Every day is “Bring Your Mom to Work Day”

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Abbott senior statistician Li Zhou (right) and her mom, Yongxin Zhang of China, pose for a photo Thursday during the company’s first “Bring Your Mom to Work Day” event.

I recently had an opportunity to speak at a “Bring Your Mom to Work” event.

That’s right. Employees of all ages, from their 20s to their 60s, brought their moms to work this past Thursday, coming from as far away as South America. Our company, Abbott, hosted a pre-Mother’s Day event to say “thank you” for everything moms do to make their kids who they are.


Mothers rarely get a chance to see their kids in action at work. Moms spend thousands of hours attending soccer games, dance recitals and orchestra concerts, but once children get older, it’s usually off to the workforce the kids go.

Mary Moreland speaking at a “Bring Your Mom to Work Day” event at Abbott. / Photo provided

Mary Moreland speaking at a “Bring Your Mom to Work Day” event at Abbott. / Photo provided

No longer can Mom stand on the sidelines to cheer you on. That would be strange.

What I realized, though, is that these “kids” — OK, fully grown adults — take their moms to work with them every day. The lessons, values and habits mothers have passed on to their children live on in the work they do every day.

Mom taught our employees to value education. To love science – and engineering, math, writing and more. To persevere when someone says “you can’t.” And to take care of family first.

At our “Bring Your Mom to Work” celebration, I was surprised to hear from many mothers who went on to earn college degrees later in life. Moms such as Judy Engelbrecht, Alyce Hilden and Delores Sanan, among many others, not only preached the value of education, they showed it.

Several moms went to school while raising four or five children – sometimes as single moms. Judy earned her accounting degree when she was 50 (taking classes with some of her sons’ high school friends). Alyce and Delores worked full-time and attended college to help advance their careers. Delores will earn her doctorate soon!

Abbott moms gave their young children globes and science experiment kits for gifts. They had their kids make their own lunches – from 5 years old and up, teaching independence and personal responsibility.

Ellena Lambert’s mom, Mary Acerra, started a girls’ softball team at her daughter’s school so her daughter could play. She knew nothing about the sport but bought a manual. She sewed the uniforms herself. And she coached the girls to several championships.

Elizabeth Riordan’s mom, Sharon, took a big risk when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, participating in a clinical study because she believed it would help prevent her daughters (she had three) from having to go through what she did. She was in the active arm of the study, which was very successful and set the standard of care for years to come.

“Her decision to take this risk, to fight adversity and to think of others is something I can only try to emulate,” Riordan said. She credits this experience as the reason she’s had a 29-year career in health care at Abbott.

As for me, my mom taught me the value of hard work as I grew up on our Oklahoma farm. I’ll never forget my mom driving a 40-year-old truck with me following behind, just in case it broke down.

Though my mom isn’t here at the office to cheer me on every day, I know the lessons she taught me – hard work, patience, being true to who I am – live on with me at work.

Whatever your story on this Mother’s Day – and we all have stories – I hope you will have a chance to reflect on the talents, values and beliefs your mom passed on to you that make you who you are today.

Mary Moreland is Divisional Vice President of Compensation and Benefits for Abbott, a global healthcare company based in Abbott Park, Illinois.

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