Bringing Your Daughter to Work… Everyday

I would love to do this.

I watched Waitress the other night, and the last scene that shows the mother – *spoiler alert*- gosh, I’ve always wanted to type that! – course, the movie’s been out for months – still – Anyway, the mother, having achieved her dreams and purchased the pie shop where she works skips off into the sunset, not with a man, but with her little daughter, with whom she’s been sharing her almost cosmic pie-baking knowledge, as did her mother to her – well, I was sobbing at the poignant sweetness of it, love and loss and all the rest of the Big Stuff, yadda yadda.

I wasn’t really thinking about the movie in the context of work – despite the title – the identity of a woman summed in the title of her job – until this morning, when, to answer my question of ‘what do you do all day,’ a stay at home mother friend of mine told me that she purposefully Does Her Thing and her kids do their thing or follow along/watch her do her thing.

It was a huge relief to know that this wonderful mama doesn’t spend intense one-on-one time with her children all day long. I’d been feeling (when working at home) like I needed to provide constant stimulation, and I haven’t been able to hack it. A memory of a kid’s book I read about Native Americans that showed the mothers grinding corn and the children imitating and playing right along side of her clicked on in the viewfinder of my imagination. Women have always involved their children in their work. The whole “take your daughter to work” day seems kind of silly from that angle…

However, I failed to ask what my friend what her “thing” entailed exactly. I think I was assuming it was housework. But what do you do if your thing isn’t housework? What if your thing is, like me, writing? It’s one thing to involve your toddler in an activity like mopping the floors or washing the dishes, doing yoga or painting, which we do all the time in our household. But how do I really bring my kid to work when that consists of working on the computer? She can’t really help me build a website or type a blog post in the way that she can rake leaves (ie, hop in the piles, rake aloft like a broadsword)…Every time I open up my laptop, my daughter wants to navigate to You Tube to watch Miss Piggy. Watching someone else type and click is boring. And not in a good way.

I love when my husband takes our daughter with him out on his job-related outings – at least part of his work can educate her like the kid watching his mom mush maize…

In a way, I feel kind of inspired – or conscripted – to do more domestic chores – bake bread and shine the silver – just so I am able to engage the family in my activities… but I don’t want to bake bread and shine the silver. I have a bread machine and I don’t own any silver. Not to mention I’m not sure I want my kid to remember me as Mom the Housewife. She helps Daddy cook and assists me in loading the laundry, but I can’t spend all day long in an apron. It’s not me. And it doesn’t earn any money.



8 Responses to Bringing Your Daughter to Work… Everyday

  1. ChrEliz says:

    I’m a mostly stay at home mom working very part time. Here’s what I do these days. I try to mix it up, so, I play with them in an engaged “I’m playing with you” kind of way a little bit each day, but a lot of the day is spent by us “working” together. I’m doing housework, they’re doing housework. (Kids are 4 and almost 2.) So, if I’m wiping down the counters with a rag, they’re using spray bottles with just water and “washing” the french doors and drying them with a rag. Over and over again. And again. If I’m writing a letter (with pen and paper) or journaling (with pen and notebook), then they like to draw with crayons in their spiral bound art books. If I’m doing laundry, they might fold napkins. Or, if I’m doing whatever it is I’m doing around the house, they might be playing with toys or dolls or crawling around on the floor pretending to be puppies or something.

    Computer time IS hard. Obviously, I do it (I moderate or co-moderate several online communities/listservs) but it does feel like I’m “checking out” when I do that. Plus, I think/fret about what I’m teaching them when I do that too much when they’re awake (I’m priming them to live on MySpace and Facebook and Bebo, is what I’m doing – ack!)

    So, yes, I *do* do much more housework now that I have kids and am home (mostly)/not earning a paycheck (much). Partially because we’re in the house a lot, messing it up, so I’d better clean it (because who else is going to clean it if I don’t?) I don’t want the kids to live in a messy (untidy or unclean) house. Thankfully, my partner is awesome about housework and parenting work too, even though he is gone (at a paycheck job) eleven and a half hours a day. He still feeds the kids breakfast every morning, does the morning dishes (unloading clean, starting to load dirty), he gives the kids all their baths (every 2-3 days, not every day, that would be insane in our family’s schedule to do it nightly…) But, I don’t fret about my kids growing up thinking that their mom, or all women, are only good at/good for housework. I know that this is a big part of what I do now, now that we’re all home with the kids so young. As the kids get older and are in school all day, I’ll be doing other things that will help me be a different kind of role model.

    Currently, the stuff I do is: play with my kids, take them places (like the Discovery Museum, the recycling center: work that is fun for kids to help with, the grocery store, the park, playgroup, etc.,) do housework, yard work, run errands, go to meetings, and engage in volunteer activities (like soup kitchen, etc.) Dad does those things too (minus the meetings, he avoids committees) and he works a paycheck job, which they’ve visited. So, they see Mom and Dad doing a variety of things. For now, a lot of what I’m actively being a role model of is how to love and nurture kids, how to clean up after oneself and make a home nice, or somewhat nice (my house is nothing impressive, but it’s home). I teach them all kinds of things. I’m here.

