Cowork Frederick members talk about their professional journeys, the challenges they faced as caregivers, and how they overcame those challenges to find personal and professional success.
Caregivers in the US face many challenges in their professional and personal lives. Currently, approximately 34 million unpaid caregivers provide care for loved ones over the age of 50. In 2016, 34.2 million families included children under age 18. 61.1% of families with children have both parents employed.
Cowork Frederick members Morgan McCloskey, Joel Hall, Kate Stadt, and Cowork Frederick co-founder, Julia Ferguson have faced many of the same caregiving challenges. It’s more than just finding a work-life balance, it’s finding ways to work full time while also supporting young children and/or older relatives. I interviewed these folks to talk about how they found creative ways to care for themselves and others.
“Anything I’ve overcome, I’ve overcome
because of the support given to me by others.”
– Kate Stadt
Tell me about your current role,
or how and why you started your company.
Morgan Cherish: I’m a Speech Language Pathologist (CCC-SLP) and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with comprehensive international experience. I specialize in developing language-focused programs based on the science of applied behavior analysis for children with autism, Down syndrome, and other developmental disabilities. I started my company, Frontier ABA, because I found myself living in Africa with no job, and there was no one providing the services I had the expertise to provide with high quality.
Joel Hall: I am the Associate Director in the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) for the U.S. Department of Justice. In that role, I administer OVC’s Victims of Crime Act formula and discretionary grants programs. I also have over 10 years of experience working with individuals with mental illness and intellectual disabilities and previously provided outreach, supportive housing and crisis services to individuals with mental illness in a community-based psychosocial rehabilitation program.
Kate Stadt: I’m the knowledge manager for the Legal Team at HubSpot, a CRM and marketing/sales software automation company. I am building a team that assesses the Legal Team’s information needs (who we need to get information to, how we do it, and what we have or don’t have) and makes strategic decisions about our content repository systems. In short, I’m a professional nerd for the information cycle.
Julia Ferguson: I’m the co-founder (and keeper) of Cowork Frederick. 12 years ago, Glen, my partner in life and business, were both working from home and experiencing all the good and not-so-good of that. Coworking was fairly new at that point. Glen discovered the concept and told me about it. We were pretty inspired and decided to open a space in Frederick. We bootstrapped Cowork Frederick while I was still running a global consulting practice for a large software company.
As a working parent or caregiver, what challenges have you faced?
How did you overcome them?
Morgan: I am self-employed and I came back to work part-time at 4-weeks postpartum! Having gone through the process I understand how long it takes to feel truly like yourself (I am 6-months postpartum and JUST starting to feel like “my old self”). I hope that Mothers are given a sufficient amount of time to be with their baby, but also return to work and have a thriving career.
There is never enough time and you have to accept using the time that you have the best that you absolutely can. For now, in this phase of my life with a 6-month old and no formal child care, I am waking up at 4:30 am, squeezing in work before she wakes up, on naps, and when she goes to sleep! While it is difficult, I know it is temporary. Luckily I absolutely love my work so even when I am lacking sleep, once I get rolling with it, I am happy to do it.
Joel: I work in DC and childcare was a huge issue for me. I’m a single parent, and my closest family member is 40 miles away. If my daughter got sick, it was a problem. I overcame it by having a neighbor watch Kaitlyn for almost 9 years. My daughter was like family to my neighbor so they would take care of everything for 3 days a week. I teleworked the other two.
Kate: I got pregnant two weeks into starting at HubSpot, which was very stressful. I didn’t know how my department would handle it. Luckily, my manager worked very hard to provide me with an equitable and supportive experience. HubSpot as a company offered me good benefits and maternal care as I came back full-time and had to navigate daycare, pumping, and rushing from work to kid and back. I’m also proud of my own strength to advocate for what I needed, to assert that I was a professional and a mom and those two sides were equal and enriching parts of the matrix of things that make me, me.
