Last night while Face-timing my 5-year-old stepdaughter, whom I call Pookie, she inadvertently crushed my husband’s heart. She commented about how moms do all the work and dads don’t do anything. She also brought up how I am more fun because I play with her and my 1 year old son more. I laughed, appreciating her ability to observe and report. Then I saw my husband’s dejected face. I quickly explained her dad couldn’t play with her and her brother as much as I do because he goes to work and school and I stay home to take care of them. This obviously was not an acceptable explanation to a five year old, and she retorted back, “dad should just not go to work and then he could do more stuff with us.” Oh Pookie Cub, if only it were that simple. My husband tried to defend himself by explaining, “We wouldn’t have anything without his job”. Again Pookie fired back, “well then we can just be homeless and live with someone else.” Hmm…fair enough.
After the call ended my husband was offended coupled with some good ol’ fashion guilt. He asked me why had I not explained how important his job is. I started to go on the defense, thinking to myself “Why is that my responsibility? When does he explain the importance of my work to the children?” But then, when I really thought about it, I realized my son and stepdaughter do not need to be told how awesome I am, they already know. I feed them, play with them, change their clothes, take them to the park, and put them to bed—I’m their hero. When they want something they come to me. But this isn’t because my husband is laying in the recliner watching football all day; this is because my husband is gone, at work or school. A child does not understand the significance of earning an income, and until the other day I did not understand the significance of explaining that important responsibility to children.
Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I are a team. I’m not greeting him at the door in an apron and a frosty beer. But, we did agree we wanted our son to breastfeed for as long as possible, and because I am a full-time online student, it only made sense that I be the one to take on the role of “stay-at-home mom/housewife/student”—and trust me, I despise doing dishes and laundry, but I would despise leaving my son even more. And so you have it, my husband works, juggles school and gets a couple of hours of family time in the evenings, and I take care of the home and kids and squeeze in studying during naps. But, unfortunately the couple of hours before bedtime in the evening compared to the 12 hours a day Pookie witnesses of me taking care of meals, chores and playtime leaves her with one conclusion: mom’s rule and dads drool–not to mention Pookie also has a single mother who does all of household duties by herself. (Shout out to the single moms, Wonder Woman ain’t got nothing on you!).
So, how can we demonstrate the significance of a partner working to the kids?
- Thank them. Make sure to show appreciation by thanking them in front of the kids for their hard work.
- Point out what the hard-earned money does for the family. (Vehicle, home, gas, food, treats, toys…etc.”)
- Verbalize your feelings. “I wish daddy could stay and play but he has to go to work”, or “I’m sure glad daddy works so hard so we can buy this yummy pizza”.
- Take them on a visit to work. Sometimes kids have a hard time processing something they cannot see. A visit to the office or place of employment will show them what their parent is doing while not at home.
- Phone calls. The working parent can call from work so the kids know they are missed.
- Pictures. Send pictures back and forth throughout the day so the kids are reminded that even though the parent is not there, they are still involved in the day. Take a picture of the kids while doing an activity and say, “Daddy will love to see how much fun you had at story time!”
Lastly, children are impressionable, so they will absorb whatever they observe. So make sure they see their parents acting as partners sharing responsibilities and appreciating one another’s hard work.
They already know they have a super mom, make sure they know they have a super dad too!
How do you show your child how much you appreciate your partner? Please comment below if you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share. As always, please be kind, respectful, helpful, and spread some cheer!