control their emotional neediness for the time it takes to do a 15 minute presentation.

Do you see what I mean?

freyasnow Wed 22-Jan-14 15:54:23

But the childcare isn't available now so it is irrelevant to the OP's situation.

In terms of making childcare more easily available, I agree that is important. But it wouldn't have been preferable for me. I didn't want to pushed in a situation of isolation and made to work from home, or have my children in childcare more often when they don't really like it. It has been of benefit to me and them that they have been allowed into the university, and that I like that other people do the same. People bringing children in creates a better working environment because it increases the range of people who contribute to collective work and studying experiences. It isn't an either/or. Most people if they can will use both childcare and taking children along to things. Most people will be sensible about it. Having worked abroad in countries with better childcare, this only increases the extent to which children are brought in to work places (in my experience) because it reflects a cultural shift that values families, children and carers.

DuskAndShiver Wed 22-Jan-14 15:56:54

I mean that the babies aren't well organised or considerate. The mothers are, but the babies just NEED, and it does affect people around behind the mother

Another pertinent question is why the student might feel that they need to push through their degree with a newborn. Why do they feel that the consequences of taking some time out are so negative?

Are there financial pressures to finish? I guess for a young parent, the more time finishing studies the longer until a good wage starts to come in...

EleanorWaldorf Wed 22-Jan-14 16:01:42

Buffy, I genuinely don't understand your comparisons, can you expand a little bit more?

For example- the student in the wheelchair and the student with tourettes both have to be there. The baby simply doesn't.

I wonder whether our idea of a student is of a young, unattached person who has lots of free time to study. And whether we should reconsider?

I think further education naturally demands time, because it's about specialisation and dedication.

For me, the 'feminist thing to do' is not to force women back into a degree just after having a baby. I think we would have far more women in universities with children if the system was more flexible and encouraged/ allowed women to take a semester off, physically and mentally recover, come back and dedicate themselves to their subject.

Dusk, again I really agree with everything you're saying.

I do wonder how much of the divide on this thread is due to different subjects and fields. My particular field is, well, very serious and intense, lots of pondering and philosophising, wrestling with complex problems, etc. At times we're talking about very horrible things. It just seems inappropriate to bring a baby and its possible distractions into that. I might feel differently if the subject was more jolly and informal.

And I do think one needs to think about the unintended consequences -- if it does become completely normal to bring your baby to school and to work, how long before maternity leave becomes seen as something for people 'too weak' to manage work and childcare at the same time? Or as some kind of luxury that clearly isn't necessary because hey, look at all these women doing without it?

myitchybeaver Wed 22-Jan-14 16:06:02

Am I the only person reading the thread who hasn't had a baby that would be quiet enough to do this?
I've had 3DCs and they've all been noisy, unsettled little buggers.

You lucky people with quiet, snuggly new-borns!

DuskAndShiver Wed 22-Jan-14 16:06:32

I mean, it does effect people beyond the parent (if the baby is present).
I feel it, I really do, and I like being in child-free places.
And that is why (apart from night wakings) I was always knackered when I had a small baby attached to me. It is not nearly as tiring being near the baby as being the parent. but it is there.

The person with the wheelchair hasn't brought anyone with them, is what I mean. The baby is a person, who hasn't been through a university admissions procedure or even basic social conditioning

camaleon Wed 22-Jan-14 16:09:13

Eleanor, I have been a migrant mother who discovered she was pregant after accepting a job in the Uk with zero family support (my family does not live here, I knew nobody); no maternity leave; and a very difficult boss. As I said before I seriously considered a termination only because of this. And I had another 2 years old. She could attend nursery. The newborn could not.

You cannot always arrange childcare, not even for a couple of presentations and to feel the support of anybody is really important.

of course the 'feminist thing to do' is not to force women back into a degree just after having a baby. Nor it is to force them to stay at home based on your preconceptions.

I cited the wheelchair scenario in relation to the comment about health and safety problems raised by the presence of a newborn in a classroom.

I am finding the debate, well beyond the particular circumstances of this case, really interesting.

I would feel awful if I was banished from a university lecture because I had a baby and told "just watch it on skype" - it's not the same, you don't have the same interaction and presumably if the mother wants to come back to university, part of that is the social side? I don't mean drinking and clubbing obviously, but just seeing people and interacting with people and discussing academic ideas. Being able to ask questions to the lecturer and having someone else ask a follow up question you hadn't thought of - you wouldn't get that through email.

I think options are important. I also think society is terrified of babies and especially of breastfeeding, when it should be a normal thing for small babies to be part of everyday life. Mothers do need time to recover from birth, but not everyone wants to be shut away at home, and if you want to go out and be part of things it should be an option.

freyasnow Wed 22-Jan-14 16:13:41

DuskandShiver, if a student is unable to do theoretical physics due to social limitations that mean they can't deal with social interaction based on facial expressions and seating arrangements, that would be a matter dealt with by the disability office and the lecturer would be able to take that into account when planning how lectures and seminars were organised so that student could be accommodated. But in general, all other students do have to be able to deal with emotional and social needs of others, because university is an inclusive and collective social learning experience! It also is about turning up and meaning well for many students, not about achieving some kind of intellectual greatness, and both are fine. Lecturers cater to a range of needs and abilities.

The baby question is a different matter, but I don't recognise your description of university life.

camaleon Wed 22-Jan-14 16:14:08

myitchybeaver... there is no way I would have been able to keep my newborn children in a lecture. They were not quiet by any strecht of imagination. HOwever, many other newborns are.

I certainly can take my kids to any meeting/conference/lecture now (7 & 9). Both my partner and I have had to take them to some of these events and you would have not known they were there.

Parietal Wed 22-Jan-14 16:16:07

i'm late to this thread, but just wanted to point out that I've chaired a day of talks at a UK university with a baby in my arms, and also given talks at other universities with baby in arms. In each case, I had a stand-by friend who could take baby out if she cried. But she didn't and it all went smoothly.

EleanorWaldorf Wed 22-Jan-14 16:17:19

Again, if you cannot find childcare for an examined part of your course- how on earth did you complete it to the best of your ability?

DuskAndShiver Wed 22-Jan-14 16:21:08

myitchybeaver, no you are not the only one!

I went to a social meet-up with a 4 month old, there was another woman there with a similar-aged baby. The babies were lovely and very charming and happy, perhaps because there were so many people giving them so many smiles and eye contact. You could not imagine more socially convenient babies (I was very relieved about how mine was behaving).

One of the women, who could not take her eyes off them, said "It is amazing how well they are programmed to get the attention they need". That is what babies do - they will grab onto all eye contact going, force you to coo at them (if you have an ounce of humanity) and if no one is there to do that they will get upset. And they will demand attention.

When I had small babies, I felt happy and supported when I was with other people who were helping to keep my baby going with their social and emotional energy, and drained and exhausted when it was down to me alone for any period of time. We should recognise that this is what is happening, even when people are glad to do it. It's not compatible with heavy theoretical concentration on other stuff. This is why people with babies are always being advised to get out and about - to benefit from other people's social energy. It's not free. It might be willingly given, but it's not like oxygen, that when you breathe it you're not taking it from someone else.

Traditionally men shut themselves away from all that, and women supported each other and each other's children. Much as I love love love having children I don't want to give up my access to the space to think that men have, by being allowed to be without them.

But that goes back to the individual vs the collective, doesn't it?

I can see how it could be great for the mother to attend with her baby. But it might not be best for the rest of the class, especially if a precedent is set and you end up with multiple babies in the classroom.

Fundamentally people go to school to learn, and as Dusk said, they should be given the best opportunity to do so. The classroom is not the same as the shop or the bus or the cafe -- people should be able to focus as much as possible.

Things like skype seem to offer a good compromise because the mother can still learn and the other students aren't distracted. And there's no reason the mother couldn't participate in the discussion, if the lecturer cares enough to bring her into it.

freyasnow Wed 22-Jan-14 16:22:36

This is rather like the SAHM/WOHM debate or the breast vs. bottle. People are essentially saying that some women should be denied the opportunity to make a choice to take a baby into university with them on the basis that if one person does it we'll all be forced to do it. The issue is that women should have the choice to make arrangements best for them, not that we should all be made to do the exact same thing.

I think the argument 'I like child free places' is justification for nothing at all if the child is making no demand on you whatsoever. Otherwise people who worked in customer facing jobs could refuse to serve people with kids - doctors, opticians, pharmacists etc. They all have to concentrate on complex things in the presence of children.

SantanaLopez Wed 22-Jan-14 16:23:25

Am I the only person reading the thread who hasn't had a baby that would be quiet enough to do this?

Nope. It would a bloody challenge for DD to make as much noise as humanely possible! grin

RawCoconutMacaroon Wed 22-Jan-14 16:25:10

Had my first DS in the 2nd year of uni, on several occasions he attended lectures and tutorials with me due to temporary childcare issues- I asked each time if this was ok and said I would leave if he caused any disturbance, and no one minded. This was almost 20 years ago and DS is a student himself now...

