How did I get here, mom to three, consultant, business owner, and now co-founder of a tech start-up helping parents and daycares better connect? It’s been a long, convoluted route, but that’s how the best stories always go, right?
My formal job after finishing grad school was at a mental health company. I really enjoyed the work – educating people about the signs and symptoms of mental health issues in order to reduce stigma and help people get treatment. I found out I was pregnant with my first child a few days after I started – and had a majorly awkward conversation with my boss about maternity leave benefits before I’d even submitted my first timesheet! I returned to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave, and things were mostly wonderful – my husband decided the time was right to take a break from a formal restaurant career, and became a stay-at-home dad – I had a great job with benefits, a healthy baby, and a supportive husband.
After the birth of our second kid, the twinges of guilt at returning to work were much much stronger. My husband had received an offer he couldn’t refuse, to help open a new restaurant with a friend, and no longer stay at home. We were looking at daycare costs that soon ate an entire paycheck. Unhappy with our initial brick-and- mortar daycare, we attempted to find a nanny to provide care so we could both continue to work full-time. After six months of searching, we found a great fit – only to find out a month later she was pregnant…we were certainly thrilled for her, but knew we couldn’t continue with her as a nanny as she coped with a newborn. We were stuck, frustrated, and felt like we were running out of options.
I made the decision to launch my own non-profit consulting practice shortly thereafter, when my kids were four and two. I imagined this idyllic work-life balance where I’d hang out with them during the day at the zoo or museum, then complete client work in the evenings after bedtime. I KNOW, RIGHT?! Sheer lunacy. We made it work for almost a year, but I was so so so exhausted, which made me so so so cranky with the children. Being little, they couldn’t really be so quiet during conference calls; they couldn’t sit still too long when I took them to coffee shops for client meetings; they didn’t always go to bed exactly when I needed them to or as easily as I wanted them to. Yet again, we felt stuck – we couldn’t really afford full-time daycare, and realistically, we didn’t need full-time care. I needed two to three days a week on a flexible schedule depending on my workload.
Somewhere along the way, my kids started elementary school and I built a network of fellow parents that I could turn to for help on school holidays and snow days. By the time baby #3 came along, we were much savvier at finding daycare options, and we found a place that allowed us a three-day- a week option (score!) Which started me thinking: why is it SO HARD to find the exact kind of childcare you need? Why don’t more daycare offer part-time options, given that more and more people are working flexible or gig or shift schedules? If my daughter is using the current daycare space three days a week, is it possible that someone else could use her “spot” the other two days – could the daycare view it like a vacancy that another parent could book, similar to AirBnB?
I didn’t know the answers, but I found that LOTS and LOTS of other parents had similar experiences to mine and were looking for help navigating their childcare dilemmas. I also found that daycares were struggling to accommodate parents’ changing schedules, but didn’t quite have the right tools to do so efficiently. And thus, with the help of a strong partner, we created a start-up company to connect parents with daycares: Flexable.