It’s 7:30 PM on the fourth Wednesday of April. You’ve just given your child their nightly bath, and you’re now reading them their favorite story. Something about a pigeon and a hot dog or dinosaurs and underpants. Your child is buzzing with excitement because tomorrow is the fourth Thursday in April, and that means one thing:
Your child will not be climbing aboard the school bus the next day. Instead, your little one will be going to work with you. It is, once again, Take Your Child to Work Day.
You and your child are so excited.
This moment in time, as you switch off the light and say goodnight to your precious child, will also be the pinnacle of Take Your Child to Work Day. It will not get any better than this.
In fact, from here until the end of the workday tomorrow, life will be hell.
It was a noble idea when Take Your Child to Work Day was initially conceived in 1992. Back then, it was known as Take Our Daughters to Work Day, though sons were often included and officially added in 2003. The purpose of the day is to give children in the United States a glimpse at the working world, which sounds lovely and important but is in practice horrendous and stupid, for several reasons.
First and foremost, the workday does not cease to be a workday for the beleaguered parents who bring these small human beings to the workplace, which means that after the novelty of watching their parent respond to email, operate a drill press, or bake loaves of multigrain bread has worn off, the parent is left with a child who is bored to death yet still tragically underfoot.
Goodbye productive workday. Hello to managing the emotions of a child who has been deprived of recess and snack time.
Suddenly, the role of childcare worker has been added to the parent’s already plateful of responsibilities for the day, making doing the actual work required frustrating if not impossible.
If the parent is fortunate enough to work for an employer who has decided to be proactive about this unfortunate, ridiculous day, your child will perhaps receive a tour of the workplace, which, depending on its size of the facility, might offer a brief respite of 15 or 30 minutes. Maybe some swag will be offered to the child in the form of an oversized tee-shirt, a pen stamped with the logo of the company, and maybe some stationary.
If the parent wears an ID badge throughout the workday, perhaps name badges have been made for the children as well.
That will fill at least 45 seconds of the day.
Then, the children will likely be collected in some conference room or lunchroom or storage closet, where they will be invited to color for the next seven or eight hours. Or staple papers. Or maybe bend paperclips into sculptures. Basic office supplies will be thrown at the child in a desperate attempt to keep them occupied and quiet.
Except for lunch, of course. For the parent, lunch is typically the sole escape from the daily grind of the workday, but on this day, lunch will be spent with the child, who will embarrass the parent with boring, repetitive stories, inane, endless questions, and desperate pleas for anything and everything inside the vending machines.
Take Your Child to Work Day should be renamed Make Your Workday Even More Unbearable Than Ever Before Day.
All of this is disastrous, of course, but it’s not even the primary crux of the problem. The real issue is this:
Why give happy children a view of the soulless American workday? Why demoralize these younglings any more than necessary? What heartless villain thought that offering them a glimpse into the next 40 years or so of their lives any sooner than necessary was a good idea?
Kids aren’t stupid. Give them 15 minutes in your average workplace and they’ll be silently begging for a return to the joys of a classroom, filled with friends, lessons designed to engage curiosity, and play.
School rules. Work sucks. Why clue our children into this sad reality while they are blissfully busy enjoying their childhood?
What’s next? Take your child to hip replacement rehab?
Take your child to the mortgage payment processing center?
Take your child to a facility that produces medication for erectile dysfunction and high cholesterol?
Why not take your child to the local cemetery? Maybe let the little scamps pick out a future plot for themselves under the shade of a dying oak tree?
Or better yet, instead of Take Your Child to Work Day, how about Take Your Parent to School Day?
Would any adult be opposed to returning to a brightly colored classroom of elementary school for a day of reading books, writing stories, playing kickball at recess, and passing notes behind the teacher’s back?
The kids don’t need a glimpse at the workplace. Adults need a reminder of a time when life was happy and good.
Take Your Child to Work Day was designed with noble intent, and I have no doubt that some workplaces are better than others. If you work at an amusement park, for example, I suspect that this day works out quite well for you. Ditto for places like the zoo, the trampoline park, the movie theater, Ben & Jerry’s, and the pet store.
Truthfully, given that I’m an elementary school teacher, it’s worked out quite well for me, too. Taking my children to school with me has meant that they enjoy a day of school, filled with novelty and fun but absent of any academic responsibilities.
They experience the best of the school day minus anything that might tax the brain. And best of all, no homework at the end of the day.
But other than the teachers, zookeepers, and professional ice cream tasters of this world, most workplaces are not well suited for Take Your Child to Work Day, making this a far less joyous and noble celebration than originally intended.
In other words, Take Your Child to Work Day is work. Only worse. In fact, it’s more work, for both the parent and their newly disillusioned child.
Maybe call in sick on Take Your Child to Work Day this year and teach your kiddo the joys of telling your employer that you’ve fallen ill when you’re really healthy as an ox.
That’s a lesson they might actually appreciate.
Matthew Dicks is an elementary school teacher, bestselling novelist, and a record 55-time Moth Story SLAM champion. His latest books are Twenty-one Truths About Love and The Other Mother.
Sean Wang, an MIT architecture graduate, is author of the sci-fi graphic novel series, Runners. Learn more at seanwang.com.