Today marks the 21st anniversary of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. This year’s theme “Plant a Seed, Grow a Future” resonates with me on multiple levels. In a statement by the Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation they assert that “… bringing girls and boys together, we all contribute to creating a more equitable world — at home, at school, and in the workplace.” It makes me proud to know that I contribute to making that world a reality every time I bring my son to work with me.
My mom has been a college professor most of my life. She was also a single parent when I was in elementary school and I watched her balance the demands of teaching and research while being an engaged parent. There were days when she would leave from faculty meetings to come volunteer in my classroom or chaperone a field trip. I remember having to sit in on her evening courses because a sitter had backed out at the last minute. There were no laptops or iPads to keep me busy. I brought a book to read but usually just watched my mom work.
As I reflect on those moments I realize that my mom did indeed plant seeds on how I would balance the priorities of my career with raising my son. Like my mother, I also work in higher education and have always been intentional in letting my colleagues and students know that my family is my priority. This means that I don’t feel like I have to choose between the two. To be the best professional I can be I have to make sure my family is taken care of. And sometimes that means bringing my son to work.
It’s always interesting to me that when we have these conversations about balancing work and family that women and mothers are always at the center of the conversation. Do men and fathers think about this? I’m sure they do. My hope is that my son will. I hope that by bringing my son to work I am planting a seed within him to think differently about how he might manage the demands of his career with the needs of his family. I hope he will be in a respectful partnership with his spouse to make that a reality. As the child of a single parent he only sees me negotiate those demands. I hope this will one day make him more sensitive to his spouse if tough decisions have to be made.
The decision to bring my son with me to work is also important for the students I work with. As I help students navigate their academic and professional goals, I get to model for them that personal priorities are equally important. Of course I don’t assume that everyone wants to be a parent. But they may have coworkers who are and need to understand how that impacts how they show up at work. Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work day is important because we have the ability to change the conversation about work and family. I hope you will join me and bring your child to work.
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