Has your child asked you why you go to work? Learn simple ways to share the reasons you work and the benefits you and your family get.
“Mama, why do you work?”
My kids have asked me that question a few times, and I couldn’t blame them. How do you explain the stretches of absences (or these days, the closed bedroom doors)? The getting ready to go somewhere you don’t understand, and why it happens on certain days and times?
Back when most of us drove to the office, explaining this elusive “work” was understandably difficult. With our kids in childcare or school, work could feel like the one thing that separated us from our kids.
But even now with work and childcare blurrier than ever, explaining to them what work is and why you do it isn’t that much easier. They’re clamoring for your attention and don’t get how you could be here… but not here.
How to explain to your kids why you go to work
From the point of view of our kids, going to work can seem like a secret meeting, the place we run off to and rush back from every day. Other times, it’s the thorny reason we can’t play a board game or why they have to be quiet, even if they’re at home.
I want my kids to understand the logistics of working and how it all, well, works. To have full transparency about why I’m on the computer or why daddy drove to the office.
And the last thing I want is to make it work seem like drudgery, something they’ll come to dread as adults. Instead, I wanted to show the benefits of working, not only for our family but for the community we contribute to.
1. Discuss working for money
Most of us have at least one adult who works for money. And for many kids, their livelihood and entertainment are possible because of that money. Talking about working for money is one of the clearest ways to explain why you work.
When your child asks why you work, explain how you do certain tasks in exchange for money. Your family then uses that money to pay for needs first, then wants next. This includes the home you live in, the car you drive, the clothes he wears, the food he eats and the toys he plays with.
Expose him to monetary interactions as well, like paying for items in a store. He can see how you offer money you’ve earned to take something home to use or enjoy.
And finally, explain how credit cards and ATMs work. That way, he won’t think the ATM is a magic building that gives you free money or that a credit card is an endless source of it.
Free ebook: Want to better manage your time and feel less tired and overwhelmed? Join my newsletter and get my ebook, Time Management Strategies for the Overwhelmed Mom! Download it below—at no cost to you:
2. Discuss the benefits of work
While money may be the clearest way to explain why we work, it certainly isn’t the only reason we do.
Even if your day job isn’t your passion, you still reap plenty of benefits from going to work. You might go to work to feel challenged, work with friends, or make an impact, no matter how small or large. You’re able to solve problems, help others, and help your community.
And know your “why,” or the end result of your hard work. A marketing manager can help her company spread the word about their products and services. Even better: talk about your company’s mission and what it’s trying to do in the first place.
3. Describe what you do at work
When my kids were in preschool, their version of “work” was different from mine. “Work” meant solving math problems and learning new words, tying their laces or pouring themselves a drink.
No wonder kids can feel confused when you mention “work.”
The definitions vary, as each of us sit in different careers and jobs. Use this opportunity to describe what you do at work all day (without any hint of irony!). If your work offers a Bring Your Kids to Work Day, this would be a great chance to show him your workplace.
Discuss the tasks you do as well as what your company does. Some careers are easier to explain while others take more time (Technical Operational Coordinator—huh?).
4. Explain your schedule
Work hours are a bit blurrier these days than in the past, but you can still explain why you work the days and times that you do.
When I used to work in an office, I began my work day early—so early that I left the house before my family even woke up. No wonder my kids had asked me a few times, “Why weren’t you there at breakfast?”
Maybe you’re in the office all day and don’t get to see your child until dinner. Perhaps you work odd hours and miss part of his day like I did.
Start by explaining how you came to have the schedule you do. You and your boss might have agreed on your early morning shift. Or explain that you work in the afternoons because that’s when your company needs you to be there.
Then, explain why you chose the schedule you did. I explained that I wasn’t home for breakfast so that I could pick them up right when school ended (instead of sending them to after school care). Hearing the benefits of me working early helped them understand that at least I was home in the afternoons.
5. Discuss different jobs
Different people have different jobs (or none that pay). Perhaps your child has a friend with a parent who stays home, or he wonders why grandma doesn’t work. Maybe he has an aunt who works on weekends, or an uncle at work during odd hours.
Explain how some families have parents who both work while others have one that stays home. That Grandma has worked for many years and has saved up enough money so she doesn’t work for money anymore. And that his uncle works on the weekends because that’s when customers need him the most.
And most importantly, that no parent loves their kids any more or less because they see them during the day or not.
6. Identify people working
Another great way to drive home the idea of working is to identify people in the middle of their work.
“Look, there’s our mail carrier,” you might begin. “Her job is to sort and deliver the mail, including ours.” Talk about the vendors at the farmers market, and how they pick and sell the produce the bring. Point out the construction workers putting together a new building in your neighborhood.
When your child sees different people at work, he’ll understand that work varies. Lots of people do different jobs, at different times of the day and on different days of the week.
Your kids will ask about work, usually out of curiosity and sometimes because they miss you or don’t understand why you’re on the computer all day. When you paint a positive picture of work and how it contributes to your welfare, they can see valid reasons why you work.
To start, talk about how working allows you to receive money, which you then use to buy or save. Share the benefits of work, from contributing to society to making new friends. Describe what you do at work and why your company exists in the first place.
Explain your schedule and how you came to work those days and hours. Discuss different jobs people have, and point out people in the middle of their work. That way, he sees that there are many types of work people do.
Whether for happiness, contribution, or simply for money, work is a necessary and positive factor in your family’s life. And it’s certainly something your child can look forward to doing on his own in the future.
Get more tips for working moms:
- The “How Do You Do It” Working Moms Guide
- How to Deal when Your Child Cries at Drop Off
- Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty for Pumping at Work
- How to Spend Time with the Baby When You Work Long Hours
- How to Work from Home with a Baby (And Actually Get Things Done)
Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and get my ebook, Time Management Strategies for the Overwhelmed Mom below—at no cost to you: