We <3 Slack

One of our members who's been here the longest shares one of the biggest things that sets Nido apart from other options for your family - our built-in and thriving parent community.

When we were only part-time at Nido we also sent our kiddo part-time to a small, traditional, preschool program near our house. Our kid loved the other preschool, loved his friends, loved the toys, loved the teachers, and we liked the curriculum. Going to the other preschool and Nido at the same time gave us a side by side view of not only the two programs for the kids, but the way the two communities of families are run. Nido wins that comparison, hands down.

It’s not really a fair comparison. Firstly, Nido is inherently a two-part service: Montessori preschool for the children, and co-working space for the parents, all under one roof. The physical act of working there with the other parents inherently leads to building a community because of your interactions; even if you are all silently working on your laptops most of the time. But when you get a chance for a cup of coffee in the break room you get a chance for those interactions to build community, too. The water cooler clichés are true.

Though if you set aside the co-working aspect, Nido still wins because it has formed a great on-line community via the Slack App (https://slack.com/is). Slack is a messaging app that mostly targets tech savvy businesses for internal use. Its advertised to help team members communicate, and cutback on needless internal emails. If you are old enough, it’s a bit like chat rooms and IRC, but upgraded. The app works both on your phone, and on your computer, and private ‘teams’ or groups can be set up for your business.

At Nido, all the teachers and all the parents are part of the ‘team’, both literally, and virtually on Slack. Instead of having channels (aka chat rooms), as Slack originally envisioned, on “engineering”, “marketing”, “accounting”, “software”; here at Nido our channels are “classroom”, “events”, “co-op tasks”, “staff”, “random”, and “weekend_meetups”…to name a few. 

On the “classroom” channel the teachers post pictures of our kiddo’s enjoying their work, and us parents let the teachers know when we are going to be running late, or are out sick. And this is where the on-line community discussions strengthen the in-person interactions. Unlike our traditional pre-school, where I would txt the teacher that my kid has a fever, I have now been able to tell our whole small school that my kid is sick, and warn the other parents to watch their kids for symptoms.  Some of the best, most civil, and most caring discussions have been around what germ is circulating and how other kids have been doing. The conversation on slack typically starts with: “Hey everyone, heads up, our kid just got diagnose with croup. So, if you were in class on Wednesday with our kid, watch your kid for symptoms.” These conversations then continue with well-wishes and gratitude for sharing. At our other school, we never knew and there was no built-in way to have parent-to-parent discussions.  

Slack gives us parents all a way to check in with our kids and their classroom, and with each other. The “random” channel has been great at local community building with such conversation topics as you might and might not expect from working parents that share co-working space: What diapers to use?, Goat for sale., Chocolates in the break-room., Computer monitor recommendations?, Donuts in the break-room., Can I borrow a baby carrier?, Does anyone have any children ear protection? We’re taking our kid to a Pixies show., Good restaurants to go to with a baby?, My neighbor is having an yard sale!, Any folks interested in organizing a Nido Doughman team?, Anyone know a good unix cheatsheet?, Touch-a-truck event coming to town!, etc…

There are many ingredients that contribute to Nido’s success at building community. Using an on-line messaging platform, such as Slack, to reinforce in-person community has been part of that. It’s also a great way to ask a friend across the room if your kid could borrow a pair of shorts from their kid (because hey, accidents happen), without disturbing all the other co-working parents.

-By long time member, first time Blogger, K

Navigating social media as a “sharent”

Jourdan shares how she views one of our most modern problems - what to share and how to share it on social media.

One night over dinner during my third trimester, my husband and I had “the talk.” I knew it’d be coming, but I’d been putting it off. We’d read about various childbirth practices, discussed how we thought we might handle sleep training, solid food introduction, and cloth versus disposable diapers. But the topic of social media use as parents had yet to be broached. 

I’m well aware this discussion doesn’t feel necessary for everyone. But when a house is divided on usage, things can get dicey. As the extrovert/connector/media lover of the family, social platforms fulfill something deep within me. I’m not saying that’s always a good thing. Sometimes social media is addictive and confidence-shattering and unhealthy. Over the years I’ve broken up with Facebook, put myself in Instagram rehab, and totally ghosted on Twitter. But I keep coming back and here’s why: I love how connected they make me feel to my people, regardless of where they live. Also, it’s part of my job to stay connected.

But is it fair to thrust my newborn into this world without giving her a choice in the matter? If she could choose, would she share such details of her own life or will she feel like we forced her online existence too soon? Will an entire generation of people resent their parents for this reason?

If it were up to my husband—a person who prefers and practices a much more private existence—I would give birth and we would raise a child without a trace of her online. He acknowledges this is ridiculous and also unrealistic—especially in the days of image tagging—but I get where he’s coming from. Tired of saccharine photos and flawless personas, it can feel as if little is personal or original anymore. And where’s the line between “sharenting” and “oversharenting”?

It’s natural to display the best versions of ourselves for theworld to see, but we agree that what really resonates is when people are honest—tell funny jokes, share less-than-perfect moments, and generally embrace the good with the bad. And in the age of technological excess, I believe less is truly more.

Four months after we first started trying to have a baby, I had a miscarriage. It was every bit as earthshattering as I’d feared, and I felt alone in a space that only I seemed to occupy. In an effort to cope with my feelings and reach other women like myself, I wrote my story and shared it on social media. The response I received blew me away. Women reached out with their own stories of loss, and I immediately felt like part of a community that saw me, understood me, and supported me.

That same virtual community rallied behind me when I shared my excitement and fear of being pregnant again, as well as the impending birth of my daughter. And so I continue to occasionally post the ups and downs of life as a new mother, a working woman, and a human living through these turbulent political times. I still take too many outtakes before landing on a photo and spend too much time writing a caption, but I’m working on it. And the moments I truly cherish happen when my phone’s out of sight and out of mind.

Have Toddler, Will Travel

Kate shares how she's kept an important part of her identity alive while juggling the responsibilities of work and parenthood. 

 

Travel has always been an important part of my identity. When I got pregnant with my son, I worried about how I’d be able to maintain that part of me while also being a good parent. I found a blog post about how to travel with a young child, and realized, oh yeah, they have babies everywhere. That did a great deal towards reminding me that if babies could live everywhere, they could certainly travel anywhere (maybe with a bit of extra planning).

I also found inspiration in my parents. My mother and father both traveled frequently for work, and would bring me along. I still admire how my mother braved airports armed with peanut butter, crackers, and a deck of cards, and she always found kid-appropriate activities wherever we were to hold my interest.

I remember using my crayons to circle places I wanted to go on my three foot cardboard atlas – there were far more circles on its pages than unmarked space. I got a similar book of maps for my son, so we could look through it together and dream about all the places we could go. Although we did travel some, for the first two years, we didn’t really scratch the itch I had for travel. I missed it acutely.