SantanaLopez Wed 22-Jan-14 16:27:10

The issue is that women should have the choice to make arrangements best for them

In a university setting, you have to consider the other students too, especially these days when people are paying extortionate tuition fees.

You cannot rely on a baby not to cry. It's just impossible. It's not fair to bring them into a situation where they could disrupt other people's learning. As a one off, of course, but not as a long-term plan, and certainly not during assessments.

I don't want to give up my access to the space to think that men have, by being allowed to be without them

Yes, for me this is the crux of it too.

very serious and intense, lots of pondering and philosophising, wrestling with complex problems

What are you implying about my subject, then grin

For example- the student in the wheelchair and the student with tourettes both have to be there. The baby simply doesn't.

The baby doesn't but presumably its mother (who is the actual student) could / ought to / does have as much right to be there and have her needs accommodated as disabled students? Doesn't she? Not being physically disabled but having struggled to study and work with young kids, I may well be missing something. If so, I apologise, of course.

But yes I do agree with those who've said that the current system would probably just take the regular appearance of babies in work and university as evidence that women didn't need maternity leave.

women should have the choice to make arrangements best for them, not that we should all be made to do the exact same thing

I agree.

zzzzz Wed 22-Jan-14 16:29:30

You don't have to complete it "to the best of your ability" if what in fact you mean is that you are completing it "as though you were childless".

The idea that we are only doing something if we replicate a young single mans persons experience to do it is wrong.

FannyFifer Wed 22-Jan-14 16:30:31

I have taken my newborn in a sling to university. Lectures & tutorials.
No problem at all, pretty much slept & fed.

DuskAndShiver Wed 22-Jan-14 16:33:34

"It also is about turning up and meaning well for many students, not about achieving some kind of intellectual greatness, and both are fine. Lecturers cater to a range of needs and abilities.

The baby question is a different matter, but I don't recognise your description of university life."

I went to a very good university a long time ago. I think this may be to do with the increased access to university for some who would have found another path after leaving school, 20 years ago. "turning up and meaning well" really did not cut it.

"I think the argument 'I like child free places' is justification for nothing at all if the child is making no demand on you whatsoever."

There are situations where we do all have to get along - trains, shops, churches, friend's houses, etc - but this isn't like that.

For the record I did think that in this case the answer was to let the mother do it, out of kindness, if she wants to. But bigger picture, I think academic space - thinking space - is incompatible with baby-care space.

I wish my work was more parent-friendly in many ways, but not including people actually having their children here. I just want to be able to do both, properly, at different times.

Isn't academic achievement essentially based upon the model of the lone scholar? The male, rational genius who does deep thoughts and then writes dense papers?

There are alternatives. Achievement by collaboration, etc.

You could say that strict adherence to the study like a single man philosophy is contributing to the problem of cultural and intellectual femicide.

PS. I could never, nor would I have wanted to, take ds to lectures. DD would have slept or sat quietly and looked around. It's girls and boys, see. Naycher, init. Hardwired, they are.

MrsDeVere Wed 22-Jan-14 16:36:10

God what a lot of fuss.

Its a baby not a fecking llama.

Its not a big deal and certainly not stupid, selfish and ridiculous hmm

EleanorWaldorf Wed 22-Jan-14 16:37:30

The baby doesn't but presumably its mother (who is the actual student) could / ought to / does have as much right to be there and have her needs accommodated as disabled students? Doesn't she? Not being physically disabled but having struggled to study and work with young kids, I may well be missing something. If so, I apologise, of course.

No, I think there's a fundamental difference. A woman doesn't need her child with her to study. A disabled student needs a wheelchair to get into the building or an interpreter to communicate.

You don't have to complete it "to the best of your ability" if what in fact you mean is that you are completing it "as though you were childless".

If you aren't able to dedicate your time to a university degree, why are you there?

DuskAndShiver Wed 22-Jan-14 16:38:20

"People are essentially saying that some women should be denied the opportunity to make a choice to take a baby into university with them on the basis that if one person does it we'll all be forced to do it. The issue is that women should have the choice to make arrangements best for them, not that we should all be made to do the exact same thing."

this is where liberalism breaks down. It's not one person's choice in a vacuum. It's a dynamic that effects everyone.

Or to paraphrase:

"having a child-free section of a lecture theatre is like having a no-pissing section of the swimming pool"

I think we do have to make rules (on sound ethical and practical bases) and stick to them, because making everything all about choice is just the road to neo liberal shitty disaster for everyone.

I believe in:

minimum wage
minimum age for working
mandatory health and safety at work
laws about pollution etc

There are loads of things I believe in that fly in the face of "choice" because "choice" is just "I can afford it, and devil take the hindmost"

freyasnow Wed 22-Jan-14 16:38:59

Santana, you have taken my statement out of context. I was talking about the issue of what is best for mothers between two situations. I had talked about the other students elsewhere.

As for the rest of the thread,

The individual vs. collective pretty much sums it up. I consider children are part of society and should be included as much as possible, unless there is a very, very good reason not to. Anything else excludes women and children. I think taking a collective responsibility for children is the core of feminism, and anything else is a feminism only for childless women and wealthy Western women.

The actual situation is very specific and only the mother and the OP can really know and judge, but the wider implications of what people are saying about mothers and children is interesting, because it is ultimately about whether feminism is only for women who can act like old fashioned men, or for all women.

Some of this has gone way beyond legitimate distractions and into just not really liking to be around kids.

DuskAndShiver Wed 22-Jan-14 16:42:30

"Isn't academic achievement essentially based upon the model of the lone scholar? The male, rational genius who does deep thoughts and then writes dense papers?

There are alternatives. Achievement by collaboration, etc.

You could say that strict adherence to the study like a single man philosophy is contributing to the problem of cultural and intellectual femicide. "

There are alternatives, and maybe it is time to let other models get a look in
But I take issue with your genderisation of different ways of doing things. I am definitely a lone deep thinker and very female.

If being a woman, or having children, meant that I could only take part in writing-by-committee my head would explode with irritation and boredom. Well, I wouldn't be able to do any.

zzzzz Wed 22-Jan-14 16:43:18

Well eleanor perhaps I don't see thinking and childcare as mutually exclusive, which is a blessing really as my baby won't be growing up and shipping out any time soon (or possibley ever).

EleanorWaldorf Wed 22-Jan-14 16:45:53

Well eleanor perhaps I don't see thinking and childcare as mutually exclusive.

I am not just talking about 'thinking'. I genuinely don't see how someone can possibly contemplate undertaking a university course, the masses of research, writing, studying and classes, without someone else taking care of the baby.

EleanorWaldorf Wed 22-Jan-14 16:46:42

I should probably add- someone else taking care of the baby for at least some of the time.

DuskAndShiver Wed 22-Jan-14 16:48:15

"I consider children are part of society and should be included as much as possible, unless there is a very, very good reason not to."

like trying to have three consecutive logical thoughts in a straight line for once goddammit! That is reason why not to include your children in your studies.

" Anything else excludes women and children."

Only if you insist women are the only people responsible for children. Where is their father? When is it his turn to be driven mad by singing Old MacDonald 100 times in a row? When his dp is at university, that's when. For instance.

" I think taking a collective responsibility for children is the core of feminism, and anything else is a feminism only for childless women and wealthy Western women."

taking responsibilty for doesn't mean taking them everywhere.

I don't think you think that a surgeon should only work with her children thoughtfully provided with something to stand on to watch the action, occasionally tugging on the elbow with the scalpel to say "mummy where is my red crayon? I am trying to draw the operation but I need more red." I just think we differ about when you need to be without your, or anyone else's, children to actually concentrate. And maybe university isn't like it used to be. Maybe you have to do masters now to do anything hard. What a fucking waste of money. It's a racket.

LCHammer Wed 22-Jan-14 16:49:16

It's a bit late to discover you don't have childcare and you need to defer the course for a couple of semesters. As a one-off, not regularly.

I take issue with your genderisation of different ways of doing things

The genderisation isn't mine, it's my understanding of what the model is. Our ideas about academic study come from a time when the deep thinkers were men, that's why I bring it up.

I have no time for the men = rational, women = emotional crap. If I subscribed to that, then I should grow me a penis because I am not a collaborative thinker either.

oscarwilde Wed 22-Jan-14 16:51:54

I think you should allow it on the basis that she will need to step out if the baby kicks off.
Grown adults will need to learn to manage external distractions. The novelty of a baby sleeping/feeding will soon wear off.
If the student has to step out/is late to class tending to her child, are you providing any other support ? Copies of your lecture notes etc?
Presumably if you don't allow it, she will have to defer or drop out. What happens if she can't manage it having tried it, will you allow her to defer then or is she then at risk of failing the course. You need to think this through properly.

zzzzz Wed 22-Jan-14 16:53:25

Some people genuinely do not have the option of "someone else to look after the baby", some people don't want that option, some people can only manage it for some of the time....none of them needs to be excluded from university.

Forgive me, but I don't think anyone is suggesting that students should bring their children to university as a matter of course. Are they?

I think people are saying that efforts should be made to accommodate a student if they find themselves in a tricky situation.

My interpretation of the feminism is about taking responsibility for children argument was one being made against anti-women structures, rather than an argument for forcing women to work with anti-women structures in the company of their children.

