My parents have been working at Boeing for as long as I can remember. Back there was a thing at Boeing called Take Your Child to Work Day; I’m not sure if they still do it now. It was cool. My sister and I got to hang out with our dad and tour the giant facility he worked in. To be fair, 8 years old everything seemed gigantic. Come to think of it, at 30 year old and 5’6″, everything still seems gigantic. The experience gave me some insight as to what my dad does as a machinist, which frankly, is still way over my head. By his title, I gather that he works with machines.
So this Labor Day, as we celebrate American workers, it got me thinking: wouldn’t it be great if Asian parents could visit their children at work for a day? Maybe then our parents would finally understand what we do? Maybe then they would stop bugging us about careers we have no talent for or interest in. So I came up with the idea of a new reality TV show–which I’m calling Take Your Parents to Work Day. It’s a mix between Undercover Boss and Trading Spaces.
Host: This week, we follow James and his parents as they explore the secret world of community development. Let’s see what they think about their son’s life choices.
James: WTF? Mom? Dad? What are you doing here? I’m working right now.
Dad: We’re on reality tv! Wanted to see what you do for work so we can brag to all of our friends.
Mom: Show us around honey!
James: Ok…well uh…check this out mom. My office has a machine that automatically cleans your dirty dishes. We call it a dishwasher.
Mom: Oooo…so modern. Why don’t we have one at home?
James: You do. You just happen to use it to dry dishes instead of wash them.
Dad: I told you you were doing it wrong honey!
James: Here’s my standing desk where I spend a lot of time writing grants.
Dad: What are grants?
James: Grants are like scholarships for non-profit organizations.
Mom: What do you do with grants?
James: Many of the grants we receive go to academic and family programs. A few go to general operating, which pays for my time.
Dad: If grants pay for your time, why don’t you write a big grant and give yourself a raise? That way your mom would stop worrying so much.
James: Great question dad. I could give myself a raise…but that just means I would have to work harder and write more grants to pay for that raise. Or, I could just keep the salary I have now and work a little less.
Mom: I think you’re doing it wrong. Why don’t you try making more money and working less at the same? Like one of those people in Congress?
James: Uh…I don’t know how to answer that mom. Moving on, this is the conference room where I meet with other community leaders to talk about equity and social justice. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, someone will bring leftover scones or banh mi to share. Those are good days.
Mom: Sweetie, what is social justice?
James: It’s complicated, but I will try to explain. Social justice promotes equal opportunity for all people—whether it’s economic, political, social or cultural.
Dad: You sound like a communist. Are you communist? Because that would be really embarrassing for your mom and me. What would our neighbors think?
James: No dad! Communism is a socioeconomic system based upon common ownership. AirBnB is more communist than social justice is.
James: Nevermind. Social justice is a movement based on the concept of human rights and quality. It’s actually very American—if you work hard, you will be rewarded. It shouldn’t matter what you look like, your beliefs or where you come from; every single person should have the same opportunities for success. But the unfortunate reality is that not everyone has these same opportunities. For example, women are still making less than men for doing the same job.
Mom: That can’t be true. Your sister makes way more than you, even though you’re a director.
James: Well…yes, that’s true mom. Shirley has made some better life choices than me. But we’re just one example, and you can’t compare a major tech company to a non-profit.
Dad: Ugh, my head hurts. I still don’t get what you do. Grants, social justice, dishwashers. This is all so confusing.
James: It’s alright dad. It takes time to understand. Fortunately, I’ll be working here for a while so you’ll have plenty more opportunities to see what I do.
Mom: For a while? NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! How will you ever find a wife?
[Transition to interview with the host]
Host: So Mr. and Mrs. Hong, what did you think of your son’s workplace and job?
Mom: What do I think? I’ll tell you what I *beep* think. Thinks he can save the world on pennies. He has a *beep* Master’s degree and this is what he *beep* *beep* does *beep* with his time.
James: Relax mom. I’m doing fine. This is a job that I love and am good job.
Mom: Don’t tell me to relax. I’m about to retire. Come here. You want the coin? You want the *beep* coin!?
Alright, I admit that’s a bit dramatic, but it’s how I got my parents to really understand my motivations and passion for the community work that I do. It wasn’t overnight. I had to take my parents to events, celebrations, and benefit dinners. It was all worth it though because one night, out of nowhere, my mom said “I am proud of you.” And I said, “Thanks mom.” Then she asked when I was gonna have children. “Damn it mom, can’t we just enjoy this moment?”
That’s why every single Asian child should take their parents to work, at least once. Even if you are a doctor, engineer or lawyer, your parents probably still have no idea what you do. Though maybe if you’re a lawyer, maybe you don’t want them to know?
Anyways, what does everyone think? Good idea or bad? What do you imagine your parents would say if they ever visited your work place?