Take Your Child To Work Day, In Reverse

Lisa writes: According to The Wall Street Journal, the generation that invented “Take Your Child To Work Day,” is hoping their offspring will return the favor.  An article in the Journal this week discussed the practice among many large companies of involving parents in their child’s employment. And by child, I mean adult.

Corporate giants, like Google and LinkedIn, have held “Take your Parents to Work Day,” a sort of cosmic payback for the generation that so enjoyed the annual rite of taking their kids to work.  One large insurance company invites parents of interns (again, just noting these are adults) to open houses so that they can become familiar and comfortable with their college children’s workplace.

take your child to work day

This is wrong, as they say, on so many levels.

The argument runs that companies can use parental involvement to attract and hold talent. Parents who feel thrilled or grateful to their child’s employer are more likely to encourage that child (did I mention that they are adults?) to remain with said employer.

But for me, here is where this breaks down.  Our kids need their own world, a place that they do not see through our eyes, but through their own.  If they take us to their jobs, they will view their workplace through our lens. They will hear our judgements, they will feel our enthusiasm even if it does not match their own.  We have a permanent place in our kids’ heads, the result of a lifetime of listening to our voices, but we shouldn’t have a place in their office.

We are not them.  I am not sure that it matters what I think.  My kids need to love their jobs or at least get up in the morning and show up and do them.  So unless you tell me that the job is dangerous, or has the potential for some kind of long-term damage, it does not matter at all what I think. It only matters what my kid thinks.

A job is a little like a marriage in that only those who are involved in it really know what is going on.  My kids should not stay in their job (or for that matter, marriage) because of what I think of their relationship’s prospects, failure, opportunities or success.  I only know what I hear from them. It is only my opinion and it is their life.

Companies hope to attach young employees with great involvement by parents.  Using me to attract my kid or hold on to him, would be like a young woman trying to appeal to me so that my son would date her…strange would be the kindest thing I could say.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to tag along with them to work.  I am a totally invasive parent and am dying of curiosity.  But if I am certain of one thing it is this – my young adult children need to make an employer think that they are young adults and not children.  They need to establish themselves as independent beings, capable of performing a task.  And while I would like nothing more than to satisfy my curiosity and tell their employers how cute they were when they were small, I am not sure this would aid in their professional development.

The article summed up by saying that employers hope that the involvement of parents will boost morale. I get that it is hard to transition from school to the working world and that kids can feel very uncertain, lost, and insecure.   That’s when we parents come in, not on a visit to the office, but as a sympathetic ear on the phone line, reminding them that major changes are tough, and that at this moment, like all others, we have every confidence in the world that they will figure it out.

Sally Koslow, expert on young adulthood and author of Slouching Toward Adulthood, counsels moderation:

In a limited context, I see no disadvantage to “Take Your Mama to Work Days.” The operative word is limited. Parents may be curious about what their adultescents do at work, and want to support and understand them. But over-involvement hurts both generations. The last thing people in their 20s need today is generally Dad or Mom calling their shots.


young adult with parents





  1. says

    I totally agree with you, this is so wrong on so many levels!!!!!! Yikes!!! Though in my heart of hearts I would prefer my babies (14, 11 and 8) to stay with me forever, in reality I want them to have the same autonomy that I enjoyed and loved as a young adult starting out. It’s great when parents take an interest, I remember my parents changing some of the brands of soft drinks and detergents they used when my sister was starting out as a producer in an advertising agency, feeling like they were doing their part in helping support her company, but that’s not the same as attending a “take your parent to work day”!!!!! Lol!

    • says

      Your parents sound supportive, this new practice sounds to me (one mom’s opinion) invasive! I think it is easier to get in our kids way than we think as we loom so large in their lives. Thanks for your comment.

  2. says

    I totally agree. A couple years ago we watched “The New Millenials” on 60 Minutes and they summed up the problem with the new adult generation. These kis received so much praise in school, it took away from the competition and achieving your own goals. Every body was a winner and the large corporations were now suffering to keep up the morale of their young adults. These corps started to implement Fridays as a “fun, play day” and giving everyone a prize for what they accomplished during the last week.

  3. says

    I’m 100% with you on this. They need the room and trials and knowledge that they can “work” through difficulties and choices on their own to unfold into adults and confidence. Loved Slouching Toward Adulthood, by the way. I think it should be part of every parent’s tome of advice/reference books.

    • says

      Couldn’t agree more with everything you said. Sally is a wonderful author and we are so lucky to have her as a friend!

  4. says

    I must be out of touch with how most people do things, because I’m having trouble picturing exactly what’s happening here. My brothers and I love inviting our family (parents or otherwise) along to what we do. I welcome the input of people whose opinions I value, and they welcome mine.

    My mother is an artist, and thanks to my brother the entomologist inviting her behind the scenes to have access to extensive museum and university collections, it has had a huge and positive impact on her own work. My dad spent a day hanging out with me at my violin store and said he loved having the chance to watch me work with customers. When I get the chance to watch either of my brothers teach it’s wonderful. I like seeing what daily life is really like for people I love, and I like it when people I care about have a better understanding of what I really do.

    I understand completely people needing their own space and life (that’s part of why I send my kids to public school–I think it’s good they do things separate from our world at home), but offering people the freedom to make families feel welcome in the workplace if they choose doesn’t strike me as problematic.

    But then again, I don’t work in a corporate landscape so I’m probably missing something important here.

  5. says

    I’d love to get a peak in the work day of my sons; one is a firefighter and the other is a prison guard.

    I like this idea!

  6. says

    I couldn’t agree with you more. This seems like taking “helicopter parenting” to a new, unhealthy extreme. Isn’t our job as parents to raise competent, independent adults. I’m all about loving and supporting my grown children but I do not feel it is my place to weigh in on their job situation (or, as you pointed out, their marriages). They need to navigate their own choices, using others as a sounding board but not judge and jury.

  7. Carpool Goddess says

    I agree, as much as I’d like to visit my adult child at work, it’s going too far.

  8. says

    I totally agree with you! It’s really kind of creepy and weird. I can’t imagine that ever happening when I was a twentysomething. I also can’t wait to read “Slouching Toward Adulthood.” It’s on my list!

  9. says

    What a very well-written piece this was, and an evocative one as well. I had so many reactions, but mainly my feeling is that it sends so many wrong messages to our children when we remain involved where we don’t belong. I try to wrap my head around different positions on things like this, but I just can’t see how anyone wouldn’t consider this a parental failure-to-detach, and therefore self-indulgent.

    • says

      We are so pleased you like this article and happy that the Darth Vader picture woke for you. BTW, we are “Grown and Flown,” you have it reversed but we appreciate the link, regardless!


  1. Take Your Child To Work Day, In Reverse | The B... says:

    […] Lisa writes: According to The Wall Street Journal, the generation that invented “Take Your Child To Work Day,” is hoping their offspring will return the favor.  […]