As an investor, founder, CEO and business book author, I write about startups, design, how to build a good business, and I like to muse about culture in any form.

Sometimes it’s the little things

childI’ve juggled being a mother, and a career, for so long that living in a constant squeeze play seems normal.  But I was still surprised to learn how grateful BostonMamas founder Christine Koh was that we welcomed her daughter Laurel to a recent meeting at the Daily Grommet offices.  I am sure the super-smart and observant Christine had other takeaways from her first encounter with the Daily Grommet team, but this is what she immediately wrote in a blog post entitled “Children welcome“,

I was invited to a meeting scheduled for a day that I’m without childcare. And while I suppose I could have cast around for a babysitter (admittedly though, our options are very limited…), having met some of the Daily Grommet folks at BlogHer Boston, plus knowing that their offices are in Lexington (i.e., not corporate downtown), plus suspecting that Laurel would think it was a fun little adventure to accompany mommy to a work meeting, I decided to do something I never would have done during my postdoctoral fellowship…I asked whether I could bring my daughter to the meeting.

No one batted an eye at four-year-old Laurel’s presence, and she was a total delight.  But I had no idea that it meant so much to Christine.

At a startup we have the usual tension between being cash starved, yet needing to get Herculean work done by each person.  Given that no one is earning a proper salary at Daily Grommet, we have to be a bit more creative in how we approach the whole package of give and take.  And that naturally includes total flexibility about when and how the work gets done.  We work around people’s lives because it is creative, expedient, and the right thing to do.  It does mean plenty of midnight and weekend email exchanges, and populating the office at very odd hours, but it somehow all flows.

This is a far cry from some bad old big company days.  I am remembering back to a time just after the birth of my third son.  He had trouble gaining weight because he had a very time-consuming feeding problem.  Handling the morning with three children alone was darn near impossible.  I was locked to a chair for at least an hour with the new baby.  My husband shifted his work start time to make sure the two other boys saw some breakfast and did not escape out the door while their mother was nearly immobilized.  It was a stressful time, to say the least, and it lasted until that third child went on solid food.  But the worrisome early days were made all the worse when my husband’s boss said, after two weeks, “Well now that the baby is out of the woods [he wasn’t], can you start coming in at 7 again?”

Similarly, I remember the big company President I worked for who routinely toured each office before 8 to see who was in–with no differentiation for people who had day care drop-offs.  It was such a trivial measure of productivity–especially because he had a habit of leaving at 5PM every day and had no idea how many late nights most of us worked to get the job done.

I’m dwelling on the obvious face time issues here.  And I’ve been blessed with some pretty terrific work situations.  But the scope and range of these challenges, for virtually all parents, is enormous.  The bottom line is we all know when we work in a place where families are respected, vs. one where they are resented.  I am grateful for Christine Koh’s little reminder of how sometimes just a tiny accommodation can be disproportionately helpful to a busy young parent.

3 Responses to “Sometimes it’s the little things”

  1. Christine Koh

    Indeed, Jules, the little things matter enormously, especially to someone like me, for whom the hourly math does not add up — with a high workload but only part-time child care.

    In fact, it seems almost incorrect to refer to our visit to Daily Grommet as work – having Laurel happily cuddled on my lap munching on food and working on an activity book is rather similar to what we would have done at home that morning – but the paths I have walked previously have been similarly rigid as yours and I subsequently never take these instances of flexibility and acceptance for granted.

    Thanks again; it was a pleasure to meet the team and I look forward to more interaction!

  2. ChildcareMama

    A very inspirational piece. I’ve sent to a couple of my friends and one of the is a business owner who is considering adopting a “daycare on-site” service for his employees. Free of charge.

  3. Emily

    Yes, I thought seeing your little one was a real treat, Christine. Made me want to go get mine 🙂 Next visit to Grommet HQ, Maris is along for the ride!


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