#SWAAYthenarrative

This Mother Brought Childcare To Millennial Coworking Spaces

People

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

3 Min Read
Health

7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.