Leaving a full-time career to become a stay-at-home parent offers plenty of rewards, but often at a high cost. After the initial excitement
of being there to experience big accomplishments like hearing your youngster’s first words, something unexpected can happen. Many
moms and dads start longing for a little adult company.
Traditional outlets for homebased moms and dads may not offer what you need or may be based in places stocked with junk food snacks served in less than hygienic surroundings.
Michele Balaka, 40, knows the problem only too well. “It was the five hardest years of my life staying home. It was monotonous,” said Balaka, a Chelsea wife and mother of two children. “I started hating the dishwasher.”
A family trip to Texas with a less than pleasant stop at a toy shop nearly six years ago inspired an idea. At the shop, Balaka ran around the store picking up what she needed while her husband sat separately, watching her daughter.
“You don’t know your passion until you have that epiphany,” said Balaka. Balaka wondered what it would be like if parents could visit a warm, friendly place geared toward families, where they could relax. They could chat with other moms and dads, work on their computers or enjoy a healthy treat, while they kept an eye on their youngsters playing nearby.
In December 2006, Balaka made her dream come true, when she opened the TreeHouse in Chelsea. “Its an indoor kids’ play café,” she
said. “We have leather couches, oriental rugs and amazing chairs where you can cuddle up and read a book. We have free
Youngsters have plenty of no-tech options for their entertainment.
“Once you get past the fun things for adults, we have amazing things for kids. We have a three-tiered indoor tree house with swimming bridges made out of netting, slides and lily pads where kids can play on monkey bars. We have a small baby area so they won’t get run over by bigger kids.”
One thing you won’t find at the Tree-House in Chelsea is video games.
“We are completely unplugged,” she said. “We have no toys. People totally
underestimate a child’s imagination.”
There’s a full espresso bar for the grown-ups and organic food for all to enjoy. “We make our own guacamole. We make our own macaroni and cheese here. Everything is fresh,” she said.
Families can pay for three-month memberships at the café or pay a fee at the door for each visit.
“We have kids who cry when they have to leave,” she said.
Balaka opened another TreeHouse café in Chicago and plans to start up more across the country. While running the cafe and providing
a healthy safe place for kids and adults is important, Balaka keeps her priorities in order.
“I’m still first a wife and a mom,” she said.
TreeHouse Chelsea is located at 320 N. Main in Chelsea. The café is open seven days a week during various hours. Check out www.thechelseatreehouse.com on the Internet for more information.