Would You Bring Your Kids to the Office Full Time?
New England mom Denise Towne wasn't sure what to do about child care for her baby, until her company invited her to keep her little one by her side from 9 to 5.
By Marisa Cohen
When Denise Towne packed her hiking boots and moved from upstate New York to Vermont after graduating high school, she couldn't wait to lose herself in the beautiful scenery, the hiking trails, and all the opportunities to go snowboarding. But it quickly dawned on Denise, now 38, who lives in the tiny town of Cabot, that the sports-lover's paradise she'd chosen was also a great place to raise a family. "Everywhere you go, you see a friendly face," she explains. "Living in a small town is like having an extended family — everyone watches out for everyone else's kids."
By the time Denise got married to Steve, a high school teacher, and was expecting her first child, in 2002, she had also found what she considered the perfect job: As production manager at the children's clothing company Zutano, Denise oversees work being done in facilities as far away as Macao, all from her office in a converted barn surrounded by maple trees. It's the kind of low-key office where coworkers feel like family, the owners bring their dogs to work with them, and their daughters stop by after school to visit, Denise explains.
But Denise's rural idyll almost came crashing down around her when she began exploring child care. "Staying home was not an option — our family needed both salaries to pay the mortgage on the house we had just bought — and we couldn't afford a full-time nanny, so I just assumed I'd put the baby in day care," she explains. But the only day care in Cabot was completely full, and the next closest ones were in Montpelier, a 45-minute drive away. "I wanted to be able to pop in and see my baby during the day," Denise says. "I couldn't stand the thought of being so far away from him."
Denise tried to hide her anxiety from Michael and Uli Belenky, Zutano's owners, but they must have known, she admits. The Belenkys, it turns out, already had a solution in mind: They asked Denise if she would consider bringing her baby to work with her. "They said I could bring him for up to a year, but if it didn't work out, we would end it earlier," Denise explains.