Dining With Denise Neil

A Wichita cafe wanted to keep its cashier, so it’s letting her bring her newborn to work

Many new moms have been there: The day arrives when they have to go back to work, and they dread having to leave their tiny baby in the care of someone else.

One Wichita restaurant worker, however, has managed to avoid that scenario after finding an understanding employer who was willing to experiment. And now, that restaurant has an adorable — but mostly sleepy — new mascot.

Cynthia Wilson, the owner of Parsnipity Cafe inside the Epic Center, 301 N. Main, initially hired cashier Macee Hoffman because she felt she’d suffered an injustice. Wilson was skimming through a job website one day when she saw a post Hoffman had put up complaining that she’d just been fired as a hostess at a local restaurant.

Hoffman said in the post that she was seven months pregnant, and her doctor wanted her to reduce the amount of time she spent on her feet. She brought a doctor’s note to her employer, asking if she could sit at the hostess stand between helping customers. Instead, she lost her job, she said.

“Just then, I needed a new cashier,” Wilson said. “I checked her out on Facebook a little, and she seemed really sharp.”

Cynthia Wilson, the owner of Parsnipity Cafe in Wichita, didn’t want to lose her cashier. So she made contact with a group that helps employers set guidelines for employees who need to bring their babies to work. Courtesy photo

Wilson brought Hoffman in for an interview and offered her the job, which Hoffman happily accepted. But she told Wilson she could work only for a few months, just until the baby was born.

Wilson had an idea.

“What if you brought baby to work?” she said.

Wilson said she contacted Parenting in the Workplace Institute, a Utah-based group that helps employers around the country develop best practices for starting babies-at-work programs. The people there helped Wilson check state laws and sent her a template with suggested guidelines.

Wilson and Hoffman then agreed to some ground rules. The baby can’t come to work sick. Diapers can’t be disposed of in restaurant trash cans. Baby and mom must stay away from heat sources. No holding up the cashier’s line for customers to squeeze and chat about the baby.

Wilson allows Hoffman to nurse in her office, and if the baby gets too fussy, Wilson said, she’s agreed she’ll care for him until Hoffman is freed up.

Monday was 3-week-old Jesse’s first day on the job, and so far, he’s a quiet and sweet addition. He mostly sleeps, and he hasn’t slowed mom down from doing her job, Wilson said.

Three-week-old Jesse mostly sleeps while his mom works at Parsnipity Cafe. When he gets bigger, mom Macee Hoffman will find other childcare for him. Courtesy photo

“It couldn’t have gone smoother,” Wilson said.

Per the agreement, Hoffman will keep Jesse at work with her only while it makes sense. When he gets bigger and is no longer sleeping as much, she’ll find childcare for him. It’ll be easier then, Hoffman said, because many day care providers don’t take infants younger than six months, and those who do often charge a premium.

Hoffman said Wilson’s offer was a lifesaver. She had to come back to work, she said, because her husband’s job doesn’t cover all the bills.

Plus, she feels lucky that she doesn’t have to part with Jesse just yet.

“It’s been great having him here,” she said.

Denise Neil has covered restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners to get information about local restaurants. She’s a regular judge at local food competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about dining.