DuskAndShiver Wed 22-Jan-14 16:54:05

Buffy, well if you don't buy into it, don't reproduce it. You present it as if you are saying

"women work better like this, so we are being anti-woman unless we facilitate cosy group chats with babies at them, in universities".

If you are just saying

"maybe we could do stuff in groups as well as alone"

then it is not a remotely gendered point, and has nothing to do with a traditional association of scholasticism with masculinity, or rebutting same

freyasnow Wed 22-Jan-14 16:54:57

DuskandShiver, I'm not arguing for choice feminism; I Don't agree with it. Of course choices don't take place in a vacuum and some are bad choices for society as a whole. I don't think your 'choice' to have child free environments available is a feminist one and you think the opposite. That is a kind of argument about what direction society should go in where we disagree with each other.

The other kind of argument is one where people want women's choices curtailed not because they consider either choice bad but because they think one option should fit all women. I think there are situations where women's choices are curtailed unnecessarily because of a social expectation that there is one way of organising things that works best for all mothers, which is not the case. I can see why women hold the legitimate fear that if one woman breastfeeds we'll all be forced to do it, if one woman goes back to work full time, we'll all be made to do it, but that is an issue of people not accepting that different choices work for different families and not being too prescriptive.

The latter is the choice restriction I disagree with, reducing choice not because the choice is unethical but because women (or any other minority) must be stereotyped to all want/have/require the exact same thing.

I can't really summon the mental energy to defend something I didn't intend to communicate Dusk.

My point was supposed to be that if you take a historical perspective on how university learning is structured, quite quickly you get back to a point in time when the model was men who spent lots of time alone in contemplative study.

How is making that observation also endorsing it as a position that we should accept now?

And I'm not saying maybe we could do stuff in groups as well as alone, I am saying that if we think past what history has taught us to assume as the way university study works, perhaps there are alternatives that are more inclusive of all sorts of people, not just those that fit a traditional model.

Note please that when I post on here I am expressing thoughts as they come rather than spending weeks composing them with extreme care. smile

Hopefully my post above explains that I didn't mean "women work better like this, so we are being anti-woman unless we facilitate cosy group chats with babies at them, in universities".

But for the avoidance of doubt, I don't think "women work better like this, so we are being anti-woman unless we facilitate cosy group chats with babies at them, in universities".


freyasnow Wed 22-Jan-14 17:05:45

DuskandShiver, yes, there are situations where for genuine health and safety reasons children can't be present. There are jobs I can't do for general health and safety reasons because I'm not physically capable, including your example of bring a surgeon. There are courses I've taught where children could not attend because they are lab based.

I don't think there is anything wrong with a wider range of students attending university. I believe that the vast majority benefit of the courses are high quality. I don't think very high academic ability is required for an MSc either. It is mostly diligence and commitment.

I personally don't think we are ever going to have a society where women don't make up the vast majority of primary carers of young children. If we were in a situation where as many men were primary carers as women, and we were using that as an excuse to exclude, discriminate and impoverish primary carers, then I would be as opposed to that as I am to the current situation and certainly wouldn't see it as a feminist achievement.

I know have to go, but think this is an interesting discussion. Apologies to the OP for going a bit off topic.

EleanorWaldorf Wed 22-Jan-14 17:18:57

Some people genuinely do not have the option of "someone else to look after the baby", some people don't want that option, some people can only manage it for some of the time....none of them needs to be excluded from university.

But university is not there to step in where you can't get a baby sitter. It's there to provide you with further education.

I've got 2 degrees and I've had 2 children. I genuinely do not understand how anyone could undertake any academic study with no childcare.

Freyalright Wed 22-Jan-14 17:22:06

Would you allow a pet dog in the lectures? Not a guide dog but a pet?

Are you comparing someone's newborn baby with someone's pet dog?

SantanaLopez Wed 22-Jan-14 17:30:11

The guide dog in my lectures used to sit and fart, it was disgusting.

What's the link between a dog and a baby?

5madthings Wed 22-Jan-14 17:35:05

Well Eleanor some of us do, or with very little childcare, I took ds1 with me when tiny and once he was bigger I had the bare minimum ie only tutorials and lectures I had to attend where he was in childcare. Cost mainly as even though it was subsidized it was still expensive.

So I studied whilst he played, read whilst bfeeding and when he slept he hardly slept until he was three yes old and yes it was hard work, and I was knackered at times, but I enjoyed it and have fabulous memories of his baby and toddler years on campus, he took his first steps in the uni bar (the back bar non smoking). I made one of my very best friends during that time and we both managed to graduate babies in tow.

The system needs to be flexible, many units already (as evidenced by this thread and experiences of others) let little babies attend some lectures and seminars. Its never a long term issue, as they get bigger they can go to nursery, are easier to leave etc.

But for some parents the flexibility of being able to take a little one until old enough for nursery or in event of childcare letting you down is vital in them succeeding and completing their degree.

Is it ideal? Maybe not but life is far from ideal, we all muddle through best we can.

But you can complete studies with young children, even without childcare, hell thousands do through the OU. I had no more than four hours a week and I bust a gut keeping up with reading, getting copies of notes etc for lectures I missed. Not ideal but entirely possible.

This student wants the opportunity to try, if she tries and it doesn't work then work on option b, but letting her have a go for a few short weeks, op says til easter? May help and make her life easier.

I echo what Bertie said a few pages ago re social side etc as well.

ParsingFancy Wed 22-Jan-14 17:52:28

"If you aren't able to dedicate your time to a university degree, why are you there?"

I'm boggling at this and similar comments.

I also went to a very good university a very long time ago, and a degree was something people fitted in between drinking, caving, rugby, drama, politics, etc. There mightn't have been many (small) children on site, but I just don't recognise this monk-like, contemplative existence some posters seem to refer to.

camaleon Wed 22-Jan-14 19:02:31

Eleanor. Nobody is suggesting that the university should provide childcare when you can't arrange babysitting (although perhaps we should). The uni is not paying for childcare or loking after baby in any way. The student has no right to stay. She is only allowed to stay if it does not disturb others. There are no duties to ensure she can continue her studies.

Buffy -- certainly no offence to your field intended grin

I suppose I just really don't relate to this apparently feminist ideal of being able to take your children absolutely everywhere (health and safety excepted).

I'm more of a 'room of one's own' kind of gal. Men have been able to pursue their intellectual space and identity unencumbered for centuries, and I don't see why I shouldn't be able to as well.

My feminist agenda does not include the collective raising of children, but the equal raising of children between men and women. So I disagree that being a good feminist means I need to tolerate people's children everywhere.

zzzzz Wed 22-Jan-14 21:01:50

If you skype or some other "work from home" option you are still looking after the baby while attending. So for those of you that think that's an option single focus study is not the issue.
I can't see that a teeny baby makes much impact on a lecture theatre, but mine were huge and full of shufflers, sneezers and snackers.

eleanor I wasn't thinking of people who couldn't be bothered to arrange childcare, more when someone else was not an option. I will never be able to "just be studying" because my children can't be babysat, they need me. I think in this case though its probably to do with spacing feeds for a very small baby who my not take a bottle?? Either way it's perfectly possible that someone's divided attention is up to the job surely?

I'm really sorry, I've only just seen this and I've been working from 7 this morning until about an hour ago - but I would be perfectly happy.

I teach undergraduate classes.

I would want you to talk both to me (teacher) and the course convenor. However, I would fight your corner.

You would need to leave if your baby was disturbing the lesson. But I wouldn't at all mind you coming.

(I mean, I've only just seen this so not catching up on the thread yet.)

DuskAndShiver Wed 22-Jan-14 22:25:54

Alternating activities is refreshing. It's not the same thing as trying to do 2 things at once.
Being on skype doesn't stop your baby distracting you but it does keep it away from everyone else.

Fascinated by the number if people on this thread who would apparently be fine working and doing childcare at once. What do you all do? Can you really think straight? As straight as without them?

I would a million times prefer a 4 hour clear run at a job,alone, knowing my kids were safe and happy with someone else, and then time to give them my full attention, than a whole day or even 2 trying to get through something that seems endless because I keep wiping bums and noses and answering questions. Of course the latter is cheaper.

Btw, sorry if this is stupid ... but can the class be recorded? Then she could at least listen and catch up. We record lectures here and I believe it helps.

dusk, I have taught a student who had to cope with intense pain as well as studying. It was awful, and I have no idea how she managed - but she did. No need to assume people can't multitask.

Of course it is a pity anyone is in a situation where they need to, but we do live in an imperfect world, and until these issues are sorted out, it seems unfair to penalize women for them.

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 22-Jan-14 22:42:47

It was some years ago and in the States, but a law school classmate of mine gave birth shortly before the end of our last year; she brought the baby to class (no one had a problem with this as far as I know), and carried her daughter in her arms when going up to receive her diploma at graduation, to a standing ovation. It was lovely.

That does sound lovely. smile

A mate of mine is shortly to finish her PhD with her little one in tow, and my friend is teaching a woman who had a very unexpected baby in the second year of undergrad - she's on course for a good first.

