When Your Child Says, “Mommy, You Work Too Much”

Jaxson & Kim Selfie

“Mommy, how do you spell work?” Jaxson’s reading and writing skills are growing exponentially now that he’s kindergarten. I know I’m not supposed to spell out every word for him and encourage him to sound it out. However, the kids had Monday off from school (professional day for teachers) and I had deadlines.

“W-O-R-K” I called out slowly from my desk.

“Got it!” he calls back from the dining room. Then he read his note out loud to me, “Mommy works too much.”

Talk about a dagger to my heart. Then twist it.

My self talk was veering dangerously towards mommy guilt, but I stopped myself.

“Why do you think I work too much?” I asked him.

“You’re always at your desk. I’m at school all day and I don’t get to see you. You even work on the weekends.”

“But I don’t work on the weekends. During the weekends you’re watching your Minecraft videos.” The kids aren’t allowed screens during the week, so they overdose on screen time on weekends. Unless I force them to take a screen break.

He nodded. “When I’m not watching Minecraft, you’re always busy.”

Aha! Now I see where he’s going. “So you’re upset because I don’t always spend time with you when you’re not watching videos? Does this mean you only want me when you’re not allowed screen time?”

Silence.

Jaxson: 0.

Mom: 1.

Kids with Max the cat

No, I’m not really keeping score. I’m sharing this because it’s so easy to fall into the spiral of mommy guilt when your child tells you something like this. With the influx of parenting dos and don’ts on social media, it’s challenging for us to have confidence in our parenting skills. Especially when it comes to work-life balance.

I’ve discussed with both kids how much I enjoy my work. They also understand that my unique job allows them many perks. Most importantly, I iterate that our family needs my income. Our family is fortunate that I am able to have a flexible schedule because I work from home. I am strict about taking the weekends off from work (unless there’s a family movie screening or media event). Now that the kids are in school full time, I try really hard not to work in the evenings. If I do, I wait until they are in bed.

I don’t see Jaxson’s proclamation as judging me or my work. He’s trying to explain his needs in the only way he can. Basically, he misses me. He’s used to be being around me all day, except the 3 hours a day he was in preschool last year. Now that he’s a full-time kindergartener, we don’t get the one-on-one time we used to have in the afternoons.

Family Selfie

Jaxson’s love language is definitely touch, followed by affirmations and praise. Like my husband, he loves to hug, kiss, and cuddle. Touch is not my primary love language so I have to adjust.  I’m trying to find ways to make it work for both of us.

Most days after school, Jaxson comes in to help cook dinner. Last night he cracked 10 eggs for our cheesy quiche, or as we call it, egg pie. He beat them, added the cheese and poured it into the (store bought) crust. His enthusiasm as my sous chef is adorable. This gives us quality time together. We also try to cuddle on the couch after dinner and read books together.

I’m glad I didn’t immediately jump to the, “I’m a bad mother who works too much” self-talk. By asking him to clarify, I was able to figure out what he needed.

Granted, I haven’t gotten this parenting thing figured out. One day at a time, right?

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