Do you ever catch yourself saying to your child (or under your breath within hearing distance of your child), "God, my job sucks." You can be forgiven for railing against the man with children present, especially given this not awesome job market and the general lack of respect for moms in the workplace.
But now that my oldest child is old enough to understand what a job, and work, actually is I've changed my tune. Mostly because the last thing I need is to raise a child who thinks work is evil, and basically the only thing keeping her parents away from her, when all we really want is to just be together. That kind of thinking is wrong, and that kind of influencing of a minor, is even worse.
I pulled myself together and really thought about what it was I wanted to convey to my daughter about not only work, but specifically my work. This may be way too ambitious, but I seized the opportunity and turned it into a big old teachable moment about family, work ethic, and life in general.
I love what I do. I'm a writer and I get paid to do it, so already I'm ahead of the game. This doesn't always translate when I'm on a deadline and my daughter is out of school early and all I really want to do is take her on a walk and grab some gelato. These are the moments when I complain to my daughter, "Mommy has to work." But setting up work against family is a really quick way to get your child to resent your job, and you. She sees you dropping her at the sitter's house so you can work instead of take her to the park as you making a choice, and she's not it.
Instead, I now explain that mommy has a job she likes to do, and it also helps buy things that my daughter really likes, like that aforementioned gelato. That everyone grows up and gets a job, and I'm very lucky to do something I love. Sometimes my job takes time away from her, but anytime she needs me I will be there. I reiterate this point by telling her when she's at school, at grandma's, at a friend's house -- she can call me, and I'll be right there. No matter what. Making your child feel secure goes a long way. Being able to turn off the cell phone when it is designated mommy and me time is another way to show her she is number one, even if you spend more time at the office than you do at home. Which most of us do.
The other element of this discussion is getting your child excited about working one day. If you paint your job as something that is interesting, stimulating, and something useful, she'll grow up believing work isn't a four letter word. Even if you don't love your career, if you can explain to your child that what you do really matters, it will make an impression. Rather than saying, "Mommy has to go to work to pay the electric bill," try out, "Mommy needs to go to work so I can help someone who is sick/make sure the people who work at my company get paid/support a team of people who are trying to create," it will be a lot more meaningful to your child. And, quite frankly, to you.
Lastly, tell your child about all the jobs you've ever had. Take him down memory lane from your high school pizza delivery gig, to your college internship, and everything else. You'll be surprised how much fun it is to revisit those old jobs through your adult eyes, and hearing about the time you were babysitting and didn't know how to change a diaper lets your child see you in a very different light.
Most people have to work. But instead of creating a negative connotation surrounding your job (even if you're really, really over it), try showing your kid what's great about being an adult, and a productive member of society. You might just catch a break and your kid won't be embarrassed anymore by his working mom who never shows up with a pan of brownies on bake sale days. That'd be nice, right?
How do you talk to your kids about your job?
Image via michal_hadassah/Flickr