charlotte childcare

Sydney Stern Miller talks little hygge

Sydney Stern Miller reached out to Garrett Tichy, hygge’s owner, on a whim. She was going through a divorce and trying to navigate co-parenting with her ex-husband. She felt alone and didn’t have friends who she could turn to for advice, but she followed Garret’s journey through his separation with his ex-wife and sent him a message asking if she could talk to him about his experience.

This sparked a friendship that ultimately manifested a business partnership. Over coffee one day, they talked about what it was like to be in a co-parenting relationship and they both agreed on one thing: even though this missed their kids fiercely when they were with their ex, Garrett and Sydney also got time to themselves most couples don’t get. They were able to focus on themselves and passion projects during that time while knowing their child was being cared for by someone who loved them just as much as they did.

This, essentially, is where the idea of little hygge was born. Garrett and Sydney had been talking about different ideas surrounding childcare for years before their coffee conversation several months ago. It was at that point, though, Sydney says they felt like they had the ability to move forward together with their concept.

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Sydney has a two-year-old daughter who serves as her inspiration for co-founding little hygge.

In addition to her role as Marketing & Communications Manager at Tech Talent South, a technology training and staffing firm in Charlotte, she’s now the co-founder of little hygge, an event series that offers programming to children while parents go off and have some “me” time. Children will cycle through different stations like reading, dancing, crafts and music. Parents remain on site but can go into the coworking space and get some work done or just relax for a bit while knowing their children are being cared for and having fun. 

We sat down with Sydney to learn a bit more about her and her goals for little hygge. Read on to get the full scoop.

How did you and Garrett come up with the idea for little hygge?

A few months ago, when we were getting coffee, we were catching up about what it’s like to be in a co-parenting relationship with our exes. This surprising thing happens when you’re in a healthy co-parenting relationship, where you get a few days in your week entirely to yourself. It’s hard, right, because you miss your child when they are with your ex, but at the same time, you know without question that they are fiercely loved and being taken care of well when they are not with you.

So now, unexpectedly, you have “real” time available while your child is completely loved and safe and being taken care of by somebody you trust. Let me just say that is a huge privilege. You can get a drink with friends without having to submit proverbial paperwork or get a babysitter; you can work out, you can work on your side hustle without having to make sure you’re also keeping a little human being alive. You can create rather than just survive.

And then the question came — what if we could create a space for people in a two-person relationship to do the same? What a terrible thing it is to realize that to have “real” time to yourself, you have to be divorced, have older children, not have children, or be privileged enough to afford or have access to outside help. It feels like the moment you have young children, you enter survival mode, and you don’t really get out of it for a decade. That kind of isolation was wreaking havoc on my mental health. I had never felt more isolated. Even though I love my child, I didn’t want to be written off as an individual, friend, and creator. I wasn’t ready to hunker down for ten years.

So the idea was born: how do we create a co-parenting offering for people in our community? How can we help them get out of survival mode, even for a little bit of time, to rest, reset, and remember who they were before their lives were dictated at all times by the tiny humans?

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What’s your ultimate goal for little hygge?

Even though little hygge is currently kids programming, the real purpose behind it is to support parents. We want to entertain children so that parents have the opportunity to have a few hours to themselves. Eventually, we will be offering parents programming during the events as well (things like optional fitness classes, therapist access, etc.), but we’re also working on getting to the point where parents can drop off their kids and go do something for themselves.

You’re early in your journey, but what’s something you’ve learned so far?

How fun it is to work with different people and how meaningful this work is. Parents don’t often feel seen. When you become a parent, you start to shrink into the background a bit while your kids move to the foreground. That’s an analogy for many things about parenting that begin to take a backseat: needs, desires, where the money gets spent, time, resources, etc. It’s been gratifying to put the spotlight on parents for a bit, to remind them that we still value them.

When you need to get in touch with your inner child, what do you do?

This is something I actively work on, but the easiest way is reading kids books. Books are one thing I’ll spare no expense on and have no remorse buying. Kids books are a secret entrance to a little bit of magic in everyday life.

If we asked your two-year-old to describe you, what would she say?

Well, she has called me a walrus more than once. But I like to think she’d describe me as a good listener, a playmate, a friend, her biggest cheerleader, and her ride or die. 

To learn more about little hygge and see upcoming events, click here.

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