ARLINGTON – Arlington’s Mary Andersen was in a bind five years ago, struggling to find a work-life balance between her new bookkeeping practice, and the child care costs and “mom guilt” from missing her 3-year-old son.
“Young parents want to strike that balance,” said Andersen, who owns Andersen Accounting Solutions. “They can still have their careers, but want to be able to see their children, too. They just need a quiet place to focus and somebody to watch them for a few hours.”
Andersen knew there were other parents in the same situation. When she started keeping books for the Stilly Valley Chamber of Commerce that relocated its offices into the Stillaguamish Valley Collective building, she researched how child care could be incorporated into the flexible co-working space shared by a variety of businesses that opened last year at 103 E. 3rd St.
As a result, she opened Arlington Playspace on the second floor of the collective. It caters to kids 6 months to 11 years old, with space for up to six children.
Andersen said working at home has its advantages, but she missed the co-worker interaction you lose when you’re self-employed.
“I like the idea of being able to run my own business, have the flexibility, have the co-worker interaction and being in town among all the people I know and spend time with, but I can also have a good situation for my daughter,” she said.
Chamber executive director Jen Egger said among her long-term plans was to “start drop-in child care in a supervised playroom for parents who need peace to work without kids in the background.”
Co-working spaces with child care are starting to sprout in big cities, so it’s a bit of a leap to give it go in Arlington, but Andersen said it’s worth the challenge.
The playspace is set up like any child care room, with book cases and colorful containers filled with preschool toys and games, picture books, a padded floor, pillows and play tables.
The workspace for adults is right next door, with a large smoked-mirror window in between so parents can look in on their kids while they work.
The Playspace offers working parents a few options.
• Drop-in child care while using another business in the building, or child care only if you’re planning to shop or be active within close range of the Placespace, starting at $10 for one child for an hour.
• A work and play choice for parents who need time occasionally and want to book a few hours in the Arlington Workspace with childcare included, but aren’t ready to set up a monthly membership. Rates are $25 for two hours or $35 for three.