Karen Cunningham, 29, is a graduate student in biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States. Their daughter Katie was born in July of last year and, since then, her life has been a great rush to balance the tasks as a mother and as a researcher within the laboratory. With no childcare options due to the pandemic, she and her husband, Steve Cunningham, struggled to receive providential help.
Seeing the situation, her teacher Troy Littleton had an idea: put a crib in his office so that Katie and her mother could be closer to each other. He, who has been teaching at MIT for 21 years, has a child as an adult and knows how complicated a routine with a baby can be.
In an interview with The Washington Post, the professor explained the reason for helping his student: “Caring for children in any profession is a challenge, but in science it can be even more challenging.”
The lab staff were unable to make Karen a baby shower because of the pandemic, so everyone joined in to give her a portable crib.
In May, after everyone had received their coronavirus shots and returned to face-to-face work, the professor invited Karen to put the crib in his office. That way he would have a safe place for his daughter to stay while she was in the lab – he himself would play the role of nanny in the meantime. The idea surprised the family, who were amazed at the kindness.
a baby in the pandemic
Karen and Steve already had a ten-year relationship. Even though she hasn’t finished her Ph.D. and he works full-time, they both wanted a baby badly and had finally managed to manage their plans to have a child in 2020.
Karen was pregnant when the pandemic took them by surprise. The Cunninghams live in student housing and the on-campus day care center was closed during the period of social isolation. “It was really stressful to have the world closed in the middle of our pregnancy and give birth knowing we were going on this big adventure without all the infrastructure we needed,” the mother said.
With no relatives living nearby to help them, luckily for both of them Steve was able to work remotely, indoors. So when Karen needed to go to the lab, he was able to take care of her daughter. But her job also required regular face-to-face meetings, and parents’ schedules were often tumultuous. At least until Professor Troy’s initiative.
Kindness surprised the internet
On May 7, the professor posted a photo of his new office on Twitter, along with a caption:
“My favorite purchase of new lab equipment – a portable crib to put in my office so my grad student can bring her 9-month-old daughter to work when needed. And I can play with her while her mom works.” , wrote.