Talking with Your Kids About Work

When I applied for a Maastricht-based job in November, Matthew asked Katherine, “How would you feel about Mommy getting a job and going to an office to work full time?” (I’ve freelanced and worked part time since she was a few months old, but I haven’t had a big-time-commitment office job since before having kids.)

K thought about it for a minute and said, “That would be good. Then we could buy more food. I’m hungry.”

Turns out she was going through a growth spurt. Also turns out that I had accidentally linked job=food in her mind.

Many times I had told her and Joshua, “Isn’t it great that Daddy works so hard so we can buy groceries and live in this house?” I was trying to explain to them that food and housing cost money, and Daddy earns the bulk of our income, and we should be grateful for everything we have and the hard work it takes to get it.

I didn’t intend to communicate that the only reason we work is to eat. That’s certainly ONE of the reasons. But it’s not the only one.

I work because I love dealing with written content. I like organizing it, improving it, and creating it. I feel satisfaction when I produce (through writing and/or editing) an excellent piece of written work. I like helping people. I like assisting organizations I believe in. Marketing helps businesses, non-proifts, and even churches.

I want our kids to know that we work hard to provide for them and take care of them and also that we work because we enjoy using our talents. I want to help them develop their talents and learn how to use them as well. I want them to find work that they love doing and that makes the world a better place.

What are some phrases I could use to talk about work with my kids in a more holistic way?

Photo by Elisabeth Garrett; Easter 2013.

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  • Nichole

    Good point! Sometimes we tell Elijah he can do/be almost anything when he grows up and Elijah is interested what Micah *does* at work, but when Elijah asks *why* he works, we usually say it’s to have money for food, shelter and clothing. It’s true that we need to emphasize the value of work itself and the importance of using talents wisely. I guess we could segue into it by telling about how Micah chose his line of profession or telling the kids about the work I do not for pay.

  • Karla

    I think it’s natural to emphasize the need for work to afford the basics – it’s just a fact of life! Because of the profession Phil is in (fireman/crash rescue), we often capitalize on the fact that Daddy likes to help people and take care of them. Even though his family is important to him, other people are important too and he has to make time for them (plenty of ways you can bring God into this, since He’s all about people and affecting their lives). Aside from working at two fire stations, Phil is also a self-employed contractor, so he’s doing something that he loves and takes pride in. Lots of lessons to learn!

    I like what Nichole pointed out – all the things people (mommies especially!) do without pay. Then you have volunteer work, which can be invaluable for learning various things w/o that paycheck.

  • monicaflores

    Great article, and definitely something I have been thinking about myself since reading this article: ( earlier this year. As the author puts it, “Some people work to earn a living, and some people are lucky to get paid to do what they love.” In your case, and in the case of Sasha Emmons, you are in a position where you get to do what you love. I appreciate the language “we work because we enjoy using our talents” because it resonates with me more than the idea of “doing what I love” (

    In my case I work full time outside the home doing something I’m good at, that challenges me and that pays my bills. Do I love it? Not exactly. While it is true that I am satisfied with sense of accomplishment, but it is also true that I am doing something that I wouldn’t do (in this way, anyway) if I wasn’t being paid to do it. But this is not what I’ll be doing forever either.

    And I appreciate that you’re talking about having these conversations in the first place, throughout life and various seasons and the evolution of careers. I think equally important to the phrases we use, are the attitudes we model about all work– from careers to housecleaning.

    As a recovering workaholic the value of being more involved with my family and my life outside work (boundaries!) than I am with work is something that has been life changing for me and as he gets older talking to him about that journey is important to me.

    As an aspiring SAHM/ Home-schooler/part-time free-lancer/virtual employee, still workinig to fully identify a path forward, I am open honest with my son about the fact that I don’t always want to go to work. With my words and my life I am endeavoring to show him that work can be its own reward, that life has seasons, and that in life some things are necessary (but not innately fun) BUT that in all of these things there can always be contentment.

    • Becky Castle Miller

      If you are interested in doing Executive Assistant work virtually, I would highly recommend checking out EA Help. I’ve been talking with them about hiring an EA, and I am wicked impressed. They seem to pay well, attract professional employees and clients, and be a solid company that pairs EAs and clients very carefully with a lot of support.

      • monicaflores

        Thank you! I found them through LinkedIn and am slowly beginning to check into it– they do seem to be one of the few viable companies out there and while I won’t be transitioning immediately I am encouraged by options.

        At this point, as the primary breadwinner in our home I won’t be making a transition until my husband has become more established in his career and until we are debt free. To be honest pondering the timeframe for this change is probably what has my own work SO tied to finances currently.

        We should talk about exactly what you’re looking for and see if I can virtually assist you for a set period in exchange for your reference.

      • monicaflores

        Okay. So I just decide to go for it. I sent them my resume. ‘ll let them tell me they can’t afford me. Just spent the last few minutes of my lunch submitting my resume. What could it hurt. I can certainly work for them on a small as needed basis in my current role…

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  • Marea Smith

    I’m the Mama of 3 older children (17, 11, and 7), I enjoy the written word and I’m beginning a somewhat opposite journey. After 17 years teaching public school, I’m beginning my home school journey in just a few short weeks with my two youngest. I’ll also have a collection of faith-based leveled readers available in the Spring. I’d love to introduce you to the collection at :)

    • Becky Castle Miller

      Nice to meet you, Marea!