Dads Who Cowork | By Neil F. Carlson
Neil Carlson is the CEO and cofounder (along with his spouse, Erin Carney) of Brooklyn Creative League. When he’s not at work, he coaches his daughter’s softball team and serves as dungeon master for his son’s Dungeons & Dragons posse.
One of the principal reasons my spouse, Erin Carney, and I started Brooklyn Creative League, way back in 2009, was because working from home became impossible once we had babies. Don’t get me wrong, it was great when our firstborn was an infant: I could duck out of our home office, play with her for a bit, and scoot back in for my next conference call.
But all that came to a screeching halt—literally—when object permanence kicked in and our daughter started wailing outside the door when I was trying to work. Erin and I realized that I needed someplace to work outside of our apartment, but I—like increasing numbers of men—wanted to share parenting duties more equitably with my spouse. A 2014 study by Pew Research found that there were 2 million stay-at-home dads, double the number there were in 1989. What’s more, there is a growing number of what the Good Men Project calls Work At Home Dads (WAHDs)—men who are building families and careers based on “partnerships, not predetermined roles.” (Which is not to overstate the change: While men do an average of 8 hours per week of childcare, three times as much as they did in 1965, it’s still far less than the average 14 hours that women put in.)
In any case, one of our principal goals in starting BCL was to create both a space and a community that would help us be good parents and accomplished professionals. That’s a goal that has resonated with other dads, so we talked with some new dads here at BCL to ask them about how coworking in general—and BCL specifically—has helped them balance career and family—and what advice they would have for other new dads. Here are the big takeaways:
1. Separating the Home and Work Makes Everything Work Better
“The obvious benefit of a coworking space is is that it allows you to get out of the apartment to work when there’s a small child running around like crazy,” said Oliver Burkeman, a columnist and author, who splits day-to-day care of his one year-old son with his partner. Beyond the practical benefits, Burkeman added, having a coworking space offered an additional psychological boost. “When I step back in the apartment after working, I can really focus properly on being with the baby instead of having my attention split between my son and the work that’s lying in wait for me in my home office.”
For Matt Easton, a human rights consultant and writer, and longtime BCL member, coworking was central to the plans he and his partner made when deciding to get pregnant. “I knew several members who once worked from home,” he recalls. “They assumed they would be able to work at home with a baby or toddler, and soon discovered it was impossible. So I knew in advance I would need a place to clear my head and work, and also have all my work materials in one place safe from tiny hands.”
2. Misery and Joy Both Love Company
Finding a coworking space allows dads to connect with other parents. Burkeman and Easton, for example, have dedicated desks next to each other, and they often talk shop. “Matt’s daughter is a few months older than my son, so I get this brilliant thing where I have a preview of what’s coming my way,” Burkeman said. “But it’s mostly about sharing the experience — the miseries, yes, but also the many joys–with another father.”
“I love being around other dads,” noted attorney Robert Cox, who is the primary caregiver for his two boys, both under five. “I met our attorney at BCL, and now he’s my office mate and fellow dad friend.”
3. Find Something in the Neighborhood
Interested in a coworking space? Then find something in the neighborhood. BCL member, Adam Peltzman, a writer and creator of kids TV shows, and father of a 15-month-old girl, counseled working dads to maximize their work and family time. “If you’re a new father you may find that you don’t have as much time for work as you used to – so make choices that allow you to maximize the hours you have,” he said. Finding a coworking space near home was key, Peltzman said. “Find a place close to home so you don’t have to spend a lot of time commuting, or find a quiet place if you really need to focus. If you’re a freelancer, take advantage of some of the flexibility that lifestyle offers to create a work schedule that really works for your family.”
Easton had similar advice: “Work close enough to home that you can maximize time with your kid, and also be able to pop into the office if a few hours opens up in your schedule.”
4. Enjoy Your Kids!
While all the WAHDs we spoke with for this post noted that balancing career and childcare was a huge challenge, all of them welcomed the tradeoffs. “I love being a part of the little daily routines which are so important, like dinner time, bath time,” Peltzman said. “I especially love reading to her every night before bed. And of course it’s so much fun to see how she changes and what she’s interested in. Right now her big thing is music. She loves the record player.”
“For me, it’s just those moments of walking through Prospect Park and finding out what he’s interested in,” Burkeman said. “The squirrel in the tree or whatever. There’s no way to talk about this without resorting to cliches but you really do see the world through a fresh set of eyes.”
None of this is easy, noted Easton, but it’s worth the struggle. “I love being a dad,” he said. “But hearing Dadd-dy when I walk into her room in the morning is especially good.”
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