This year, when we moved to North Carolina, we were excited to realize how much closer we’d be to Europe. We started to plan a vague trip to somewhere European as a getaway, and I was adamant that our son come too. We decided we’d also bring my mom with us to help us figure out how to best explore with our toddler, while also giving us all an opportunity for adult-only time.  

We chose to go to Copenhagen, because of the city’s reputation for being wonderfully family friendly. We started talking about how Legos come from Copenhagen, and we read the Little Mermaid and talked about how we’d take a plane to Copenhagen. (Hearing a two year old say Copenhagen and then repeat to you the sanitized Little Mermaid plot is pretty cute.) We talked about how we’d take a really fast train to the town in Sweden where his Brio trains are made. We talked about ebelskivers, or the delicious Danish pancakes that he’d only ever had from Trader Joe’s. And at night, I researched my heart out, circling attractions that he’d find accessible as well as ones we’d like to see, while planning days around nap time.

All of that build up was more worth it than I could have possibly imagined. He played in a viking ship, rode a Ferris Wheel at Tivoli Gardens, took the high speed train to Malmö, watched a polar bear swim at the Copenhagen Zoo, took a boat through the canals to see the Little Mermaid statue, and jumped on trampolines built into the sidewalks. Today, if you ask him where any plane flying overhead is going, he says excitedly, “Copenhagen!”

To help him remember this trip years from now, I kept a travel journal. Each night I’d ask him what he’d done that day, and I’d transcribe his thoughts. After he’d fall asleep, I’d write down my version of the day’s events. When we got home, I printed out our pictures and pasted them to the backs of our journal entries. And no, I don’t expect that he’ll remember this trip himself, but we’ll remember it. We’ll remember what it was like to explore as a family, and to watch his face in wonderment as he experienced something new – like his first hot chocolate. And we have the opportunity to instill in him the same love of travel and curiosity about the world that we have ourselves.  I can’t wait to take him somewhere new, all over again.

Top 6 Reasons

Thank you, Marissa, for sharing these warm thoughts about your experience at Nido!

I joined Nido in January and my son (Theo) will have to transition to full-time daycare in June, so, sadly, my stint at Nido will be a short one. I have been reflecting on what Nido has meant to me over the past few months as I’m finishing up my PhD program, and decided to write a list of my favorite things because who can resist a good list, right?? (I started with a list of 10, but realized that this blog post was way too long already, so I cut myself off at 6). Here they are, in Letterman order, but not as funny:  

6. Community. When I enrolled at Nido, I underestimated the advantages of being around other parents twice a week. Theo started at Nido when he was only four months old, so I have the added benefit of meeting parents who have already traversed the parenting waters that I’m currently navigating. Nido members have helped me figure out answers to questions including: How do I find a good babysitter? Where can I donate extra diapers? How can I get work done when I can hear my son crying down the hall? (He is a wonderful child, but is a bit on the fussy side.) How can I cope with sleep deprivation? (newsflash: there’s no good answer to this one, but sometimes you just need to vent).

5. Amenities. Having an arsenal of snacks at my disposal is a dream come true (for real… snacking is one of my favorite hobbies as anyone who knows me will tell you). I also am a huge fan of the big windows in the coworking space. At school, I share a small, windowless office so I treasure the natural light “situation” at Nido. But my all-time favorite amenity is the nap room. Theo has lucked out because he’s usually the only kid who naps in the mornings on the days he’s at Nido. This means that he has his own personal sleeping oasis with not one but TWO white noise machines (his teachers tell me that “ocean” is his favorite sound), a cozy crib, and curtains that let in the perfect amount of light. Unfortunately, he won’t have his own personal napping room at his next daycare so I suppose he will just have to adjust!

4. Productivity. Doing work around other people makes me work harder. I have been able to work from home ~2 days/week for the past couple of years. Although I love the flexibility of working from home, my motivation tends to ebb and flow depending on the amount of laundry staring me down, the types of food calling my name from the kitchen, and the attractiveness of the bed or couch (this was mostly a problem in my first and third trimesters of pregnancy). In contrast, hearing the clickety-clack (can you tell I’ve been reading a lot of kid’s books lately?) of everyone’s keyboards at Nido makes me want to keep clickety-clacking away myself.

3. Half-Days. Building on the above, working in four-hour blocks makes me more productive. Most of my work involves writing, but sitting down for a full eight-hour day with nothing scheduled except writing can be daunting. I swear that some days, I get more done in the four precious hours that I’ve blocked off for writing than when I have a 9-5.

2. Relaxation, too! Even when I’m not super productive at Nido, it’s nice to have a break. Before Theo was born, I was so caught up in the excitement of pregnancy and the anticipation of childbirth that I didn’t spend much time thinking about what life with a baby would be like. This, coupled with the fact that I had never really been around babies, meant that I was grossly underprepared for how challenging babies can be, especially during the “fourth trimester.” As much as I love having a flexible schedule that permits me to spend lots of time with my son, I will admit that it’s a huge relief to be able to pass him off to his caring teachers for awhile.  

Baby with dolls in toddler room Nido Durham

1. Teachers. That brings me to my final point: The teachers are amazing. Caitlyn and Talia have welcomed my little ball of energy to the classroom with loving, open arms. They greet us with warmth and enthusiasm every day, and they never make me feel bad about the fact that some days I’m pretty sure one of them has to hold Theo for four hours straight because he’s being cranky. Speaking of which, he has become a lot less fussy since he started, in part because being at Nido has gotten him used to noise, stimulation, and being around other people besides his family. He’s also learned to blend into his surroundings; here’s a picture of him pretending to be a doll in the Chickadee Room – this cracks me up every time I look at it.

 

I am sad that my time to Nido is already coming to a close, but being a part of the community has made my transition into motherhood so much easier.

Exploring Nature in Winter

Go outside, stay inside, make something, soak in the quiet joy of this season.

Thank you, Katie, for these inspired ways to enjoy the season!

As parents, we are busy. We keep our children dressed, fed, nurtured, protected, and entertained. If we’re really having a good day, then we do all of that for ourselves too. We work, we grocery shop, we drive around. The busyness goes on wether we feel ready for it or not. It is common that we forget where we are, where we really are, right here, right now. Right here, right now I’m sitting next to a warm and sunny window, in the middle of winter, and I’m thinking about this earth that we call home.

Connecting to the earth is something that many people desire in their lives, but that often loses out to other priorities, or perhaps even goes unnoticed. For parents, inviting nature into our lives can be as simple as paying attention to our children. Really watching how they walk, or crawl, in the world. How their faces light up. How every discovery, common or not, can be magic. Their new eyes on the world are joy and wonder in the most natural sense there is.

