#BYOBaby to the DARE District
This week, my nine-month-old son and I had a meeting at SLiDE (Service Learning in Design & Engineering) a social innovation lab located at Algonquin College’s Ottawa Campus in the new DARE (Discovery, Applied Research, and Entrepreneurship) District.
I first heard about the DARE District over a year ago, when I was part of a team organizing a CEO breakfast series, as part of a contract marketing role I was doing for a consulting company in Kanata’s tech hub.
The guest speaker one month was Cheryl Jensen, current (but soon to retire) President and CEO of Algonquin College. She spoke of the vision behind their new multidisciplinary space, focused on connecting students, researchers, the Indigenous and business communities.
It sounded great and I was looking forward to visiting the space once it opened. I was especially curious if it would be parent-friendly, as I had been discovering many business venues in Ottawa were lacking facilities to encourage entrepreneurs, professionals and students (who also happen to be parents) to use their spaces.
I thought about current access to professional development events and spaces in the city and decided I should try to create something for parents.
Check out this pop-up event on May 1st for more info and continue reading below for details of my recent visit to Algonquin College’s DARE District with my nine-month-old son.
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Visiting Algonquin College with kids
I last visited the campus in May 2018 when I was eight months pregnant with my second son, bringing along my almost two-year-old toddler.
We met with the Academic Manager of Algonquin’s Continuing Education Department in a boardroom beside the Dean’s office, discussed their current programming options and I outlined my Babies, Business + Breakfast pilot program, which I had launched a newsletter for.
Which sparked a reaction from readers I wasn’t expecting (awe, encouragement, disbelief, applause), lighting a fire under me to continue sharing my experiences with my own and other audiences, advocating for more accessible and inclusive spaces in my new home city and ultimately has informed the direction my writing (and parenting) has taken lately.
As life would have it, I took almost a whole year to visit the DARE District since its’ opening in May 2018. I am so glad it did because we had more to talk about!
When I met my contact at SLiDE, I informed him I would be bringing at least one child with me, if not two. He said children are always welcome. Wow! Great start.
I then had a bout of winter flu, as did one of my kids, so we rescheduled. Three times. Still no issue.
Another not-so-great start was when I made a wrong turn, couldn’t figure out where on the campus the DARE District was and took a while to get parked and the baby unloaded.
Making me quite late for our meeting. But baby also had a longer nap on the drive there. All good, not a bother.
When we finally made it, I parked in Visitor Parking, where you can get a ticket and pay upon exit. Other options include parking and paying at a pay-and-display meter or using nearby public transit.
Lots of sidewalks for strollers, elevators and accessible doorways to help you enter the buildings when you have your hands full and/or have little ones with you.
When I got to the SLiDE lab (level one in case you’re looking!) we discussed what I’d been up to over the past few years.
I shared a bit about my time abroad, as an expat and remote worker (read lone wolf) prior to becoming a parent, how ‘my #BYOBaby activism’ all began because I didn’t have a ‘village’ around me and I didn’t think it would be that odd to bring a baby into business settings (it kind of was…still is).
These are all important points since a lot of the parents I have been speaking with aren’t from Ottawa originally and also want to do something for themselves, alongside their children (so I’m not so odd when you speak to them!)
So I also shared my recent participation in Impact Academy alongside my newborn son and local #BYOBaby activism where I’ve been visiting a handful of coworking and business spaces.
He described Algonquin’s new space, how it’s currently being used and potential future uses…all while my son crawled around the space, ate a very messy digestive biscuit and babbled every now and again.
My host didn’t bat an eye and gladly let my son explore before we ended with a quick tour of the DARE District but he did say he hoped they had baby change facilities on site (they did!)
I of course made a visit to the non-gender and womens’ bathrooms in order to check it out and test the facilities. I didn’t peek into the mens but I am happy to share if you have a child with you and need a baby change table, there is more than one on site.
I didn’t have time to check out the third floor library but we will be back to do that another time and I also didn’t take many pics of the space as their website does a better job.
You may be wondering, “Really Amy did you visit just to take a photo of the loos?”
Well, yes. And more.
You see, in the span of this year, I have gotten more feedback from people about what matters to them.
As it turns out, being able to use the bathroom AND also not have to change your child on a floor, in a public space, in your car outside in all weather or on your lap, is a very important thing.
I have visited a handful of coworking and business spaces – focusing on innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership – around the city. At the time, none had baby change facilities! Now I can happily say, Invest Ottawa and the DARE District do.
Other important items include, a place nearby to park. An elevator in case there are only stairs and you have a stroller. A doorway which you can actually fit your stroller through.
But the most crucial, for me anyhow, is a welcoming atmosphere: feeling like you belong and the space has been designed with your needs in mind as a parent and your hosts are willing to accommodate you in a respectful and positive manner.
I’m delighted to share, there’s a new space in town which ticks all of those boxes and will hopefully have more parent-friendly programming very soon.
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I’ve been conducting #BYOBaby activism at spaces and events around the city and sharing it on my Babies, Business + Breakfast newsletter, social media and this blog.