Local business allows moms to bring their kids to work

Posted: Friday, April 11, 2008

Pema is 18 months old; she has a delightful smile and big blue eyes. Pema enjoys going to work with her mother at Rainbow Foods, a small health foods store located in downtown Juneau.

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Erik Stimpfle / For The Juneau Empire
Erik Stimpfle / For The Juneau Empire

"She gets exited as soon as we get to the parking lot," said Pema's mother Amanda Curry, who works part-time at the store. "It's really great to be able to guide her in everyday things," Curry said about having her daughter at work.

Curry, Shirin Cruise and Linda Curtis are three young Juneau mothers who enjoy bringing their children to work with them. They all work part-time at Rainbow Foods. The unique opportunity to bring their children to work came about because of the store's owner David Ottoson.

"We sort of do it on a case by case basis," Ottoson said. Some areas of the store, such as the kitchen, are off limits to the kids.

Ottoson knew that employees bringing their kids to work was possible, based on his experiences raising his own children. His children are grown now, but his employees continue to bring their kids to work.

"It's kind of something that just happened," Ottoson said. "I don't think we ever had three moms with kids at the same time before. All of my kids have sort of grown up in the store."

When asked how he benefits as an employer by allowing kids to come to work, Ottoson said, "I like having kids around for one thing. I think it kind of humanizes the working place."

"The way society is set up, kids and adults are segregated in most situations. Kids go to their place ... and the adult goes to work," Ottoson added. "When I was growing up, I had no idea what my dad did. I never went to his work. It was a total mystery to me what he did."

Ottoson sometimes carries a kid around the store while he works.

"It makes everybody smile to see a baby," Ottoson said. "I think they are smiling at me then I realize I'm holding this really cute baby."

"It's like our little village, everyone helps care for our kids," said Cruise, who bring her 4-year-old daughter, Adeline, to work.

During the lunch hour, Cruise worked stalking shelves and little Adeline is followed close by with a smile on her face.

"It's a really good experience being able to have the opportunity to have a job that I can bring my daughter," said Cruise, who has worked on and off at the store for seven years. "I wouldn't be able to do this just anywhere. I feel really comfortable bringing Adeline here."

Cruise, who works about 15-20 hours per week, was a stay-at-home mom with Adeline before she returned to work at Rainbow Foods.

"I haven't even considered child care. It was either do this or not work at all," Cruise said. "She loves to help out. She loves to put price tags on things."

Curtis is the mother of 8-month-old Quentin. While at work, she often carries Quentin in a front pack that she straps to her back, which allows her to use her arms while she carries him. When she isn't carrying him, Curtis puts Quentin in a baby walker.

A Rainbow Foods employee for 14 years, Curtis works 12-15 hours per week in the vitamin, health and beauty aid section in one corner of the store. She has brought her baby to work for five months.

"Some days it works pretty well, and other days I don't get as much work done. I used to have a stop watch when I first started," said Curtis. "Some days I would be here for four hours and get an hour of work done. Some days I would get 3.5 hours of work done. I just really appreciate David Ottoson letting us bring our kids and making it so that we can work some."

With 14 years experience, Curtis is one of Rainbow Foods most experienced employees, and her employer is happy to have her at work with baby Quentin there as well.

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