As times change, so do attitudes about taking kids to work

April 26, 2012 at 7:41 AM ET

Thursday is Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work day, although perhaps you didn't notice.

The annual event, started 20 years ago as a way to expose girls and young women to workplace and career opportunities, has attracted less attention in recent years.

Perhaps it’s another thing to blame on The Great Recession and slow economic recovery. The high joblessness that has plagued the  economy for five years has left many parents without work.

It’s also left those who are lucky enough to have a job nervous about holding onto it. That may mean it's not a great time for your child to say something embarrassing to your boss, spill soda on the keyboard or keep you from getting a day’s worth of work done.

There’s also the matter of how work has changed. Even two years ago, The New York Times noted that many kids already see their parents working a lot, because so many people now take their work home.

There have also been other criticisms of the event. Julie Drizin, director of the Journalism Center on Children and Families, wrote this week that she wouldn’t be participating after realizing that people who work long hours in low-wage jobs probably aren’t able to, either.

“I’ve come to believe that Take Your Daughters And Sons to Work Day is largely a feel-good exercise for the privileged,” she wrote.

Of course, many will participate. Carolyn McKecuen, president of the Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day Foundation, said that while some organizations have stopped participating, other companies have joined.

She doesn’t think there has been a big drop in participation, although she conceded the group has not done an exact accounting.

That’s partly because the organization, an offshoot of the Ms. Foundation, has itself been hit hard by the recession. It now operates on about a quarter of its former budget because of a drop in big donors.

McKecuen said some have used the day to speak frankly about the current economy. She said she has heard of unemployed parents getting together with their children to discuss how to write a resume and look for a job.

Times have changed since the event began 20 years ago solely for girls, later expanding to include boys.

McKecuen, who has two boys, thinks including both genders has been valuable.

“Guys need to know if they want to be a nurse they can be a nurse. They don’t have to fly a plane,” she said.

“The reason we started this has changed very little over the years,” she said. “It was designed to expose youth to what (their parents) do in their lives during the workday, and the demands and the possibilities in the workplace.”