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Made in NY: Work Around

Introducing a co-working space that’s actually making parents’ lives easier.

Made in NY: Work Around

As a pregnant mama, it’s hard to envision a circle of friends beyond your tight-knit circle that you can call upon at your weakest and proudest moments. The beauty is that becoming a mom expands that circle even further. Turns out that bonding over baby makes some of the strongest connections possible and often opens up your mind to ideas you never saw before.

Through parenthood, Brooklyn moms Selena Beal and Amy Butterworth not only found a friendship but also a genius idea that spoke to a modern parent’s freelance lifestyle: The WorkAround, a coworking community where parents could literally bring their kids to work and have caretakers present to take care of them.

Here’s what it’s all about.

How did The WorkAround get started?

Like most modern relationships, Amy and I met online long before we met in person. We live a few blocks from each other in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn and were both due to give birth in Jan 2012, me with my second child and she with her first. We were part of a sub-group of our local parenting listserv which organized regular meet ups. Amy and I would pass each other at these events and swap notes about baby sleep behavior, sibling age difference and other hallmarks of new parenthood.

As a freelance web designer with two kids, Amy was already looking for flexible work solutions. As a stay-at-home mom of two, I was looking to build a new career supporting new mothers. After both of us spent some time looking into the coworking with childcare concept separately, I asked her out to coffee to pick her brain about the idea, found out that she was on the same path and a partnership was born.

Why is building a community of work-from-home parents important?

Everyone needs support. Our service is bringing together two groups of people that tend to get very isolated in what they do. New parenthood can be lonely and frustrating in these modern times and finding other parents in a supportive setting is key while stumbling toward the new normal of that first year. Those of us that work from home - whether it be full time or part time - can get stuck in some understandable but unproductive habits while still relishing the freedom of a remote lifestyle. We bring everyone in: moms who freelance, study, write, research, take care of the family business, teach, learn, create and more to get it done - together.

What is the benefit of having your child onsite?

At the workaround, we want to introduce a new kind of childcare option - a place where the walls are porous, where a mom can drop off her baby with a caretaker but still be there when it's time to nurse, where a parent and toddler can take a lunch break together, where a parent whose child is not quite ready to say goodbye can pop back and forth as much as needed to keep those bonds of trust secure. We are here for the families that aren't ready for major separation but are ready for a little time apart.

What are the best things about being a freelance parent?

Having the flexibility to work from home can be a great gift to a family. Being able to choose how much or how little work to take on, when, where and how to spend time together, what sort of care they want to piece together for their child. We all want balance in our lives, and working from home can be a great way to be financially and creatively productive while staying physically close to our child.

What are the challenges?

The challenges of working from home are that it takes a great amount of discipline to maintain, and for new parents this is right at a time when we are sleep deprived, stretched thin emotionally and not always so confident about the decisions we are making. The challenge of working from home as a parent is that what seems like such a neat fix, "I'll just work while the baby naps" ends up for most parents being more of a mirage then reality. Because in reality, maybe the baby skips her nap today. Maybe mom or dad didn't get any sleep last night. Maybe an important request came in that has to be dealt with right now. Maybe the house is a wreck and that seems more important then desk work today. Getting work done while parenting is hard, in ways that we couldn't have envisioned in our pre-baby days.

How does WorkAround fit in?

The support of being around other parents in the same spot is the first and foremost service we want to provide. Having support and finding connection with others on the journey is really the biggest piece of the puzzle. The rest of what we do is try to anticipate what our parent/child clients will need to get the work done while the kids are entertained. So for parents, we provide coffee and tea, dedicated desk space with WiFi and a video monitor to keep an eye on the children. For the kids we have a range of age appropriate activities and toys.

Our caregivers are ready to adapt to new children, new age dynamics and new interests at every session with songs and story time, movement games, rest times and a light snack. We teach our caregivers to be a partner to our parents by welcoming them into the children's space at any time for as long as they need, by working with them on special rituals for saying goodbye, watching for cues to know when it's time to call the parent back to the child, easing the little ones through all of their transitions in what can be a long separation process. It may take several visits for a child to feel comfortable enough for mom or dad to leave the room; we also welcome parents to bring their work right into the children's space if need be, with the hope that after a few sessions s/he will be able to ease into the adult space. Each parent/child unit dictate the terms that feel best for them. That's right in our motto: coworking with childcare so everybody wins!

How do you scout your caretakers?

We use carefully crafted job postings on both Urbansitter and Sittercity to find candidates. Then we interview them in person and check their references. We are working on an orientation program that will set up our permanent staff to gain infant CPR certification, babywearing instruction and attend a workshop in nonviolent communication.

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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12 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$189

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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21 questions to ask your partner instead of, “How was your day?”

2. If you could do any part of today over again, what would it be?

After a long day of doing seemingly everything, when our partners get home it kind of becomes a habit to ask, "How was your day?" In between prepping dinner, handing off the kids, finishing your own work, we don't exactly get much value from this question. Sure, it may open up the opportunity to complain about that awful thing that happened or excitedly share that presentation you killed at work—but it usually stops there.

I could do a better job of really talking in my relationship. After 12 years and two kids, sometimes all we can come up with post bedtime routine is, "You good? I'm good. Fire up the Netflix."

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