DuskAndShiver Wed 22-Jan-14 23:04:24

Lrd this student will be presenting. I would be interested in your views if you have time to rtft

I've read the thread now. I did read if before I replied to you, sorry.

I don't see what difference it makes. My student who was in pain presented. She was perfectly decent at it.

What shocks me is that it would seem it's perfectly ok to make allowances for all sorts of other issues - but not for what is essentially sexism.

I think a lot of this thread suggests people have a very low opinion of what students can manage - apparently, no noise is allowed, no disruption, even that of someone leaving the room. I wonder how people who require these working conditons ever get jobs?! Imagine how absurd you would look if you told an employer 'oh, I can work for you, but I warn you, I will be terribly distracted if anyone ever has to interrupt a presentation for an important conference call, and I can't cope with noise so no-one must ever use the phone'.

I think it is patronizing to my students to pretend this is what current undergraduates would really think.

cerealqueen Wed 22-Jan-14 23:17:15

Newborns aren't a problem normally, (see what procrastration said at 17.15) it is other people's reactions to them that cause distractions - cooing, wanting a hold etc.

But perhaps those people should learn?

As has been said upthread, when women were allowed into higher education, they were 'distracting' because it was claimed men couldn't 'help' wanting to stare at them or grope them. When non-white men were allowed into the military in the US and UK, likewise, it was claimed to be a distraction.

LRD, if a baby is no more distracting than a phone call, I assume you let your students accept phone calls during class? They can just step out of the room, after all.

Should everyone be allowed to bring their babies to work, given that they're so non-distracting?

HannahG315 Wed 22-Jan-14 23:29:10

Surely the best way to resolve this debate would be for the OP to trial it and let us know?

BigTroubleinSmallBoots Wed 22-Jan-14 23:33:16

I took my DS aged two and up to occasional uni seminars and lectures. He now attends occasional meeting, ditto my 8 month old DD. Both behave brilliantly. We always leave before tiredness erupts. And the lecturer/meeting conveyor is always told in advance that they will be attending due to childcare lapses. Not asked if ok, but informed they would be there. I want to continue my studies and work, I also have a family. Sometimes the two worlds collide!!! And it is always fine. Let her come.

I didn't say a baby was more distracting than a phone call, because I think there is a distinction to be made.

To a student who is taking a phone call, it's distracting. To a student who is in pain, that is distracting. To a student who is depressed, that is distracting.

Many things distract individual students, and the thing that enables those students to succeed is a bit of understanding and help.

To a student who is in the room when a phone goes off - no, IMO, it's not wildly distracting. Why would it be? confused Most of my students are familiar with the sound of phones. Today, I taught a class where the fire alarm went off by accident. They paused for all of 15 seconds, stood up (as did I), but when it went off and we realized it was an error, the student who was speaking carried on mid-sentance. Why wouldn't he?

I would have absolutely no issue with a student who informed me first stepping out of class to take an important phonecall. I don't see why this is bad?

Clouddancer Wed 22-Jan-14 23:33:21

I have not had time to read the thread, sorry. But i presented and interviewed for my current job with an 8 week old breastfed baby. This was some ten years ago, and maybe things are going backward, but I personally would have no issues with a student bringing a new baby to class if it was feeding and sleeping. It would be a bit hypocritical. Besides, I would rather an obvious baby than surreptitious texting, or whatever else. I don't think it is ideal for longer term, but you are really talking one semester/term.

That said, it depends on the baby. I was in post by the time I had dc2, who would scream the place down if we dared leave the house. He would not have been settled at all. I have done far less with him than dc1. You can review the situation if needs be.

zzzzz Wed 22-Jan-14 23:40:33

A phone call is totally different. If you went out to dinner with someone and they fed a baby for 20mins you wouldn't blink, if they took a phone call for twenty minutes shock

When I was a child it was quite common to go to your parents office. We certainly did quite regularly. My Mother took her two youngest siblings to work with her every Saturday in the 60s......they sat under her desk colouring.

I don't know, not being a parent, but it seems to be they are the same in essential ways.

If someone has to take a phone call for some reason - eg., their family member is dying, or they cannot reschedule a call about debt, or similar - then they must take that. It disadvantages them of course. But we are talking about adults here, who chose to take this course.

Other students need not be affected.

The comparison with going out to dinner is one of social mores, which are different. Actually, sorrry, I would be annoyed if someone fed a baby for 20 mins and never talked to me! If they told me so beforehand, fine. But not if they just decided to do it and never addressed a word to me.

I'm sorry but I've never been in a classroom where a student would be allowed to answer the phone during class, take the call and step out. Of course it's distracting! Not just for that student either.

Perhaps students change?

After all, it used to be said that 'of course' women students were distracting, didn't it?

I prefer to expect my students will rise above trivialities. And actually, they really do. You would be surprised. They are very, very focussed - it is their education, after all.

I was in the classroom three years ago LRD. I'm not that old!

Women probably were distracting at first, but that's not enough reason to deny them access, because the alternative is women not being educated at all.

Babies are distracting, but they don't actually need to be there. That's the difference.

freyasnow Thu 23-Jan-14 00:05:08

Dreaming, to go even more off topic on this thread (sorry OP!) but if we were to have equal child rearing by men and women, how do we as a society create that?

Because at the moment it seems the general message seems to be (not coming from you, but in general in society that it is an individual arrangement where the mother is responsible for making sure that she has picked the right father and can be absolutely sure he will do his share, and if she doesn't achieve that, it is her fault and not anybody else's problem. Added to which, all of my paid childcare was carried out by women, which is the case for most people.

So is men doing half the childcare relevant to what we should be doing now to help mothers, when in the vast majority of cases, even among supposedly equal couples, this is not the situation we are in. It seems a bit like saying we'll not pay anybody benefits because we don't believe that a thing such as poverty should exist (when it does) or that we shouldn't provide services for gay people because sexual orientation shouldn't matter (when it does).

I'm not making a criticism, just wondering how we all manage situations of acting ethically in the discriminatory world we actually live in vs. acting by applying the standards of the world we think we should be living in.

5madthings Thu 23-Jan-14 00:08:12

i am pretty sure that someone feeding a baby can continue a conversation. someone on a phone wouldnt be able to.

i can feed a baby and pay attention in a lecture or seminar and take notes and oarticioate in deiscussion. i did it with my ds1.

that was 14yrs ago. i suspect it happems at unis on a regular ish basis.. we just dont hear about it.

thank god my lecturers were more umderstanding than some on this thread.

and how i lol at bonsoir and her comment about phoning the vice chancellor tocomplain if it happened at her sons uni!

dreaming I didn't meant to imply you were old blush

I just feel very protective of my students, I think.

My issue is: ok, if we say babies don't need to be there - where do they go? What happens with the women (and it is usually women) who have those babies?

Because after all, wasn't the argument with women 'oh, women do not need to be here, they could simply take the examinations and if they pass (in small numbers), all well and good. And if they fail, because we shut them out and refused to adapt, well, that proves they were too much of a distraction.

5madthings Thu 23-Jan-14 00:11:13

oh and my dp was and is a hands on dad and vrry involved with the kids and housework and all that goes with having a family...he doesnt have lactating boobs however... so yes my two/three week old baby did need to be with me and i had classes to attend.

freyasnow Thu 23-Jan-14 00:20:18

I also wonder if this happens at some universities more than others. Having been at two different universities, one always seems to have children in the library and the other never did. That would seem to be connected to the range of students that attends each university, in terms of age, ethnicity and social background. It has to have an impact on what kinds of environments those students are going to be well prepared to work in later on, and what attitudes they take with them.

It's a good question freya. I'm not sure how to answer it necessarily, because I do have equal parenting with my DH and have done since day one. But I know we are quite lucky in this regard.

I do think part of it is down to the individual, in that women need to avoid fuckwit partners and be assertive about sharing the load.

But a lot of it is down to society though, and I do hope things are changing. I think the new paternity leave is a huge step in the right direction -- I think women are so disadvantaged early on because they are the only ones who can take so much paid time off.

We need more high-level men to take time off so that it becomes okay for lower-level employees to do so. etc and so on. I think we will get there slowly.

I think in the meantime, as I said earlier, we should really embrace 21st century technology and rethink our usual styles of work and education. Do people really need to be in the office and the classroom all the time, at the same time? How can technology make things more family-friendly?

I don't think the issue is one specific student and her hopefully perfect non-crying, non-puking baby. If we really want mothers to still be in school and the workforce, we need more creative solutions than just letting them bring their babies everywhere. That's not going to work for everyone.

Athrawes Thu 23-Jan-14 00:25:31

It is outrageously rude to make or take a call during a lecture! You are there to learn and even if the call doesn't distract your fellow digital natives, it could distract the lecturer - just plain rude.
Have a bundle of snuffle tucked up your t-shirt is not a distraction. I have taught maths to high school students whilst carrying a 5 month old in my arms. Later they questioned why I wasn't breastfeeding the baby. I said that I had been, they just hadn't noticed!

