Today is Bring Your Kid to Work Day

When I was a little girl, I saw my mom at work every day. Here’s what I saw her doing:

  • Getting us out of bed
  • Cooking for us and making our lunches
  • Washing dishes
  • Dropping us off at school
  • Vacuuming and dusting
  • Doing laundry
  • Ironing
  • Cleaning up our messes and the messes that our pets made
  • Menu planning and grocery shopping
  • Paying bills and figuring out the taxes
  • Laying bricks
  • Painting
  • Planting
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Getting the car fixed
  • Making appointments for us and chauffeuring us to them
  • Sewing clothes (and buying clothes to fill in the gaps)

When I started school, I started having responsibilities from this list. I ironed – to this day, I hate ironing. I washed dishes. I cooked. I did menu planning and grocery shopping. I did a little sewing. I cleaned. I did laundry. I helped with other stuff. I hated this work and I decided that, while it might be fine for people who enjoy it, I wanted to do different work when I grew up.

But when I looked around at the other women I knew, I saw a lot of moms doing all the same things my mom did. I saw a few teachers. I saw my grandfather’s secretary (she was really more of an operations manager). I saw nuns. I saw nurses and stewardesses. And I saw ballerinas.

Mostly I saw moms.

And I knew I didn’t want that job. But if you asked me what I did want to do, I couldn’t tell you – other jobs were just invisible to me. And the fact that – even then – a lot of women were working (because they had to or because they wanted to), was invisible to a lot of us. Even the teacher who lived next door was still just Roger’s mom to me because I never saw her at work as a teacher.

I couldn’t imagine what I could be when I grew up – maybe a veterinarian because I liked animals, but I didn’t really know what they did, so I couldn’t picture myself doing it.

Here’s what I saw my dad doing:

  • Dad was rarely home because he worked so much. He was gone when we got up in the morning and came home after we went to bed.
  • When dad was home, he was tired because he had worked so hard.
  • Dad exercised because his health was important. He needed to be healthy to work.
  • Sometimes, when dad was home, I saw him at his desk late into the night, in a tiny pool of light from his desk lamp, with a huge stack of magazines. As he read the magazines, he highlighted parts of them. Sometimes he typed.
  • Dad was in charge of the camping trips we took when he got time off.
  • When we had a cookout, Dad ran the grill.
  • Dad took our temperatures and removed splinters.
  • Every now and then, I went with my dad to the place where he worked (usually because he had picked me up from an activity on his way there). He left me in the car or parked me in an empty office with a book or my homework, and disappeared for hours. Eventually he came back and picked me up and we went home.

What did my dad do? He was a doctor. He operated on people’s hearts. Based on what I learned many years later, it sounds like he actually had a great rapport with the nurses and with his colleagues, and a great bedside manner. But I never got to see what it was really like in a hospital (other than the shadowy office where he parked me, and my own scary trips when I was a patient).

Twenty years later, Bring Your Daughter to Work Day started. Parents were encouraged to bring their daughters to work with them, so little girls could make choices about what kinds of work they might want to do when they grew up. Even when they went to work with their dads, they got to see women doing different kinds of work – and sometimes women being in charge of things.

A few years later, boys were added into the mix, which I think was ultimately for the good. Children are self-centered (part of the reason that teenagers are such a pain in the neck) and, when they only see their parents in their at-home roles, kids tend to think that’s all there is. They don’t know that parents have a whole nother life outside their role as parents. A role where mom is not centered around taking care of the kid and dad isn’t just a goofy guy who tells dad jokes. Seeing their parents in other roles helps kids appreciate and respect their parents more.

So today we have Bring Your Child to Work Day. Some workplaces embrace this and use it as an opportunity to show kids what they do, what it’s like to do that kind of work. Some places create work opportunities for the kids (ice a cupcake, read three kids books and tell me which one you would sell and why, film a video), which I think is awesome because it lets them try on different jobs in a safe space.

What’s your workplace doing to celebrate Bring Your Child to Work Day?

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