HACKERMOM [băd’ ăss]: That’s you. Creative, curious, inventive, indie, artsy/craftsy/ designy/techy, visionary, outspoken, scrappy, superhot, hands-on, mover and maker of any age.
“This is way better than any moms’ group I could have ever hoped for,” Julie says, her smile radiating as she sits at the community work table in the center of the Mothership Hackermom space. Julie, the mother of 14-month-old Josephine, is one of the first members of Hackermoms. She said she knew about the hacker community, but thought it wouldn’t work with her mothering lifestyle. But when she heard about the Hackermom collective, all that changed.
On Adeline street, near Alcatraz avenue in South Berkeley, the Mothership Hackermom space is truly different. Built as a space for mothers of small children to do their own work — and the first hackerspace for women ever — at least 21 members (and the membership is increasing steadily) are given free reign to explore creative expression within an intentional community of other creatively-minded moms.
Artists, designers, small-business entrepreneurs, writers, and editors hang out, plunk themselves and their laptops or art projects onto a long communal table, and get to work in a supportive atmosphere.
Significantly, the Mothership collective not only supports the DIY philosophy but provides on-site childcare while moms work. You read that correctly — on-site childcare, built into the membership package.
“Once I saw this community, what moms were doing to still nurture and exercise that part of the creative brain, I knew that this was something for me,” Jane adds. Her son, Theo, is 17 months old and plays in a brightly-colored playroom adjacent to the main space. Jane’s a cookbook editor and a former journalist for several well-known Bay Area publications, and comes to the Mothership several times a week for 2-3 hours at a time.
“There was no support network for moms trying to do other stuff — either you have to choose between fulltime daycare or be a stay-at-home mom,” she explains. But with the discovery of the Hackermom space, Jane’s been able to focus on her work and form community.
Sam Cook, the founder of Hackermoms, says that the Mothership space was opened in April 2012 — “it took nine months of meetings,” she says, her eyes twinkling into a proud smile, “for us to birth the space.”
“Our members can keep their online businesses going — we have artists who have Etsy shops, writers … and that’s only possible because of the free childcare we offer to our members.” Sam points to a bulletin board on the wall behind the communal table with the words “FAILURE BOARD” written on the top. I can’t resist. “Failure board?” I ask. She grins.
“Essentially it’s a way for moms to go ahead and try out their biggest ideas, and get support if they fail, or if it turns out to be a disappointment. It’s only by trying something new and failing at it that we learn. As moms especially, everything tells us that we should be striving for perfection, and that failure is not an option. The failure board is one of our biggest ways to learn — we learn to set goals and feel supported in throwing out ideas, seeing what other members think of them.”
Even the childcare innovation at Hackermoms is unique — they work with an outside work-training program that trains childcare providers. They’re fully vetted, come with background checks, and gain experience while the moms work.
At the 2012 East Bay Mini Maker Faire, the Hackermoms will be showing off their DIY creativity with a Dia De Los Muertos-themed booth, next to the booth for Hackerscouts — the Hackermom-sister program which Cook and her husband also run which incorporates craft hacking for kids.