David Sobel says, ”If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it.” May they also teach us to love the earth, and what better time to start than in the quiet joys of winter. Winter can be seen as cold, dreary, and a difficult season to muddle through. What would life be like if we instead treated it as a time to slow down, dig deep, and really soak up the quiet joy surrounding us?

Exploring our Winter World: Inside, Outside, and With our Hands

It’s winter. Wether you want to take your family romping through the sleeping woods, snuggle up and gaze out the window, or do a craft together, there are many ways to enjoy this season.

Get Outside

Getting our children outside, especially if we don’t ordinarily do so, can seem like an overwhelming challenge. The good news is, if you leave your house on a daily basis you’re already getting outside. Good work!

child picking up stick in woods

Bundle up and go for a walk. Romping through the cold, or sometimes quite warm, world of winter rest is not on everybody’s short list. However, I bet your children will be happy to lead you out of doors. Here are a couple of rules to take, or leave, with you on a slow winter walk. Rule #1: Make sure you'll be warm enough. Rule #2: Don’t have an agenda. Just go for a walk. Rule #3: Stop and look at every single thing that your child calls your attention to. Every single thing. Open your eyes and heart to what they see. You might not make it out of your yard, which can be pretty spectacular. You'll need to find another time to exercise, because this is probably not it.

If you want to go on a ramble with other families, and you’re here in Durham, consider going out with the Ellerbe Creek Family Explorers Club. They meet once a month for nature activities along the Ellerbe Creek here in the heart of Durham. Each walk has a theme. You can participate to you and your children’s level of interest, and you can walk as far as you care to.

Nature TV

If you’d prefer to stay cozy and snug inside on any given day consider the windows in your home. Find your lowest window, so your children can reach it, snuggle up in front of it and peer out into the world. In my house we call this Nature TV. Outside my front window there are two bird feeders, a tiny pond, and a giant old willow oak. My son and I watch the birds, squirrels, dogs, people, and trucks that pass by every day. We are regularly two feet from woodpeckers, bluebirds, cedar waxwings and many other beautiful bird friends. We follow them with our eyes around the yard, up the tree and out of sight. It’s a joyful addition to our days. If you get really into watching the birds, consider participating in The Great Backyard Bird Count in February.

Winter crafts

child holding pinecones


The birds are hungry, so get your hands dirty. You’ll need pine cones or oranges, yarn, a bowl, bird seed, and a sticky medium to mix with the seed (sunbutter, lard, peanut butter, other nut butters). Tye a loop of yarn to a pine cone, or a hollowed out orange half, so that you’ll be able to hang it over a branch in your yard. In a bowl mix birdseed with your sticky medium of choice. Use your hands, or a spoon, to mix it up, and make a huge and fun mess. Smear the birdseed mixture onto the pine cones or stuff into the orange halves. Hang them from their yarn loops on branches or tuck them into nooks and crannies around your yard.

Enjoy the quiet joy of the winter season!

Resources

Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association: http://www.ellerbecreek.org/

The Great Backyard Bird Count: http://gbbc.birdcount.org/

Bird Feeder Directions: http://www.discoverwildlife.com/british-wildlife/your-garden/how-make-orange-birdfeeder

 

Men, too: a reflection on being a father to a son in 2017

My grandmother is 95 years old. Living almost her entire life in rural Iowa, she and my grandfather raised seven children. She now has eighteen grandchildren and thirty-one great-grandchildren. In short, in the realm of childrearing, she has seen it all. The waxing and waning of various parenting techniques, all manner of revolutions in clothing, toys, and gear. Diapering:she has forgotten far more than I will ever learn when it comes to diapering. Every time I think I know a thing or two about being a parent, after thirteen whole months of experience, I think about my grandmother. She tells me, my mom, my aunts, and anyone else listening, that I am the most involved father she has ever seen. Every time she says it I feel more than a little shocked. 

I know I spend a lot of time "dad-ing," more so than most fathers. A big reason for this is my work schedule – as a graduate student, I'm fortunate to have a very flexible schedule. This means I can be around to play with my son, go grocery shopping, preparing food, feeding our son, cleaning up after his meals, putting him down for naps, and of course, taking care of all those diapers. But there's another reason that I can spend so much time with my kid – I prioritze being with him over other things, in particular my work. I don't pretend to be able to "do it all," and I accept the consequences of my choices. Just this afternoon, I got home in time to go on a walk with my wife, son, and dog. Afterwards, I watched our son toddle all over the yard, blissfully unaware of the rain falling, chewing on sticks just like the dog. He walked out almost to the end of our yard all by himself, totally calm and independent. I can remember not that long ago when he could barely pull himself up to standing from the floor. I know there will be lots of moments like this in his life, where I look at him and am shocked to realize how much he has grown. But I'm glad I was there for this one. Lots of parents – especially fathers – don't get that chance.

Our nation's failure to provide paid parental leave is well-documented, but that's not the only problem. Even when paid leave is available through employers, there are lots of parents – fathers especially – who don't take it, or don't take as much as they can. Beyond falling behind at the office, many men fear losing esteem with their peers for choosing their family over their work. There are serious problems with the way we as men define ourselves. I learned growing up what was important about becoming a man: domination, intimidation, and strength. Talking about your feelings? Not so much. Snuggling your baby who will smear your clothes with all kinds of icky-sticky goo? Even less so. The idea that a father would choose to spend so much time and energy being with kids – especially really little ones – it just doesn't scan for a lot of people, even in 2017. 

When I tell people I'm at home taking care of my son, they sometimes respond, "oh, you're babysitting." Would you ever tell a mother at home with her kids that she is babysitting? No, because babysitting is when you take care of someone else's kids. That well-meaning folks who know me can use that phrase to describe me when I've been up since 5:30 a.m. working my butt off being a parent says a lot about the ways that our conceptions of parent diverge when we specify mother or father. I know from watching my wife go through it that there's a lot about being pregnant that isn't any fun at all, but it killed me watching her go through it knowing that I would never be able to share her experiences. I kept telling myself that once our little one was born, I would do everything I could with our son. This is something both my wife and I wanted, because my involvement doesn't just create kodak moments of fatherhood, it illustrates how men being present supports the women in our lives as well as our children. Every time I show up, I want my wife to know her time and energy and contributions are as important as mine, and I don't want to pay that lip service, I want to show it in my actions. The action of being present. Every day, even when I feel that pull from my professors, my colleagues, and myself to put more time into my work, I try to balance that with my deep desire to be with my son.

