Do We Still Need Take Your Child to Work Day?

photo credit: wageslaves

Full disclosure – I’m a mother of two kids. They’re 18 and 20, and both veterans of Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day programs. In fact, my daughter and I co-hosted the first Take Your Daughters to Work day program at Lotus Development in 1993 when she was 5 years old. The original goal, as established by the Ms. Foundation for Women, was to expose young girls to career opportunities beyond traditional women’s roles.

The current program has the following mission:

“Exposing girls and boys to what a parent or mentor in their lives do during the work day is important, but showing them the value of their education, helping them discover the power and possibilities associated with a balanced work and family life, providing them an opportunity to share how they envision the future and begin steps toward their end goals in a hands-on and interactive environment is key to their achieving success.

Kids like to visit their parents’ workplace, no doubt about it. Whether these visits inspire them to future career decisions is questionable, but allowing parents a day to share their workplace with their kids is one means of engaging the employer loyalty of working parents. While no substitute for fair pay, flexible work options, good health benefits, and other perks that help parents balance their fiscal and family obligations, these programs do acknowledge the balancing act that working parents have to manage.

On the flip side, Newsday columnist Helaine Olen wrote today about the need for a day for parents to stay home with their kids and do absolutely nothing. Her take is that we’re a nation of workaholics who are taking BlackBerries to ball games and thereby teaching our kids that the cost of flexibility is that the work switch is always set to on. I wonder, how many of the adults who brought their kids to work today for art projects, age appropriate speakers and pizza and ice cream lunches will pay for it with extra night or weekend catch up time in the next few days?

It’s not only the parents of participating children who are impacted by these programs. Take the survey on the right and let us know how this plays out in your workplace.

24 thoughts on “Do We Still Need Take Your Child to Work Day?

  1. I think Take the Kiddies to Work is ridiculous. I doubt that the kids learn anything, and it’s disuptive to people who came to the office intending to get some work done.

    I can just hear it: “it’s only once a year and the kids really enjoy it.”

    How about this: schedule it on a Saturday to see how interested the kids really are (would they rather play softball or play office?) and see how eager the parents are when it’s cutting into their free time instead of their paid work time.

    Plus, let’s be realistic – parents bring enough work home for kids to get a flavor of what mommy and daddy really do all day, and it isn’t making paper hats, eating pizza, and coloring.

  2. “one means of engaging the employer loyalty of working parents”

    Isn’t this just a benefit the employer offers to it’s employees? I’ve brought me son in on weekends to show him what I do but I wouldn’t necessarily take time out on a monday – friday to bring him in.

    Forward thinking transparent companies even have ‘take your pet to work days’ every week. I think it’s more for work-life balance that really teaching kids what you do.

  3. I work in the health care industry and there’s not really the opportunity to bring my kid in for the day and see how Mommy works. Sure doing it on a weekend or night would be fine but I just don’t have the time.

    Great perk if your company offers it though. I’m sure they’re spending money on some other silly stuff too.

    Can we assume, Joyce Maroney, that your company just participated in a day like this?

    I wouldn’t think your older children still participate?

  4. I think it is necessary. I don’t think the lost productivity of 1 day of this is anywhere near as bad as during march madness when the employees are wasting company time looking where their teams are in the rankings.

    The reason I think it is necessary is because the spoiled brats of my generation and newer generations have no work ethic.(Myself included, although I wasn’t as bad as most) So, I think for child development it is a great thing. I know how excited I was to go with my Dad to a steel mill with him, not only because I wanted to see all the machines and such, but also because I got to see where he worked and spend some time with him.

    So yes, it is still needed.

  5. I don’t have kids myself, but I see the enjoyment that my coworkers and their kids get out of the day. They are excited to see where Mom and Dad go everyday and meet some of their parents “friends”.

    I agree that I don’t think it is going to have any lasting influence on what kids decide to do as a career, but if it is effective as a bonding tool with their parents, than I am all for it.

  6. I recently participated in a “Take Your Child to Work Day” program by bringing my 9 year old daughter into my office. She loved it!

    As a full time working mother of three children (all girls, not that gender particularly matters) I struggle continuously with the guilt of doing what I like outside the home versus being home with my children. It’s incredibly important that my children see me leave for work happy, and that I enjoy what I do. Not only did this experience open my daughters eyes to what I do, and who I work with, but she came home with a greater appreciation for why I like my job. (Otherwise, what’s the point?)

  7. I did not see one single kid in this whole building. I didn’t even know there was still such as thing as “Take Your Child to Work Day” until I read this.

  8. The hoopla and special programs many companies are putting on for the take your kids to work (and disrupt everyone else’s day) don’t accurately portray what a “real” work day is like.

    I’ve taken my daughter to work with me for many years (she’s 13 now), and the day at the office is a carnival compared to normal workdays and the nights I spend at the kitchen table with my laptop hunched over and begging to not be pestered so I can get things done.

    I would rather have her see that my job is *work*, not a day spa.

