What Your Child Asks, What Work Questions Will You Answer?

Our children are watching us work and they’re asking questions. What do we tell them about the work we do?

How honest can we be?

At what age can we be more honest?

How do we balance the good and the bad? All good gives kids a false impression of what work will be like. All bad screws them up for sure.

At what age do we tell them about the wretched stuff that’s happened to us and to our friends at work?

If we’re women, how do we tell our daughters and sons about the harassment we’ve faced?

If we’re men, how do we tell our daughters and sons about the harassment we’ve stood up against – if we have?

What if we are the wretched ones? Chances are we’re not self-reflective enough to realize that, but it’s an ‘if’.

How do we balance a spouse’s experience with work if it’s radically different from ours? You know – glass half full, glass half empty. I’ve never not liked what I do and have no plans to retire. That’s not everyone’s feeling.

How fully do we answer questions that are benign from kids but may trigger us? Ones like: Why are you having a bad day? Why were you late to my game? Can you take me to school on Tuesday?

When do we answer the tougher ones? Ones like: Why can’t you work from home today – you’re just having Zoom meetings? Why are you crying after that call? Do we have enough money?

Can we ever talk to them about the burden of childcare – the costs, the time, the mental energy – when they’re the ones we need to find care for so we can work?

How do we explain when we have to fire a caregiver? Or when a caregiver leaves us? Or when someone at a childcare center has a bad, bad day?

What do we say when a childcare option offered by work comes to the rescue and we’re relieved to leave them with someone we don’t know so we can work?

How much do we talk about money?

And then how do we talk about money in a way that instills values and skills and not trauma and aversion? H/T Dr. Brad Klontz

When and where can we take a work call?

Do we own it and break the fourth wall? (Dad needs to take this call for work. I’ll be back in 5 minutes to keep playing.) Or do we fumble and tell ourselves that we can multitask? (Hand waving, whispering, pointing.)

What will it take for more people to think of family time like meeting time? You wouldn’t interrupt an important work call for another client, so why do you take a work call when you’re with your children? Or as my friend Eve Rodsky says, an hour in the boardroom should be equal to an hour at the pediatrician’s office.

How do we tell our children to be honest and always tell the truth when they may not hear us being honest about work?

I’d like to read your thoughts. How have you answered questions like these?