One day, when two of my children were only 4 and 3 years old, they wanted to play “let’s pretend” with their dad and me. My older daughter, as older children often do, declared herself the director.
“You and Dad sit over there”, she commanded. “Now, my brother and I are going to be the father and mother you are the day care center.”
With that, the two of them brought us a couple of dolls, kissed them goodbye and went to the next room.
“What happens next?” I called.
“Oh, you play with the babies and then we go to work for awhile and come back and give you a check.”
“And what are you doing at work?” By now I’m curious about where this is going.
“We talk to people and do stuff and get tired.”
With that, they came back in the room, handed us “checks” made of some coupons I had lying around and took their babies off for bath time and stories.
It was hard for my husband and me not to laugh. They were so serious about it. Ahh. A kids’-eye view of adult life. We go do something mysterious at this thing called work, get tired, and then collect them and real life begins again. That was my first indication that maybe we needed to tell our kids a little bit more about the work that took us away from them all day.
Tomorrow, April 25th, is the 20th anniversary of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, a day that encourages parents to do exactly that. Started in 1993 as a “Take Our Daughters to Work Day,” it was originally intended to show girls opportunities that had been closed off to women and to inspire young girls to see themselves as having the potential to reach whatever professional dreams they had. By 2003, it was expanded to include our sons as it was understood that the boys, too, needed to have the experience of seeing what their parents did for work.
Many companies now have incorporated this annual event into the company culture. Employers see involvement in the day as a way to support their workers in balancing work with family life and to invest in the workforce of the future.
One special day a year, parents are invited to bring their children to work to sit at desks, follow their parents around the office or plant or store, and maybe have lunch in the company break room or cafeteria. The kids get to see where their parents spend their day and to meet some of their colleagues. Most important, they get to see up close what their parents’ work involves.
It’s an opportunity for parents and others in the workplace to show kids that education pays off and to talk to them about what it takes for someone to reach their potential and to be successful. Further, it provides a way for parents and adult mentors to talk to children about how work supports the family and how it is an integral part of adult life.
Those of us who work in human services can’t let our kids shadow our day due to very real concerns about confidentiality and privacy for our clients. But we can still celebrate the day by engaging our children in conversation about our work and perhaps by describing in general terms what a typical day looks like. When clients aren’t scheduled, we can still bring our children to the office to see what it looks like, let them sit in our chairs and perhaps meet our support staff. My younger daughter told me recently that it made her feel very grown up the day she came to my office when she was 10 and talked to me seriously about my journey to become a therapist.
Whatever we do for a living, Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day provides a reason to sit down with our kids and demystify our work life.
My children are grown now. They too now go off to work, talk to people and do stuff and get tired. Like their dad and me, they also know the rewards of doing something they are passionate about that supports themselves and their families. I hope when their children are old enough to participate,Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day will continue to be celebrated to help them empower their children also to reach for their professional dreams.