Athrawes Thu 23-Jan-14 00:27:54

Furthermore it is part of the greater sense of a wider education in growing up and being part of the real world, that people have babies and that these students will see them around the whole time. This young woman is being an excellent role model showing that having a child is not limiting her education. If we stop her getting that education she will become a subject of a hideous show about being on benefit and attract the ire of MN.

freyasnow Thu 23-Jan-14 00:29:48

I agree we need a range of solutions. We don't want carers to be limited to only jobs that can be done with a child present, and many children and parents prefer child care. It does though assume that the nuclear family is the norm or that people want it to be the norm.

I also think that if globally, women were able to work without also carrying out childcare as the norm, the actual consequence of that would be that almost everyone in the West, including most women, would have to work a lot harder at a lot of unpleasant tasks because our standard of living relies upon the cheap labour of women globally working with children in two. The cost of providing childcare to all children with two working parents would be huge, and would require many more people to cease other work so they could be employed as childcare workers, leaving the rest of us to have to work a lot harder to pay for it and produce essential goods and services.

freyasnow Thu 23-Jan-14 00:30:36

Children in tow not two!

Good question freya.

I think a huge issue is - what are students losing if they cannot cope with this form of 'distraction'? Are they also, perhaps, unable to cope with a student who is entirely unlike them in other ways?

LRD they go where babies always go -- with their other parent, with family, a friend, formal childcare, babysitter, etc. It's something most mothers have to sort out when they go back to work.

Obviously some people don't have many options, and if I had a student in this position I would do everything I could to figure something out for them. But I don't think the default should be 'just bring your baby to class', I think it's best to try to come up with other solutions.

freyasnow Thu 23-Jan-14 00:38:01

The problem then is that many women don't go back to work, or education, or go into poorly paid part time jobs beneath their skill or experience level because they can't find a babysitter, affordable childcare, grandmother, partner etc. It is only where children go if the mother has that available.


Not wanting crying babies or ringing phones in the classroom does not mean someone is grossly intolerant of people in general. Or incapable of working in an office or whatever other extrapolations you might imagine.

As Dusk said upthread, it's about creating an optimal environment for learning. Obviously interpretations of that differ, and I suppose our different fields might account for that.

Do 'most mothers' sort that out, dreaming? Or do some of them drop out?

I'm sorry, but I see so many women who cut their education short. I am nearly 30 and I'm still being told that the system does not have room for a woman like me to have a baby. I really think it is utter bollocks that there is a support system for most women. Really?! If there is ... what is it that my students are doing wrong - that I am doing wrong - that we don't seem to have that system?

Which would, btw, inconvenience other students no more - at most, as you said - than a mere phonecall.

I mean, come on. What is it that we're failing to do that is so incredibly obvious, that it stacks up against a mere phonecall in the middle of a lesson?

I cross posted too.

dreaming, there are laws against an 'optimal' environment. We are required to make reasonable adjustments for students who, by reason of disabilty, cannot access the curriculum otherewise.

We are require to curtail hate speech.

Of course, there are no exact parallels to be drawn here. But we're not starting from the idea that we have to create an 'optimal' environment.

legoplayingmumsunite Thu 23-Jan-14 00:47:37

Has the mother had the child yet? I think you need to have 2 contingencies in place depending how she feels after the birth, I know I felt very different after each of my 3, I had one very easy baby who would have been no problem in this situation and 2 horrors.

I would not make any assumptions about what she will want but arrange a meeting with her to discuss her opinion and ideas on the best way to move forward. If you give her ownership of the situation then she's more likely to follow the agreed plan.

I said most women when they go back to work, meaning if a woman goes back to work she must have sorted out some kind of childcare. Sorry if that was unclear.

And I've said over and over that we need more childcare options because obviously there isn't enough at the moment.

I was just responding to your question of 'where do the babies go?' because it seemed faux-disingenous to me. There are plenty of places for babies to go, the problem is that some women cannot access them. So I think in those situations we need to find individual solutions (until the system as a whole can be improved), along the lines of what we've been discussing. I don't think the answer is to turn the classroom into a creche.

If you want to have a baby, have one. I know academia does not make it easy but you will find a way to make it work if you have to. Don't just listen to people who tell you it's not possible, the system will never change if we all listen to them.

Sorry, dreaming.

I didn't mean to be faux-dsingenous. I see why it sounded like that. I guess I mean, if you are 19 or so - does it feel ok to do that?

I do honestly belive that for the system to chance, it needs us to help as well as be the ones who have the babies. But I do see I am ignorant here.

thepobblewhohasnotoes Thu 23-Jan-14 01:00:03

I am a student with a baby. I would be very grateful if the uni considered doing what you are. I don't see the problem with having the baby in a presentation if she's willing to leave if the baby becomes disruptive.

It's not like you're saying she should attend every lecture with a baby in tow, just a few key sessions, if I've understood you correctly?

FWIW I have felt shut out of things since having a baby, and I do think society does need to address this if we're ever to get anywhere near to equality.

To be clear, I would go to extremely great lengths to help a student struggling with childcare. You're right that we do need to help and foster that change.

You're not ignorant, just more phone-tolerant than me obviously wink

thepobblewhohasnotoes Thu 23-Jan-14 01:12:08

As to where the babies go. I would have been very uncomfortable indeed leaving my newborn with anyone. She got very distressed if I was away from her for more than a few minutes. I'm not sure if I could have left her to attend a presentation, personally, when she was very young.

I taught a small group computing at my uni 22 years ago, with a 2 -3 month DD in tow. No-one batted an eyelid. Mind you, actually giving a lecture might have been rather different.

I'm sorry but I've never been in a classroom where a student would be allowed to answer the phone during class

I once had a student who was having a financial problem, this was about 4 years ago I think. He was waiting for an important phone call and was clearly very worried about it.

I spoke to me before the lecture, explained that he would sit near the door with his phone on silent and leave if the call came. I said fine. The call came, he left discretely. The other students hardly noticed.

OK, going to catch up on the rest now.

I agree with pretty much all of what LRD has posted.

I don't think we're talking about forcing women who have children to always be with those children when they'd rather have space to work without distraction.

But it seems as though we have the automatic feeling that a woman with a newborn has chosen to have that newborn and therefore it is entirely her responsibility to make arrangements if she wants to continue with her studies. And if she can't? Well, she shouldn't have had a baby then, should she.

But a student may have had an unexpected pregnancy. She may not have a supportive partner or family. She might not have the financial resources or emotional maturity suddenly to cope with being a mother and to continue her studies.

Why should we, as a society, not support her, if we can? Why should she be denied automatically the chance to continue her education?

Why is the presence of a newborn baby for a short time considered far worse than other difficulties that students experience? Especially when some of those other difficulties might create sounds during lectures or require a student to leave the room?

Like I said before, if I had a student in a situation like that, someone who wanted to continue despite the challenge posed by motherhood, I would do all I could to support her and if that meant challenging university policies then I would do so.

DuskAndShiver Thu 23-Jan-14 11:14:23

freyasnow, we are emphasising slightly different angles I think because I have already dismissed as obvious that of course, in this case, camaleon should allow her student to bring the newborn if she wants to. As an exception, as a way to avoid excluding the student and scuppering her chances to be marked on that presentation and pass. But i can't take that as far as thinking that it is a good thing in principle that parents take babies everywhere they go.

I take issue with the idea that women who bear children must have babies attached to them all the time and the only way they can be facilitated to do anything, is with the babies. I think that is defeatist. I love working without my children. I have taken babies to necessary meetings - as exceptions - and was glad that I got away with it, but it was hard, and I only did it because I was determined to get that meeting done. But if it were then more frequently suggested, on a creeping scale of meetings less important to me and less critical to my job, and I kept hearing that I should be at this, that and the other meeting, and "you can just take the baby with you" I would have felt very pressured and stressed. And probably stopped working.

People keep saying that this is not the way they want it to go, but this is the way it always bloody does go. Everything that purports to be about women being able to choose to do more stuff always turns into women being expected to do all the work, all the time, at the same time.

I haven't had all that many answers to my question about whether people really want to work without childcare and whether they are as good at it without childcare? A few examples, but are they exceptional?

I feel that women have so much to prove at work / university, and while many of you seem to think that excluding babies = excluding women, I think that including babies will soon lead to - well, we already have women being expected to perform better than men, for less money and less opportunity, while doing all the housework, booking the childminder, doing the school admin, wearing high heels and doing all the necessary corporate "grooming" bollocks - all this already - but NOW, if she actually takes the baby with her, this is supposed to be some "natural" extension of her that will not damage her energy, concentration or performance!

Many of the posts in this thread have conflated the baby with the mother. Someone even accused me of calling mothers needy or something when I meant that babies are - because there are so many posts that don't recognise the baby as a whole other person. I don't want to exclude the mother, I just think she might do better without the baby actually attached to her the whole time and if we accept that they necessarily come as a package it feels retrograde to me. there are various posts that are quite sniffy about "just not wanting to have babies around". I do find babies tiring. I love my children and my friends' and families' children, but after a day with 6 kids (I don't have 6, I mean when we all get together) I love it when they are in bed and I can eat without someone putting a chewed chip in my dinner or wiping snot on my cardigan. I am astonished at the people who insist that they can work with their kids around and that kids should go everywhere. Yes, you get windows of opportunity with a newborn asleep in a sling - you can't necessarily pick or plan around them though. Yes a 6 year old might colour under the desk - they take 6 years to get to that though (actually maybe 4 if you are lucky). From 2 months to 4 years - seriously?

