“Fake” Your Kids to Work Day

My husband gets credit for the post title. He thought of it after finding out that his department at work made it mandatory for kids participating in “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work” Day to attend activity sessions with all the other kids—sessions related to the department’s mission that take the kids away from their working parents. This is a far cry from how the day began.

As founding president of the  Ms. Foundation for Women, Gloria Steinem created Take Our Daughters to Work Day in 1993. Since then, the day has evolved into what Lisa Belkin describes beautifully in today’s New York Times piece, Why Take Our Children to Work?. As she writes, some may decide it’s better to keep their children home, or in school, on this day. Our daughter is with her dad, mostly for tradition’s sake: she’s been going for years and especially enjoys their lunch together at a special local restaurant.

I can understand the day’s evolution from daughters to daughters and sons, but the mandatory “fake” activities give me pause. For children who normally would be in school, the day becomes yet another school-y day, with artificial activities taking the place of the real-life activities they could be experiencing. I realize that not all jobs are kid-friendly. Perhaps a “Take Your Kids to Work” hour instead of a whole day would be better for some parents.

Mostly, I think no day is better than a “fake” day. Or, at least, call it what it is. The kids at my husbands office today are not seeing their parents work; they are seeing lie detector demonstrations and getting a tour of the computer center. There’s something to be said for that, but it’s not what the day was intended to be about or could be about. Whether Dad or Mom’s job is boring or fabulous, seeing it can serve as an object lesson in the importance of pursuing your passion in life.

In keeping with the “schoolization” and corporatization of everything, Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day even has a web site now. There, you can find sections for parents, teachers, and “workplace coordinators,” the latter being the liaison between the child and the real world considered so essential for today’s youth, who obviously can’t handle, or behave properly for, the truth.

The Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation (very official!) has a theme, as required for all official efforts. This year the unifying concept—selected as the result of  “a long deliberative process”—is “1 youth, 1 dream, 2morrow’s leader.”  And the day is sponsored by none other than the Barbie doll (celebrated icon of reality). I wonder what Gloria Steinem thinks about that.

Barbie, Computer Engineer


6 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Laura Weldon said,

    What’s with society and age segregation anyway?

    The concept of children shadowing their own parents at the workplace results in some kind of collective spasm, as if childlike curiosity may unleash the dragons long kept just beyond the cubicle wall. God forbid we might hear, “But how do annuities really help anyone Daddy?” or “I thought you wanted to work with animals Mommy, not answering phones.”

    We might be afraid of what our children perceive of our limitations. We might be afraid that children are tiny, rights-free citizens to be controlled. Or we might be afraid that, if they got a glimpse of interesting work going on every day in the community they might clamor to really learn what it takes to be a nurse, a bricklayer, a hospice volunteer, a person fully involved in the life that goes on just beyond school doors. Yikes.

  2. 3

    Cristina said,

    You made me giggle!

    I remember when this day was first launched. A friend of mine, a songwriter and musician, told her daughter it was “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.” She then opened the door to their apartment with a flourish.

    “But I come here EVERY day!” her daughter complained.

    My friend worked from home!

    FYI, way before it was a day, I went to my mom’s office every day after school when I was in high school. I learned much about office politics, slackers and difficult bosses. This is probably when I decided I would never want to work in an office.

    Peace and Laughter!

  3. 4

    Peggy said,

    A company I used to work for did the same thing. I never brought my son because I knew he wouldn’t be happy with it anyway. You don’t tell a kid they are going to work with Dad or Mom and then they only see them when they do a quick tour of the facility! Like you said it’s fake and I felt like we were better off not doing it at all!

  4. 5

    Cherilyn said,

    I had no idea that companies were keeping parents and kids apart like this, though it doesn’t surprise me that the whole deal has turned into a corporate PR day. Interesting to consider what the kids really think if they’re allowed to look behind the curtain and ask the real questions.

    • 6

      sgaissert said,

      Thanks for writing, Cherilyn. I think that, if the kids tried to get a good look at things, a booming voice would say,”Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain . . .” Best wishes, Susan

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