Along with the picture, Littleton wrote: “My favorite new equipment purchase for the lab – a travel crib to go in my office so my graduate student can bring her 9-month-old little girl to work when necessary and I get to play with her while her mom gets some done. Win-win!!”
Since he posted it, the tweet has hundreds of responses, more than 117,300 likes and more than 9,500 retweets.
“This is what equity and support of women looks like, for those who need concrete examples!” one person commented. “And done with excitement even!!”
Someone else wrote: “Thanks for doing your part to [normalize] motherhood in academic pursuits.”
Two days after his first post, Littleton addressed some of the attention he received in a follow-up tweet.
“Well that little tweet blew up?!?” he wrote on Mother’s Day. “However, I wish people were able to spot the real hero here. It’s the graduate student mom, not me. She’s amazing to do all she has to with her daughter and still keep up her thesis project research. Happy Mother’s Day to all – they deserve it!”
Littleton — who runs a research lab at MIT — told ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA) that he bought the crib for his graduate student, Karen Cunningham and her young daughter Katie because the lab wasn’t able to throw Cunningham a baby shower during the pandemic.
“This was sort of the lab gift for Karen, 10 months later,” Littleton told GMA. “It’s always a challenge [being a parent while in graduate school] so anything you can do in a lab to facilitate and help out, we try.”
He went on to say that when he tweeted the picture of the crib, he had no idea it would go viral and “create this large discussion about the challenges mothers face in the workplace,” Littleton said.
An MIT professor recently went viral after he posted a picture of a crib (not pictured) he put in his office to support one of his graduate students who has a baby. (iStock)
“But I’m glad it had that effect because we need to be solving these issues, both in academia and on a broader level as well,” he added. “It’s highlighted that this is a really important issue for our community.”
Cunningham told GMA that Katie will start daycare in the fall, but until then, Cunningham’s husband will be staying home with Katie. However, the crib in Littleton’s office is a helpful backup.
“There’s the solid, focused six to eight hours of work that you wouldn’t want to bring a baby in for, but then there’s the lab errands that you do here and there and that’s when it’s really useful,” Cunningham told GMA. “I can put Katie down and just go do something quick and I can see her and talk to her and she can nap in there. It’s great.”