I always feel sad when I think about what my grandmother thinks about me as a father. Don't get me wrong, it boosts my ego, but I'm not out to become father of the year. What I would rather is for my choices to feel less extreme. I want my son to grow up with lots of memories of me being around and involved. It's possible there will be times when I can't be there as much as I am right now, and we will have to deal with that when it happens. In the mean time, it matters to me that he experiences a different model of masculinity than the one that I grew up with. I want him to learn to talk things out and share his feelings, to learn to find solutions to conflicts through cultivating a sense of empathy and compassion for others, and to learn how to interact with other people -especially women – without resorting to the type of domineering and bullying behavior so frequently found in popular movies and even elected officials of late.

I don't think that everyone needs to make the same choices that I have made, but I also think that there could be a lot more room in terms of legal protections and cultural expectations that would support more fathers (myself included) to engage fully with their children from their first breath. Things have changed a lot since my grandmother was raising her children in the 1950's and -60's, but there's a long way to go.

-Patrick

Life's Hard Lessons

This post comes from one of our newest members, Emily. We are happy to have her and her family among our community. 

My son is one month from his first birthday, and I feel awe at the fact that my husband and I are speeding towards completing our first year as parents.  There has been a lot of reflection these past eleven months on the reality of caring for a new life, as well as all the expectations, hopes, fears, thoughts and feelings we had before he was born.  Like all first-time parents, we had no idea what we were in for, and yet we kept stubbornly thinking all would be rosy and beautiful.  We were sure all our dreams and schemes were not only aligned with one another, but we were hopeful the universe would collaborate with us in our plans as well.  After all, we had survived a difficult pregnancy and soon we would face a long birth that wasn’t even close to the event we had imagined for over nine months.  Then suddenly we had a newborn, and a recovering mother and father, and a dog to keep going.  All of us were weary.

It was confirmation of a lesson I have had to learn many times in my life: the universe doesn’t operate the way we want it to.  We don’t earn happiness by enduring sadness and disappointment.  It’s a popular refrain in our culture (you’ll get a break because things haven’t worked out so far…), but I’ve learned this is not a reliable viewpoint.  Because having a beautiful, healthy baby who has rolled over, made sounds, pulled up, crawled, and is now walking, all in one little year—none of that erases the sadness and pain we endured as a family during pregnancy and the losses we’ve had since his birth.  All these things exist simultaneously.  One miraculous and beautiful event does not erase a painful and sad one.  Often life gives us both of these sensations in a single moment.  My baby was born and it was a miracle I could barely comprehend, and it was also a huge loss: the loss of the birth I had wanted and expected and simply could not have.

This makes me think of what we want for our children going forward.  We want very specific things for them, like education, opportunities, friends, we want them to participate in certain activities we value, we even deliberate extensively on their toys and food.  But we also want things much deeper and more difficult to manage.  We want happiness, fulfillment, love and acceptance from the greater world.  And yet, these things are so very out of our control.  I feel I was often given the message growing up (from family, teachers, television, books, politicians—everyone!) that if I only managed my life correctly I could minimize disappointment and maximize happiness.  Or more troubling, that I could negotiate my way towards specific outcomes, essentially that I could “fix” all that was wrong, or if I couldn’t, then there had to be someone out there who could!  Kissing cuts and bumps, rocking back to sleep after nightmares, these are all a part of the parenting code.  But in the back of my mind is the reality that there are going to be so many more hurts and challenges that I cannot fix at all, even a little bit.

This is not a popular view. It’s radical to admit that life is horrible sometimes, and that’s a harsh lesson for very little ones (probably better saved for a slightly older human), but it’s something I plan to not shy away from completely with my little babe as he grows.  Because the only way through this life is to realize that we can survive the awfulness that it throws at us.  It’s also an opportunity to teach him what I have learned: that we have to speak out loud our gratitude, ask for help, and not be afraid to feel our pain in order to find our resiliency.   

As my baby grows, sometimes I’ll be able and willing to fix things for him, but I want him to know, more than anything else, that when I cannot (and when no one else can fix it either) that he not only has a soft and stable place to land (our family), but that he possesses the strength within him to endure.  Giving him that knowledge seems like the greatest gift I can give him.

To LLC or Not to LLC ...

Another post from Heather! Heather practices law in North Carolina, with specialities in estate planning and business law. You can read more about her at www.ampersand-law.com

If you work for yourself - or are considering starting a small business - you may be wondering whether it's necessary to formally "organize" the business under the laws of your home state. ("Organize" being the legal term used when you form a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or Corporation or other business structure under the relevant state laws.)

In North Carolina, generally speaking - you are not required to form an LLC or a Corporation or any other legally recognized business organization to "open" your business. (Exceptions, of course, apply. It is the law after all - exceptions always apply.) This means you can run your business as a sole proprietor or as a partnership or in a number of other ways without filing any business organization documents with the state. (Of course, there may be /likely are/ other non-organization documents you must file with the state and federal government to open & run your business.) 

So if you don't *need* to do it, why should you make your business an LLC? 

  • It's quick and inexpensive. The paperwork required by the state isn't lengthy and the filing fees aren't outrageous. 

  • Ongoing paperwork filing requirements for the state tend to be minimal. 

  • You can still file taxes as an individual. (It's called "flow-through taxation" and if you (1) read this post and (2) ask me about "flow-through taxation" in person, you'll be rewarded. And don't worry, the reward won't be a lecture on the wonders of the Federal Tax system.) 

  • How you distribute profits is up to you (unlike a corporation). 
  • And - your personal liability is limited (hence, the name "limited liability company!). This means if the business takes on debts or gets sued - your personal assets can be protected. (But yes, exceptions to this do apply.) 

Are there reasons not to form an LLC and/or to chose a different business structure, like a corporation? Certainly, and an attorney who practices business law (like me) can advise you on the pros and cons of each. 

But, if the question is, "To LLC or to do nothing?" the answer is most likely LLC.

When you are ISO friends… Here’s what the internet tells you to do.

Heather is one of our first Community Members. She shares her thoughts on making friends in a new city and why coworking is the best. Thanks, Heather!

I joined Nido in August 2016 as a community member. To my knowledge, I’m the only member who is a non-parent. I live in the neighborhood; run my own solo law practice (more on that at http://www.ampersand-law.com); and I generally work out of my home. But, I needed a good place for meeting clients in a location that would generally be convenient to clients and me AND wanted the opportunity to be out around other humans during the workday. Nido was my first choice and happily, right around the time I needed it, the community member option became a reality.

