“I’m sorry, honey, but Mama has to work.”
How many times have I said those words to my children with my voice dripping with regret and my expression sorrowful? Every part of me, from my body language to the sigh of disappointment that follows, send my children one message: working is the worst.
Like many moms, I struggle with guilt over working too much. I worry that I worked their childhoods away, or that they will be somehow damaged from having a mother who is often working at home, yet is not always 100 percent present.
But recently, while listening to a podcast about working mothers, I was encouraged by a sentiment shared by another mom. She explained that she makes it a point to never say that she “has” to go to work, and instead, tells her children that she “gets” to work.
Immediately, I felt a light bulb go off in my brain. Why hadn’t I ever thought of this? Why do I automatically frame working as a horrible, terrible thing that I have to slog through? Why do I present the image to my kids that working is a bad thing, when in reality, they are quite happy to have food and clothes and a roof over their heads?
It’s definitely not because I hate my job; on the contrary. I love what I do and I’ve worked hard to build a career that allows me to work from home with my kids. I truly believe my job is a blessing and I wake up every day feeling lucky that I get to do it. So why on earth don’t I act that way about it in front of my kids?
I think most of us frame working as something we “have” to do instead of something we “get” to do because it’s an attitude we have absorbed our entire lives. We’ve been taught that work is boring and awful and something we have to do to get to the good stuff — and in some cases, that is very true. Not every job is soul work that fills our cup, changes the world, or completely fulfills us. Sometimes, work is just work.