I am going to my first conference and my mom wants to join. (She can probably get funding from her university to accompany me, even though she is in a different field.) Will it reflect badly on me if we stick together?
You ask about "stick together". This is probably not an ideal idea.
Generally, in a conference, you want freedom of action. Going with your mother may induce you to "talk to the known" person whenever you are unsure; i.e. you talk to her whenever you are not sure how to approach people - the notorious "escape route" - but this is exactly what conferences are not for.
When I went to my first conference, I made a point to talk to as many people as I could. At the beginning, it is quite a leap of faith. But later you find, it is fun, you get to know people, and you get to know new research directions and ideas. Sometimes it feels difficult, but remember: all you people have one thing in common - the topic of the conference. You are very unlikely to go wrong starting a conversation about that.
If you are unsure how to start, start with people which look like they are alone at the conference, and probably a bit lost. They will be grateful to get somebody to talk to; you may meet interesting colleagues (don't think that, because they are alone, they are not good scientists - good scientists may not be good at socialising), and notch up a good deed, to boot.
It is fine to take your mother to social events and the like, but I recommend that, if she joins the conference, say, because she is interested, that she stays mostly in the background and does not send signals of "supervision" to others or - even more importantly - to you. If you can keep that balance, then, by all means, bring her with you.
A couple of things that come to mind:
It's a bit troubling that you say "my mom wants to join." What do you want?
Also, your first conference is an exciting moment in your academic career that you'll likely remember for a long time. Such an occasion can be a really good opportunity to strike out on your own, be independent, feel free to invent yourself as the person you'd like the world to see you as (and, as others have said, make maximal use of the professional opportunity of being at a conference, though personally I'm less bothered about that). With all respect due to your mom, who I'm sure is an extremely nice lady, it sounds probable to me that her presence will hinder such personal growth on your part, though she may not realize that.
Just my two cents based on the very small amount of information you've provided. In any case good luck, and have fun!
Edit: I also want to add, just in case you or anybody else reading this care, that I think "will it reflect badly on me" is the wrong question to ask. What I mean more precisely is this: if you happen to be a mature, strong-willed, independent person who just happens to get along fabulously with your mom and think you'll enjoy having her around, I'd say bring her along, and it doesn't matter what other people will think; life's too short to care too much about that (or, as Steve Jobs said, "Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice"). On the other hand, the advice I wrote above is a way of helping you reflect on whether by letting your mom come to the conference with you, you may in fact be holding yourself back from becoming a mature, strong-willed, and independent person. If that is the case, then although having your mom at the conference may indeed reflect badly on you in the eyes of some people, that is not the reason why you shouldn't bring her -- rather, you shouldn't bring her but for a different reason, because of the more intrinsic fact that having her be such a dominant presence in your professional and social life is simply not good for you.
Would your mother attend the conference even if you didn't? If so, then sure -- but make sure not just to follow her to the talks she is interested in. If not (and the question makes me think that's the case), I think it would be a bad idea for her to join you.
- Conferences are professional events where your goal should be to meet and share ideas with others in your field. You will have something to talk about with them, but your mother won't.
- How would her being there impact your ability to socialize? This is going to depend on the conference, but people generally like to get drinks in the evenings. It would be odd if you went out with a few graduate students and she came along.
- Irrespective of how independent you can be, you should think about the signal it sends to your potential employers (i.e. people on search committees). Think about job applicants who bring their mothers to an interview and ask yourself whether that hurts their chances of getting the job.
I have seen non academic mothers accompany their children, or more accurately their grandchildren, to conference and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Even in the absence of grandchildren, it would be fine. For example, lots of conferences have time for an afternoon of site seeing and people often add on a couple of days of vacation.
As your mother is an academic in a related field (presumably since you said she can get funding). It makes perfect sense. As for sticking together, within reason that is fine. This is especially true if she can introduce you to people. Just make sure you keep the relationship professional.
Remember that a conference is first and foremost a major professional opportunity for you. So long as you will meet as many other conference participants as you would otherwise, and it wouldn't affect your performance giving the talk, then I see no reason not to bring her.
My mother sometimes asked to come to conferences with me, but I didn't let her, because I was afraid seeing her in the audience during my talk would put me off and I wouldn't do as good of a job giving it, which would negate the entire purpose of attending the conference. My mother could be very critical. Unfortunately she didn't live long enough to get to the point where academic talks got put on YouTube all the time, but she did read my papers. My father enjoys watching some of my talks on line now.
On the other hand, my partner is also an academic, and we often attend each other's meetings, and even go to different talks in parallel sessions and learn from each other at the meeting. My partner is very supportive and I love seeing their smile in my talks. If your mother is a good academic, I could believe that having her at a conference might be similar to that.
It's unlikely anyone would notice or care. Anyway, how would they know you are parent and child?
Having said that, in the UK a lot of conferences are funded by EPSRC or similar agencies, which in turn are funded by tax payers. As a tax payer, I have to say the folks who go on jollies to unrelated conferences can grate.
Overall it seems unnecessary and while I don't think it would necessarily look "bad", it would likely be a missed opportunity to talk to other people.
I would chime in that if she wants to come to celebrate your success(es) and witness you if it's something you are publicly participating in, sounds great. I would say terrific.
However, if she is coming to overtly - overly - mother you when you are an adult? I recently learned terrific actually means terrifying by definition. So maybe it is terrific. So in that case... hmm
Was hard to tell from what you wrote, in that case, time to cut the ole umbilical cord, probably was time some time ago, in fact, not being sarcastic, I'd argue that cord was cut a long time ago.
That said, I'd welcome her to come and celebrate your participatory role in the conference, sure, bring grandma Esralda too, your family is likely proud of you and wants to support you.
If the former, go for it- if the latter? I'd politely state you are now an adult, and would prefer if she only came to witness the conference but did not bring any unnecessary focus during your academic responsibility post conference.
Best to you and her.
There are at least three issues here: conference funding, conference participation, and joint travel.
It is theoretically possible, but unlikely, that your mother's department has so much travel and conference money that every researcher gets to every conference they want. It is also possible that the conference is one your mother should be attending, and your participation is only a tie-breaker among conferences.
If neither of those cases applies, consider the following scenario:
- There is a conference you should attend.
- Your department regrets to inform you that there is insufficient travel budget for you to go.
- You find out they funded another department member going to an off-topic conference primarily to hang out with a relative.
How would you feel? Unless it is a conference she should be attending for her own research, I think your mother should either not attend or pay for it herself.
As others have pointed out, to get the full benefit of the conference you need to get into casual conversations with other participants. Having someone with you who is not a specialist in your research area could be a hindrance. On the other hand, if she is attending primarily for your company, telling her you can't have lunch with her today because you want to continue a discussion over lunch would be unfair to her.
If the purpose in her going is spending time together in a different location, consider extending your stay for a few days after the conference and having her join you for that time as a vacation. That way you can concentrate on the conference while it is running, and give your mother your full attention during your joint vacation.
The obvious answer is a RESOUNDING "yes." Invite your mom to come on her own dime and credentials.
When you present your paper, stop, point her out to the seven people in attendance at your session, and acknowledge her, calling her out as a beloved colleague in the unrelated field of xyz. Blow her a kiss, say "thanks, mom!" and go on with your paper.
Spend MOST of your time at the conference schmoozing with colleagues.