Monika Gmucová

Business alternatives for parents

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Having children shouldn’t automatically cut off options or halt career growth, Monika Gmucová says. It’s with this idea in mind that Gmucová, along with four other women, came up with the concept of Baby Office, a space where freelance professionals can bring their babies and young children to be supervised through onsite childcare services while parents use the office facilities.

“These days, there are a lot of very active mothers who want to work and still have a chance to take care of their family,” Gmucová said. “It’s good to have children, but it doesn’t need to stop you from living.”

The idea stemmed from a group of self-employed mothers who worked from home after having children.

“They all found you can feel very separated from society being at home all the time, and with children running around the house it’s hard to focus on work. This space would combine the social and professional aspects of an office with the home, and allow the child to develop best in an environment close to the parent,” Gmucová said.

Combining family life with work is an ongoing struggle for new parents, Gmucová said.

“The business environment isn’t very supportive in aligning these two aspects,” she said, adding this concept is far more popular in Western Europe.

“In Holland, 60 percent of mothers work part-time, while in Germany, it’s 30 percent. In the Czech Republic, it’s 8 percent. We need more support for mothers and fathers of small children.”

Generous maternity leave policies allow parents to take up to four years of maternity and parental leave, during which they are paid a monthly allowance and retain the security of their job. Female employees are entitled to 28 weeks paid maternity leave, during which they receive around 70 percent of their salary. The subsequent parental leave allows the mother or father to spend two, three or four years at home, with the two-year plan paying 11,400 Kč ($612/456 euros) a month and the three-year plan paying 7,600 Kč per month.

One drawback of this parental leave policy is that it allows parents to stay at home so long there is a shortage of childcare services for children under the age of 3, which often means new parents struggle to return to work. It also means companies can be reluctant to promote or hire women in their late 20s and early 30s, and women run the risk of disappearing from the work force for years, making it harder to return.

Baby Office plans to offer childcare services for children up to 6 years of age, while education will also be offered onsite, with a focus on English-language courses for new parents who may feel they are losing their language skills by being isolated at home.

“Expectations of mothers in society are outdated. … And the government does not provide or even encourage affordable childcare for the under 3s,” said Katie Schoultz, a Prague attorney, mother of two and owner of Purple Turtle preschool.

“Initiatives like Baby Office challenge these attitudes, practices and policies by providing a real alternative for parents of young families.”

Since a number of new parents like to gradually integrate themselves back into the workforce by working just a few hours a week, another aspect of the business plan is recruitment assistance, which offers and promotes freelance and casual jobs to new parents.

The business is still a project at this stage, with the owners planning to launch it later this year around October.

A questionnaire on the company’s website has revealed a diverse group of more than 100 respondents – from lawyers, teachers and journalists to marketing professionals – who are interested in the concept of Baby Office, Gmucová said.

The venture is currently looking into opportunities for financing from government grants as well as private investors.

“This project is meant to create a social impact and support the raising of small children,” Gmucová said. “We’d like to set up prices for these services reasonably so it’s accessible.”

Baby Office has already sparked interest from publicity generated by Facebook, Twitter, word-of-mouth and leafleting, Gmucová said.

“The idea is growing; it’s evolving. When an idea is interesting, people talk about it.”

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