    As they get older, they’ll take on more and more of the household duties, and so I’ll do less and less. But it must be done, and so somehow, for now, between my efforts with kids, my efforts when kids are sleeping, and my partner’s efforts, the dishes will get done, the meals will be cooked, the floors will be swept, the surfaces will be dusted, the laundry will be washed and dried and folded. I like doing these things with my kids, even though it takes longer, but I also like actually accomplishing something in an efficient amount of time, so sometimes I run around like a whirling dervish when the kids are napping or I tackle stuff when partner has some solo Dad time with them over the weekend.

    When I go to the office, I have a sitter come to the house. It’s expensive. I’d like to be able to work from home more, but it’s tricky to find the time and work the balance. At night, when the kids are sleeping, I really try to prioritize spending time with partner. Otherwise, it would be all work and no relationship. Divorce is not where I want to wind up, and some couples can withstand the ships passing in the night thing, but we can not.

    So, for this mom at least, my status as a full time wage earner, making enough to support self and children if we had to (not to be morbid, but…) will have to wait a few more years. Once the kids are in school all day, then I’ll be able to work — half or three-quarter time, during business hours, and perhaps more in the evenings if that works with the whole work/life balance thing.

    No answers, just my own experiences. I hope some work-at-home moms and hybrid moms will chime in as well, along with work-out-of-the-house/paycheck working moms. I always enjoy learning what other folks are doing to achieve balance and how they spend time parenting their kids.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I read your post earlier today but I don’t feel like I have a good response for you. I have an odd job where I work some traditional hours, some non-traditional hours. Since I take J to daycare I try to be present when we are together- although it’s not always 100%. (Dinner needs to be made, etc.)

    What I do in a nutshell… I take him to daycare later in the morning so we can spend some time together- usually he goes in between 10-11am. This makes for a more pleasant/less rushed morning. My partner and I alternate pick-up nights from daycare. On the nights he picks up, I sometimes get off in time to see J before bedtime, sometimes I don’t. If I know I am going to miss bedtime I try to make the most of those hours and work late. (May as well get in the hours since I’m not going to see him anyway…) On the nights I pick up sometimes I will stop working earlier to spend more time with him. (Right now I am picking up early two afternoons a week. One to take a class w/him, one just because.)

    In order to make up for the late mornings and taking some early afternoons, I wind up working on the weekends. I work for a couple of hours on Sat. morning and then on Sundays I usually put in a solid 4 hours or so while J spends time with dad. This schedule was determined ahead of time so dad knows he is the caretaker for those hours on the weekend.

    A benefit of this schedule- I feel like J doesn’t spend as many hours in daycare, I see him more during the week, we get to take part in some activities we may have missed out on with traditional work hours (classes, etc.).

    The problems- I work EVERY DAY and RARELY get a day completely off. This can really suck. My partner and I don’t see each other as often as I’d like. I miss out on some weekend stuff.

    I don’t really know if telling you about my situation helps you at all… It’s a unique situation and I wouldn’t have even posted about it if ChrEliz hadn’t asked what other folks do.

    A couple of other things: I don’t think there is any way of getting around “checking out” when you are working at the computer. And the kids are aware that you are checking out… =( I try to do my computer stuff while J is at daycare. He’s having fun playing with kids and I don’t feel bad b/c I am not paying attention to him.

    Last note: You could do the house/mom/not-sure-what-to-call-it stuff during the day and work at odd times… naps, after bedtime, on weekends when your partner is there… but you do have to watch out for that passing in the night thing. It can be difficult on a relationship. Also, you really never get a break this way. But it seems like moms do it. (?) (Notes from the Trenches- she as SEVEN kids, home schools, cooks, her house always looks clean- AND she blogs, freelances…. HOW?!?!)

    I feel like I just rambled a whole bunch and I have no idea if any of it will mean anything….

  3. E says:

    It’s nice to be reminded that it’s good for kids to be involved in “work” around the house. I, too, (and my partner for that matter) have struggled (and that’s putting it mildly) to get anything done around the house b/c we don’t want to leave him out of what we’re doing. We’re doing the ships passing in the night routine, so we rarely have the opportunity for one to be working on the house while the other hangs out with Z. I do let him help cook when he asks & he loves watching the “dishes get a bath” (no dishwasher). So I think I will try to engage him in more of the tasks involved in caring for and showing love to our house so that it’s not just a shelter, but it’s actually a home.
    Thanks for sharing your stories & giving me some inspiration!
    p.s. As for the computer thing – I mostly do that after he’s asleep, but I generally check email once while he’s playing & he sometimes watches while I do, and we sometimes check out the Thomas website when I’m done as a “reward” for his patience. But I’m always in the same room where he’s playing & will take breaks to dance with him whenever he asks (how can you refuse that, right???).

