I do a lot of thinking and a lot of research around working mothers and working parents. It’s part of my job to know the what, the why, and the how of working parents because I like to have our business model supported by actual data and real facts. For example, 90% of working moms say they always feel rushed and spend too little time with their kids, while 64% of parents said a lack of schedule flexibility was the biggest challenge they felt they faced in the workplace.
But I don’t need the data to know the challenges that working parents are facing in the broader workforce. I hear about them each day from our members here at Le Village Cowork, day in and day out. I hear about the daily struggles of parenting and partnering, the struggle to find the balance between work and their lives. But I also hear how being at Le Village has changed some of that for them.
When we first opened, I heard about commutes that took 3+ hours out of their day: 20 minutes to drive to daycare, 15 minutes getting their kid settled, followed by a 40 minute drive downtown plus a 10 minute sprint to the office from parking – all before a parent can even begin their work day.
I heard about mothers wrangling an entire bag of pump parts on the El only to forget one piece. To then have to figure out how to buy it and get it to the office or spend the entire day leaking breast-milk into a wad of toilet paper bunched into their bras – all while worrying their supply will be affected.
I heard about parents watching their little ones get put down for naps by a nanny on a baby monitor and wishing, wishing, that they could be one having that 20 minutes of connection time.
I heard about processing loss and anguish and exhaustion, alone, because of being part of a team of peers that absolutely did not understand what they were going through. So many stories about that guilt and stress and exhaustion - and how incredibly hard it was becoming for people. How unsustainable it all felt.
And then COVID came, and in so many ways was of course alarming and terrifying. But I think for parents of young children, it was a welcome pausing point. “You mean, we can work…from home?”
And then I started to hear a lot of new stories.
I heard about parents working to figure it out on their terms. “Alright, so I can take her from 8:30-11:00 and then you take lunch, and then I can get her down for a nap and we can both work til 4, and then I can hop back in but you’ve got dinner and bath so that I can get this proposal out”–kind of stories. And the stress of never being able to turn off. And the worry that you aren’t actually even giving them enough, but knowing that you’re doing the best you can.
I’ve heard of partners that stepped up. Or didn’t. I’ve heard about workplaces that made it work. Or didn’t.
And I heard that while there were a lot of parts that didn’t work about working from home during COVID, that there were many parts that did. Through it all I’ve heard the same thing over and over: parents like being able to call their own day. Who’d have thought - adults like being treated like adults.
When Le Village comes into the picture, it’s a game changer for these families. They get the best of both worlds. They get to work AND they get to be present. They cut out the commute time by coming to a singular space in their backyard. They can see their kid for meals and put them down for naptime. They can breastfeed and connect. They get support from staff and from teachers.
And they can still work.
Our parents are able to drop their little ones into a curriculum driven class, put their noise canceling headphones on, and attend a meeting, write an article, or process a proposal without interruption for 3 solid hours. And then hop out and have lunch with their little or a happy hour break with a fellow parent. Maybe they only are with us 2-3 days a week and the other days they head downtown. It’s about what works for them. We’ve learned it’s not actually that hard to create a little space. A little balance. I guess all we needed was an excuse to try.
After 2 years of working from home and watching the dynamic shift, now, I am hearing new stories. New worries are arising. Workplaces that want to go back to a traditional work week. To the way things were before. And it baffles me. Why would we ever go back to something that was so clearly broken in the first place?
“But what can we do?” come the defeated and depleted responses.
And that’s what our session “The Big Ask” is really all about. It’s about setting boundaries with yourself for your place of work and what that actually means - for you and the people that support you. It’s about creating an argument that is set in data that previously we’ve never had! It’s about crafting your “ask” in a way that makes your boss feel like they are in power–when really it’s you who holds all the cards. It’s about making sure that you know what those cards are, so that in reality, you are always the one in power. Being your own PR rep. Crafting your own story. Showing your own value and showing why you know that this will work.
At the helm of the ship with us for this incredibly important event is Jess Feldt of Jess Feldt Coaching. Not only is Jess my friend and in Le Village, a consistent voice of reason and reckoning for our working parents, she’s a Life and Leadership Coach whose focus is on empowering working moms to find fulfillment between career and family. We are privileged to host her and have her lead this workshop.
COVID was our wake up call. And Parents–COVID was your line to a new work+life. Grab Hold.
I’ll see you in a week.