Image: Nina Sologubenko

Leo Wood runs two co-working spaces in London: Winkley Studios and Cooks Yard. This week she launches a third space, PlayPen, a parent-friendly weekly pop-up with Ofsted-registered childcare facilities, from the Paper & Cup café and St Pauls Way crèche in Mile End, East London. 

Being a working parent is all about compromise. I’ve had to cut back my career ambitions for the time being in order to be a present parent, taking care of my daughter two days a week and generally ‘being there’.

Childcare has been an ongoing challenge. It’s easier for me now that my daughter is two and a half, and we have a regular three-day per week nanny-share arrangement. I’m expecting my second child in June as well so not yet sure how Ill be able to manage being a working parent once I have two kids.

The really hard bit I think is the first year or 18 months, when you’re not necessarily ready to go back to work full-time but still need a bit of time to work and get your planning on career/work stuff.

Since 2010 I have been running a couple of small co-working spaces in East London so was already in this sector, as well as working as a freelance arts and theatre producer. In 2013, when I had my daughter Evie, I became really aware of the issue freelancing parents, or parents trying to start new businesses, face in trying to get flexible, affordable childcare.

It’s fine if you know you always want childcare on say Tuesdays and Thursdays, but the flexible, drop-in childcare hardly exists, which is a real problem for this demographic of working parents.

Image: Tom Griffiths

So on my (non-existent!) maternity leave I became excited by the possibility of opening a co-working space with crèche facilities to try and help working parents. Initially I thought I would try and set a permanent workspace/crèche up, along the lines of Third Door in Putney, London and Officreche in Brighton, but then realised the many challenges of doing so. Not just the difficulties of making this business financially viable, but also the realisation of the level of full-time commitment that running a permanent workspace with a full on Ofsted-registered day nursery would require…

Finally I decided on a pop-up workspace with a crèche. One of the real challenges of making such a project work is finding the right site. After a lot of research and hunting, I found the perfect space. Opening this Thursday, PlayPen is for parents with children aged six months to five years, and costs £15 for a two and a half hour session for a parent with one child. For a parent with two children it is £20.

Schemes like PlayPen could make a big difference to the way parents return to work. If more schemes like this existed then people would be able to more easily set up their own independent business ventures. We could also help families enjoy a better work/life balance by enabling them to stay at home whilst having windows of time in the week to work….

PlayPen will be ‘popping up’ weekly from 14 April 2016. For more info visit

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