“Sometimes it’s Hard Mama is Working” was a hit single I wrote for my little brother when I was five years old. It’s hard when you’re little and you just want your family all together all the time. It’s hard for mamas and daddies to be away too. So how can we as parents make sure our kids know that they are more important to us than work, even when we are working?
Talk to Them
Make sure that your babies know there is nothing more important to you than they are. Don’t just assume they know--tell them. Tell them every chance you get and don’t let them forget it. Make sure you say bye when you leave for work (even a kiss on the noggin if they’re still asleep) and excitedly greet them when you get home!
Explain to your children why you work. Make sure they know you don’t work because you like to be away from them (although sometimes it can be a nice breather). Let them know that they have a roof over their head, clothes, and food because of your job. They also get the things they want sometimes like toys, games, activities, and classes because of your job.
Speak Kindly of Your Partner’s Job
Don't let your kids think that your partner cares more about their work than them. If you say "mom works too much" or "dad is never home in time," your kids will pick up on it and start to begrudge them as well. Remember you’re a team, and if there are work/life balance issues, discuss them in private. Thank your partner for their hard work in front of your children or thank them for paying for dinner or providing for a fun activity, etc.
Leave a Note
Notes are simply the best! They let your kids know you’re thinking of them even when you're gone. Plus, notes are portable, so they can take their note with them to daycare or school. Even if your kids can’t read, they understand the point, and older siblings or adults can read it to them.
Involve Your Kids in Work Talk
Obviously you can’t talk to your kids about everything, but talk to them about what you can. You want to hear about their day, so tell them the funny snafu that happened or about how awesome your friend is or the wonderful job you did on your presentation.
Surprise or Scheduled Calls
Maybe you can’t call all the time at work, but you can every once in a while to say hello and check in on their day. Maybe you can work a short call in every day, or if you take work trips, every night. These routine calls can be something for your child to look forward to and can help them feel connected to you.
Take Time Off
You can’t always take time off and sometimes it’s tricky, but do it when it’s needed. If your child is ill and needs their parent, be home. You should be saving some sick days for your sick babes as well. If there is a big performance or celebration at school, try and get it off, trade it, or work a half day. It’s not always feasible, but do your best. It won’t go unnoticed by your children.
Plan Vacation Time
You don’t need to be the wild family that goes on trips every month, but dedicated family time is a great way to show your kids how important they are. Maybe it’s a camping trip, staycation, or full-blown excursion--just make sure you set aside days that are meant just for the family.
Leave Work at Work
Don’t come home from work and keep working. Once you’re home, be home. Interact and play with your kids. Maybe you have a few more emails or just a little left on a project—let it wait until after your children are in bed. Don’t let the time overlap. They are only little once, and you don’t want to miss out on the little everyday magic of childhood.
Some of these may seem small and unassuming, but when I say your children won’t forget the effort you put in, I mean it. These are examples from my own childhood. I never felt less than my parents’ work and always knew I was the center of their worlds. They would drop everything and figure it out if we were sick or had a big event and we always had a fun family something or other to look forward to. I mean, sure I made up a song about them being gone, but I never felt like they loved being at work more than being with me.
I loved when my dad would kiss me on the forehead goodbye before a trip while I was “sleeping,” calling my mom at the hospital, and the little notes I would find on the counter. Although, there was nothing I loved more than the sound of my mom calling for us or the smell of airplane on my dad’s coat when we were finally all home together.
For more working mom tips go to babycubby.com.