Talk to Your Kids About Working and Why It’s Important (Secret 5: Balancing Work and Single Motherhood

Posted by admin on Nov 13, 2009 in Tips for Single and Partnered Parents |

Talk to your kids about working and why it’s important

Hi everybody: 

Talking to your child(ren) about working and why it’s important is Secret Number 5 in my five part series on gaining a better balance between working and being a single mom. 

It’s important our kids recognize the importance of working and what it brings into our lives (food, a place to sleep, vacations, toys); it’s also important our kids understand that we gain some satisfaction from working.  The two messages together reinforce the tangible and intangible benefits of working. In my daughter’s case, I gained a third benefit too: she started imagining herself behind my desk, being “in charge.”

As your child begins to comprehend the concept of work and why you do it, he or she will get more comfortable with the idea that mommy has to do something else besides focus on me, and I know why (disclaimer…there will still be times when your child demands 130% of your attention – but you already know that).  The point is that by communicating with your child about work, he or she is better equipped to understand why you work, thus making it easier on you.  And that’s always a good thing. 

Naturally, you cannot converse with your kids in the way you can with an adult.  I’ve used differing strategies based on how old my daughter was.  My main goal was to try to get her as familiar as possible with what I did and why I did it.  Here are a few examples:

 – Introduce “Work” to your child in an Age Appropriate Manner: When my daughter was just two years old, I would tell her I was leaving to go to work.  I’d also bring her back little things from work  – a giveaway scrunchie ball, a cup holder, a teddy bear from an in-house health fair; whatever I could find that she could relate to.  I told her my job was to help people as I worked in human resources, and she seemed to understand this explanation.  

– Let Your Child See Your Work Space: As she got older, I would take her to my office every now and then (most people can do this on the weekends) and set her up with a marker at the white board; she would draw me a beautiful scribble to look at all week.  And she’d get a sense of what I meant when I said, “I have to be at my desk by 8:45am.”

– Let Your Child Experience Your Work Environment as Appropriate for Your Work Situation: When she was four or five, I had my nanny bring her by a few times at lunch so we could eat together and she could meet my co-workers – and she could feel the ‘buzz’ of the office.  She started asking more questions about what I did all day long and what my team members did all day long.  Interestingly, she also wanted to know if my team members were happy. 

– Explain Not Only Why Work is Important, But Also Why It’s Important to YOU: My daughter and I talk about why work is important like paying for food and our house; by the time she got to age six, I also started telling her that I really enjoy it and it’s another thing in my life that makes me happy.  I wanted her to know that it’s essential to do something you love and it’s ok to enjoy things that make you feel happy. 

Before I end this post, I must share an anecdote with you.  One Saturday I had to go in to the office (my daughter was six).   We signed in at the deserted lobby desk, went up the ever-so-lonely elevator, and then I used my badge to get in to the floor.  As we stepped through the door to a darkened hallway, I reached over to turn the lights on…and my daughter blurted happily,” Mommy, you get to be the only one who gets to come in on a Saturday! Is that because you’re the boss of everyone?”  

“Yes Sweetie,” I responded, in the only possible way to answer that question.

So, I’ve now shared my five secrets for gaining balance between work and single motherhood; I’d love to hear any ideas you have as well – or challenges you need some help with.

Talk soon!


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  • Kristina says:

    This is a great tip, and I think it can be applied to any mother that works, single or married. My son’s 3 y/o and every once in a while he gets upset when I have to go to work. Crying, whining, “Mommy don’t go!”, the whole nine yards!

  • Swati says:

    Thanks Kristina – I hope it helps you. It can be so difficult to get out the door sometimes sans a pile of guilt on your shoulders!
    – Swati

  • Jacquie says:

    Great topic! As a stay at home mom of little ones I can relate to it in respect to teaching my children how to work hard around the house and why I do certain things like I do. It’s a great starting point to train them to be hard workers and having a good work ethic.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  • Swati says:

    Thanks Jacquie. I think you are right – this post applies whether you are working at home, or outside of the home; whether you are single or married.
    Best, Swati

  • Awesome post, Swati. I’ve been trying to help my son Nino understand why it is important that I spend time writing my book lately. He sort of gets it. But then he also tells me sometimes, “Remember mommy, people are more important than books, you know…” Children are so wise. I sometimes wonder whether I learn more from him that he learns from me.

  • jenie=) says:

    im here visiting you back=) your comments on my blogs will really make me happy. hope you do so soon;) adn in my

  • Swati says:

    Naomi: thanks for that thoughtful comment. Your son’s comment is a good reminder to me!

  • Andrea says:

    Hi Swati, Nice post. Some things to keep in mind as my children start to get older. I can use some of these tips even being married. Thanks.

  • Hi Swati! This a great series of posts. Excellent info and tips. Glad you enjoyed the Thanksgiving recipe on my blog. I subscribed!

  • Julie says:

    I was at home for a long time and then went back to work post-divorce. My kids not only remember the pre-work days, but also now have a stepmom who is at home. As a result, I have gotten (hopefully) every hard, direct, manipulative, mean and honest question from my kids about why I work. One piece of advice is that, like everything else, they will not stop testing you on it. Consistency is key! The second piece of advice is to really think through good, kid-appropriate and honest answers to the tough questions. “I want to be a good role model” is not a good answer to a kid, although it’s true. Luckily, I can honestly answer that I like my job, that it is what I am qualified to do and it is important to our family.

  • Swati says:

    Hi Julie:
    Wow…that sounds like intense interrogation going on over there :-). No one better qualified than our own kids to deliver it, huh? Great add about being consistent – especially because the kids are paying such close attention to our answers.
    I’m glad ot hear your job is working out so well!
    – Swati

  • Robin says:

    I too am a single mother of a daughter. I too believe that it is important for us to share aspects of our careers with our children. I have been blessed to work in a family friendly work place. My daughter and the children of my co-workers have grown up together around our office. She is now 17 and I can see the benefits of having her hang around my office when she was younger. Thanks for the great reminders. It brought back great memories.

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