This Mother Brought Childcare To Millennial Coworking Spaces

This Mother Brought Childcare

To Millennial Coworking Spaces

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It was May of 2010 when I found myself, six months pregnant, crying in the backseat of a car service, as my in-house position was on the chopping block from another round of corporate cuts.  I must have cried for about a week. Not because I really missed my job, but because I felt helpless… and lost. Entering my third trimester, I couldn’t even apply for jobs. Who would hire me?

Then one day, when I literally found myself barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen watching a marathon of Real Housewives of New York, I stopped being sad. I realized this could be an opportunity to reinvent myself; and luckily, I soon secured a job with a former employer. I was to start some time after my baby’s arrival. It never even occurred to me that I may want to stay home with a baby. I always assumed I would want to work.

My first daughter arrived on Labor Day weekend. We hired a nanny, who started when my daughter turned 6-weeks-old. I went back to work at week seven, ramping up to four days of work in New York City, and one day a week from home in the New Jersey suburbs.

As most new mothers will tell you, going back to work is hard. Tears were shed. Pump parts were forgotten. Late nights were hard. Sleepless nights even harder.

But I managed. I had the support of my husband, work got busy, my baby girl was happy, and life rolled right along.

Around this time, I also read an article in USA Today about a new trend in office spaces called coworking. Hmm, I thought. How cool would it be to have a place like that here, in the suburbs, that also has childcare? I dreamed of a place where I could plug in, participate in conference calls, fulfill my job responsibilities, and still nurse my infant throughout the day. But work was busy, life was busy, and I had little time to devote to cooking dinner, let alone nurturing a business idea. So I let the concept gestate. 

And then I got pregnant again.

This time, I wanted to take a longer maternity leave – four months off, my company’s max. I wanted to use the time to decide how to move forward. Did I want to continue working full-time? Did I want to stay home with my girls? Did I want to work part-time? What was the right formula for me?

Deborah Engel during her daughter's birthday party at Work and Play

I quickly realized I wasn’t cut out to be a stay-at-home mom. But I also couldn’t commit to the long hours and endless commute anymore. I tried negotiating a part-time deal with my employer; they said no. I wrestled with what to do, and after having a heart-to-heart with a senior level female executive, who reminded me that kids are only young once, I decided to call it quits and launch my own business.

I remembered the idea I had for coworking and childcare, which my husband dubbed Work and Play, and I decided to pursue it while also freelancing as a public relations specialist. I started attending networking events and met other entrepreneurs in the community. I talked about my idea for a flexible workspace, one that would also offer drop-in, customizable childcare.

In late 2013, while seven months pregnant with a third daughter, I bought a building that is now Work and Play. By offering childcare and a workspace, we are offering a solution for parents who want to balance their career and family. Our community is made up of creatives, entrepreneurs, mothers, fathers, friends and their young children.

What have I learned on this journey so far? 

1. Learn something new from everyone you meet. People are interesting. They have fascinating careers. They have stories to tell. Ask questions.

2. Don’t try too hard to figure out your future. Your goals and ideals might change. Focus on today. But also allow yourself to daydream.

3. If you’re young or in transition, consider jobs that allow for flexibility – find a trade that you can use at a company or freelance, like a graphic designer, copywriter or social media marketer. Therapy of all kinds – speech, OT, PT, psychological – allow for flexible schedules through private practice.

4. Be confident in your decision and know you won’t be perfect. You may mess up. You may feel you could do better. But trust me, you’re doing great!

Beth Goldring, Director of Play, at Work and Play's childcare space
Deborah Engel

Deborah Engel founded the first coworking facility with flexible childcare back in 2015 in the tristate area of New Jersey. After quitting her public relations job to go part-time while bringing up two girls, she discovered a niche for a crossover between childcare and coworking spaces.

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