Ah yes, MommyCon. Every time I mention it outside of my circle of mom friends I get smiles, chuckles, looks of bemused surprise.
“What is MommyCon?” people ask.
“It’s like a continuing education conference for parents,” I tell them.”They have short informational sessions on things like potty training, sleep training, transitioning to solid foods, breastfeeding, how to cloth diaper or babywear, intimacy and sex after baby…”
“Wait, what? When is it?! I want to go!”
But once you’re hooked on wanting to attend, you are kind of left feeling a little apprehensive about what to expect. So, as a three year attendee, I’m here to share with you …
10 things you should know about MommyCon before you go:
1. Buy tickets and book your hotel room early. Fluff & Familia is offering discounted tickets to the Chicago event, but if you plan to go next year, be sure to purchase your tickets early. If you attend MommyCon Chicago like me, think like November. Presale tickets are always the cheapest and often give you special advantages to purchasing exclusive session tickets before the public. Also, hotel rates increase significantly as you get closer to the event date, so book early and ask for a room in the MommyCon discounted block. The increase in Chicago is because it’s not just MommyCon going on at the convention center there: one year it was a car show, another it was a demolition derby type event. Lots of people are trying to be at or near the convention center at the same time, so it’s to your benefit to plan early to save money. Also, if you book at the hotels they recommend for the Chicago event, you won’t have to walk outside in the freezing March weather from your hotel to the convention center, which is a huge perk especially if bringing your kids. Also, this year in Chicago, MommyCon is pairing up with the WEAR conference, so it will be even bigger and even more crowded than before!
2. Yes, dads are allowed and so are kids. While I highly encourage you to take a weekend for yourself to get away and recharge and renew your enthusiasm for parenting (and life) by making this a girls weekend, dads and kids are allowed at MommyCon. Dads do need a ticket, however, and there are no babysitting services available, so you will be making the choice to haul your kids around a crowded conference all day to different educational seminars and shopping (not exactly every kid’s dream). However, in the past few years, they’ve made MommyCon as kid friendly as possible. They have also added a few sessions that are specifically for dads in years past.
3. There are kid friendly activities and areas. They do provide awesome facilities for changing diapers, a quiet space for nursing, and even toys and entertainment for children at the event too (think kids singalongs, craft stations, and a large space for kids to stretch and play with toys).
4. You won’t get to see everything/everyone, but plan ahead to make it worth the trip. The way the schedule is set up, there are multiple speakers presenting at once in different rooms during the same time block, while the huge vendor shopping area is open all day long for you to peruse at your convenience. So, plan your day in advance- the final schedule is usually released closer to the day of the event (sometimes the day before things change and they update you) so watch your email for updates.
Also, be sure to leave some time to chat with your favorite (or soon to be favorite) companies and vendors. One of the most unique things about this event is that it often allows you to meet the “celebrities” of the baby industry world. (Below: The Baby Guy NYC: Jamie Grayson, Kim Rosas from Dirty Diaper Laundry and PutACupInIt.com, Lindsey Laurain inventor of the EzPz Less Mess Happy Mat, and The Badass Breastfeeder: Abby Theuring.)
5. It’s okay to room-hop respectfully. Sometimes, there will be two sessions you want to attend that occur at the same time or that overlap. Here is where traveling with friends or your spouse is to your advantage: you can split up and then compare notes later. Also, it is okay to leave a session if it turns out to not be what you thought or you want to make it to another, but please do so quietly and inconspicuously as to be respectful to the speaker! There may be times when nothing is going on that you’re interested in; that’s okay- go shop! Go to the bathroom! Sit down because your feet are killing you!
6. Take notes. Whether you’re typing them in your phone or have a free hand to carry around a notepad, take notes when you hear ideas and things that inspire you or will feel helpful later. By the end of the day, your brain will be buzzing, and you’ll be so glad you wrote down the things you wanted to remember because you certainly won’t be able to pull them out of your head by then! This also applies to shopping the vendors. If you don’t have a ton of money to blow in one day (or no hands to carry it) write it down on a list or take a photo of the business card or the things you’ve found you can’t live without so you can peruse that business online later when you have the time/space/funds to shop.
7. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. This event is crowded. Some rooms are freezing; others it can get very hot when filled, so dress in layers and wear your best walking shoes because you will be on your feet a lot. Wear something comfortable that makes you feel good. We saw a lot of leggings and tunics last year, and some mom groups even had matching shirts for the event- how fun! (If you purchase a discounted ticket from Fluff & Familia, you get a free shirt to wear to the event. 🙂 )
8. It’s loud and crowded, and strollers are not encouraged. If you or your child(ren) are sensitive to noise and crowds, this is not the event for you. MommyCon is BIG and this year it’s getting even bigger by combining it with the WEAR conference in Chicago. It can be a whole lot of sensory input at once and very overwhelming. If you’re bringing little kids, expect to need to take a break every once in a while or leave early, lest you end up with inconsolable screaming and overtired children (or a cranky husband). You’ll find yourself sitting on the floor a lot because there’s lots of space in the common areas but not a lot of chairs. Also, strollers are discouraged due to space, and you’ll have a heck of a time navigating it in the crowds anyway, so wear that baby!
9. Bring your own food/drink. They have water stations around, so bring a bottle to refill, and I highly recommend packing your own lunch and snacks because the catering is a little pricey and not anything to write home about. Plus, lines are long, and you don’t want to waste time in lines for food when you could be sitting and eating and getting back to why you came in the first place- learning and shopping!
10. Be prepared to get home late. If the event says it’s going to end at 4, it won’t. For the past three years it hasn’t, anyway. Just be prepared that if you intend to stay until the end, you’re going to be there a while longer than you anticipate. “Why would anyone stay to the very end?” you ask? Prizes. You have to be present to win, and often the giveaways are not worth missing! It’s usually standing room only for that part of the night, so get to that room early if you want a seat. After they’ve given away strollers, carseats, cloth diapers and more, leaving the event kind of makes you feel like driven cattle as everyone shuffles slowly to the parking garage in one big herd and then waits in long lines to get out of the parking garage and onto the freeway. It’s a loooong day. Just be prepared for that.
In case you’re wondering, every year I’ve gone I’ve left with tons of new ideas to try to improve my parenting skills. I’ve left feeling reinvigorated to take on the day and be the best mom I can be. I’ve never walked away with any of the fabulous prizes, but the swag bag isn’t usually bad, and I always leave feeling valued as a mother. It validates me and the time and work I put into my kids.
I hope you feel that way too when you leave!