Editorial Note: in honor of the upcoming 20th annual Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day on April 25, 2013, we asked Joe Strechay to reflect on this opportunity for parents, guardians, and mentors to introduce our children who are blind or visually impaired to the world of work.
Some of my earliest memories involve my father bringing me, my twin brother, and on occasion our older brother to his office on a Saturday — okay, it wasn’t the official day. I know we had many similar visits to my mother’s workplaces over the years. These experiences live in my memory to this day. I am Joe Strechay, a professional, a person who is blind/visually impaired, and the American Foundation for the Blind’s CareerConnect Program Manager.
I know my brothers and I still speak of the adventures and experiences we had traveling into New York City early in the morning via car or bus, as two rambunctious young twin boys with their older brother.
It was all so exciting to us. We traveled into the city, arriving near his office building at 42nd Street & Lexington. The routine usually involved a stop at the coffee shop below the building to get breakfast to bring up to the office.
Then we would travel into the building, check in, and then ride up the elevator to what I remember as the fortieth floor of the building. As we exited the elevator and entered his area of the office, we would find a span of desks, and sometimes meet someone who worked with or for our father at the company. Typically, there were very few people there on a Saturday, but on occasion we would meet someone working at their computer. Our father would offer us a preliminary tour of the office, especially where the restrooms and such were located. Our father’s office was the home base for us, and we would spend the day with him.
Even if we didn’t totally understand what he did, I would say we had a general idea. He was reviewing facts, figures, and accounts. He oversaw the accounting for the company. I know he was quite patient with us, and we were a handful during these adventures. Our father worked a lot of hours, but this truly provided a glimpse into what work was for him. We all felt this was the expectation for us later in life. We would work in an office somewhere, and hopefully New York City.
We learned about the telephone system, computers, typewriters, the water cooler, lunch break, desks, offices, swivel chairs, and most importantly the supply closet — all of the cool pens, highlighters, paper clips, Post-It Notes, and rubber bands were located in there! We learned that the more important that your job was at the company, the bigger your office got. A few years later, we saw our father’s office grow, and he got a mini-fridge in it — how cool was that? Also, the view from the window changed as he moved up in the organization.
I also may have memories of my brothers and I having rolling chair races through the empty hallways, we may have gotten into trouble a few times — just a few. It was so neat for us to experience what our father’s day was like, even if on a weekend. Now, it wouldn’t have been the same during the week. It would have been quite a bit busier and more crowded.
My brothers and I also spent time at our mother’s office growing up; during that time she worked in real estate. We experienced the different aspects of her job, ranging from answering calls from buyers and sellers to preparing houses for a “showing.” We learned a lot about what is expected in work from our parents and visiting their job sites.
What I Learned
- about the structure of a work day and how it varies by job
- that work could involve early mornings and late evenings
- that you don’t want to bother the coworkers — “Sorry, Dad!”
- that the photo copier was not for making massive amounts of copies of our stuffed animals
- that you have to respect people’s food in the shared fridge
- about the rapport between bosses and employees — they let the boss’s kids get away with some stuff, just saying…
- that you are not supposed to go through people’s desks
- a ton of concept development, such as concepts about elevators, stairwells, and accounting
- that there are times you have to be really quiet
- that you sometimes have to work when others are not
- that the work day varies by job and organization
- that jobs vary in the types of duties and tasks
I think that “Take Our Daughters or Sons to Work Day” is great, but there are many opportunities to do it. It may not be open at every workplace, and I don’t think it should be a routine because you may end up causing issues at the workplace. Although a workplace is a great place to visit, it is not a daycare — unless you work at a daycare, and they may still frown on it, too. I think children need to be aware of the expectation of work — they should expect that they will work! There are opportunities to point out jobs and tasks throughout everyday life. Make it the norm. Have your children ask about different jobs (though maybe not when there is a huge line at the grocery store and the guy behind you is groaning in frustration).
AFB CareerConnect offers an opportunity for kids and adults to explore careers and read stories about adults who are blind or visually impaired and their jobs. These stories are part of the “Our Stories” section of CareerConnect, success stories about CareerConnect mentors and other people who are blind or visually impaired. You and your children can explore careers every day with the ease of surfing the Internet. But, there is no substitute for experiencing it firsthand.
So I strongly suggest that you find out if your workplace allows you to bring your son or daughter to work, and take advantage of the bonding experience and life lessons — you never know, he or she may be introduced to their future career through you or your coworkers.
I know throughout our childhood, my brothers and I were provided different tasks to complete that related to my parents’ jobs, such as stuffing mass amounts of envelopes, distributing fliers in a neighborhood, helping prepare a house, and so on. I am not talking about breaking child labor laws or enlisting your kid in a sweat shop, but finding small tasks that they can help with on occasion. I know we felt good about completing them and helping our parents. Not always—maybe “He-Man” (1980s cartoon) was on—but we got over it. I barely remember those cartoons, but the experiences with my parents’ work live on vividly. It’s time to make work the expectation, and be open about it.