When my now-5-year-old was a baby, she thought the phone was called Mama. I worked during the day while she was home with my husband (he worked at night, and we'd trade in the evening), and he'd call me at work and ask her if she wanted to "talk to Mama." She was close to a year old before she'd consistently point to me and not the phone when someone asked here where Mama was. (I'm not sure what she thought my name was back then, but she knew exactly who I was, so this was amusing rather than heartbreaking).
Our kids have always known that I work. But last week I wondered... do the little ones understand what I actually do when I'm at the office?
"What do you think Mama does for work?" I ask my 3-year-old.
He thinks about it. "Make dinner?" he asks.
"Anything else?" I ask him.
He nods, and tries to sneak a sip of my coffee. It's cold, so I let him, and he smiles and smacks his lips as a little bit of it dribbles down his chin. "Um... you do laundry?"
I keep asking, and he keeps offering up the things he's seen me do around the house, and I'm struck by the way he considers all of these things, not just work, but MY work. "You cwean the bathroom when we're takin' baths! And you pwetend to vacuum us up! And you pack our lunchies! And you cuddle us!"
I try a different approach. "What do you do for work, Sweetie?" I ask him.
He answers immediately. "I goes to pweschool! So's I can learn stuff."
"How about Daddy?"
"He goes to his office! So he can learn stuff! And also fixes the cars outside. I help him. And he makes the fireplace on fire."
Well, at least I'm not the only one tasked with household chores then.
"What does he do at the office?"
"Plays on his computer. With his phone ears." The other night my husband was editing video while wearing a pair of large headphones. Apparently, they are quite striking.
"So, what do I do at my office?"
"Have I gone to your office?"
"Yes, when you were a baby."
"Oh. Did I work there?"
"No, you were a baby."
"Oh." He thinks a little more, and then lights up. "You read books! And work on the computer!"
What do your kids think you do for a living?