To Be The Best Advocate For Her Son Born With Kabuki Syndrome, Annie Dean Launched Werk, A Startup That Solves The Work-Life Balance Dilemma

Annie Dean co founder and ceo of werk

For six years, Annie Dean worked on Wall Street as a corporate attorney representing institutional lenders in billions of dollars of transactions secured by real estate. During that time, Annie married and had two sons. Shortly after the birth of Walter, her second son, she discovered that he had a rare genetic condition, Kabuki Syndrome, that required frequent medical attention. Suddenly her high-profile, fast-paced, and all-consuming career was no longer compatible with her life as a special needs mom. When she became acquainted with her co-founder, Anna Auerbach, in 2016, they conceived of Werk to fix the structural workplace barriers that disproportionately impact women and mothers like herself. By creating a platform for businesses to implement flexible work opportunities for their employees, Werk is giving ambitious men and women the dream...a big-time career and the ability to be a present parent when their children need them the most.

annie dean special needs mom

This is Annie Dean…

Where do you live?

Greenwich Village NYC

5 words that describe you...

Bold Caring Brave Exacting Warm

 Your children’s names and ages:

Jack 5 and Walt 3

How do your children inspire you?

Their minds and determination are mind blowing. They know exactly what they want and they go for it. They're both very independent.

 What’s the one thing you wish people knew about your child with special needs?

That it is TOTALLY ok to ask about and comment on the ways he is different. I love to talk about it just like I love to talk about the experiences Im having with Jack my older, neurotypical son. My greatest fear is that Walt will be invisible. By ignoring his difference you sideline him. He doesn’t belong on the sidelines.

If you could read one book to children in a preschool or elementary school class, what would it be + why?

My 5 year old Jack makes me read science books to his class. Its amazing how much he loves medicine and bones. I know its because of the influence that Walt's medical experience has had on him.

What’s in your bag of tricks when you are out with your kids?

The Hamilton soundtrack and impromptu dance parties - when in doubt, dance!

What is an activity your whole family loves to do together?

annie dean home in east hampton

Going to the beach is our heaven

How do you survive a tough day of parenting?

If its really hard I cry, I get really exhausted by how physically demanding Walt can be. He broke my nose last year. I cried for an entire day and felt so sorry for myself. Im learning to build routines that I feel comfortable within. I build things so that I know a point of relief is always available.

What is the last thing you purchased for yourself that made you really, really happy?

A little cottage in east hampton. It's buggy and old and needs to be updated in a million ways. But it brings us pure joy.

Do you make the time for self-care? If so, what is your self-care ritual? 

I go to therapy even though sometimes I don’t feel like I need it. I try to spend a lot of time outside. I know that I feel most comfortable when things are orderly and in control, so I invest the time to build systems at home that give me this feeling on an ongoing basis. I spend as much time as I can around beautiful things, I'm a sucker for aesthetics.

What advice would you give to a new special needs parent?

The world is going to support you, its going to reach out its hand to you and love you. Ask for help, know that you were chosen by the universe because you can do this, and because there is a gift you are meant to receive in this life time. The gift of patience, of a higher level of understanding, a greater connection to community and love. Surround yourself with a few key people who understand special needs as normal - maybe this is your team of therapists, doctors or service providers. The years of parenting Walt have been the hardest years of my life in many ways, and yet he has steered me to a new, better direction in my life. We are already indebted to him for the wisdom and love he has given us. I was afraid and sad in so many ways early on. Three years in, I would not live my life any other way.

What quote do you live by?

Fortune favors the bold!