  4. Gisela says:

    To be a writer takes a lot of skills, not only the grammar but the creativity. And maybe that’s what you should focus on for now and not the actual technical part of it, how the message is produced. I’m a graphic designer and do all my work in a computer too, but like you, the bulk of it lies in the creative. Everything you do with your daughter that is creative is already sharing what you do for work. You can make up stories with her, pretend play, ask her to draw what’s in her mind, read some of your stories to her. All that falls into creativity. I love what I do and love that I can encourage my daughter how to be creative every day, to use her imagination to think outside the box. That’s another way you can share your work with her. Let her know everything goes when it’s creative time. No restrictions.

    I can’t work with her around because it’s too distracting but when she comes home from daycare, it’s her time with my husband and I. We spend every possible minute with her not just because we miss her so much every day but because it is fun. She is so eager to learn at her toddler age. My husband loves to write as well and loves to teach her words, practice the alphabet and I can already see it is making a difference. She loves pointing out letter where ever she sees a sign, words on t-shirts, etc. That’s like her thing she does with daddy. She looks so proud when she spells something new to daddy. Painting and drawing and crayons are great mediums for creative but so is playing dress up, doing new silly moves, silly dancing, silly faces, etc, that’s mommy time. I’m also teaching her to appreciate shapes, how things are drawn, even letters. TO appreciate typography (one of my passions as a graphic designer). We talk about the circles and lines, etc that make up letters.

    So you see, there is a lot you already probably do that is part of your work and share with her every day.

  5. Elaine says:

    I’ve been thinking about this very thing … what does it mean to the children in our society that an increasing number of parents do work that involves a vast quantity of computer time or some other activity that isn’t accessible or understandable to kids …. something that they can’t readily ‘imitate’ with meaning. Probably “work” becomes an increasingly foreign concept to them where once children witnessed some kind of “work” all day and grew up feeling like they were helping and being a part of that, i.e., feeling grown up and able to contribute. Now there’s a “kids world” and a “grownup world” that are increasingly separate from one another. I myself feel like I go through several major mood/personality/landscape shifts a day as I migrate between my working world (peaceful, orderly, rational) and my daughters’ world (chaotic, much more fun and more stressful–for me, the overly rational adult). I think for writers (I’m one too) it’s even harder to navigate between those two worlds because as you say, there’s no way to have your child present and actually accomplish work — you just need that quiet and space–and there’s no real way for your child to appreciate what you love about your work (until they start writing themselves and like it maybe?) Fortunately because I teach too that’s something real to my daughters–they understand about teachers and school, etc. They can even pretend to do it, though they’ll never see me do it because I’d never let them in my classroom at UVA!! Oh, well.

  6. Amanda says:

    I’m too tired for any deep thinking but this to share….

    came home early from work the other day to go to bed early to perhaps stop cold that was coming on. daughter got home AFTER me, which she never does…around 9:30 w/ Daddy from grocery store. She proudly announces, “I’m home from work!!”

    Thought profoundly cute. Maybe you had to have been there though:)

  7. Nancy says:

    I spend my days with our son and go to work at night. I read that children need a certain amount of time, once they’re toddlers, to play by themselves to help develop the imagination. As he’s gotten older it becomes harder and harder to do laundry or wash dishes but I used some insight I read/heard once that said spend a few minutes with them, then jump back to your work and go back and forth. They love it and “things get done slower” but they get done. Your child thinks you’re playing with them.

    We try to go outside every day, even if it’s just for 30-60 minutes, for me to do a little yard work while he plays with his trucks or in the new sandbox or throws the ball for the dogs. They don’t play but he thinks they do and that’s all that counts.

    I don’t get as much done but I’m now OK with it because he sees that certain things have to happen (he’ll help put his cloths away, and I pick them up later) or he watches the dishes “take a bath” then gets bored and “sweeps the floor”… It’s OK….you just remember, this only last a couple of years and you’ll change your routine again.

  8. Mary Beth says:

    I totally believe in brining the children into your life, rather than creating a separate kid life. I’ve worked hard, for my own sanity, to find places to go to Do My Thing. Some places that I have discovered: Art museums. The Yard. Beautiful places in nature. The library. In all of these ventures, I glean anywhere from a tiny bit to a lot of satisfaction for my own interests, and for sharing a piece of myself with the girls. I also must accept interruption, unforeseen SNAFU’s of all sorts, and our changing moods 🙂 I remember the time I made potato prints, and I thought it was way cooler than 3 year old did, and I started getting irked when she was messin with my (her former) project! A good example of inviting her into my projects, and how that can totally not work!

    Interested to hear others!

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