Backing up to my point about wanting to be around other humans … This isn’t something that’s just happening in my work life. We moved to Durham in November last year, after renting in Chapel Hill for a few months. We moved (back, long story) to North Carolina from Wisconsin for my wife’s new job at UNC – Chapel Hill. This meant upon arrival, I spent a few months unpacking – repacking – and unpacking again and then a few more months prepping for an taking a couple of tests (the MPRE and the North Carolina Bar Exam). Fast forward to March of this year – I’m waiting on my Bar Exam results and suddenly I realize – I don’t really know many other people in my new community and I’m not entirely sure how to meet people and make friends without seeming desperate and/or creepy.

If you do an internet search on “how to make friends as an adult” or “how to make friends in a new city” (as I have), it’s clear that I’m not alone in wondering how to do this. So in the spirit of education and a bit of entertainment, I thought I’d share a selection of what I found:

 

The less helpful (aka the things that I can’t even imagine trying) -

  • Chat with other people getting manicures at the same time as you;

  • Eat alone in public as often as possible because people are more likely to approach you when you are solo; and

  • Take pictures of people at events and offer to share them on social media or via email.

 

The helpful (aka some of the things I’ve been doing and am seeing the value in) -

  • Use your dog to meet other dog people (and/or use your kids to meet other parents) ;

  • Volunteer; and

  • Become a regular at a weekly workout class.

 

The very helpful (aka some of the things I’ve been doing and am seeing great results from) -

  • Make an extra effort to get to know your neighbors;

  • Say YES – if you get invited to do something, try your best to say YES; and

  • Find a workday crew (for those of us, ahem, who telecommute or work from home and don’t have the built-in option of becoming friends with coworkers).

In conclusion, to make friends: use your dog/kid, volunteer, do group fitness, be a good neighbor, say yes, and join Nido Durham. Of course, actual results may vary (the lawyer in me demanded I provide a disclaimer). And – if you happen to be one of those people who has found that chatting with other people while getting manicures, eating alone in public, and/or taking unsolicited photos of people at events are reliable ways to make friends – let me know – I’ll buy you a coffee and you can tell me all about it.

 

“Tips” Sources (in no particular order):

Bumps and Bruises

Another post from Cindy! Expressing what many of us parents feel on a weekly, if not daily, basis! 

Recently, my little one fell off the couch and bumped her head. She arrived at Nidowith a large bump on her forehead and I was immediately embarrassed, feeling like I had done something wrong. I spent the next hour (time that I should have been working) wondering why I was so upset. After all, she was still smiling and happy, playing with the other babies in the classroom. After some contemplation, it occurred to me that I might be sad because I couldn’t protect her from getting hurt. 

And then I remembered my own words to my mother just a few years ago. “Mom, you can’t protect me from everything. You always want to save me from anything bad that might happen but that’s just not realistic. Sometimes you have to let me just make mistakes.” 

My mom tried to save me from all kinds of things- bad friendships, food that she knew would make me sick but I wanted to eat anyway, even unexcused absences at school. Later in life, it became rude boyfriends, wrong job choices, and decisions to move to other locations. The older I got, the less I listened to her advice. I’m still standing. 

So I decided to give myself a break and realize this is probably the first of many times when I won’t be able to save my daughter from getting hurt. Hopefully as she gets a little older, I can teach her how to be careful and understand the consequences of her actions. And maybe she will be smarter than I was and understand that moms give good advice because they have more life experience.

N is for Nurture

Being a parent is hard. After I had my first child, I thought, "Wow, how on earth can anybody have more than one child?" It was by far the hardest thing I had ever done.

Because we live in the United States and I was a key employee for a very small company, I was given six weeks of maternity leave — half of it paid. Because my baby was 12 days overdue, I decided to start my maternity leave somewhere in that second week of counting the seconds until labor. And because my baby had breathing difficulties after he was born (along with a litany of doctor-imposed issues), we spent 4 days in the NICU. I returned to my job part-time when my first baby was five weeks old.

My husband, Matt, was starting his second year of law school. We were living off student loans while I was woefully underpaid at my job. Over the next few months, I worked my way back up to full-time, but it was still not enough to support my family. So we raked in more student loans just to afford the astronomical prices for full-time childcare.

With the loving support of our family, friends, and neighbors, we got through the first few hard years. Matt graduated from law school and got a judicial clerkship. At some point, we got used to the difficulty and reached the point where we stopped thinking it was crazy to have more children.

So we tried and tried and eventually, we found out I was pregnant with a second baby!

Matt has always said that having a child is like holding a bucket of water. At first, you think it's not that difficult, but when you realize you can't put it down — ever — you start to panic. You can hand it to someone else if they are willing to help. And when you do, they think it's not that hard to hold the bucket of water. After all, they can just give it back when they're tired of it. But for us parents, there is a fatigue that quickly overtakes us when holding the bucket or thinking about how heavy that bucket is.

A new panic set in when we thought about the realities of what having two buckets of water would be like. We only have four arms between the two of us! And how will we be able to afford daycare for two kids?

Thankfully, I was able to secure three months of maternity leave — again, half of it paid. To my surprise, having a second baby wasn't as hard as having the first one. I suppose I had already become adjusted to my "Mama" role. I flourished in my newfound love of having an infant. We spent our days cuddling, reading, napping, nursing, playing, and exploring our community. We spent our nights crying, nursing, changing dirty diapers, and trying to catch a few winks of sleep. It was delightful.

When I returned to work, my baby started full-time daycare down the hall from his big brother. I thought it would be easier this time. Boy, was I wrong! The kid was not interested in drinking from a bottle. At all. After several long months of him simply not thriving in that setting, it was time for us to look for a solution.

About the time that I found out his growth had plateaued, I found out about Nido. A coworking space with built-in childcare? A dream come true.

Emotionally spent and supremely sleep-deprived, I arrived at Nido hoping for the best. I continued to work full-time, while also working on my baby's weight gain and my own mental health. My mornings were once again filled with cuddling, reading, nursing, and playing. I found spare moments here and there — and during his naps — where I could do my job. My mom and mother-in-law volunteered many mornings over the last six months so I could work.

My afternoons have been magical. Just down the hall from a quiet work space (where I can do my job!), my child spends his time with other children. With the loving guidance of his teachers, he has learned how to play with others, feed himself, drink from a sippy cup, walk, put on a necklace, dig in the sand, make art, and be loved. I can pop in to nurse him on the days when he needs that. I can also spend hours of uninterrupted time on work.

Nido has exceeded my expectations in every way. I can't come up with the words to describe how much this place has meant to me. On the surface, it has provided a safe and nurturing environment where my now-toddler was given the needed sun, water, and love to grow. I have had a place where I can get the majority of my work done.

But more than that, Nido is a safe and nurturing community for all of us grown-ups too. I work alongside other parents with the same struggles, goals, and joys. I am constantly impressed by the accomplishments of other members at Nido — entrepreneurs, students, and remote employees alike. There is a powerful energy that comes from people working hard towards a common goal. In this case, pursuing personal goals that include career and family, without having to choose between them.

