Saturday, April 28, 2012

I Took My Daughters to Work

Take Your Daughters to Work Day was a novel concept when it started about 20 years ago here in the United States. The idea was to show our daughters the limitless opportunities available to them in the workforce. But over time it has sort of devolved into somewhat of an annoyance, somewhat of a joke, with no one ever being completely happy with the premise and/or the administration of it. Most of the experience now surrounds lots of paper, crayons and the awkward, politically correct title of “Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day”. Some professionals have outright denounced it, such as Julie Drizin of the Journalism Center on Children and Families (I know, who knew there was such a thing anyway?). Since many of our poorest and lowest level workers never have the opportunity to bring their kids to work, unless they don’t have a baby sitter, she considers the day to be “…largely a feel-good exercise for the privileged.”

I started out with enthusiasm, but eventually found it to be more of a headache than anything. And my now grown daughters were not always enthusiastic participants in Take Your Daughter to Work Day, as it was then.

When I was the company nurse at our local newspaper, they loved playing with the equipment in the health office. But when I moved up professionally and joined management at a health insurance company, they pronounced the job that supported them as “boring”.

Our final foray was a bad idea from the start. I was the manager of the Appeals Department for Health Net of the Northeast and TYDTWD (even the initials are awkward) fell on a day involving a regional management meeting at our corporate headquarters in Connecticut, a two hour drive from our home on the Jersey Shore. Our department’s senior executives were all there, including our Senior VP, an obnoxious woman who believed in the Brutal Dictator approach to management. I was a lot more insecure in those days and, wanting to impress, I expected the girls (who were typically really good, nice children) to be on their best behavior while having nothing to do throughout a dull, day-long meeting. In other words, I had totally ridiculous, unreasonable expectations.

During the meeting, my bored then-eleven-year old fidgeted and fooled around, ramping up my anxiety and embarrassment, until she finally knocked over a can of soda that poured down right between her legs, soaking her khaki pants.

With a frozen smile, I ran her to the bathroom. Once there, I started frantically trying to sponge off the embarrassing stain. Mortified, I was about to launch into a furious tirade, but someone else came in to use the rest room. So I bit my lip.

On the way home I had calmed down to a semblance of sanity and she spoke up that she had feared for her life when I dragged her into the Ladies Room. Laughing, my other daughter said “What did you think Mom was going to do, flush you down the toilet?” Elizabeth solemnly replied “At that moment, I think she was capable of anything.”

I was the one who ended up learning a lesson. My kids were more important than trying to impress people who meant nothing to me at the end of the day. People who, unbeknownst to us sitting ducks, at the very time of that meeting were already planning to close the New Jersey office, putting me and several hundred other people out of work.

Perhaps they should have been paying more attention to their claims processing. In 2009 Health Net had to pay $1.3 in fines because of violations of state laws regarding payment of claims. In 2010, Health Net of the Northeast ceased to exist completely, absorbed by United Healthcare. An ultra-modern corporate complex that once housed thousands of employees, and where my daughter gave herself a bath in Dr. Pepper, now stands empty.

Another chapter of Corporate Greed. Take that to work, girls.


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Muffie said...

I only took my daughter to work once. It seemed like fun for her, at first, getting off from school. BUT I was a teacher, so coming to work meant going to school. What a bummer!

Patty Woodland said...

I never had a child to take to work so that's that. My mother was one of those stay at home mom things that you talked about last post. So I guess a day home might have been fun for

Anji said...

I took my son to work once when he was ill. I was teaching his age group English at the time. It was a difficult class as they were all fascinated by him and some of the boys already knew him from football.... Didn't get much done at all

Marie said...

Muffie - that definitely sounds like something that would just be another aggravation, having to entertain your own child in addition to managing your class. I think a better idea is the good old-fashioned Career Day, where parents come in and tell the whole class about what they do.

I did that when my girls were in school, I gave a talk about being a nurse and brought a stethoscope with me so they could listen to each other's hearts. It was a big hit!

Patty - that is too funny. Way to finagle a day off! And bravo to your mom for doing the most important job in the world!

Anji - isn't it funny how fascinated students are by glimpses into their teacher's lives? That must have been nie for them to see you in your mother role, not just as a teacher.