Integrating your children in the workplace can be extremely difficult, although it continues to be a prevalent topic of conversation as many parents want their offspring to gain valuable experience that would otherwise be left in the dark. I travel a lot. So much so that I earned lifetime status for hotels and airlines in my 30s. This has had some really frustrating side effects like jet lag, missing out on kids’ events, and pushing extra parenting responsibility onto my wife. But there are upsides as well. I get upgraded often, we can take family trips on miles and points, and I haven’t purchased shampoo in 15 years. Even better, my travel schedule has given me a great opportunity to teach my daughter another series of lessons about money.
The “take your child to work” movement has grown over the years, and for good reason. More than just demystifying what grown-ups do all day, it allows us to teach our kids about the world of money. Several years ago, a friend of mine told me he took his daughter on a business trip and she enjoyed seeing what he did on the road. This was a serious version of taking your child to work!
A few months ago, I was able to take my first trip with my eldest daughter - and it was awesome. Susie, who had recently turned 7, finished school the week before Memorial Day. I had speeches in Boston and some live TV and meetings in New York after that. I checked with the people I would be seeing to make sure they were okay with her joining me. They were more than okay with it – they were downright excited.
The plan was simple – a three-day trip to Boston and New York. Our first flight – a very early morning flight - was delayed by four hours. Before we had even started I worried our trip would be doomed. But Susie was a champ, recognizing that weather was out of our control, and we could complain or make the best of it. We dined on fine airport cuisine, played games, and watched movies. I took the opportunity to explain the absurdity of airport pricing and the value of a captive, hungry audience.
In Boston, Susie got a chance to see me give a speech and do a reading of Give, Save, and Spend with the Three Little Pigs. I had explained how I get paid as a speaker to convey a message, and she got to see me in action. After the reading, we collected order forms for books and banks and we processed them together. As she counted the orders I could see her wheels turning – this is how dad makes money!
Before we left for New York, we took a quick trip to the New England Aquarium. Susie used her trip allowance to buy her sister and brother some trinkets and souvenir from Boston of her own. (Our family uses trip allowance as a special treat on trips. The kids get some spending money in addition to their own to spend as they see fit - she chose a key chain and some earrings she wanted.)
When we woke up the next morning in New York, we went to the top of the Empire State Building. On the way back we bought fruit from street vendors (I was surprised how much she enjoyed this and it reminded me that with kids, it’s the little things that count). We discussed why New Yorkers had smaller grocery stores and street vendors owing to the premium for space in the entire city.
After a lunch meeting, we went to the TV studio and got ready for the show. She enjoyed the green room and seeing dad wear makeup. The producers even allowed her to sit on set for the segment. Afterwards, a good friend who is a producer gave us a tour of the studios, newsrooms and I got this picture of Susie trying an anchor desk on for size. She said that if something stops her from becoming a veterinarian, she might consider a career in broadcasting.
We then toured Times Square, saw Central Park via horse-drawn carriage, and rode the carousel. We did some shopping at FAO Schwartz and the American Girl store. We don’t have either of these stores in Austin, so it was fun to window shop and build a wishlist of presents. I also got to reinforce the idea, via a trip allowance that definitely doesn’t cover American Girls dolls, that just because we want something doesn’t mean we buy it. We then went to my friend’s house for a pizza dinner with his wife and two little girls. While Susie got a break from me and from grown up talk for a few hours, I got to see old friends. We took a cab back and she got to pay the cabbie - again I was surprised how much she enjoyed this seemingly simple transaction.
The next morning we saw the Statue of Liberty and then made our way to the airport. The rest of the trip was easy and we made it home without delays. I was glad that we were building good memories and getting some one-on-one time together – that’s tough with three kids. I’m guessing it was a success as my other two are dying to go on a “business trip” soon with me. I hope to keep this up and make it an annual event with each kid.