At Nido, I have also been given the needed sun, water, and love to grow. The members are gentle, kind, caring, and giving. Without question, they have given me the space to be myself, the encouragement to pursue my dreams, and the anchor to remember that parenting is hard — but we don't have to do it alone.

As my time at Nido is coming to a close, I am so thankful for the friends I have made here. I am heartsick to be leaving the nest. But I feel much more equipped to fly.

-Alisa

The In-Between Life

Thank you, Cindy, for this lovely post! Welcome to Nido! We're glad you're here. 

Being a business owner has many perks. You can set your own hours, don’t have to ask for time off to take vacations, and you are the boss. But when I became a business owner in early 2012, I was not prepared for how lonely it could be. The majority of my friends spent their days in offices or cubicles, chatting with co-workers, bonding over how mean the boss was, and lamenting their daily workload. In my world, I felt like I was going through everything by myself without anyone to talk to about daily issues or even triumphs.

I spent four years trying out all sorts of networking groups from Business Networking International to Chambers even specialized women’s business groups and although I did pick up some great friends and mentors along the way, I still didn’t have the community that I was seeking.

After I gave birth to my daughter earlier this year, I was lucky enough to find several groups in the area where I quickly made Mom friends. However, the challenges of juggling daily business management while taking care of my little one full-time one caused me constant stress. I felt like I wasn’t able to do either job very well at all. It became more and more difficult to schedule play-dates with other moms and when I did go, most of them didn’t understand my struggles. They had all made a choice- either continue working and put their child in daycare or stay at home full-time. I didn’t really fit into either one of those categories since I was trying to do both.

One day, I was reading something on the SoDu Parents Posse and came across a post about Nido. It was like one of the moments in a cartoon strip where the light bulb goes off over the character’s head.  I thought is it really possible that there is a place where I can continue to be a business owner but get a little help with my daughter during the week? Within a week, I was sitting in an interview with Lis and Tiffany, discussing membership.

Fast forward three months and I have now completed my first month at Nido. My daughter seems to really enjoy the teachers and other babies in her classroom. I have a space to do my work without worrying about her. And I think I might have finally found a community of other business owners who will understand my daily struggles. I am really looking forward to getting to know the other Nido members, learning about their businesses, and bonding over common business and parenting issues. 

"What did you do at school today?"

"What did you do at school today?" Most parents ask this question of their children only to get a "nothing" or "I don't know" response. Children live in the moment so their minds are on what they are doing now rather than what they did earlier in the day. Children also need time to process the events that have taken place. Ask about their day after they have had a chance to have some downtime.

In a Montessori class the children do on an average 6 to 9 works a day. They may eat snack which requires set up and clean up. They also have circle time, story time and play outdoors. That is a lot for a young mind to recall when asked, "What did you do today?"

There is a blog post written by Liz Nieman that has 6 Quick Conversation Starters for Preschoolers. This can be found at http://loveandmarriageblog.com/preschool-conversation-starters/.

Another good question is "Did you have a job today?' In our primary class we have 5 daily jobs. 1)Date the calendar, 2)Feed the fish, 3)Lead the line, 4)Ring the bell, 5)Turn off the lights. These jobs rotate so everyone gets a turn to do each job. Also ask them to "tell me about your day."

We as parents want to know what our children are doing at school. By adjusting our questions we can find out more about their day.

Jeannene

The Nest

“It’s nice just to get a chance to sit and think.”  I distinctly remember that thought bubbling up more than once when I first started coming to Nido over a year ago.  As with many mothers—especially those who spend the first part of a child’s life out of the paid workforce—becoming a parent had changed my relationship to my own mind.  As a lifelong reader, writer, and thinker, I soon found that being a parent, while wondrous (or, as my three-year-old would put it “funderful”), it was also ... how to put this delicately ... ego-shattering.  For someone who’d spent years of her life alone in rooms reading and thinking, first as a bookworm and later as a writer and academic, the shift toward stay-at-home parenting was a seismic one.  So, when my son and I first started coming to Nido, we were both looking to make a transition to the next stage.  Elias had just turned two and, while very mommy-centric, was and is also extremely social and curious about the world.  And I was just wondering how to pick up the thread of writing, thinking, and doing paid work.  

When I began at Nido, we had also just moved to Durham, so I was interested in making connections with the community.  As I think through my time here, I’m a little astounded at how well I’ve been able to bring together these goals—connection with community and embarking on next steps in my career.  Since joining Nido, I planned a community writing workshop, Reading and Writing from Life, then tested a one-day version of the workshop—mostly on eager and engaged Nido members— before launching two six-week versions of the course, which were held at the space on Saturdays last spring.  This course was developed with the encouragement and support of Nido founder Tiffany Frye, as well as graphic design assistance from member Ali Rudel.  I also launched a new author website for myself, with design help from Tiffany, who also works helping freelancers with social media.  I’ve been doing freelance editing for clients in academia and business, including doing work for a fellow Nido member.  Additionally, I attended a writing retreat for scholars at Nido, which was held by former member Margy Thomas Horton.  Phew.  

Honestly, I didn’t fully realize how much this community has been integral to my ability to once again think of myself as a teacher, writer, and editor until I sat down to write this blog post and began think through my experience here.  And this doesn’t even touch on what Nido has offered my son.  As I mentioned, Elias is social and curious, and these qualities have been encouraged and gently guided at Nido.  For example, it’s impossible to describe what it’s like to take a break from providing a response to a draft of a friend’s book of lyric essays to be served really delicious pesto made by preschoolers from basil grown on the premises.  (It’s really one of those, “Hey, I guess life really is sort of magical sometimes” moments.)  It’s also impossible to describe how excited Elias was about the chance to help make pesto, serve it, and then have a picnic with his friends back in the classroom.  In my time here, I’ve also been able to volunteer in the Chickadee room (babies and young toddlers) and to recall just how busy, curious, and communicative non-verbal little humans are.  Another time, I volunteered in the Children’s House (“big kid” room), where the children and I talked about trees and moved like trees and then wrote books together about trees.  It was then I realized that you really haven’t lived until you’ve taught poetry to preschoolers.      

Overall, it’s been invaluable to have had access to a cooperative co-working space with childcare as a way to introduce my son to preschool and re-introduce myself to the professional world.   This is a community that understands the odd cognitive and emotional demands of taking yourself seriously as parent to a very small child while also taking yourself seriously as a person with other, non-kid-related contributions to make to the world.  Elias and I are about to embark on our next adventure, when he’ll be at a different preschool in our neighborhood five mornings per week, while I work, think, and catch my breath from home.  We’re excited about continuing to make new friends, but our time at Nido will always be the “nest” we used to ease our way into the Durham community.            