Once I joined the compliance team my manager was just as supportive. She offered a lot of proactive flexibility and understanding during the pandemic when my husband and I both had to work from home and care for a two-year-old full-time. That was a really difficult time, as anyone who has been a parent during the pandemic knows. I’ll say that the best thing I did for myself is give myself grace. That was the only way I kept myself unraveling in front of my daughter daily. Anything I’ve overcome, I’ve overcome because of the support given to me by others
From my parents driving up to take care of me and my daughter when I was diagnosed with epilepsy in February 2020 to my manager telling me I could work from home when I developed sciatica while being pregnant to my poetry group providing me empathetic, kind feedback on the poems I’ve been writing about being a mom, I’m lucky. I hope to pay what I’ve received forward. Every working parent needs and deserves understanding and help.
“The best thing I did for myself is give myself grace.”
– Kate Standt
Julia: I was fortunate. I chose a career in tech where people often have a lot of autonomy over how, when, and where they work. I didn’t know I would need that when I started that career, but it definitely made a big difference in my case. I also chose a career that paid well, so I had money I could use to delegate a good portion of the caregiving. I say “chose”, but I truly believe I was led in that direction. I credit God for how everything worked out.
I began supporting my mother financially in the early 1990s. Over time, that evolved to managing just about every aspect of her life: finances, health, daily living, etc., which I did while traveling the globe and running a $20 million division for my employer. The biggest challenge I faced, then, was juggling everything I needed to do – and a fair amount of sleep deprivation.
Even after my mother was in an assisted living facility, I still actively oversaw her care (making sure she was getting the right medicine, made it to doctor appointments, had clothing, etc). I often worked from hospitals or rehab facilities after a fall or a stroke or other acute medical incident. I dealt with issues that arose at the assisted living facility and paid her bills, all while on the road for my job, which was very challenging at times. I have three siblings, but they live far away so it was pretty much just me. But, as I said, I was fortunate that my career success allowed me to be able to hire help. Someone else did the daily stuff: dressing, cooking, cleaning, bathing, etc.
Tell me about some of your greatest accomplishments or successes.
Morgan: My greatest success is creating a business that I love and am truly passionate about, but also affords me the flexibility to be with my child. Since most of my clients live abroad, waking up early is necessary anyway and I can work remotely. I can have 2 meetings with clients before my daughter even wakes up. I have always envisioned this as a dream before I had a child, and am so happy I set up this situation for myself that allows me a thriving career and to also be around as much as possible with my baby.
Joel: Obtaining my job at OVC. It is a national leader in victimization policy and at the forefront of national change. Instead of serving victims, I am directly impacting the way services are provided nationwide. Whenever we have a job opening, hundreds to a thousand apply. I was lucky to get in when I did and networked just right to get it. It took 5 years.
Kate: I’m really proud to have been a children’s librarian. I’m so appreciative of the time I got to spend with the children I worked with, watching them grow and learn and explore their interests. I’m also a staunch believer in the value of libraries in general as community-building organizations. If you’re looking for a book or a movie or an audiobook, check out your local library! They can offer you more than you might think.
I’m also proud to be doing the work I’m doing today for HubSpot. Stepping into this role of building a team from scratch is scary for me. I’m passionate about helping the people I work with do their jobs more effectively via the work I’m doing.
Finally, in the world of hobbies: I’m proud to have gotten several poems published last year in 2021, I’m proud of starting to do blacksmithing even though it’s SO far outside of my comfort zone, and I’ve made a couple of loaves of sourdough I’m pretty proud of (will share starter if you want some).
Julia: Currently, we are working on the Cowork Frederick expansion. From day one, I always had a bigger picture in my head about what we wanted the coworking space to look like, and that’s what’s happening now with the expansion. In a way, what I’ve always had in my mind is finally coming true. It isn’t about more square footage or the bigger space or more offices or whatever. It’s being able to create a broader range of experiences for people so that they connect better, and they find ways to collaborate more, they feel more energized. For us, it’s always been about helping people be successful.
