When Your Child Says Your Job Takes You Away from Us

08 Dec, 2022 | 4 min

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At the Returning Back to work webinar that happened in October 2022, one lady asked me: what should I tell my child when he says “Your job takes you away from us?”. That question triggered quite a few thoughts and feelings. I am sure you have guessed that guilt was the main one. There was also fear, excitement and being torn and shaken inside.

Let’s rewind a little. That person had not been working for quite a few years and finally decided to take on a project that she was truly passionate about. This work was requiring her to physically be present outside of the home, something that neither her children or husband had experienced for quite some time.

Now let’s also pause on why she decided not to work for almost 10 years. She wanted to be fully available for her family. That did not mean that she did not have any desire to work, it meant that she felt it was not the right time for her to be away from home.

She did feel though that this time was right. She waited for her kids to have grown, to have good childcare in place and then when the opportunity came back, she said yes. She did not expect to have her children say “Mama your job takes you away from us”.

First thing I want to say is: this is just a sentence. We are putting the meaning we think that sentence comes with. We are allocating the emotion we believe it comes up with.

We awfulize, we shame ourselves, we go on a guilt trip.

We think they are going to suffer from our absence, we think they might get mad at us, we think they need us at all times. All these are thoughts that we create but you see, they are not necessarily the truth.

What if they were simply sharing the truth about what was happening and how they were experiencing it?

Yes your job is taking you away, yes you are working more than you used to. Those are facts. When we work we have less time for them or our family. What we can control is the meaning we are giving to those facts. A few questions help:

  • Is my work giving me meaning/ pleasure/strength more often than not?
  • Would I be as fulfilled in life if I was not able ot work?
  • Am I a better mother because I am working?

This person realised that:

  • Children will always want more of your time (because this is how they are) and will therefore never be satisfied with how much time you allocate them. That is totally normal – children are not born grateful and aware of our time. They are born to push boundaries and ask for more to learn the limits of what they can get.
  • Children will be honest about how they feel and as a consequence, we should be honest too about how we feel. If we want to work because it brings us strength and meaning, communicating this to them is key.
  • Remembering that quality matters more than quantity. I will always recall my client who told me that the time she felt closest to her mum was when she saw her the least but the time her mum was the happiest, working and doing her passion.

So what can we do when your children say something that might make you feel bad about your life choices?

  • Be honest about the fact that your work is a choice. Mothering and working are two different things.
  • We all have different type of skills, strength and needs that need nurturing.
  • Practice what you are going to say instead: Things to say instead would be: “I love spending time with you and I also love my work. I will be spending time with you on Saturday and we will be doing something super special. I am working because I love my work, but I love you above everything else in the world. You see how much you love spending time with your friend, well my work makes me happy that way too, then if I am happy, I am a better person and a better mum! you will see”

The message is here, as long as you can justify why it is important to you and you can show them how fulfilled you are in what you do, this will translate positively in all aspects of your life and therefore in your mothering journey.

How would you respond if your child told you that your job takes you away from them? I would love to hear from you!

PS : Do you know what your mum archetype is? Check the quiz I created to find out more and understand the type of mother you are! link to the quiz

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