Grad student lauds professor who placed crib in his office so she could bring baby to school

screenshot/ @JTroyLittleton

A biology graduate student was able to breathe a sigh of relief when her professor made the decision to keep a crib in his office so she could bring her child to school.

Karen Cunningham, who is studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, told The Washington Post in an interview published Friday that her professor, Troy Littleton, made it easier for her to balance school and being a new mom.

“I didn’t know anyone who’d had a baby in grad school,” she told the Post. “Having to make that choice is driving a lot of women out of science. I honestly felt like I was bushwhacking, but I really wanted a child.”

Littleton solicited the help of some of Cunningham’s fellow classmates to pitch in on purchasing a travel crib so that Katie, Cunnigham’s daughter, who was born July 6, could accompany her mother to class, the Post reported.

“When we have new fathers or mothers in the lab, we usually have a baby shower and everyone pitches in on a gift,” Littleton told the news outlet. “We couldn’t have a shower for Karen due to the pandemic, but we all agreed that a portable crib would be the perfect gift.”

Littleton explained that once everyone who worked in his biology lab was able to get their vaccinations against COVID-19, he invited Cunningham to set up the crib in his office.

“Child care in any profession is a challenge, but in science, it can even be more challenging,” said Littleton, 54, who has an adult son and has taught at MIT for 21 years. “Experiments don’t always fit a 9-to-5 schedule. It just made sense for Karen to bring Katie in.”

Littleton shared a photo to Twitter of the crib last month. The tweet immediately gained traction, garnering over 8,000 retweets and more than 117,000 likes

Cunningham expressed her appreciation for Littleton’s kindness.

“What Troy has done is like a little warm spot in a mess of unaffordable child care and inadequate parental leave in our country,” she added. “I can set Katie down for a bit and talk to her while I do a few things, and that means a lot.”

Katie is now 11 months and will start day care this fall, the Post reported.

“She’s very happy, independent and active, and she’s interested in the world,” Cunningham said. “I wouldn’t have done it any other way.” 

Tags Child care MIT

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