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Working Mother In Training

Categories: Making Time, The Juggle, Working? Living?


Working Mother In TrainingBedtime is kind of my thing in our household. At first, it was because my husband worked nights and I was the “night-night parent” by default; now, I generally start the routine, hand off one freshly bathed small child to Daddy, and put the other small child to bed before making the rounds with the big three (who are old enough to get ready for bed on their own but still want — or, at least, allow — me to tuck them in and kiss them goodnight; they’ll be parents themselves before they understand how grateful I am for this).

Recently, after I’ve put our 3-year-old to bed and settled in with her for a cuddle, she’s been turning to me and saying, very seriously, “Mama. I can’t go to sleep right now. I have work to do.”

“Really, Sweetie? What work?”

She looks at me like she can’t believe she has to explain it to me.

Mama. I have to work. On my laptop.”

The first few times she said this, my heart broke. Do I say it that often? Does she think that I use work as an excuse to rush out of her bedroom? Do the big kids think that, too? Am I putting my career ahead of my family?

Then I realized that, not only is it a bit of a stalling tactic (what 3-year-old really wants to go to bed at bedtime — especially when the older members of the household are still up and about?), it’s also a bit of a compliment. To her, my work is important — important enough to stay up for. The fact that I log on to a computer and “go to work” again after she goes to bed is completely normal, in her mind. I’ve been doing it her whole life; it’s all she knows.

She’s a little unsure of what I actually do on my laptop, though. “You do typing,” she said, when I asked her about it. “You write emails. You are very busy.” She thought about it for a minute. “Maybe sometimes you play Dora.”

Which is, of course, the work she would like to do on my laptop, instead of going to bed.

What do your kids think you do for work?

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7 comments so far...

  • My 2 year old doesn´t know what I do for work, but he knows it involves the computer. The other day, he and his little brother made a huge mess in his room with their books and toys and when I said, “What´s all this mess?” He took me by the hand and said, “Don´t look, Mama. Work now.” And took me to the computer, pushing me into my chair!

    Genesis  |  May 19th, 2008 at 2:39 am

  • I can relate. My oldest son used to make birthday cards for us, before he was an oh-so-cool upper-elementary kid. My husband would get cards with a picture of him riding dirtbikes or fishing. . .fun things. I would get a picture of Mommy working on the computer.

    Alison  |  May 19th, 2008 at 8:01 am

  • I think our 3 year olds are on the same wave length. Mine knows that I record me voice but yesterday she asked if she could be a mommy like me when she grew up. I said OF COURSE. And then she said, “Good, then you and I can go out to yoga together when our kids go to bed.” I was laughing too hard to respond.

    Mandy  |  May 19th, 2008 at 10:36 am

  • Genesis: The little smarty! That’s hilarious…

    Alison: I haven’t gotten that card, yet, but I’m sure it’ll happen soon. My husband is definitely the fun, cool parent in my kids’ eyes, though, I think!

    Mandy: I think you’re right! I love the way she thinks… :)

    Lylah  |  May 19th, 2008 at 3:35 pm

  • Lylah,

    Your story reminds me of a recent issue I’ve been struggling with at home … four months ago, I was able to modify my career where I can work from home 80% of the time. Both my wife and I home office in different parts of the house and we have a nanny come in to help take care of the kids. I absolutely love working from home because we can all have lunch together and I can even take 10 minute breaks to play, get them up from a nap, or engage in a round of hide-and-seek. Overall, it makes for a fantastic work experience.

    The new problem is my 5 yr old now asks me almost every hour … “are you done with work?”, followed by “do you want to play with me?”. These are profound statements for a number of reasons but the most important is her ability to articulate her feelings and pursue social interactions. You see, she was diagnosed with autism last year so these exchanges are vitally important.

    Its so difficult when our kiddos ask for more of our time and view our work as a barrier.

    Hang in there!


    Jay Espaillat  |  May 20th, 2008 at 8:16 am

  • We play a game where we all do impressions of one another. When my kids do me, they type at an imaginary laptop and hold up their hand, palm outward, yelling “Don’t talk to me! I’m working!”

    Kind of eye-opening.

    Karen Murphy  |  May 21st, 2008 at 8:30 am

  • Jay: That’s a hard one. But, given your daughter’s autism diagnosis and her obvious improvement in her ability to articular her feelings and seek you out, you and your wife are definitely doing something (many somethings!) right! When it comes to 5 year olds, I think that anything that gets in the way of what they want to do right that second is viewed as a barrier — like your work (or, honestly, meals and bedtime, sometimes). It’s great that you’re able to take those breaks (and that you can celebrate that they’re requested)…

    Karen: Ooof. I feel that one, too. There are times when my big kids seem to assume that I won’t want to do something, because I’m either cooking or working. The eye-openers are harsh, but important, I think…

    Lylah  |  May 21st, 2008 at 8:48 pm