Le Village is an inviting, creative & extremely cool space. The best part- it’s just as much for parents as it is for littles. Daniella offers a flexible child care option combined with a gorgeous co-working space that really embodies the saying “it takes a village”. She is truly an innovator and more importantly, just a kind, thoughtful person! Read on to learn more about Le Village and the women behind the space.
How long have you lived in Chicago and what brought you to the city?
I moved to Chicago in 2008 post-graduation with my best friends. I am from a really small town in Ohio originally. New York was too intimidating and LA was too schmoozy for me–I am definitely a midwesterner LOL. Plus we were all theatre kids and Chicago has such an amazing theatre scene!
You have an adorable daughter that we see on instagram- how old is she and what are some activities you enjoy doing as a family in the city?
Thank you! Vivie is 20 months (I cannot believe that!). This year would have been the first year that she would have been big enough for her to really enjoy all that they city has to offer, and I was looking forward to street fests, the beach, and Cubs games! Of course, our reality has shifted quite a bit these days. Now we love to visit the North Park Village Nature Center where she can explore the outdoors right in the city while still social distancing.
It must be wonderful to have your daughter within your work space, but not IN your space! Tell us how a typical day might go at Le Village.
Haha. Yes, all of our parents are really missing our actual Le Village space! Typically, we get to Le Village and Vivie has breakfast in our cafe with some of her classmates and I’ll have a cup of coffee with their parents. Then we let the kids run in our indoor Open Play Room for 20 minutes, and I’ll help our teachers get everything prepped for class. At 9:00, I drop her into class where our teachers take over with custom curriculum tailored to our kids to help them explore their senses, social, and fine/gross motor skills. Our parents are well into their morning at this point, taking calls in our phone booths, hosting meetings, and answering emails. Her class goes down for a nap at 11:30 and I’ll cross over to check on our “Wigglers” (babies) classroom where a constant flow of feeding, changing, and naptimes is always going on with our teachers. When Vivie gets up from her nap, we have lunch together and playtime again! I am really looking forward to opening our back patio once we re-open, so part of our new schedule will be going outside to play! Then in the afternoon, I drop her back into class to get some work done again! Everyone’s schedules tend to be a little bit different. Our space is built to flex around a parent’s day and their needs and actually let them be hands-off while still being onsite to see their little ones!
How did you come up with the concept for Le Village? When did you reach the point where you decided it was time to take the leap?
I was a new mom. I was facing the prospect of returning to work and found the thought of leaving Vivie for 10+ hours a day to be nauseating. I felt like I would never see her between the commute and the long corporate workday. And yet, giving up a career didn’t seem to jive either. Unfortunately, at her age, I needed more than just activities. I needed to be able to walk away and focus for a chunk of time. I personally was looking for this service.
And I honestly figured with the growth of the coworking market that there would be tons of people doing this. No one was. This was in September 2018, and I just thought, why can’t I do this? I can. I need to! For myself. For my daughter. For women. (We talk a lot at Le Village about the Motherhood Penalty and how a service like ours prevents women from feeling like they have to take a backseat in the workplace.) I wanted to have my cake and eat it too.
We are one of the first in the nation and the first in the midwest and we are proud to pave the way!
What classes or services do you offer? Following that, we’ve had to quickly adapt to many changes in the wake of Covid-19. How did you pivot to adapt and do you see continuing in that direction at all once businesses are able to open again?
For specifics, definitely head to our services page, but in a nutshell, our physical space offers the opportunity to work full time and have access to your kids as often as you want to. We offer the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your kids aren’t only playing and safe, but are also being cared for and taught. I think what we’ve all learned recently is that there is a reason that being a teacher is a specific profession! We offer sanity by being able to completely walk away, put headphones in, and work. We offer community and connection with people that are passionate professionals and parents. And we’re new, so we are still working! When we shut the doors we were focused on creating partnerships with some amazing businesses (some that you’ve featured!) for science clubs, and cooking and anything else that we think could round out your or your child’s experience. We’re just waiting for this all to pass!