-Joanna

You can read more of Joanna's work here: www.joannapenncooper.net

Choosing my words

We all know that words have power. As a writer and editor, I spend a lot of time thinking about words and word choice and what exactly I’m conveying when I pick one word or phrasing over another. Most of the time this is done as I sit at my computer with the luxuries of time to ponder and a “backspace” key that makes it easy to replace one choice with another. Yet, there’s another arena in which words carry just as much—if not more—weight yet I don’t have these same luxuries, and that is when I’m talking to my daughter.

For me, there are some obvious choices when it comes to talking to her. I try to be respectful, to treat her thoughts and opinions with the same respect I’d like mine to be treated. I try to be patient, to not speak over her or to put words in her mouth, even if it’s taking a while for her to get out what she’s trying to say. In her presence (and well, elsewhere too, though not always as successfully), I try not to curse or use other language that I don’t want her using anytime soon. And I try to be mindful of gendered language or using such terms as “bossy” (which, hey, let’s admit toddlers are, but it’s such a loaded word in relation to women acting as leaders) or phrases such as “good girl” (which, in my opinion, bears the historical weight of a girl being “good” if she’s quiet and obedient and unlikely to make waves).  

However, lately, as my daughter has gotten bolder and bolder in her exploration of her world, I’ve found myself repeatedly using a phrase that I’m not particularly fond of: “Be careful.” It’s not that I don’t want my daughter to be careful. When she’s walking through a parking lot or near a road, I want her to be careful. When she’s climbing up the latest thing she’s found to scale, nothing between her and the hard ground but a few feet of air, I want her to be careful. When she’s in the midst of a hushpuppy obsession and considering just how many she can fit in her mouth at once, I want her to be careful. I want my daughter to be whole and healthy; I want to avoid trips to the doctor’s office or ER. But I don’t want “Be careful” to be the mantra of her childhood. I don’t want her to grow up with that warning always ringing out in the back of her head.

Instead, I want my daughter to take risks, mostly well-considered ones, though maybe even a few foolish ones. I want her to be bold in her exploration. I want her to climb one rung higher than she thinks she can, go out a little further on that limb than she has before, venture farther afield with each new day. I don’t want her to live a life so blanketed with caution that she misses out on opportunities or fails to achieve that which she wants and is capable of if only she stretches herself. So how do I reflect that in my language? How do you warn your children of real and actual dangers while not stymieing their exploration of the world? I’m looking to learn and welcome suggestions.

-Theresa

Community

[nido member Emily's most recent blog post speaks to a feeling many nido members have experienced- a sense of community found in one another.]

nido is all about community, personally and professionally.

I recently started a new job and let me say: when I told a few people I was sitting with at nido, we all rejoiced together. It’s amazing to be in an environment where women are actually supporting each other. Another woman at the table had just gotten a new job too; another is looking for one and was asking the first about networking. As we all took a short break from our work and talked, I found myself thinking: we really are all in this together.

We’re all working on different things (academic research, writing, real estate), and we’re all working on the same thing: being parents and figuring out how to balance our passion outside the home with our passion inside the home—our families. In my approximately 6 months at nido, I’ve seen bonds form amazingly quickly both on a personal and professional level. I think it’s because we all know we’re in approximately the same season of life, and at nido, we’re living that season together. I’ve “slacked” nido members for professional help, quickly gotten responses, and concretely moved forward professionally because of the advice of other members. I’ve chatted with other moms about labor, the loneliness of parenting young kids when you formerly worked with other adults all day, the expectations others place on you, and the expectations you place on yourself. I’ve laughed about how we all drink so much coffee because parenting little kids can be really exhausting. And laughter really is a kind of medicine.

I’m pretty sure that parents everywhere are thirsting for something like nido: a community that brings kids into the mix; a place for kids to connect and work together, and moms and dads to connect and work together. It’s basically the best of community, holistically: personally, professionally, and with kids included. I think most of us, after all, just don’t want to be alone, and we don’t want to have to figure it all out by ourselves. That’s exhausting. Sometimes we need a boost from a friend or a colleague who is even just one little step ahead. Looking back at my time at nido, I can see that because of the help from, or even just the community togetherness, I’m a step further in some areas than I was when I first started at nido, and now I can give an extra boost to someone else. Through others giving to me, I can now give more to others. That’s how individuals and communities thrive. And, let’s face it, that’s also what makes us all a bit happier along the way. 

-Emily

It Takes a Village

[In her first blog post, nido member Johnavae talks about what it has been like for her daughter to have been a part of nido since her infancy]

Quinn, my 20 month-old, has, to some degree, grown up at nido, or at least knows nido as an extension of home.  A caring community that oversees her little needs, wants, and adventures. Coming from Colorado…a long way from home, this is by all means welcomed by me, her dad, and missed by her older sister - who is now embarking on full-day adventures. Last January I learned about nido (a pilot project then) from a classmate, a friend.  Eager to learn what it means to participate in a community of like-minded individuals, who share a similar love for attachment to both their children and their creative minds, I was hooked. Sure, it is a bit of a burden at times to gather myself, my child and all of my belongings drive 20 minutes from Chapel Hill to Durham and do it all over again when the day is over, but for this past year…for her first year of life, I would do it all over again and then some. 

For those like me, who aren’t stay-at-home moms and don’t always have the time to connect with other moms or create playdates for their toddler and don’t want their child too far away from kisses and hugs during the day, nido is a blessing. Keeping her close is more for me than for her, though, I am sure, Quinn loves her nido home.  nido is in a class of its own. A nanny doesn’t offer the networking afforded to us from nido, nor does staying at home solve my need to work. A daycare takes her away from me, and well, there you go.

Quinn is her own little person now, shaped by a positive, loving community and wrapped in a mother’s determination to keep her close.  It has done wonders for sustaining her happiness and great smile, and truth is it hasn’t been so bad for my own growth either.  An opportunity to share my thoughts, fears, and dreams for my child in a safe place, with informed minds.  Quinn has adopted a family in nido, and for all purposes…so have I.  

-Johnavae

Balancing Family Leave

[Theresa and her first child have been nido members over the past year, but with a second child on the way, her most recent blog post reflects upon the challenges of new parental leave in our society.]

In May, my family will grow by one. We’ve been doing the usual preparing, or at least as much preparing as one does with a second child, which I’ll admit hasn’t been that much. The main tasks thus far have been trying to prepare our daughter, who will be 22 months at the time, for the arrival of a sibling (another girl she tells us [we’ve chosen not to find out] who we shall name “Milk” [we’re not quite sold]), and trying to imagine the best possible work–life balance in both the immediate postpartum months and in the months and years to follow.

