When two Wichita women were looking for new jobs, they turned to a couple of employers they know best: their children.
Lori Farha and Squeek Crouse give new meaning to the phrase “working moms.”
Farha, 67, had been working in the geriatric behavioral health unit at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph when the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown started. Because of social distancing challenges in a health care setting, Farha felt she needed a change, but she wasn’t ready to retire.
Initially, she was hesitant to ask her youngest son, Ben, if he might have room in his Farha Roofing company for her.
“I don’t want to abuse my parenthood,” Farha said.
For Ben, it was a no-brainer.
“It was an easy choice to make, and I wanted my mom to be safe,” he said.
Three years later, he still feels it was a good choice to have his mom, who handles all the payroll and human resources responsibilities, come work for him. She’s parlayed nearly two decades of experience as a social worker into helping take care of Farha Roofing employees. The company has grown to include 50 employees, primarily in Wichita and Kansas City, with project managers in Colorado and Florida. It’s outgrown its South Hillside location and has been renovating a former armory on North Edgemoor as its new company headquarters and warehouse.
“She’s been helpful, and I’m happy to have her here,” he said.
Retirement never suited Squeek Crouse, who owned the popular Squeek’s Donuts on Waco from 1977 until its sale in 2005. Six months later, she was back in the workforce. For three years, she ran a balloon shop out of Clifton Square, then she worked for Hallmark, setting up displays in Walmart stores. She also helped out at a cookie shop.
“But then I was on the loose again,” said Squeek. That’s when she went to work for her daughter, Brenda, at the Wild Hair salon in west Wichita. It’s a role reversal, as Brenda worked for her mother for years in the donut shop.
Squeek Crouse lists her main job responsibilities as a salon assistant: “I assist in bringing beverages, treats and chatter” to the customers who have appointments with her daughter and the two other hair stylists in the salon. “I don’t assist with hair,” she clarifies.
Some of Brenda’s customers include folks who came to Squeek’s Donuts, which Squeek opened in 1977 and then sold in 2005.
“It’s a good exercise remembering everyone’s names,” Squeek said.
Farha and Crouse both believe they’ve been able to work for their children because they already had good family relationships.
Brenda Crouse said she relishes having her mom working alongside Tuesdays through Fridays. And it’s not because Squeek makes sure the pair of them eat lunch together.
The youngest of Squeek’s four children, Brenda has a genuine love of being around her mom. Even days off are spent together, like Brenda’s designated Mom Mondays, when they do an outing together. Recently, the pair started tap dancing classes together.
While Lori Farha has always been proud of Ben, working with him has only increased that pride.
“Showing compassion is important to me. It’s been a joy to watch him engage with his employees or see how he runs a meeting,” she said.
In typical mom fashion, she brags that even others recognize his integrity in business.
“I’m really proud that last year he was awarded the Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Ethics,” Lori said. Farha Roofing was one of three businesses in the Kansas Plains region that won the Torch Award, previously known as the BBB Integrity Award, in 2022.
Her initial hesitation in asking for the job was that she didn’t want to create any challenges for Ben by having his mom on staff. That’s why she’s careful to not take advantage of their mother-son relationship to avoid the appearance of any special treatment.
But that doesn’t mean Lori doesn’t occasionally slip in a parental concern. During The Active Age interview, she glanced at Ben and inquired if he was OK since he had complained of a headache earlier in the day.
Contact Amy Geiszler-Jones at email@example.com.