#ParentLifeMadeEasy PlayPen

Alexandra Faint

Our #ParentLifeMadeEasy campaign has been focusing on the struggles that we face as parents and any ideas for making life that bit easier. This could mean anything from a simple but effective product like the ScooterSlingz bag, to a business tackling a very current and real issue, such as how both parents can maintain a career after having children. Flexible working options are extremely limited and so many parents are starting their own ventures or finding new careers where they can freelance. Childcare is a whole other ballgame and equally as inflexible, not to say expensive. PlayPen Cowork and Creche was set up by working mum Leo Wood and gives parents the opportunity to have a few uninterrupted hours working in a cafe, whilst their children are playing in the creche in the next room. It’s genius and quite frankly we want to see more of them. We caught up with Leo to find out what struggles she’s faced as a parent and what inspired her to start PlayPen.

Since becoming a mum what have you have found to be most challenging?

The most challenging thing about being a mum is either the lack of sleep and constant ‘ache between the eyes’ feeling of tiredness, or the relentlessness of looking after a small child morning, noon and night. Now Evie is nearly three though both of those things are so much easier, but I’m about to have another baby so am slightly nervous about going through it all again!

Have you got any tips for keeping children entertained on the go, in the car or on the tube for example?

Whenever we head out on the tube I always make sure there’s a good supply of small little bite-sized snacks that I can drip feed my daughter (!). She also now loves some of those kids magazines with colouring, stickers and general activities. One magazine can keep Evie entertained for a couple of hours. For the car we definitely often resort to downloaded cBeebies shows on the iPad as well. And she’s pretty good at being entertained by her general surroundings though and is often making friends on the tube!

What is your #ParentingLifesaver? The one thing you couldn’t survive without. 

Such a boring answer but wet wipes?!

Does your child/children have a favourite toy they couldn’t live without, that if they lost all hell would break loose?

Yes, a tiny little comforter dog toy called Bruno. But Evie’s still a bit fickle, some of the old firm favourites have been left behind and she’s starting to move into a doll phase too, and loves swaddling and caring for her Annabel doll which I’m encouraging as I’m expecting another baby very soon so it will be handy if she can transfer that interest to a real life doll!

There are so many amazing parents out there doing what they can to make life better for their kids and trying to master the work life balance, do you know any particular favourites we should follow?  

I’ve recently met with Anna Ehnold-Danailov and Cassie Raine who set up the amazing PIPA (Parents in Performing Arts) campaign ( which similarly to PlayPen is trying to support and highlight the issues facing freelancing parents, particularly those in the performing arts. PIPA have been so clever in getting the support of and setting up a consortium of key arts organisations to make their vital work as sustainable and high impact as possible.

What inspired you to start PlayPen and have you got any advice for women out there thinking of starting their own business?

It was only once I had a child of my own that I realised the minefield that is flexible childcare, which is so vital if you’re a parent who works freelance, or who wants to work part-time or set up a new business venture. As I had already set up a coworking space (Winkley Studios @winkleystudios) I felt that my way of trying to support this issue would be to set up another workspace but one that had crèche facilities. I ended up not materialising a permanent full-time workspace & crèche but instead a “pop up” version in the form of PlayPen; the ‘pop up’ part time element having both its advantages and limitations.

I think that my key piece of advice for any woman or mother trying to set up a new business would be to undertake a lot of research first and to not be backward about approaching people to ask for their advice or support – whether that’s asking them to meet for a coffee or sit on a board of advisors or something else. Lots of people really do like to share their knowledge and support new ideas without asking for too much in return. I also think that it’s vital not to have your blinkers on and to listen to any advice that you do receive. It’s possible that your business idea, much as you are attached to it, isn’t fully viable and might need developing or moving on from. It’s important to make sure that you are prepared to adapt and change your idea based on your research or feedback that you get.

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