When it comes to the eternal struggle of busy parents to juggle all their family responsibilities with everything it takes to be a great entrepreneur, there are different approaches.
Some favor firm separation of the spheres and strict scheduling to avoid work creeping into family time. Others are blenders, constantly searching for opportunities to squeeze moments of family time into their work days and moments of work into their leisure hours. Yet others outsource, leaning heavily on all the help they can afford to keep their sanity.
But what if those options don't working too well for you? Diana Rothschild has another alternative to offer. She's the founder of NextKids, an offshoot of successful co-working company NextSpace, which offers a unique model of professional workspace, supportive community, and high-quality child care--all under one roof.
To join, parents are required to commit to full days of child care, as well as an hour a week helping out in the kids' space. This isn't the solution for those looking for part-time drop-in care or those who want to drop off their children and then take off (physically or mentally). Community is a strong focus at NextKids, so parents must stay on-site with their kids or appoint an on-site "guardian" to handle anything that comes up if they need to be away.
Who's It For?
The first location of the new concept opened in San Francisco just over a year ago. Its unique approach has attracted a mix of freelancers, remote corporate employees, and startupers. NextKids is hoping to expand in the coming year, Rothschild told Inc.com. "I could definitely see this in several dozen cities in the U.S. and then abroad," she says.
This intimate intermingling of parenthood and professional life isn't for everyone (or every city--some lack the required density of well-heeled independent workers to make a business like NextKids viable), but it's a godsend for some, according to Rothschild. Herself a refugee from a time-intensive career in business consulting, Rothschild started NextKids to serve her own need, but feels that the time is ripe for this sort of innovative approach to child care. With rates of mobile work of all types on the rise and parents hungry for better ways to balance their lives, interest has been strong.
"People want this--they're craving it. We're getting moms off the sidelines sooner. We're helping dads be more equal partners in raising their children," she says. But the rewards don't belong solely to all the individual parents who can simply pop down the hall for a 10-minute visit with their toddler after a conference call or nurse a 3-month-old between strategy sessions. With someone staying home for long periods no longer a viable option for most families, society benefits, too, Rothschild feels.
"It actually does create stronger, better families, and when the parents are happier, they do better work. If we're going to be as economically powerful a country as we've been in the past, we're going to need to come up with these solutions," she says, noting the NextKids model could be adapted by corporations looking for an edge in attracting and retaining talent.
The Impact on Productivity
But can you really focus on your work with your kids down the hall? Is this sort of work-life soup really a productivity booster? Speaking for herself, Rothschild gives an unqualified yes. The first few weeks were an adjustment, she concedes, but after she settled in to the NextKids routine, popping over to visit her daughter replaced the regular coffee breaks she would take at a traditional office (and eliminates time spent guiltily wondering how her kids were doing). Plus, Rothschild has seen benefits to her clarity and creativity from having the different parts of her life in such close proximity.
When she heads over to read her toddler a story, "I have to completely mentally step away from work because I'm with my child, and I get to see what she's seeing through her eyes, which is amazing," she notes. "Then literally eight minutes later I'm back at work super mentally refreshed and ready to focus."
Does the NextKids model of complete work-life blend appeal to you?