At Softstar, EVERY Day Is Take Your Kid to Work Day!
Why I Changed Careers for a Family-Friendly Workplace
It has been five years now since I officially joined the Softstar Shoes family. Those are five years during which I have been able to bring my own family into work with me, for odd school holidays, snow days, or when they just needed extra “mama time.” My two daughters have always loved coming to the workshop with me, even feigning sickness at times to finagle it … and who can blame them? The child-friendly home of the “elves” is equipped with a play area, a comfortable couch, “vintage” ‘80s and ‘90s cartoons and, of course, an unlimited supply of leather scraps and glue for crafting! It also doesn’t hurt that they are surrounded by a friendly, lively, laughing crew of makers ever busy with their own creative handcrafting endeavors. As my kids have gotten older, they have even been able to help out at the shop; sorting totes by color, signing invoices for customers, filing receipts numerically, and tidying up. In addition, my position here allows me to flex my schedule around my children’s appointments and school events. This is truly a gift, as any working parent knows.
With Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day coming up, I have been reflecting upon the professional journey that led me to Softstar Shoes from my previous career as a mental health therapist in a county clinic. I devoted a full decade to positions in my chosen field, building on my training and thoroughly enjoying the process. Getting to know people at a very deep level and helping them to overcome their struggles could be immensely satisfying. I felt emotionally exhausted, but also content, at the end of most days. However, after ten years and the birth of my second daughter, my husband was offered the opportunity to take a sabbatical; the timing was ideal—it would allow me to spend more time with my two young daughters, explore a new city, and take a “sabbatical” of my own from the world of counseling. So I quit my job, moved across the country, and stayed home with my girls for a year.
A couple months before we were to move back to our hometown of Corvallis, I started thinking seriously about returning to the mental health field. While I missed engaging with my clients, the year away had also given me perspective; I realized just how much of myself I had been giving to my work, and I wondered if now, with two young children, I could still afford to spend such a great share of my emotional resources at the office. I decided to call up some good friends of mine to see if they could use some help with their independent, small-but-growing business: Softstar Shoes. Indeed, they could! I jumped on board into a part-time, temporary customer service position to help see the company through its busy season. I absolutely loved my co-workers, the product and, to be honest, having some time where I could chat with other adults about “grown-up” things like shoes.
When school was cancelled for snow, 7-year-old Wren spent the day in the Softstar playroom. She wanted to help out in the shop, so we let her sign customer invoices.
After the five-month position ended, I was surprised and delighted when Tricia and Larkin offered me a permanent job as Human Resources and Business Manager—delighted, but also conflicted. I had always assumed I would return to my mental health career and missed it, but I also saw the amazing opportunity that Softstar was presenting to my family and me. Ultimately, even though it meant making a professional and financial transition, my family and I decided that the flexibility and joy I found in my new job was worth it … to all of us. It was absolutely the right choice.
I am reminded daily of how precious my current job is to me. My new work is diverse and challenging, leading me to explore a variety of disciplines, from marketing to shoe design to tax law! Moreover, my family has benefited immensely from the flexibility and support that Softstar offers, and I know that mine is a rare situation that I cannot take for granted. I am so deeply fortunate to have found a workplace where work/life balance isn’t just a buzzword, but a fundamental and fully-supported component of the company’s culture.
Wren practicing her gymnastics in the Softstar showroom.
However, as someone with ample professional experience in promoting the mental and emotional health of others, I truly believe that these benefits flow both ways. When people know that they can be there for their families when needed, they are happier, more relaxed, and less distracted by worry; this state of mind empowers them to be confident, competent, and creative, all the qualities of an ideal employee. The more that businesses recognize this relationship, the better the outcomes will be for all. So yes, let’s celebrate Take-Your-Child-to-Work-Day, but let’s also work to extend it across the whole calendar!
Elf Sarah, Grateful Mother to Wren and Phoebe
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