Procrastinating Thu 23-Jan-14 11:27:42

Dusk, I sort of agree with you, even though my experience goes against your point. I have worked as a lecturer through having 3 babies and looking after them at home. I write lectures, chapters, papers and mark essays while looking after children. I only use childcare for going out to do lectures, seminars and conferences. It is possible and I did it because I had to. So if a student has to bring her baby then she should be able to and I would allow it. It shows determination and commitment.

But I wish I didn't have to work and look after children at the same time, it has been incredibly hard.

Then again, all my feedback & career progress suggests that having children around hasn't damaged my performance at all. I suffered having no mental space and having too much stress, the work hasn't suffered and the children are happy.

I can't work when my children are in the house because they talk to me and break my concentration. Even when I take my laptop and hide, they find me!

I don't think that women should always bring their children to work with them (notice how we're just talking about women doing this). But I don't think that it's good enough to say to a student struggling with a newborn that they either have to take time off or find childcare.

I think, in the example of a student with a newborn who wants a bit of flexibility to continue for a short while until they can make arrangements that suit them, we are excluding them if we can't provide that flexibility.

As to the solution to the broader problem of women being excluded? I'm afraid I don't have a specific solution that I think will work. Rough ideas include removing from people's collective consciousness the notion that children are primarily a woman's responsibility. Breaking away from the idea that there is one way to work and study and if that doesn't fit your circumstances then you can't participate.

I don't know why it feels like we're arguing about this, because I think actually we agree on this stuff.

Note: my dc are 7 and 10, I'm not trying to hide from an active toddler who needs supervision or anything wink

I do understand the point that, if we encourage women to bring babies to class we're supporting the idea that mothers should be with their babies, and that's not brilliant. I think what you say about breaking away from the idea there's only one way to work is a key thing, buffy. There are lots of options though. Loads of lectures are recorded already. Postgraduate students often skype supervisors, though you can't do a class like that. I don't see why a discussion forum couldn't work on occasion.

The issue seems to me to be that we're quite worried about how students might try to 'get away' with things if we change the system - eg., people worried recording lectures would mean students who'd otherwise have attended chose not to bother coming (it doesn't).

DuskAndShiver Thu 23-Jan-14 11:58:13

Interesting, the "get away with" issue. In general I think that suspicion is the biggest waste of time at work. Right now I have the toughest boss I have ever had, in terms of the actual substantive demands on me, and he couldn't give a shit where I am, ever. (Actually this is probably not true, now I think of it: more likely, he has learnt to trust me to be where I am supposed to be, and had he learnt not to trust me he would have sacked me)

Procrastinating, I can't help but think it's unfortunate that while your work didn't suffer, and your children didn't suffer, YOU had to suffer because of that level of multitasking.

Why should women have to put their needs last all the time?

How many male students and academics find themselves in that position?

I don't think we can really attack educational inequalities as long as this kind of disparity exists.

I do think we should help individual students as much as possible, but in terms of larger principles to fight for, I would rather fight for women to have the time and space to devote themselves solely to learning on an equal basis, rather than setting new precedents for multitasking.

DuskAndShiver Thu 23-Jan-14 12:03:34

I totally missed that, actually, I just didn't factor in that that was what it was about (mistrust of "slacking" with different work patterns), with academia, although I have worked in work places that are like that.

Surely the solution, whether it's work or academia, is to set quantifiable objectives to performance that are independent of work patterns (or in other words, make the whole thing actually about what it is supposedly about, instead of some manager's stupid paranoid power trip)

DuskAndShiver Thu 23-Jan-14 12:05:16

Procrastinating, that sounds very hard and I hope you are bloody proud of yourself. I think I would have had a mental breakdown doing that. Or several.
I believe you when you say the work didn't suffer, but... doesn't sound fun.

I'm actually going to be working on a MOOC this spring. It's interesting to see the assessments they build in to make sure students do the online work, I'm curious to see how it pans out.

There's no guarantee the student sitting in the classroom is paying attention either, of course smile


Procrastinating Thu 23-Jan-14 12:23:03

Completely agree dreaming, I'm bloody furious about it actually. My male boss was on TV last week blarting about his senior status and pronouncing his expert views. I was struck by the difference between his situation (married, his wife does all the childcare) and mine.

Thanks, I am bloody proud of myself Dusk, but I should not have to do this.

DuskAndShiver Thu 23-Jan-14 13:47:37

Procrastinating (doesn't actually sound like you do much of that, if you don't mind me saying so) - "bloody furious" is an approach much more on my wavelength, on a gut level, than "I wonder whether the idea that it requires a total change in a mother's life has to be everyone's reality". To me that sounds like the sort of mealy-mouthed "hey maybe we don't need a desk each! Maybe we don't need lunchbreaks!" that is the trendy way to make people do more with less.

Having children was a total change in my life. I would prefer that to be respected and accommodated, by maternity leave followed by flexible working, than "questioned" or ignored or written out.

MomsStiffler Thu 23-Jan-14 14:00:13

It would be the unpredictability that I wouldn't like. I like order & plans!

Get up, pack kit, pack baby, get transport to uni.

Get in, sit down, equipment out, baby starts grizzling, leave lecture (and move some distance away I assume so the noise doesn't affect anyone).

Go back to lecture (or not). You have no guarantee that you won't just waste time, effort & money as well as unsettling the baby

Really doesn't appeal!

I'd also hate the fact that I might miss a particular lecture that I'd wanted to see, or feel guilty because I had to drop out of a group presentation at the last minute leaving the others to pick up the work I should be doing.

On the other hand it may run like a dream! Only way to find out is to try it OP. It's just not for me!

PS - I wholeheartedly agree (and love) Dreamings comment -

My feminist agenda does not include the collective raising of children, but the equal raising of children between men and women. So I disagree that being a good feminist means I need to tolerate people's children everywhere.

DuskAndShiver Thu 23-Jan-14 14:30:00

Right - it's only if we buy into the idea that children are inextricably the responsibility of women that child-free space = women-free space, and I don't buy that, and I don't want to give up child-free space, and I don't want to give up the opportunities to do and think and be without children

YYYY Buffy to your post at 10:25:30.

In my experience of having a baby when I was 20 (I wasn't a student), I could concentrate perfectly fine when DS was a newborn. Once he became a toddler, not so much, and now, I can barely concentrate at all when he is around but at that age he was no trouble. Actually he was a very easy baby which is possibly why I feel this way, but for me there wasn't a lot of thinking required with a newborn - any time they squeak you feed them and that's that really.

I would say that new dads should be able to take their babies places with them too although the breastfeeding angle obviously doesn't apply.

DuskAndShiver Thu 23-Jan-14 16:36:18

But where can't we take our babies?

I take mine (ok, they are not babies, are 4 and 2) anywhere I want to, except that they don't enjoy going out past their bedtimes so I don't take them anywhere in the evenings. When they are old enough to enjoy going to the theatre or something like that, they will be old enough to be taken there and will behave. I take them.... everywhere, except work. you can even take them to the pub nowadays (not that we go to the pub much but we could)

they are welcome in my friends' houses, in cinemas, in stately homes, in museums, in shops, in parks, in cafes, on buses, on trains.... where else is there?

Oh right, work. I don't want them at work.

EleanorWaldorf Thu 23-Jan-14 16:46:55

But going to work is not like going to friends' houses. You go to work to do a job. The care of a baby interrupts that.

I personally feel it's very unfair to say 'baby is welcome but not if they're crying/fussing'. It's a baby. It cries, not just in a worse case scenario but regularly!

I've also found it quite interesting how so many people here have just assumed that the mother in question will be breastfeeding and using a sling.

Well I would imagine that's the way the baby would be least conspicuous - it wouldn't really be practical to do it another way.

DuskAndShiver Thu 23-Jan-14 16:59:51

" personally feel it's very unfair to say 'baby is welcome but not if they're crying/fussing'. It's a baby. It cries, not just in a worse case scenario but regularly!"

Yes, this.

One of the things that I don't really like at church (although it is meant well) is when people congratulate me at the end of a service on the behaviour of my children. It is a C of E church which has a Sunday school (which dd1 doesn't want to go to right now and I don't want to force her - dd2 is too little) and a creche (which is, erm, a bit dodgy, in the nicest possible way). So I keep my children with me and they are, so far, good. I was brought up RC where all the children, however fiendishly naughty, all go to Mass and no one made any comment on it. I don't like hearing that my children have been "good" in church because I hear, perhaps paranoiacally, that they are not welcome unless they are quiet.

Going to university, or work, with a baby that I would rush out of the room with if it fusses, would feel like that (except justified - I don't think the people in church do have a right to say children can't be there unless they are "good")

So with church I am on the opposite side of the fence - of course they belong there, they are part of our community. but I don't like having their quietness drawn attention to because it seems (if you are paranoid) to cast doubt on that.
If you think I am going to rush out with my baby when it squeaks, then you think I only conditionally have the right to be there.

