Has your child got you stumped when trying to explain why you work? Learn how to explain to your kids why you go to work and its many benefits.
“Mama, why do you work?”
My four-year-old asked me that question a few times, and I couldn’t blame him. How do you explain the stretches of absences? The getting ready to go somewhere you don’t understand, and why it happens on certain days and times?
How to explain to your kids why you go to work
From his point of view, going to work seems like a secret meeting. This ubiquitous “work” we run off to and rush back from day in and day out. All without the kids.
So, why do you work?
1. Discuss working for money
For many of us, we work for money. If you’re a stay-at-home mom, your partner likely works for a living. And for many kids, their livelihood and entertainment are possible because of that money. Talking about working for money is one of the easiest ways to get the point across.
When your child asks why you work, explain, to their level, how you do certain tasks in exchange for money. Your family then uses 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 your child to monetary interactions, such as paying for items in a store. Explain how credit cards work. And describe how you withdraw from an ATM (so he won’t think it’s a magic building that gives you free money!).
2. Discuss the benefits of work
Money isn’t everything, even for those whose work isn’t their “passion.” We go to work to feel challenged, to work with friends, and to make an impact, no matter how small or large.
Mention how you used what you learned from school to build skills that let you do your job. And how you’re able to solve problems, help others and contribute to your community.
3. Describe what you do at work
My son’s version of “work” at preschool is solving math problems and learning new words. Or they learn self-sufficiency skills like tying your laces or pouring yourself a drink.
So it’s no wonder kids feel a bit confused when you mention “work.” What’s “work”?
The definitions vary, as each of us sit in different careers and jobs. Describe what you do at work all day (without any hint of irony!). If your work offers a Bring Your Kid to Work Day, take advantage of this opportunity to show him your work.
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
Unless your work hours coincide with school hours, explain why you work the days and times you do.
I begin my work day early—so early that I leave the house before my family wakes up. So my eldest has asked me a few times, “Why aren’t you there for breakfast?”
I first explained that the schedule is one my boss and I agreed on. I leave early in the morning and end work at the time I do because that’s when my boss needs me and when I agreed to work.
I then explained I’m not home for breakfast so I can be home in the afternoons. I needed to show the benefit of me working in the morning: me being home in the afternoons.
5. Discuss different jobs
Perhaps your kid has a friend whose parent stays home. Or he wonders why grandma doesn’t work. Or why his aunt or uncle work on weekends or during odd hours.
Explain how every family is different. 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 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—our mailman,” you might begin. “His job is to sort and delivery the mail, including ours.”
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 at different times of the week.
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Your kids will ask about work, usually out of curiosity and sometimes because they miss you. When you paint a positive picture of work and how it contributes to your welfare, they can see why you work.
Your happiness, your duty or for money, work is a necessary and even a positive factor in your family’s life. Something he 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