Millions of people across the country face challenges surrounding their ability to provide care to those that rely on them, while also maintaining their work responsibilities. Cowork members rely on the support of spouses, family members, friends, or professional caretakers to make it through their most difficult times. Without this support network, cowork members might not be able to achieve their personal and professional successes. If we help each other, anything is possible.
What advice would you give to others on a similar professional journey?
Morgan: Provide a high-quality service. Even if you just have one single client, go above and beyond to provide that person/family with outstanding care. Word will spread like wildfire and you will be overwhelmed with clients in no time!
Joel: Varied educational and experience levels. The more you know and have experienced in the real world related to victimization, the better you can translate that into policy. Education is a great start but you must have the experience to be a Subject Matter Expert.
Kate: It’s not about what you do, it’s about the story you tell yourself and others. I look at my life and I see a person who has been passionate about helping people find the resources they need in many different professional capacities. I see a person who keeps jumping into the next right thing even if it’s an unknown quantity, instead of defaulting to the easy choice. This story gives me surety and serenity, even when circumstances are out of my control. My other advice is to not neglect your creative side. Everyone is creative. Humans need to be creative to thrive (not just survive) and you have no idea how the creativity you let yourself embrace will spark new revolutions in the world around you.
Julia: I think the best advice I can give anyone, regardless of profession or personal journey, is two-fold: First, always find the rising stars in your company/industry and learn from what they do. Don’t limit yourself to people you think look like you or come from a similar background – just find the people who are successful. Maybe that person would be willing to be your mentor (it’s OK to ask), but, even if they’re not, you can still learn from them. Watch how they talk, dress, act, the decisions they make, etc., and model that (in your own way – you should always be authentic).
The second is closely tied to the first. If something doesn’t go your way, don’t assume the other person or the system is what needs to change. You have more control over yourself than you do over others. First, look inward to see if there is anything you could have done better or differently and learn from the failure. And don’t give up. Come back at the situation better equipped to handle it next time. If the problem really is systemic, be part of the solution – offer suggestions, not just concerns. Showing leadership and an interest in making things better not just for yourself, but for others, is another way to be successful.
Juggling It All
There was a general consensus among the group that “finding balance” is a myth – unless you’re talking balance over a long period time. The reality is that a successful career / business is demanding and so is caregiving. Caregiving in particular comes with unexpected demands that require immediate attention. Juggling is a more appropriate metaphor.
You have to become very good at juggling. And, you also have to be forgiving of yourself when you drop something from time to time. Acknowledge it, pick the task back up (and hand it to someone else if you can), and keep going.
Flexibility and adapting are also key. You’ll probably have to adjust your schedule, repeatedly, as the demands of your caregiving role evolve.
Be honest with your boss, teammates, clients, etc. about what you can do and have integrity in the commitments you make. It’s better to commit to a date that’s a bit farther out than desired than to promise the date they want and then miss it.
“There is never enough time and you have to accept using the time that you have the best that you absolutely can.”
– Morgan Cherish
Being honest with yourself about what you can and can’t do, about the support you need to make it work and asking for help when you need it are also key. Find some support or at least a back up plan for emergencies, whether its a family member, neighbor, good friend or hired help.
Oh, and if you’re one of those friends, neighbors, or family members, Morgan suggests offering specific help and insisting is the best way to support working parents rather than simply saying, “tell me if you need anything!”
Ultimately, the group agreed caring for others enriches our lives and, while it can be incredibly difficult to juggle everything thrown at us at times, in the end, it’s worth it for the ones we love.
About Cowork Frederick
Cowork Frederick’s mission is to be a catalyst for the success of freelancers, remote workers, and entrepreneurs by creating ways for them to come together to work, share ideas, and support each other. Our diverse coworking community consists of people from many backgrounds and professions. We provide a work-friendly environment, meeting rooms, and the usual office amenities at an affordable price. More important, members of our coworking community benefit from a support infrastructure, a chance to connect with and help others, and a place to belong. For many, it’s just a better way to work.