    Ultimately, my goal is not to show her how cool mommy’s job is, or try to convince her to go into the same field as mommy, and it is *certainly* not to show her how much fun a corporate gig can be. If it were all fun and games, it wouldn’t be called “work”.

    My goal is to instill her with a strong work ethic, a solid set of priorities (paying the mortgage is a big one), and a realistic view of a “real job”.

  9. As I work from home a lot of the time, especially in the evening, I have my kids “at work” a lot…. and as one is 5 and the other 10…I can safely say that I could do with the door to my office being concealed and the entire room sound proofed, I love my kids as much as the next parent… but they can drive me up the wall when I’m trying to concentrate 🙂

    When I was 14 our school did work experience, we got sent for a week to work in a “work environment”. That was an experience I never forgot! I learnt fast that I didn’t want anything to do with soldering wires into plugs for 8 hours a day. So yes sending kids to experience work is a great idea, but I think it needs to be at the right age and in the right kind of environment. Two things that are not always easy to match up.

  10. This event seems to perpetuate the idea that those with kids can take advantage of company time at least one day a year that other employees cannot. And sometimes even at the expense of other employees productivity.

    If you want to be fair you would need a non-parental related day like Bring Your Spouse to Work Day or Bring Your Friend to Work Day. But being that the attempt to be overly fair is a waste of time anyway, I say let the parents and kids have their day but let’s get it right and not describe it as such a serious event.

    Stating that they will, “share how they envision the future and begin steps toward their end goals” is silly. The only end goal an 8-12 year old kid should have is conquering the latest video game. And frankly I am 33 years old and if working in cube-ville is an end goal please save me.

    This is probably why we do need an “Absolutely Nothing Day.” At 8 years old we are telling kids they should look forward to being Software Engineers!

  11. While I do understand that a take your kid to work days could possibly be disruptive to employees who are not participating in the event…I think it’s a good idea.

    The bottom line is this, these take your kid to work days are not usually sprung on the employees the night before. A little planning and notification usually goes into these type of events.

    Anyone who is concerned about the disruptive effect of a take your kid to work day should plan accordingly ahead of time. If you aren’t bringing your child to work…work from home if possible. If you have a huge deadline to meet on the morning of the event, either plan to have the project done the day before or come in early to avoid distractions.

    We’re talking about one day a year. I think if everyone puts a little planning into these type of events the positives will outweigh the negatives.

  12. I think that it is a good tradition worth keeping. It build family connections into the workplace and sets a good example. However, I work at home so when I have kids I doubt it will be the same effect to see Dad in front of the computer in his home office 😉

  13. I think Take your Kid to Work Day is an excellent concept and the tradition should be continued. It is important for children to see where their parental units are all day.

  14. Interesting how split the comments on this post are…

    I am a father of three and personally like the concept of “bring your kids to work day.” While I agree that 1) it can be disruptive and 2) doesn’t truly demonstrate what goes on at work, I like it because it allows me to create a deeper bond with co-workers as I get to see them in more of a familial setting. I also remember going to work related activities with my dad and to this day, still brings back fond memories. I say keep BYKTWD should live on forever!

    Aaron (@astrout)

  15. This topic seems to have struck a nerve! Thanks for all the comments, pro and con.

    In response to Jen – yes, my 18 & 20 year olds aged out of this program many years ago. I can’t say their exposure to software development, sales and/or marketing (where I’ve mostly worked since 1978) has spurred them into high tech. One is focused on pursuing a career involving international relations and the other on film making.

    On the other hand, kids of working parents really value the 1:1 time with their parents that these programs offer – sharing the commute, meeting coworkers, visualizing where Mum or Dad spends their day.

    Like most workplace programs, there isn’t a one size fits all solution. You need to balance safety issues, coworker disruption, and other downsides against the upside for the working families who want to participate.

  16. I like the idea as it humanizes an often sterile work environment. That said a company picnic where all of the kids can go nuts together seems a lot more fun for all and possibly more beneficial for fostering good relationships between co-workers. Of course I work out of my house so every day is take your kids to work day.

  17. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m the abovementioned 20 year-old (hi Mum!). From this side of Take Your Child to Work Day, I think it’s a fine tradition, but legitimate points have been raised. As my mother mentioned, my first TYCHWD was in 1993; neither of my parents had cell phones or laptops, and the current Take Your Work Home 24/7 experience had yet to really grip our society or my family. Yet when it did, I remember wanting nothing more than to destroy the cell phones and assorted nuisances that prevented my parents from spending time with me at home.

    That’s not to say they were unable to operate without a cell phone in their ears (I bet you thought I was about to sell you upriver, Mum – gotcha). I see no reason why the Olen article and TYCHWD can’t both be right; families need time to just be together, and nothing more, but I see no harm done to kids who also get the chance to have some exposure to the world of work – even if that exposure is more than a little skewed. I never thought my mother actually read “Oh The Places You’ll Go” on a daily basis at work, but it certainly made our first TYCHWD memorable.

