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A few days ago, my husband and I were on the road with a car full of children.
My daughter was in the back seat with a cardboard box and a paper bag covered in marker. It was a bag that I would call “trash,” but she was bringing the bag everywhere she went that day. She called the bag “work.” And she held the box squarely on her lap and rested her hands on top, tapping the brown paper with her fingertips as though it were a computer keyboard.
“I’m working, mom,” she hollered from the back of the van.
“Oh, that’s great,” I said. “Be sure to earn us some money.”
My husband and I chuckled at her imitation of us — the mirror that children are. And we talked about how she was old enough to work now, and she needed to earn her keep. She’s 5.
A couple of minutes passed, then the voice from the back piped up again.
“Oooooh, I think I see a quarter!” she said.
The money was coming in already. She saw a quarter every few seconds after that, but she made sure to tell us it was just pretend. We laughed and drove on our merry way.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s good or bad that my daughter knows I work. Most often, I fall on the side of good. She is learning that clothes and fun trips to the museum and My Little Pony dolls aren’t free. We must pay for those things with money that must be earned. And she is learning that moms and dads can both earn money. Moms and dads both have skills and value in the world. And mom’s time is something that is valuable, too.
Then again, maybe I’m projecting all of that on her. She is only 5. I hope that’s too young to equate money with having value in the world. I hope that’s too young for her to think my playing with her or cleaning the house is not as important as her father’s job, which provides money to buy the things she wants, like popsicles and princess dress-up shoes. I hope the times when I tell her I can’t play because I’m working don’t make her feel like work is more important than she is.
Working from home is a tricky thing to balance.
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