That's interesting Dusk. I have said to parents on planes that their babies/small children were good, not because the baby/small child would be unwelcome if they wouldn't (they have to travel somehow!) but because it's nice to hear, sometimes, that you're doing a good job as a parent.

In fact that's made me think and I think I'm going to start saying it to parents of cranky babies and children instead grin

EleanorWaldorf Thu 23-Jan-14 17:09:01

If you think I am going to rush out with my baby when it squeaks, then you think I only conditionally have the right to be there.

This is what I was trying to say, just much more eloquently, thank you!

Well I would imagine that's the way the baby would be least conspicuous - it wouldn't really be practical to do it another way.

I suppose this ties into the conditional point above. It just stood out to me for some reason.

DuskAndShiver Thu 23-Jan-14 17:18:19

"Ive also found it quite interesting how so many people here have just assumed that the mother in question will be breastfeeding and using a sling."
"Well I would imagine that's the way the baby would be least conspicuous - it wouldn't really be practical to do it another way."

I know, right? It is tying into this very crunchy earth mothery thing very uncritically. (I was the baby-wearing breastfeeder, btw. I don't mean any denigration of slings and breastfeeding. It was the only way to get by really, for me)

I just think there is a sort of background noise here of glorification of a hunter-gathery community kind of vibe, which I always find a bit threatening, as I always imagine these sorts of communities to be very oppressively nosy and prescriptive when you are in them, with your MIL always all up in your face and nowhere to go and listen to Beethoven on your uninvented ipod and read the unwritten Nietzsche. We have swapped privacy and autonomy for practical help. In my case, it was a good deal.

True. Perhaps I'm seeing it in some kind of idealistic unrealistic way.

I see the point dusk. TBH, personally, this is an issue (to me) that is very similar to all sorts of other issues about how you make education more accessible to people who might otherwise not be able to get it. I know that's just me. But I think it is important not to treat bringing babies into class as some kind of unique lentil-weavery concession, but as similar to all sorts of other ways education is changing.

And being a student is not entirely like being at work. It's similar in a lot of ways, but basically, your boss pays you for doing well. She might nurture your skills along the way, but basically, you're meant to be good already.

DuskAndShiver Thu 23-Jan-14 18:41:53

LRD, what are the barriers to education and how are they being lifted?

the fact that it is so desperately expensive, yet still being carried on mostly full time and in the day, must surely be a huge barrier.

YY, that's a huge one.

But I was meaning the sorts of things I posted about upthread. I don't know if there are more distance-learning degree courses than there were ten years ago, but it certainly feels as if there are. But things like recording lectures, using the internet as a means of communicating with students.

Obviously, mental health issues and disabilities are not the same as having a small child who is dependent on you, and I wouldn't want to suggest it is. But I think more flexibility in general is what's needed, so it doesn't feel as if people are saying 'here is a special allowance for that woman with a baby' but 'here is a standard, routine way of adapting to people'.

Cynically, I suspect that when it's easier to get an education while caring for a small child, that men will do it in greater numbers.

Obviously there needs to be far more of it.

DuskAndShiver Thu 23-Jan-14 21:15:21

I think lectures are outdated now. Surely the only reason to turn up at a physical place with other people is for a practical, a seminar, a supervision, or something like that. The idea of tons of people crammed into a room while someone talks at them is pointless - surely they should just read wikipedia or watch youtube videos and then turn up when they are prepared to discuss it ;) (I am kind of serious but not about youtube and wikipedia)

Katkins1 Thu 23-Jan-14 21:22:23

Hi I've not read all of these. We are allowed to take our children in. I always try to minimise this. I think you should allow her up until the time when a child minder will be able to take the baby. I wouldn't really see an issue. But perhaps you could see what the other students think, too?

It is, after all, their learning that is effected as well.

Yes, I pretty much agree. I mean, I understand that if you lecture you can judge the feeling in the room and adapt to a live audience, but it's a fairly small 'pro' outweighed by lots of cons. And if you are having to fund/organise a babysitter I guess it's one more you have to work with.

Katkins1 Thu 23-Jan-14 21:28:38

I have just thought, though. Our lectures are 3 x a week, 3 hours each time (and I'm final year). The rest is directed and dissertation time. Is there really not a possibility of her having some-one to watch the little one for such a short time, and bring where necessary? I only take mine in when absolutely necessary because I like my head space.

camaleon Fri 24-Jan-14 09:33:29

I totally disagree with the concept of lectures being outdated. One of the most important thing you get from a degree is a network of people.

But is that intrinsic to lectures? confused

IME, a lecture is when the academic stands at the front of class and speaks. If you are networking during that time you will be required to be quiet or leave the room. Seminars and classes, OTOH, you might network in.

Maybe lectures should be organised more like conferences? So you get several academics in one place for three days, everyone stays over and spends some time listening to talks and the rest of the time networking, doing round tables etc.

I love conferences, always leave them feeling energised about my research.

But that wouldn't help students with childcare issues though, would it? In fact it would exacerbate them. OK, scrap that grin

I hate conferences. With a fiery passion.

I also think they tend to thrive on precisely the kind of subtle gendered discrimination that is unhelpful. Not always, but often.

But you can have creches at conferences smile

Oh, I haven't seen that. But then the only one I've been to was a feminist conference, so obviously different.

LRD you should sneak into one with me, you'd have fun!

I have noticed the sort of politicking that you'd get anywhere where young ambitious yet unknown people are in the same place as their academic heroes. I notice it because the subtle differences in the way people treat you before and after you present are obvious. This sends a clear message to me that I am nobodies academic hero grin

I've not noticed a particular gendered element. Or at least no more than anywhere else. It's more of a young people / people with beards thing.

You can - but then, you can have creches at lectures. I don't know how common this is, but I know a couple of universities where it's near-impossible for students to get a place at the university nursery/creche.

Feminist conferences are awesome. smile

Actually, it's them that make me think of all the different ways we could be doing things. Though the ones I've been to do fall under the lentil-weavery category dusk points out can have its own drawbacks.

I guess what I've seen is conferences (same with undergrad seminars) where the men speak more of the time than the women, but it's perceived to be equal. I would be really interested to see how differently an online chat forum worked for a class.

It's interesting - a lot of the alternatives to bums on seats teaching are seen as informal or lowbrow, as if it's automatically trivializing.

Cross post.

I like it, conference crashing. grin

AndiMac Fri 24-Jan-14 10:18:21

I haven't read all the responses, but wouldn't it be reasonable to tell the woman she can bring the baby in for classes, but to please leave if the baby makes noise?

When the woman then has to make her presentations, ask if it's possible she finds someone to look after the baby for those times. It's not like it's every class, every day, so I would think she should be able to find someone for a few hours to help her out.

I think it's terrible that people think that a newborn is a reason for someone not to continue with their education!! If it's not disturbing other students, it's not up to you to decide if the mother can cope. I've certainly sat next to people in children who managed to be a total disturbance to the class without having a child in tow.

Lectures though tend to be going on constantly in various subjects rather than being all at a set time, and there will be fewer students needing childcare in each individual one, whereas a conference is attended over a longer period by a higher concentration of people.

insancerre Fri 24-Jan-14 10:24:42

I started reding this thread thinking that it would be a bad idea to let her bring the baby. I thought it might open the floodgates and it might be difficult to draw the line between a sleeping newborn and a mobile toddler.
But, after re-reading, I hope that the Op can accomodate the mother and baby.
If it is just a one-off and the presentation is an intergral part of the course, then I see no reason why the student couldn't take the baby.
Obviously, it would be better if she could arrnage alternative childcare, but if she is really stuck, then I think it is very supportive of the op.

I guess what I've seen is conferences (same with undergrad seminars) where the men speak more of the time than the women, but it's perceived to be equal.

Yeah do you know what? You're right. Even in public health, which is quite feminised anyway. It's so, so insidious that even I didn't really think about it that way. With three keynote slots, you can always predict that it will be, at best, 2:1.

DuskAndShiver Fri 24-Jan-14 13:19:52

"I would be really interested to see how differently an online chat forum worked for a class."

me too.
someone on here has already pointed out how interesting it is online that people can't literally talk over you. Individuals can ignore you, but you can still say your thing. It must substantially alter the seminar dynamic.
Also - the networking angle - a forum for your subject would be a million times more user-friendly for shy people, people who don't like physically approaching people, people with timed childcare or work shifts to rush off to, etc.
At work people are always saying "let's do a call" or "we need a meeting" and often I push back (if I have the confidence) because it takes up a lot of time and it is a way of them pushing themsedlves up my priorities, by forcing a personal relationship and investment of more of my time, which they don't necessarily deserve (I have the right to set my own priorities according to the needs of the business); and more importantly, they are deliberately switching the dynamic to one in which it will be easier to push me around, because I will be outnumbered, and the emphasis will switch from the logic of the situation to a relationship situation where I am being pressured to consider their feelings, and also they will - dammit they will! - do man-to-woman social stuff on me. I would love to have been able to do academic stuff online, including networking, to get out of shit like this.