    As my mother mentioned, I’m not necessarily looking to go into her profession, nor is my brother; and we have both spent days at our parents’ offices where nothing more happened than we sat quietly and did homework while they carried out their normal business. The most important part of any TYCHWD is not exposure or inspiration, but something several others have mentioned: bonding. Just because I may not have gotten the clearest idea of what my mother did each day, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t get something out of TYCHWD. If anything, the plugged-in, on-the-go, never-stop world we live in requires more things like TYCHWD, because honestly, we kids will take what time we can get.

    Love you Mum.

  18. For every benefit … there’s a cost. For every cost … there’s a benefit.

    Not everyone benefits the same way … not everyone bears the costs in the same way.

    I’m older than this formalized program, but I went to work with each of my parents at different times and for different reasons.

    As a kid, just seeing the store or office or factory as the jobs changed was an exciting. Seeing mommy and daddy in an entirely different context was exciting. Playing with the typewriters (yup, I’m *that* old) and lighting up the five telephone lines with the glowing red HOLD button was as much fun as playing outside. Everyday? Maybe not. But occasionally? Definitely.

    I’m a parent now. Sometimes I don’t see the little one in a conscious state for two or three days straight because I leave before she’s up and get home after she’s down. Therefore, I couldn’t care less what the reason is … I couldn’t care less what it’s called … if there’s a chance … if there’s a reason … if there’s a pretext … if there’s an excuse (however flimsy it might be) … to spend a little time with her then you can bet your wallet that I’m going to seize it.

    I wish that I didn’t have to work full-time so that I could spend more time with her. But I *do* have to work full-time … and I’m not going to make any apologies for that … and I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’m going to accept it and do the best that I can with what I’ve got.

    Take my kid to work? Is that my ideal?

    Nope. But a day (or a few hours) at work with her around is INFINITELY better than a day (or a few hours) at work without her.

    Reasonable people can disagree as long as they disagree with understanding and appreciation of “the other side” rather than knee-jerk reactionism. The last thing that this country needs is more needless polarization, but that’s a topic for another space.

  19. I am a mother of one and step-mother of two. All three of my children have participated in this day. Do they enjoy it – of course they do!

    As a working full time mother of three, I can and do see both sides of this issue. If the day is having the children come in to run free through the office and copy their hands or faces on the copy machine then absolutely that is a distraction. But if the day is planned in advance, stuctured for the children in an area that is out of the way of all who need to be concentrating on their jobs, it’s not so bad.

    Do I feel the context fits? – No – when my daughter attended this year’s event and was asked what department I worked in, she did not know. But when asked what I do – she can answer in detail, mostly because in this age of technology, she sees me work from home and she sees what I do – not because she comes to Take Your Child To Work Day.

    During the event – my children are not with me for the 3 hours that they are here. They are off doing their own activities that have nothing to do with my job. However, the first year my oldest daughter participated, she did learn about the different departments and what their jobs were – that is the type of day this should be. A lot of effort goes into this day and the planning is great – but the content should fit – It’s not take your child to work to learn about the evironment day – it’s take your child to work so they can learn about the company and what you do.

    Will they still be as interested – some will. Will they learn about what they want to do when they grow up – some will. Some may not come to work for Mom or Dad’s company – they may find through this day that this is not for them – isn’t that the point?

    Allow the children to see what is out there – allow them to experience a day – allow them to have the information that they need to say ‘No – I don’t like that company and I don’t want to work in that kind of a job.’

    For those of you who are so unhappy with ‘cubeville’ – maybe there is something out there for you that makes you happy. I can honestly say that I am happy with the work I do – I love the company that I work for – and I can be productive on Take Your Child to Work day and any other day of the year.

    When I was growing up – there was no formal Take Your Child to Work Day at my mother’s company – but I did go in for the day occasionally. I would help with certain jobs and I knew right from the start that working in an office was not for me. That enabled me to turn down a full scholarship to something that, although I was really good at, I did not like or want to do that job for the rest of my life and this allowed me to pursue my other dreams. I loved just about every ‘career’ I had from driving a school bus full of screaming children to emergency animal care. If it weren’t for those days in my mother’s office – I may have never experienced half of what I did. Am I a millionaire – heck no – but I was happy. I had a rare opportunity to experience some things that people go a lifetime and never experience – all because of those boring days in the office. How ironic is it that I turned down a full scholarship to do what I do today. But I love my job, I love the company I work for and I love what I do.

    My kids see that although I may not always want to be at work or working from home, I love what I do – I’m not angry about having to work and I don’t hate the company I work for and I don’t always complain about how much there is to do.

    And it all started with those boring days in the office…….

  20. I love take your child to work day! Who cares if it’s disruptive, it’s once a year! Get over it. Maybe if you think it’s not worth it then your office is doing something wrong!

  21. The high school age students that go to their parents job miss a day of school and then return to a lot of missed assignments that most of them don’t do. This is followed by a stream of failing grades. This might be a good idea for elementary and middle school aged students but not for students age 14 to 18.

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