May 2018

When Every Day is Take Your Child to Work Day

Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

Annie Andrews juggles mom life and a career at Club Car in Bluffton.

In November of this past year, a picture of a well-put-together Japanese politician gained a bit of notoriety. There she sat in a sharp grey suit in her assigned seat during a Kumamoto Municipal Assembly session, surrounded by four equally-well-turned-out male politicians. The four men were attempting to convince their female colleague to leave the meeting because, in her lap, she held her seven-month-old son. The mother looked resolute, while the men appeared to be perplexed … why doesn’t she just want to go home? What became of that face-off was a hashtag movement that quickly blazed across Japan: #KozurekaigiOK—loosely translated as, “It’s okay to bring a child to a meeting”—which continued the conversation about when and why it was appropriate to bring children into the workplace.

The conversation about working mothers and their children is well-worn, yet still compelling. No matter the language spoken, skin color, nature of the work, or cultural identity, parents everywhere encounter the tug-of-war that goes along with balancing the need to make a living with doing what’s best for their children. The same dilemma faced by that Japanese politician on the day she seated her son upon her knee and said, I can still do the job I came here to do, is faced daily by working mothers some 8,800 miles away here in the Lowcountry
Bringing children into the workplace is rife with complexities and controversy; however, when the logistics are managed and the business is suited to the arrangement, there are wins for everyone. Annie Andrews, retail sales manager and co-owner of Club Car of Hilton Head, has just returned to work from maternity leave with her second child in tow. Setting up a nursery in a separate space at their Bluffton headquarters, with a team that supports having the children on-site, has helped make this possible.

“Cooper Jane [3] started coming to work when she was about four weeks old, and now I’m doing the same with Carter [born, February 2018],” Andrews said. “I had some guilt at the beginning about still working and bringing Cooper Jane with me, wondering if she’d be happier at our house, or if I was doing a disservice to her. In the end, I think it’s important to show her that moms can have careers and full lives at home too.”

Being able to bring her children to work has created special relationships with their customers, as well. “There have been several days in the last few weeks when I’ve gone to the store and found a present on my desk from a customer for the baby, or a card in the mail. Our customers are so sweet and generous.”

Kim Crouch and Palmer stop by to deliver the latest issue of CH2 to Bree Kennedy and Pam White at the Law Office of Kennedy & Blackshire.

After spending six years at home with her son Jackson, Kim Crouch, sales person for CH2/CB2 magazine, didn’t set out to bring him to work. Now, six years later, and with the addition of two-year-old Palmer, she has since learned the value of her children being welcome at the office, and the benefits of having a boss who supports her as she balances work and family. “When I started working here, Maggie [Washo] said, yes, bring Jackson to work. It was mostly in the summer when he was out of school. Then Palmer came along. Maggie even got me a little vibrating chair for my bouncy seat for my baby shower so I could bring Palmer in.”

Crouch finds her job perfect for a career-minded mom with two children, and sees her son benefitting from watching her make it work. “I can work from home if I need to, and Jackson sees how I try to juggle so much just to be successful. He sees me working hard.” When he first came to work with Crouch, Jackson would do small jobs around the office, and now does chores at home to make a little money. Teaching Palmer the same work ethic comes next.

Christina Dzendzel and her daughter Lou peek through the windows of Coastal Bliss as customers browse this bustling Shelter Cove Towne Centre ladies boutique.

“It seems like in my life everything happens all at once,” said Christina Dzendzel, co-owner of Coastal Bliss and Coastal Bliss MEN in Hilton Head Island’s Shelter Cove Towne Centre.

“I’m not a planner. I kind of like to live in the moment and roll with things, figuring out how to have fun and work at the same time.” Her carefree approach to her creative life has served her well as she and partner Blake Schmid have grown their business into two destinations in the same shopping center, and in her personal life, having two children, all since 2013.

Blending children and business has been relatively seamless for Dzendzel. Four-year-old Lou can’t get enough time in her mommy’s girly shop, where she is often found when not in pre-school. Keeping busy playing with her dolls, helping to scan tickets at the register, and exclaiming with delight when new dresses arrive. Born last July, Dzendzel’s son Travis can now be found zipping around the Coastal Bliss stores in his walker.

Dawn Miller spends some quality time being silly with daughters Penny and Connie before a busy day of classes at the Bluffton School of Dance.

At Bluffton School of Dance, owner Dawn Rose Miller has seen both her children and herself benefitting from having them at work. Her two stepsons, Aiden (12) and Trent (10), did plenty of homework in her lobby, she said. Now, daughters, Connie (4) and Penny (2), are growing up in the studio, and Aiden is a company member. “Aiden is part of our work study program that we offer to our older dancers to offset the cost of tuition. Connie literally grew up in the studio. Even with that experience, it was hard separating from mom going into her first activity away from me. It’s made me such a better business owner—and such a better person to sit in the lobby talking with parents. I think it’s made me more approachable. It’s made me come from a different perspective in all of my decision-making.” Being a business owner has made it possible for Miller to bring her children to work and to grow her business right alongside them.

For some mothers, from Japan to Hilton Head Island and back again, taking their children to work has allowed them to put together a work-life balance that actually works. Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, Iraq War helicopter pilot, and double amputee, matched her Japanese counterpart this past April, by bringing her 10-day-old daughter to the United States Senate floor, after the Senate voted unanimously to change the rule barring babies there. Sporting the required jacket (that rule has not been amended), Duckworth’s daughter made her presence known on a very big stage. The conversation continues … and who knows what hashtags she just may have inspired.

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