“There are so many calculations that go into being a parent, whether you have a high-powered job or you stay at home,” Liz Wilkes, CEO of Exubrancy tells us. “What are they going to eat? When should they sleep? What toy should I buy? What books should we be reading? It’s a giant puzzle!”
For Liz and her family, COVID made this puzzle even more complex. A move from the Big Apple to the suburbs provided less programming and structure than the couple had anticipated for their family. And while Liz and her husband were optimistic about figuring out how to make it work, they found themselves wanting something more.
Enter Vivvi’s at-home childcare option: the Vivvi Learning Model brought into the comfort of your own home with trained teachers. Here, Liz shares her personal experience.
Tell us about your daughter and your parenting journey.
My husband and I got married about five years ago and took a few years to settle into married life, focus on our careers, and travel as much as possible, pre-kids. We’re both entrepreneurs, so we had very busy and unpredictable schedules. After some initial difficulty conceiving, we were thrilled to welcome a baby girl, Emilia, into our lives in November of 2019. It was four months before the pandemic. Little did we know what was in store for us!
As an entrepreneur what was your maternity leave plan? Early childcare plans?
I run a company called Exubrancy, which is a global corporate wellness company. We run meditation, fitness, massages, workshops, and events around wellbeing for companies like Spotify and Etsy and hundreds of other companies around the world. Almost five years ago my company was acquired by Tishman Speyer and because of that, my schedule became a bit more conventional. That also granted me a more conventional maternity leave, which wouldn’t have been the case if I had a child pre-acquisition. There are incredible benefits from having formal maternity coverage. That’s not always afforded to female entrepreneurs having children.
I knew that I was going to take about three months off when I had my daughter. I had this whole plan that I was going to go back to work. I’m lucky that our office has a very nice nursing room—I was going to do the pump-at-the-office thing. I remember so vividly going back to work last February and pumping at work for three weeks. It was a total nightmare. I would always forget a pump part, or the logistics of keeping the milk cold would break my brain…It was really, really hard. I’m sure I would have found a rhythm, but I will say one of the huge silver linings when the pandemic hit was that I could keep breastfeeding with relative ease.
My husband is the co-founder of a company called Aktivate and we knew that while he would have a little bit more flexibility, we needed some level of childcare. At the time we lived on the Upper West Side, in New York and we hired a local nanny.
And then COVID…
When the pandemic hit, we decided to go lockdown outside of the city. We eventually moved in with my in-laws because we realized we just couldn’t make it work without childcare. For about two months, we lived with them and they basically watched Emilia every day while we worked.
Once living in this pandemic time became more manageable, we started feeling comfortable having our nanny come to our home part-time again. We thought, “Other days when we don’t have her we’ll just figure it out!” And that was really not sustainable. Suddenly your workweek is cut down and it became really stressful.
That’s when I realized that Tishman Speyer had started working with Vivvi and was offering a program where they had educators available to come in-home–like a nanny, but with teachers. For us, it was such a no-brainer because we needed additional part-time coverage and we felt we were really missing out on the rich experiences she would have had growing up in New York City, being able to go to classes all the time and interact with other children. The Vivvi In-Home program felt like the perfect alternative.
What was the process like getting set up with Vivvi?
We vetted a number of potential educators for our family. Vivvi ran a search for us and would pre-interview people and line up interviews for us with candidates they found to be viable. We ended up interviewing three different people. We found Hailey who was the right fit from the moment we interviewed her. She has been our part-time educator ever since. We instantly got back some of that enrichment that we felt like we lost when we were leaving New York.
What’s a day in the life of Emilia like with Vivvi’s In-Home Program?
The days Hailey comes, she’s here from 9:00 to 5:00. One thing that I have loved about her from the beginning is that she’s so oriented around being outside. They spend so much of the day outside in the fresh air just exploring. I like that Hailey has access to Vivvi’s overarching themes from their curriculum and materials which allow Hailey to get creative with Emilia and build a structured, fun day with her.
Every day, we get these fantastic reports from Hailey about her day with Emilia with pictures on an app called Brightwheel. Hailey really notices changes in Emilia week-to-week and reinforces patterns that we’re seeing. It’s great to have someone come in with such an informed perspective and a strong but also very respectful point of view. It feels like Hailey’s really a collaborator with us in Emilia’s future.
This article was written in partnership with Vivvi.