Column: Having a Parent as a Boss

Adriana Laughrin, Student of Journalism

In the midst of the pandemic, many companies became desperate for new people to hire. Many quit their jobs after everything about life universally changed: a pattern that resulted in me going to bed one night with my normal job of two years working for a small business and waking up an intern for a quickly-growing national financial firm. 

Quite literally. 

At 7 a.m., my mom entered my room practically singing “I got you a job,” and my foggy brain looked up and responded in the only manner a 17 year old could in the early summer morning: “great.” I then proceeded to fall back asleep. 

In less than 24 hours, my mom managed to hire me into her team of people as the one person designated to all the office grunt work. 

Now, four months into my new position, I have to appreciate how great of a gig this job offers me. 

The work is easy, I decide my own hours and I work from my own home. Essentially, I am earning the epitome of easy money, which serves this newly 18 year old well for car payments and future college plans. 

Evidently, Ashlyn Jacobs describes a similar testimony after working for her family’s construction company for three summers: “Working for my parents provided me the best aspect a first job could have: convenience.” Nothing in the workforce exists more conveniently than a laptop that travels with me and waits for me to clock-in wherever I happen to be.

With no traumatic experience to speak of and a genuine grateful heart, I truly cannot complain about my current employment situation. 

Despite an overall positive anecdotal experience, many online forums actively discourage and warn against mixing family and business as my mom and I inevitably do through this new arrangement. The business pages of CNN claim that once family and work intertwine, there can be difficulty in untangling the personal and professional sides of a relationship. 

This has definitely proven to be the experts’ most substantive concern.

Since my first day, it seems as though my entire family is wholeheartedly invested into my work life: my mom and dad ensuring I continue to uphold the family standard and my brother incandescently annoyed that I am not required to leave my house to get paid. Even my grandma, who happens to work at my other job of two years, texts me every now and then to remind me that I am representing my mom through my performance. 

My family’s interest, however, cannot override the empowerment of working for a boss who I know is consistently fighting in my corner. Thomas Walsh, columnist for the Central New York Business Journal, describes familial work relationships to be overall much more compassionate than working as a cog in a corporate machine.

 From the training phase to challenging me with more complex business tasks, my mom completes her job incredibly well and I find myself being exposed to realistic expectations of a common adult job description.

I use spreadsheets and faulty software programs, deal with the consequences of fellow employees failing to complete their tasks, and I am expected to handle technical issues relatively independently.  She reveals that these actions of hers are deliberately calibrated to prepare her baby girl with “. . . some real life office experience that may help later on in life.”

Most importantly, I am in charge of managing my own time: a skill I have yet to come close to perfecting. Procrastination has always been my go-to coping mechanism, closely complemented with the art of impromptu naps in between homework assignments. Nothing screams an effective motivational technique than having the pressure of a dearly loved parents’ high expectations looming in the back of my mind. 

For these reasons, should a parent offer their child a professional position under their authority, I am in no position to hypothetically object; however, consider a few tough conversations that may need to occur to keep everyone on the same page and preserve a well-meaning familial relationship. 

If anything, the exposure and experience allows me to further appreciate what my mom does to earn a living for my family. In a sense, the bond of a familiar company brings us closer together with moments such as those where I work from my mom’s office while simultaneously exchanging details about our days and what has been on our minds. Those moments live as key memories, building me up for a future and sculpting a resilient, compassionate and determined worker ready to create a career.