• Cicely Blain

Nestworks Founder Madeleine Shaw on Family Attachment & The False Binary of Work/Life Separation


Attaining quality and affordable childcare is an all too familiar struggle for new parents. Combine that with having no maternity leave benefits, and you have the inspiration behind Madeleine Shaw’s Nestworks.

When Madeleine and her business partner wanted to start their own families in the early-mid 2000s, the fact that they wouldn’t have any maternity leave benefits was a difficult reality to accept. Finding themselves in a bind, they decided to take matters into their own hands. “On top of the still-present dearth of affordable quality childcare and the baseline fact that we needed to keep working in order to support our growing families, we decided to bring our babies to work with us,” she explains. “What this ended up looking like was having 1-2 children under 18 months of age with us at the office over a period o around 5 years. Doing this illuminated the false binary of work/life separation and how poorly parents, women, children and families are served under the present paradigm.”

After spending years trying to convince others to implement family-friendly workspaces, Shaw finally decided to take to her own advice, which is when she created Nestworks. “Nestworks seeks to offer a multi-generational, community-based space that supports local resilience and family attachment,” she says. “Most workspaces exclude children and most employers do little to support team members who are parents.”

Through this initiative, Shaw aims to raise awareness about the harmful ways insufficient childcare can affect not just working parents, but working mothers in particular. “Women are disproportionately affected by lack of access to childcare, which translates into additional unpaid labour and slowed career and earning potential,” she explains. “Separation affects both parents and children, and can be extremely stressful. Consider the impact for both parents and children that knowing the other was proximate and able to check in, even for a few minutes during the day, might have on mental health?”

While Nestworks aims to challenge the work/life binary, Shaw has experienced some setbacks along the way. “Restrictive regulatory and licensing issues, as well as unaffordable commercial real estate lease rates are our major challenges.” Shaw hopes her initiative encourages other companies to adopt a more open-minded perspective to childcare as well as recognize the strenuous experiences parents go through in pursuit of it. “Employers generally could be more flexible and accommodating towards team members who are parents (or caregivers of Elders, for that matter).”

Working towards opening their first location in 2020, Nestworks is currently collecting User needs information in the meantime. The survey is accessible on their website, www.nestworks.space.

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