Triangle Women Create Their Own Work-Life Balance
Tiffany Frye and her daughter Ada
Lis Tyroler Photography
Achieving work-life balance is an elusive goal, but working women in the Triangle say that what’s important is feeling happy with their lives. Having a fulfilling career is just as important to many women’s happiness as being mothers.
In this three-part series, we step into the lives of Triangle women leading diverse careers who face the challenges of being mothers, achieving personal growth and providing for their families in creative ways. They do not always succeed, but they keep trying, and their lives are beating new paths for generations of mothers to follow.
A Creative Solution
On a small neighborhood street in Durham, Tiffany Frye’s house sits amid a garden overflowing with wildflowers and herbs. Here, in her less than 1,200-square-foot home, she envisioned and launched a co-op space where parents could work while their children played. Her venture, dubbed Nido (nest in Italian), migrated to a larger space in Durham this year to accommodate more parents and offer additional amenities.
Frye got the idea to start the co-op when her daughter, Ada, became mobile.
“When Ada was 3 months old, I went back to work at my editorial job,” Frye recalls. “I was lucky enough to work at a company that let me work from home exclusively, so I just had to go in for the occasional meetings, and I thought, this was great. I just work from home with my little baby and everything is perfect.”
But as her baby grew, life changed. “It got more and more difficult for me to actually get work done and I felt like I was either neglecting work or neglecting Ada, or both,” she says with a laugh. “And it got to be very stressful being pulled in two very extreme directions all of the time.”
When Frye was unable to find a co-working space that offered child care, an idea to start her own venture took root, and she became increasingly passionate about seeing it come to fruition.
“I found there were a lot more parents trying to do what I was doing than I even realized,” she says. “People trying to do freelance, or they were starting a small business on the side because they wanted to structure their career around their life, rather than their life around their career.”
Frye met with SCORE, a nonprofit association of the U.S. Small Business Administration offering volunteers who provide business advice to budding entrepreneurs. They coached her through the realities of starting a business, and one night as she stood looking over spreadsheets in her home, she says the realization hit her that she had few financial resources to launch her venture.
“How am I going to make this happen?” Frye remembers wondering. “I kind of looked around and ‘well, these two rooms could be for child care, and the living room could be co-working’ and we could just do it here! And then there was just the expense of getting the furniture — which I did all secondhand — and getting some new classroom materials, which I did, and the expenses were minimal. And my husband was on board!”
Frye listed the co-op’s opening on social media in 2014, where Lis Tyroler, a young mother in Durham, saw the news and remembers getting “very excited.” “I felt like this was not just something that I needed,” Tyroler recalls. “I felt it was something that society needed. It was almost a revolutionary concept.”
Tyroler was also struggling with her life decisions. In the fall of 2013, she had been six credits away from graduating with a master’s degree in social work and had job offers lined up when her baby, Sebastian, was born. Within weeks, she found herself in a rigorous research class while caring for her 3-week old. Her mother was driving in from Greensboro to keep him while she was in class, but it was hard for her to be away from him to get her work done when she was nursing so frequently.
“Even when I was in the same room with him, if I was focusing on papers, it felt, like, not right to me,” she says.
She decided to postpone her efforts to graduate and embrace caring for her child fulltime, even as she continued to work on photography assignments late at night.
A New Lease on Work-Life
Within a couple of months of Tyroler’s joining the co-op, Frye saw Nido’s potential to grow outside her home, and invited Tyroler to sign on as a partner in an expanded venture.
The partners leased a 2,000-square foot space at 902 Broad Street in Durham, hired a Montessori-trained teacher and launched their open house on June 14 this year. The new space includes a conference room, a napping room, an art space for adults, a break room and separate rooms for infants and toddlers. Frye and Tyroler also plan to offer yoga for members.
From the original group of six parents and nine children who met in Frye’s home, Nido had grown to include 13 parents and 14 children as of June, and more had signed up. Nido offers several levels of memberships, from drop-in to five half-days per week. With the addition of a teacher, the venture is no longer strictly a co-op, but members continue to watch over each other children in class and offer their unique talents to the venture.
Frye and Tyroler believe Nido’s success came from focusing on community rather than taking a top-down management approach.
“We did do a lot of membership research to see what our members wanted,” Tyroler says. “People over and over who responded, said (they wanted) ‘The community. This aspect of being involved with my child’s care, with other children’s care, with being connected to other parents, having the community for myself and my child, makes this a really attractive option for me.’ That’s how I felt, too. We have this sort of built-in village that we have created for ourselves and our families, and that was a really nice surprise.
Learn more about Nido at nidodurham.com.
Odile Fredericks is the web editor for Carolina Parent.
Part Two …
How does a single mother, dentist and business owner in Raleigh find time and energy to nurture and support her child, herself and her staff? How does a personal trainer — currently separated — manage to launch a business, train moms and be available emotionally and physically for her daughter? Check out part two of our series to find out. Read our part three for Work-Life Balance Tips from High-Achieving Moms.