"It's interesting - a lot of the alternatives to bums on seats teaching are seen as informal or lowbrow, as if it's automatically trivializing."

By people whose interests it is in to carry on striding about owning the space.

Yep, totally agree.

In fact I've found that being able to express opinions on here had made me much more confident about expressing them, even arguing with people, irl so could benefits students in that way too.

DuskAndShiver Fri 24-Jan-14 13:39:02

Me too! I find that I have gained a lot of confidence from chatting online (a bit like your point on the other thread, about noting points before you get a chance to say them, but noting them does something useful for you).

(So thank you for that! I luffs you all)

I think to people who are privileged by their persona in "real life" encounters, this online stuff feels like "barbarians at the gate". It is the very fact that anyone can speak which is so threatening, as they have internalised a confidence in life's "quality control" measures, in self-justification, when they not controlling quality at all - controlling all sorts of other stuff, but not quality.

In fact quality control is very easy online. You can read and sort through stuff very quickly that in a real life conversation you would be forced to put up with, through politeness, for ages.

Not being in academia, I am interested to learn that so much importance is attached to bums on seats. When I was at college no one cared what I turned up to. It was my education, and I was free to piss it up the wall if I wanted - but the exams would take no prisoners. If checking continuing engagement is now important, there are brilliant online ways of doing this effortlessly - a 5 minute IM "mini-viva" taking place at certain points throughout the term could allow a teacher to say "great stuff, carry on doing what you're doing" or "seriously? that was a trick question, there was no 4th Silesian War. Pull your finger out"

I was thinking about asking about this. I will have a newborn dc and will be taking a maths class for adults soon. (not a university course). I used to take my newborns everywhere with me as long as they had a nipple (of some sort) in their mouth they really didn't make a peep.

I'd let her if she isnt distracting the class (obviously I would). Telling her no, is only potentially putting her off university and other women too. ONly women will be punished by not allowing newborns won't they?

I would imagine a lot has changed in academia.

The bums on seats thing may be to do with privileged people wanting things to be kept the same as they always have been. But I've seen a reasonable amount of research (don't ask me to find it, I don't have time right now) that shows a clear link between undergrad attendance and performance.

Why might this be? Probably a combination of:

Because engaged students tend to turn up and also to perform better
Because undergrads are still getting used to the whole independent learning thing, so the social element of learning together benefits them
Because they get to hear and discuss things they wouldn't if they just read the stuff themselves
Because many of them won't read the stuff unless they think everyone else is and they will look really silly if they can't participate.

No doubt a combination of these and many other factors.

So the question is can we replicate the benefits of regular attendance in ways that are less exclusionary of some students?

I'd like to think so, but it should be done carefully.

Unsure if covered, why does it matter if it's the mother please?

Would you be happy for dad, or any relative to bring a newborn in?

If not why not?

PleaseJust I agree and I am also encouraged that many of the people arguing for finding a way to be inclusive are academics.

Though I totally take the points of those who have pointed out the dangers of increasing women's work by increasing expectations of multi-tasking and also of the importance of child-free space to work free from distraction.

I have enjoyed this thread and it has made me think.

YY, this is what I am thinking.

I know that age 18-22, which is when most people go to university, is a time when things like depression and anxiety aren't that uncommon, and I believe (could be wrong) that it's also when some other mental health issues tend to start showing if you have them - and if you're badly depressed, sometimes it can be extremely hard to talk and easier to write.

Obviously there's a flipside in that you need to really work to make it feel like a network, a community where people know each other and that would be extremely difficult to do purely online. But you could try.

Re. bums on seats - when I was at university, if you were persistently absent without permission, you could be fined! Never happened to me (not for lack of absence, for lack of being a cocky git about skiving, which tended to be the real reason they'd bother to fine you). However, my lectures weren't mandatory. Where I am now, I take attendance and they are required to attend. If they persistently truant, they can get chucked out. I'm not sure what I think of it.

Something I find very difficult is that I am supposed to mark them on participation in seminars. Obviously that's important and it's not fair not to contribute. But with some of them, it clearly is shyness. So I tend to put them in groups, then eavesdrop the quiet ones, and then I'll say something like 'right, Jane, you had a brilliant point about x just now'. But I suspect some of the Janes (it is usually women) would be quite able to write down what they thought if need be.

Sorry, I see that all of this is getting a long way away from the original question and I hope the OP isn't offended. blush

Mini the discussion was started about a particular student, who is female.

Speaking as someone who has argued for her inclusion where possible, I'd say that if a dad or another carer were in the same situation, I'd try and accommodate them too.

It would of course be an enormous blow for feminism if we all said 'Oy, no way, not fathers! The newborn should be in the care of its mother' grin

minne - I would be rather happier to see the dad bring a baby in, though I'd keep quiet about that! grin If more men did it I think it'd be a damn sight easier to explain to certain people that actually, yes, there is a real issue here. Depressing, but true.

Also please, as I don't know, what are you classifying as mewborn ? And are there not policies in place for some sort of mat leave or supported study?

This can't be a new question surely....? Universities must see this and taken an approach....?

I have never been required to mark for participation. I used to be asked to keep records of attendance (it was a couple of years ago that I did lots of teaching, now not so much) but it was not to sanction, it was to identify if someone seemed to be having difficulty so that someone could have a chat and see if they needed support.

I know colleagues on some modules set work that has to be handed in and marked for each tutorial and that counts towards the final mark for that module. I am put off by the admin that requires, tbh, but if we had decent support I can see the value of such an approach.

When I had a baby doing my Masters and another during the early years of my PhD, I was able to suspend my studies for a year each time with no trouble.

That suited me, but for others it might present huge problems.

Thank you. I'd like an accommodation too but am wary of....unsure which word appropriate...favouritism?

That said I'm a bit surprised there's not a supported study option in first few weeks? The question being asked you itself makes me assume there's no approach already in place...,? That can't be right....? Schools have to.

I think as a one off fine. I am conscious of the additional students though who may not be keen every week. What of their (hate this word but another escapes me) rights?

What sort of accommodation would you like mini?

If you have a personal tutor or there is a student advice team or similar, you could speak to them and get advice on what options there might be for you.

Generally, there's more that can be done if the student seeks help early and it will be less stressful for you.

At the university I went to, lecture attendance was not mandatory (but in the smaller lectures if you had the same seminar tutor it would be noticed and commented on) but seminar attendance was compulsory and you had to attend 80% to pass the course, or have very good reason.

kickassangel Fri 24-Jan-14 14:02:15

When I was talking to college about doing an MA I said I could have childcare problems. The immediate response was that lecturers would be expected to accommodate that in some way, including letting dd sit at the back and read or play games.

I think universities are realizing that lack of childcare tends to exclude mothers and that they should keep them in board, particularly as it helps them to make money.

I direct you to buffy's comment mini grin

I'd be quite happy if it was a dad taking care of his newborn. But the op is about a mother (and I will be the mother in class myself). My point is that the majority of caring for newborns is for biological reasons at least (the majority of women do bf at first at least) usually done by women so to kick newborns out is to mostly kick out women.

I honestly don't know what the policy is where I am for undergraduates and maternity leave. I suspect, unfortunately, that students would probably simply be encouraged to intermit for the year, though for some this would work fine.

For postgrads it is different, and you do get normal maternity leave.

Id guess I expected a kind of mat leave or supported study for six months with optional attendance to lectures/seminars/ outings. Is the only answer to defer a year? Thus separating you from all friends etc? Bizarre.

I'm a grad from myself. I assumed I guess that as schools do have answers in place for underage and up to 18 what is effectively a school for adults might have thought it through a bit. I'm a bit perplexed as this thread suggests there isn't much of anything in place.

I'm a grad myself. Not from myself. Blooming phone!

Mini you need to speak to someone at your university, there may well be options that suit you better than taking a year off. Maybe taking fewer modules and then taking an extra year or so to catch up those you've missed?

It depends on how you see it working for you and what sort of flexibility you think you will need. The university will also be keen to ensure that you don't end up as a 'dropped out' statistic so they may be wary if it seems you are being unrealistic about what you can achieve.

But the only way you can find out is to talk to someone. Student advisors or a personal tutor, but if they don't seem knowledgable or willing to help, keep talking to different people until you find someone who will back you.

Maybe an academic you've hit it off with would be willing to provide a sounding board? I would be happy to do this with a student, but would have to emphasise that I couldn't agree terms on behalf of the uni.

Good luck.

minnie - as I say, I really don't know.

I think, sadly, the difficulty isn't just explicit institutional rules but implicit pressures. Certainly when I was 18, it was simply presented to me as 'not an option' to have a baby and study. Not because it was actually against the university rules, but because no-one I spoke to had anything to say except 'this is a very bad idea'. And it makes me angry that I know someone who was told precisely the same earlier this year, so some things don't change.

In terms of rules, it will vary from university to university, but I would worry about the implicit pressure to defer and return.

But this thread is only people talking about their own knowledge, and some of us (me!) only know what we've seen at our own instititions. It could be very different at others.

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