My plane landed at 9:58 pm and as I went to get my bag out of the overhead compartment I realized that a mother and her 2 young kids were sitting in the row just across the isle and one seat up. I quickly remembered the experience of traveling with my once tiny children and I thought “wow, they did great”… knowing full well that the flight could have been a disaster for her if her kids weren't feeling well, were tired, were hungry, or any number of things that made it so their needs were not being met.  Two little kids waiting at the gate check door, wanting to get their stroller back, starting to melt a little and their mom, held them close, kept their agitation down and managed to keep it all together until they could finally “go see daddy”  

This was the perfect punctuation point on the end of a trip taken to Memphis to participate in a Communities of Hope convening on the theme of sustainable communities conducted by Casey Family Services. I had the honor of being invited as a guest attendee by the Vermont Promise Communities, to gain some perspective on child and family services and how the work we are doing at the Essex Hub through our co working space and through our W@W community engagement and story finding campaign might intersect.

From the beginning of this Essex Hub story we have been very aware of the need to support, encourage and help women get the best access to critical information to allow them to grow their businesses in between the responsibilities of everyday and family life. We call this the “gatherer model of business development”. Many women and other primary child care providers   have a very different sense of time, which means that they must collect critical information to keep until a free, or appropriate time to implement the next piece or step of their business. This is very different than what we call the “hunter model of business development”  the more traditional 9 -5 or we might say masculine model that allows for an entire day to focus on the “work”. 

In our conversations with many women the issue of child care has come up, for some the concept of day care, or preschool but for others just the need for an uninterrupted block of time on a daily basis or 3 or 4 times a week would make all the difference in what they could accomplish in that side gig, or part time endeavor, their Etsy shop or on that $1,000,000 idea.

But the first thing to fall off the kitchen counter without that time is the running, expansion or development of that business… because the kids don’t feel well, or need undivided attention, or are hungry, or any number of things that require having their needs met. So women frequently need a whole other level of support. And that support is important for a whole host if issues around the concept of wellbeing, everything from elevation of ones spirit, to physical, intellectual, creative, relational and emotional wellness. These are the areas that are evidence based as critical to human thriving.

And as it turns out, the evidence on sustainable communities also point to relationships in a list of critical components. In fact its looking at the relationships, at the big picture that allows communities to be sustainable. Relationships help us ask the constant question “what will make it better?”, “what will allow us to be flexible”? and “how can we see this with new eyes”?

As women we are very versed in understanding these complexities and these aspects. We ask these questions of our families and children to inspire them to be engaged in making things better and being flexible. Here at the Essex Hub we are applying the same ideas to our community and asking the same questions “what will make it better” “how can we create flexible opportunities” and “how can we disrupt and be innovative about creating new structures of innovative support”.

The stroller finally came through the gate check door, that mom clicked it open, put the littlest in the seat while the toddler climbed up on the little ring pad in the rear and off they went with that innovative structure of support that allowed them to all have their needs met…. as they moved forward into the future.

by Kristin Humbargar

Essex Hub Instigator & Connector