Though figuring this out is a challenge for all parents-to-be—especially in this country, where we have no national policies on maternity leave, where paternity leave is still rare, and where the addition of a child to a family is treated by the working world primarily as a medical event and nothing more—it is particularly difficult as a freelancer. I have no maternity leave policy, paltry or otherwise. I have no FMLA or short-term disability to protect me. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. If I don’t work, I will lose clients and projects.

In the freelance world, it’s not uncommon to hear of new moms going back to work the same week their child is born, the baby in a bassinet beside them or tucked up against their chest in a wrap. They work as their child naps. They work as the baby nurses. In fact, before my first child was born, I had some thoughts that this would be me, maybe not in that first week or month, but not too long thereafter. Then reality hit, and I had a newborn who wasn’t much interested in sleeping or quietly hanging out, even while being held. She needed to be bounced on an exercise ball or walked around constantly, neither of which is very conducive to working. In the end, I took a full six months away from work, then slowly returned, first by making use of nap times, then by adding in an in-home sitter, and finally by joining nido shortly after my daughter turned one. Still, I work only a fraction of what I did before she was born.

Let me be clear, this is a choice I made, and a choice that is best for me and my family. It is also a choice I am extremely fortunate to have been able to make. I have a partner who makes a salary substantial enough to support our family and who is also able, through his work, to provide us with health insurance. I have an extended family that goes above and beyond to help us out. I have a wonderful network of friends. I have the benefits of a good education and a strong resume. I have the experience and reputation in my field to be secure in knowing that even if I do lose work now, I will later be able to rebuild my portfolio of clients and reestablish my workload. And I have access to a place like nido, a rare place combining co-working and childcare that I’m lucky enough to have just a few blocks from my home. This is privilege; I’m fully aware of that.

Yet still, as I prepare for the addition of a new member to my family, I can’t help but wish that our society didn’t make it so difficult for parents, and women in particular, to balance family and work, to use their substantial knowledge, skills, and abilities both at home and in the broader world. As I listen to all the mad rhetoric of an election year here in this country, I wonder when it is we will start addressing these issues—and with far more than lip service to how great mothers (and fathers) are. And I ask myself what it is I can do, to make a difference. Ideas are welcome. 

-Theresa

Taking a Moment for Quiet Moments

[In our most recent member post Emily shares a realization she had about down time and how she focuses on enjoying it now.]

My kids are noisy. Messy. They want to be touched or to touch me. All. The. Time.

I love them, and all that kid interaction is great (kid snuggles are the best), but sometimes it adds up and becomes too much for me. I want quiet. I want to sit with no one grabbing at my face or kicking me (that’s what my 9 month old likes to do whenever I nurse her). I want to have some time with minimal sensory input. Like in a sensory deprivation chamber maybe.

Even when a peaceful moment comes, the threat of interruption hangs over my head. Does this happen to you? The kids are playing quietly, or napping, and you find yourself sitting there dreading the moment he, or she, or they will wake up. For me, that dread steals the restfulness of those moments.  

I’ll offer you something I learned recently. The idea just popped into my head…a parenting gestalt moment, if you will. If I can’t change my situation (that my peaceful moments might be disturbed) then I could change my experience of them. Instead of worrying about when the quiet moment would end, I’ve been practicing enjoying it fully, right now.

When I enjoy a quiet moment without worrying when it will end, or counting how long it’s lasted so far, I find myself more refreshed when it actually does end. I no longer measure the restfulness of a moment by how long it lasts, but instead by its mere presence. That it does come. I enjoy rest itself, instead of confusing “rest” with a length of time. Funnily enough, when I stopped worrying about how long my quiet moment would last, the quiet moments seemed to last longer. One small moment would become the infinite “now.”

Maybe that sounds kind of mystical, but then, maybe parenting requires a little bit of the mystical. Who knows? I just know that since I’ve started practicing enjoying the quiet—right now—without thinking about when or that it will end, I actually have a little store of refreshment and rest building deep within me. I have something to draw on when I’m tired or stressed. And that deep reserve is just tiny moments, experienced deeply.

Letting Them Help

[In her most recent blog post, nido member, Theresa, discusses the merits of letting your child help, even if it's not the most efficient means of getting things done!]

“Me help.” The refrain echoes through our house. No matter the task—unloading groceries, emptying the dishwasher, preparing a meal, sweeping the floors, dusting, folding the laundry—my 18-month-old wants to be involved. It’s a trait I want to encourage, not only because helping is a kind thing to do but also because as a member of a family (and of society more broadly) helping is a necessity.

Yet, let’s be honest, my daughter’s ability to help is not quite matched with her enthusiasm for helping, and her help often results in a task taking much longer than it would take without help. The quick curry I planned to make for dinner becomes a multi-hour endeavor as she helps wash the peppers, open the can of coconut milk, cut the eggplant, and measure and pour the rice. Running out to pick up my husband from work on a rare day when he hasn’t taken his bike means starting the process of leaving half an hour before we need to go rather than the usual five minutes as my daughter deliberates over which jacket she’ll wear, wrestles her feet into her own shoes (after first trying on everyone else’s), and walks herself out the door and down the stairs to the car. In some ways, I’m reminded of her infant days, when doing anything took remarkably longer than I ever imagined possible before having a child.

But this is not my daughter’s problem; it’s mine. She is doing her best given her current size and abilities, and my job as a parent—especially as a believer in the Montessori principle of allowing children to do all they can for themselves—is to facilitate her helping me.

On the basic level, what this means is providing accessibility. It’s coat hooks at her level and a special cubby for her shoes. It’s clothes stored in low drawers that she can open herself. It’s a helper stand in the kitchen that brings her safely up to counter height. It’s keeping her dishes and utensils in places she can access on her own.

But, mostly, what it means is resetting my own expectations. It’s learning that emptying the dishwasher isn’t just a mindless task to be completed in two minutes but is instead a fifteen-minute learning experience in which we explore sizes (small, medium, and big plates), name colors (hooray for Fiestaware!), and practice sorting by type (forks here, spoons there). It’s looking at a task that seems too complicated for her (folding laundry) and finding what it is she can do (pick out all of the socks). It’s overlooking the mess made when she helps crack eggs in favor of noticing the huge smile of pride on her face as she presents me with the finished plate of pancakes.

And on days when it’s hard to accept the increased amount of time and effort required for her to help (not to mention the mess that often comes with her helping), I remember that smile and know that it’s worth it. Because what that time and effort and mess are buying me is not just a little help, but a daughter with confidence in her own abilities, knowledge of the value of hard work, and certainty in her place as a valued and necessary member of this family and of the world.  

-Theresa