One of my favorite times of the day is when my kids and I sit down to dinner and one or the other will casually turn to me, small fork poised above a broccoli spear, and ask, “What did you to today, Mommy?”
I thrill in sharing with them about an interesting story I’m writing, or a funny person I interviewed. Often I read them something I wrote. Sometimes things get exciting and I tell them about being on the radio or TV. But mostly it is mundane work responsibilities: I had a meeting. I sent some emails. I talked on the phone. They listen attentively, and then they divulge their daycare shenanigans: yogurt shared at lunch, fight with a friend on the playground.
Talking about work is an important part of mothering for me. It should be for you, too. Single moms don’t have the built-in adult companionship that facilitates the conversations that allow our kids to know us as people — not just parents. It’s no wonder that my eldest, Helena, 5, begs 17 times per day, “Tell me a story about when you were little” or “Tell me a story about when Christmas when you were a kid.” She wants to know who I am. Knowing your parents means knowing yourself. Without a second adult in the home — and the adult conversation that comes with that — our kids risk not benefiting from this family history and self-knowledge. If I were in a healthy marriage, these stories would be tossed around organically, and Helena and Lucas would absorb them by osmosis. Instead, I consciously injected these tales into my chit chat with my children.
Talking business at dinner is important for another reason: it blurs the lines between work and life, and I think that is important. In our struggle to strike that elusive work-life balance, the standard-issue advice is to draw strict lines in the sand: establish time for work, and time for life. But work — especially if you find work enjoyable and meaningful — is indeed life. I love talking about business with my friends and family because I find it exciting. It is my job to send a positive message about career to my children. Sending the message that there are times when we do not talk about work sends a negative message about career. It is just as important that I teach them what I know about business as it is what I know about relationships, cooking and manners.We must rid ourselves of the idea that blending work into family life somehow taints precious moments shared with our children. Instead, work talk can be the precious moment you spend with your children.
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