Conferencing Like a Motha

Building a Place for People and Their Parts

 Full disclosure, I write this from the perspective of a mother who enjoys working from home. My office door is more open than closed. I have almost mastered doing more in four hours than most do in eight. I have also realized that working during untraditional hours is an enhancement to my productivity. I also schedule emails so that my early morning or late night hours don’t send a signal of expectation that those around me do the same.

 I also write this from a Big Marbles perspective. ABAI was during the long Memorial Day weekend. Many kids are ending the school year and celebrations. It’s a weekend often dedicated to relaxing, traveling with friends, and gearing up for summer. My big marbles are family and time with my loves. Loves are husband, children, close family and friends. In the wake of COVID, mass shootings, and racial pandemic + healing, I want to be there with them. Sure, it’s one weekend in a year. But the dates are not lost on me within this discussion of burnout within behavioral health. What does that say in a female-driven workforce when major conferences are planned during holidays? Convenience, perhaps. But it is making people choose and masking what people hold true. 

I am not a masker. And in conversation, you glean quickly what I hold true. I love what I do for a living and I love who I get to do life with. I don’t choose in this area. I show up.

 When planning for this year’s #ABAIConference, we planned for the whole family to come. We were going to spend an extra week at the Vineyard. When we have a working travel getaway, one adult person is uncommitted to meetings and has more flexibility.

 We are east coast in our hearts (I lived here for a while, my husband hails from New York) and Massachusetts and its island parks are places of respite for our family. Things happened and it was me and my six year old. I packed art kits, technology, small toys, and more… because she would be attending sessions. Her words were “we will relax and work”. An inherited perspective of realistic self-care in action, and we spent time together and began to create memories with just the two of us. Time is her love language.

We conferenced together. Here are a few things I did to make it work (as best as I could).

1. Take one day to visit the local Children’s or Science Museum. We use our ASTC Travel passport membership. There is a national one with reciprocity and discounts. We have enjoyed many museums in the U.S. and on roadtrips make pitstops for energy burns and lunch.

Ali at The Boston Children’s Museum

2. Plan ahead and Instacart. Lunch is a busy time during conferences. With kids, an even better time to pause in the room and watch your favorite shows together. I used Instacart to order water, snacks, lunch, and fruit. We were able to relax and talk over lunch…in silence without the hustle and bustle.

3. Relax Home Technology Rules. I made no bedtime rules and no technology rules. I knew that there are conversations and meetings I would have where technology would be my friend. So during those meetings and get-togethers, Disney+ was on. Just remember to bring the headphones or buy some onsite. I did neither and my in-the-ear plugins barely supported this mission. 🙂

4. Enjoy Your Time Together. I missed some happenstance talks and networking. But did I? In conferencing, I am engineered to meet people and talk. But this time, I could not and did not. I was able to plan ahead and make appointments with people. More intentional and purposeful. At a pace I could control and set up a ‘station’ for my child during the meeting.

5. Make Hotel Nights Fun and Relaxing. We packed nail polish and kid makeup for our movie night. We ordered room service and ate in bed. It was fun and relaxing.

After Nails and Movienight

 I certainly attended workshops and used the app to scan in and out. This time I chose to take my balance with me and make it work. Sure I carried a heavy cute backpack, but we held hands and talked and created memories. I like seeing colleagues, but memories captured with my family remain important to me. I took a risk and brought a part of what my heart holds true. And you know #ABA is fickle…unlike #ASHA (my two experiences) where the working mother and bringing kids is a bit more commonplace. I appreciated colleagues’ warm smiles, kindness, and the mini conversations with her even when she gave them the eye.

 It brings me to another point of the importance of the pivot. As a female-dominated workforce, when will the conference, academia, and the corporate workplace shift so that we can work like a Motha? My answer…things don’t change until people do. We change by showing up whole unapologetically and bringing our parts. Compartmentalizing is fatiguing. I’m really good at compartmentalizing. And because life pulls at us all so, I am currently abstaining from walking through life experiences in parts. It’s unconscious self-appointed cyclical burnout. It’s not my jam.

It really is about The Huddle and the preserving of the personal self that makes me more engaged professionally and impacts the conscientiousness applied to my clinical self. This is what we want and what our clients and colleagues deserve. It begins with how we position ourselves and TheHuddle that supports these decisions.

 Conferencing in our industry is the only outfit that has not shifted in creating a place for people and their parts. Certainly, the Hybrid model is a start. But there is more innovation here to create an enhanced experience for participants. 

See you in Colorado!

#ABAIBoston #ABAConference #WorkingMother #learning

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