At some point, every working parent with school-age children has had to answer for the following: The class trip you couldn’t chaperone. The soccer game you arrived late to. The school play you totally missed.
And often times, that answer is some variation of this: “Because I had to work.”
As my kids get older, I’m finding those words trickle out of my mouth more and more. I do blame today’s schools, which require a ridiculous amount of parental involvement and seem to think we’re all available at 11 am to bring cookies to the classroom for snack time. But even with good reasoning, it’s hard not to feel guilty when your absence causes such disappointment.
I usually frame my work excuse in a way that makes sense to my kids, although I’m sure it would cause most child experts to shake their heads in disgust: “Well, if I didn’t work, I couldn’t buy you that deluxe Transformers set you love so much.” For now, my approach works.
But I have to wonder if I’m giving my children a negative impression of work and the workplace. Do they view “work” as this evil empire designed to keep parents from their children? Or are they already dreading the day when they have to go to work because it certainly seems like nothing but drudgery?
Today is our office’s Bring Your Family to Work Day, and I’m excited to bring my seven-year-old daughter to the place where I spend so much of my time (according to my kids). And I’m happy to report that she’s excited as well, so my occasional absence from her events because of work hasn’t done too much damage. Context is always important, and bringing my daughter around to see the energy, collaboration and fun in our office will hopefully leave a positive imprint.
For working parents, what do your children think about work?