In the meantime, we have definitely had to pivot. This is all terrifying, but it has also pushed me to take a hard look at who we are as a business. We are not just four walls and a bunch of amenities. We are a community and we are our amazing staff and teachers. So how do take that and help parents where they are? Home. More specifically stuck and home, with a baby or a toddler, trying to work and trying not to feel neglectful. So we created Le Village CONNECTED which is still evolving. It’s daily classes with our teaching staff and weekly activities specifically geared for babies and toddlers 6m-3y. Towards the end of this week, we will be releasing a portal for Le Village CONNECTED where our content, live videos, lessons, templates and more will live for even faster access. We will also be selling materials and prep packs for parents to make life even easier while they work to teach their babies and toddlers at home. Follow us on Insta for more details! I still believe we need people and community. That hasn’t changed. But we also recognize the need to evolve and grow.
What advice can you offer parents working from home over shelter in place?
I think the first thing that families need to do is to redefine their workday and set those boundaries with their partner and with their employer. With babies and toddlers at home, it is nearly impossible to work 9a-5p. You might be working from 6a-9a, and then 12p-3p, and then wrapping up 8p-9p. And that’s okay. It has to be. Don’t commit to meetings when you know your kid starts having meltdowns at that exact time. Learn to push back and say no. Now is our time to redefine what it means to be a working parent. My husband takes early mornings with Vivie, we have family time in the late morning after her virtual class, and then she goes down for a nap. He goes to work and I go back to work. And then when she gets up, I’m on until 6 when we have family time in the evening. Then she goes down and we both wrap up our day. It’s no longer consecutive but it’s all getting done.
And PLANNING. Take 20 minutes to plan. I use Le Village CONNECTED but, Also Pinterest- whatever works. Before Vivie gets up from her nap, I set out 3 activities for her to do. She may do one, none, or all three, but I invested in her and that makes me feel better. Then when that last second email comes in at 4:30 when I’m supposed to be hanging with her, I can multi-task more successfully and full of less guilt. At the end of the day, I always feel like I did enough with her because at least I made the effort!
What’s the best parenting advice you have received?
Kids are resilient, it’s us parents who are fragile. My mom told me this. This was when I had gone back to work and was killing myself with mom-guilt. My mom worked my whole childhood and she was and is an amazing mother. She asked me why I was so upset suddenly about being a working mom, I think feeling her own guilt creep in. But it wasn’t that! Then she hit it on the head. I’d been framing it all around my daughter, but it was really about me, not about her at all. She was fine without me. I just wasn’t fine without her. So define and admit your own needs when it comes to your kids. Parenting is really about being the best version of “mom” that you want and need to be. And that could be working, or at home, or working from home 😉
Let’s talk quarantine survival- what are a few things you’re doing to get through the weeks in a positive way?
I try to do one nice thing for myself every day. It doesn’t have to be glamorous–paint your nails, shave your legs, take a bath, have a piece of chocolate and glass of wine, or do that virtual yoga class! And don’t dwell on things you can’t control. Focus on the things that you can.
When we are able to get out and about again, what are some of your local favorites you’re excited to visit?
Ohhhhhhh so many things. I now realize that my favorite thing to do is eat out. Ugh. Twisted Hippo, Angelo’s, Irving Park Brewing, Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club are all amazing family-friendly places in our hood and we miss them dearly. Bokeh for parents night out. (My treat Shawn as soon as all of this is up!). Thank you so much for letting me babble on! I am so proud to be a part of the amazing group of women that make up these mom-owned businesses. When I have a bad day, I look at them and all the amazing work they have done to pivot and it knocks my socks off and inspires me to get the job done! I see you ladies! BRAVO!
Daniella was kind enough to share a project to keep little hands busy & learning from Le Village CONECTED!
Every week, on Le Village CONNECTED, we explore a different theme! Last week was Flowers and Mothers Day and this week is “Let’s Get Dressed!” This is a fun craft for your 12M-3y old to complete pulled directly from this week’s plans! Follow us on Insta to see how our littles do it!
2. Invite your Little to create a rainbow decoration on a coffee filter, using washable markers.
3. Spray the coffee filter with water and allow to dry. Watch the colors blend and mix! If you don’t have a spare spray bottle, drip the water with a dropper, let them use a spoon or drip water on it with their fingers (great for babies)
4. Cutting around the template, cut the coffee filter into the shape of a t-shirt.