As someone who champions my local area and attempts to celebrate the variety of that exists within it, I’m sharing something today that is a bit different. We’re very lucky in Edinburgh to have a multitude of childcare options available to us, but there’s no denying that it’s crippling expensive and really not an option that everyone would be happy with.

So today, I’m sharing a post by Siân Harris whose proposing another way…

Today and for the next 7 days, anyone over the age of 8 who lives, works, studies or volunteers in Leith can vote on how to spend a substantial pot of money. This is quite a big deal for me, because I’ve been incubating an idea for almost 2 years that I’ve now decided to share. I’m really hoping that people will get behind it, because I believe it could hugely benefit parents and carers in Edinburgh.

When Son No 1 appeared, I needed to get back to work, but I also needed child care that was in alignment with the way we want to raise our child. I hate labelling it, because it’s basically just how our parents raised us. We’re both ex-pat kids, raised in hot countries where children are included in a way that just doesn’t normally happen in the UK. If I had to describe our parenting style, we’re probably most aligned to the attachment parenting model; baby-led weaning; extended breastfeeding (or as I like to call it, breastfeeding); no sleep training or controlled crying; lots of baby wearing; no screens; and integrating him into our lives completely. (Yes, I really did take him to business meetings and networking lunches, and it was fine.)

I looked and looked, and while there are some great nurseries and creche facilities in Edinburgh, there was nothing that hit the mark. Everything meant compromising either my career (and mental health and financial security) or my values as a parent. We ended up with a solution I don’t think any of us were entirely happy with.

When we discovered No 2 is on the way, I realised I needed to stop wishing there was a better way and start making it happen.

The theory:

Kids were always in the workplace. Then the industrial revolution happened and the workplace became a loud, dangerous, male place. We shifted to offices, which were quiet and safe, but male, and when women were finally allowed in, it was as faux-men, on their terms. So the children had to stay at home.

I’m not saying that all children can go into all workplaces – far from it. But many more workplaces could be much more child friendly with a little bit of thought and effort. Forward thinking big employers are figuring that out already, and realise the way to retain great staff is to give them the flexibility and support they need with their families. I want to provide that for independent and remote workers.

The vision:

All of these thoughts led me to a develop the idea of KinCo-Working: A community of like-minded parents, sharing the same work space and regularly taking play breaks with their kids, while working on stuff that make the world a better place.

So what does it look like? The co-working space is professional, the type of place you can be proud to invite a client, and hosts regular networking and learning events. You can buy set hours/month, and schedule when you want to be there, or take a chance and drop in. The nursery setting is child-led and set up to support families, not just babysit children. Parents and carers are encouraged to interact with the children throughout the day, at meal and snack times, or when they need a ‘creative break’. There are wellness facilities so you can have a shower – or a nap! – or just sit and chat or read a magazine over a decent (decaf) coffee. There are therapy rooms for regular massage therapists or counselling or a haircut! Whatever we decide we want, as a community.

It’s really important to me that we build a community – especially for the kids. I don’t want a farm of 60 in at once, I’m thinking less than 20 at a time, but if we get it going as a ‘hub’ and there’s demand, we open more hubs. Super local, strong communities = attached kids.

I’m doing this as collaboratively and transparently as possible. It’s really important that the parents and carers who join KinCo-Working feel supported by it, not dictated to, and that means listening to what they need from the outset.

We have a Facebook group, where I’m sharing key documents explaining the vision and setting out how I think things will work. I’m really keen to get feedback on what people need. Obviously, I can’t please all the people – and I’ve no intention of trying to, but if you agree with the philosophy behind it, if you agree that what we think is ‘normal’ is indeed normal, then you’re probably going to be on board with a lot more of it.

The philosophy:

It is normal:

  • to wear your sleeping baby
  • to nurse your baby when they cry
  • to stop working to attend to your child’s needs
  • to stop working and have a play break
  • (so it’s normal for parents to drop in and play with their children at the nursery)
  • to eat meals with your child
  • (so it’s normal for parents to come and join their children for lunch or snacks)
  • to get to know your child’s friends
  • (so it’s normal to interact with other people’s children, and have other parents interact with yours)
  • to eat real food that’s freshly prepared
  • to nap in the middle of the afternoon (or whenever you need to)
  • to look after yourself as well as your child and your business
  • (so it’s normal to take some of that time when your child is in the nursery for a massage, or a yoga session, or just to sit and read)
  • to make a cup of tea for the parent sitting next to you
  • to chat to your neighbour about a problem you’re having with your business or with your child
  • to let people know you can’t chat right now because you’re focussed on your work
  • to be respectful of the people around you and their need for quiet/privacy/etc
  • to move to a quiet space for private or important phone calls
  • to collaborate
  • to network

Big Brunch

So now on to the voting process that starts today. Leith Chooses enables folk connected to Leith to vote on how part of the council budget is spent in our community. I’ve applied for £500 to hold 2 social events enabling parents to connect and talk about what we need from childcare and how we make it happen in Leith.

We’ll meet, share food, connect, make friends and explore the issues and, of course, we’ll have qualified people on hand to entertain the kids while we do the grown up bit.

I’ll share the results of the research publicly, and with policy makers – they can’t give us what we need if we don’t tell them!

You can find out more about Leith Chooses here:  Voting starts today and runs until 10th March. Siân Harris is a designer, editor, website builder and branding expert. She’s mum to a little boy with another wee one on the way.

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