As a work-from-home mom, I enjoy the freedom that telecommuting gives me. I can time-shift my day to chaperone a field trip, duck out to pick up my daughter from school, and, yes, spend all day in yoga pants. Seriously, I love these perks and feel so fortunate to have the option to work from home. Sometimes, though, I think I might be devolving from an introvert into someone with borderline social anxiety disorder. I spend so much time alone the thought of going into an office can make me feel panicky, and even upcoming social events with friends start to feel overwhelming. Plus, I miss the spontaneous brainstorming with colleagues and riffing off each other's energy that comes with being part of an in-person team.
When I heard about this new Work and Play space in South Orange, New Jersey, opened by a freelancing mom of three, I was so jealous this wasn't in my neighborhood. Founder Deborah Engel designed this coworking space specifically to cater to working parents by pairing an office area with on-site childcare and children's extracurricular classes. Parents can work alongside other parents in the 1,500-square-foot shared workspace while their kids play downstairs under the supervision of experienced caregivers. "There are 800 coworking spaces nationwide, but coupling coworking with childcare is a brand-new concept," Engel said.
Whether you work from home or in an office building, trying to balance career and family is a challenge. Engels' concept solves this problem for telecommuting parents in her area, and I hope more and more of these spaces open up around the country. Of course, it also would be helpful if more companies started offering onsite childcare for their office employees' children. With more and more households needing two working parents to pay the bills, it's time for a shift in how we expect families to manage the demands of working and parenting.
Engel said, "There are lots of people like me, who want to work but be a daily part of our kids' lives." Anyone who works a full-time job knows that being away for eight hours (or more) plus traveling time to and from the office equals very few hours with the kids—and those hours are generally filled with cooking, eating, and homework. I love that my work day can be peppered with "coffee breaks" with my daughter where we can spend some quality time together, and I wish every working parent could have them same opportunity. I also wish, though I could share ideas with co-workers at the water cooler. Let's hope more innovators like Engel help working parents' wishes come true.
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