Who Needs Parents? Seems Like All of Us.

Last week, Americans gathered together with those they love, ate a lot of turkey, watch some football…and hopefully squeezes in some time to reflect on what they are thankful for. For many of us, that would be family.

Your relationship with your family, particularly parents…well my relationship, and I’m just hoping I’m not alone…is complicated and changes overtime. But I recently discovered one seeming commonality that many of us share, this discovery reassured and heartened me. This light bulb moment of insight didn’t strike me during a deep conversation with my mom or dad. Rather, it came while speaking to other people’s parents during the inaugural Bring Your Parents to Work Day at my office (I’ll get back to that in a moment).

There is a point in childhood when our parents are literally our favorite people in the world. I see it with my friends’ children now. All they want to do is play with mom and dad. Then we cross this magical line in the sand called tweendom and we’d rather be dead than be seen with our “embarrassing” parents at the mall. Gosh, how terrible must that make them feel? Then we hit another point in life, I’ll call it pseudo-adulthood (I’m still waiting to feel like an actual adult), when we can once again walk down the street with them and not be mortified.

During childhood and adolescence, our parents are very much a part of our everyday life. We eat dinner together, they attend our lacrosse games, school plays, see us off to our proms, know and love our friends and classmates. But then this thing called adulthood sets in and our parents are left to be outside observers, their faces pressed up against the window of the home that is our adulthood. They hear stories about work, co-workers, bosses and clients, but they are no longer a part of our day-to-day.

But wasn’t it their love and support (not to mention tuition money) that made this “real life” possible? And now they’re relegated to the sidelines of our lives? Yes, it’s natural, that’s life. But it also seems a little unfair…for both parties.

Don’t get me wrong, my parents still get an earful from me. I’m one of those people who stresses and worries…until I talk-through a situation ad nauseam. Then it’s neutralized and I can move on. Guess who the lucky folks are who get to listen as I basically talk myself into, and then out of, a tailspin. Ding, ding, ding: mom and dad.

While having that sounding board and getting that advice always makes me feel better, it also leaves me wondering when will I be able to handle these types of situations on my own? I feel silly that I still need my patents. Should I?

I found a stat that one out of three parents don’t understand what their adult child does for a living. And if you’re talking about a “creative” environment like the one I work in, I’m sure that number is even higher. That figure–coupled with the feeling that parents and “kids” should still be able to share their day-to-day experiences–was the motivation behind Bring Your Parents to Work Day. LinkedIn started the initiative and Google has also adopted it, but Mullen Lowe is the first ad agency, and the first Boston-based company (as far as I can tell), to adopt it.

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Head of Account Service, Marc Kempter greeting parents. Photo courtesy of Kara Kochalko.

On November 5th we had 37 parents wandering…um, I mean following their children around our office. Many seemed to be in awe. So did Mullen Lowe employees, regardless of whether they were one of those with a parent in tow. There was a fun energy in the office that day, and smiles on everyone’s faces. Parents seemed to love observing their children and their adult work life. “Kids” got a kick out of showing their parents what they spend so many long hours doing. And employees who didn’t bring parents seemed bemused by the scenes and interactions playing out before them. I admit, I got short with my mom as she struggled to free her Fage yogurt from our vending machine. I heard some chuckles behind my back.

One of my jobs that day was to interview parents and “kids” to capture the spirit of the day. I was in heaven, of course, able to get back to my interviewing roots. But more importantly, I was struck by how many “kids” talked about the importance of having their parent there so they could better understand the setting, players and work, so that when they sought their parent’s advice they would have more context. Regardless of whether they were 22 and this was their first job or an SVP, person after person spoke about how they still sought advice from their parents. I felt reassured that I was not the only one who still depends on their parents for support and, at times, hardcore career advice. Maybe we are all eternally “adultish.”

During Bring Your Parents to Work Day I did have pangs of embarrassment (my dad had four cups of coffee and was greeting other parents like he was the president of Mullen Lowe. But that’s my wonderfully zany dad being himself.), but I was also struck by the clear, shared emotion that all the “kids” seemed to feel: our parents will always be our parents. No matter how old we get, or how accomplished we are, we will always seek their advice, reassurance and maybe even approval. Because for us, they have always been, and always will be, an arbiter those things…and so much more.

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My Dad, having a moment with Kristen Cavallo, President of Mullen Lowe Boston. You can see me rolling my eyes in the far left. Photo Courtesy of Kara Kochalko.

What did the parents say when I interviewed them, you ask? I won’t tell you, I’ll show you:

(An amazing colleague of mine, Jessica Phearsome, was the artist who made the look so good, thanks Jess!)

At the end of the day everyone was relaxed and genuinely happy. Happy to be together. And there was already talk about how folks were looking forward to next year. I guess I’m on the hook for that. And that’s ok. There are much worse things than hanging out with these two.

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Photo courtesy of Kara Kochalko.

Thanks to Kara Kochalko and Jess Phearsome for the gorgeous assets that brought this post to life.




5 thoughts on “Who Needs Parents? Seems Like All of Us.

  1. Emily – I so miss your column. Will it return? Your bring-your-parents-to-work column was inventive and fun. Cheers to you! Sharon

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