My 2-Year Old’s Perspective on Working Parents

posted by Andrea | 03/12/2014

working parents

Before I had kids, I NEVER EVER expected to be a stay-at-home-mom. Even though both Dave’s mom and my mom were stay-at-home-moms, I just knew that was NOT for me.

I loved working, I loved contributing to our family’s income, and frankly, I figured that since I really didn’t like small children that much, I would be a better parent if I wasn’t around my kids ALL DAY LONG.

To be perfectly honest, I AM a better mother when I get a break during the day :)

Fast-forward a few years, and we were expecting our first baby. I was working almost full-time from home AND 2 days a week for a local non-profit organization job that I really liked.

I figured this would be the absolute PERFECT set-up for me and for our family. I could work from home 3 days a week (and some on the weekend if necessary) and then bring Nora to daycare 2 days a week to give me a little break. Plus, my sister said she was willing to watch Nora 1 day a week — which meant only 1 day a week of daycare!

Well, daycare for only 1 day per week is apparently really difficult to find — so thankfully, my 2-day-a-week job was willing to let me work 1 day a week in the office and 1 day a week at home. This meant I only had to leave the house 1 day a week AND my sister was my babysitter — win, win!

However, after several months of Nora refusing to eat or sleep on the 1 day I was gone, I was getting stressed and starting to dread that day every week (not to mention it wasn’t a walk in the park for my sister either!)

I eventually ended up quitting that job, and although it was a bummer for me, Nora was MUCH happier :)

I was officially a FULL-TIME work-from-home-mom, and while I was thankful to still be doing what I loved via my computer and making additional income, it was really hard for me to learn how to balance everything. It was also hard for me to be around Nora all day, every day, without getting much of a break (since she wasn’t a big napper).

However, we made it work and I was happy that she was happy.

I’ve definitely been guilty of plopping Nora in front of the TV or iPad so I can get some work done — but our flexible schedule also offers us a lot of one-on-one time all day long.

I knew I was doing what was right for OUR family, but I couldn’t help being a little jealous of my friends who “got to” work outside the home while their children played willingly with other kids at daycare. Then in the evening, they could have uninterrupted family time without trying to balance work and family all day long.

Yes, I realize the grass is always greener on the other side, because many of my friends who work outside the home have told me how much they wish they could work from home :)

After more than 2 years of being a full-time, work-from-home-mom, I can honestly say that THIS is what I’m supposed to be doing. Although there are many frustrating moments and difficult days, I’m so fortunate to be able to do what I love, from home, with the people I love.

I’m not complaining — nor do I think my situation is the right solution for all families.

However, the other day, Nora was lamenting the fact that Dave was at work again (she always has a rough time on Monday mornings since he’s not around when she wakes up.)

This is the conversation we had…

She asked me, “Why does dad have to teach kids at school?”

Without really thinking, I responded by saying, “He needs to work to make money so we can buy your special toys and snacks.”

She was quiet for a little bit and then said, “What if I don’t need my special toys and snacks… could dad stay at home?”

I was literally speechless!

.

I was amazed that my 2-year old could process the fact that she would rather do without her toys and special treats IF it meant spending more time with her Dad! 

I will agree that Dave was gone A LOT from November through February with basketball practices, games, student council events, and other obligations he was committed to — but he still saw Nora every day.

Thankfully, he’s been home a lot more lately, and when he’s home, he plays with Nora for hours at a time and is great about helping with Simon too.

Before I go any further, I just want to note that this post is in NO way meant to put a guilt-trip on Dave or any other working parent.

This conversation also made me stop and think about how important it has been for ME to be home with Nora these past 2 years.

As you probably know from reading some of my other posts, Nora is very much a mama’s girl and NOT thrilled about being around strangers, other kids, or in strange places. I’m positive her separation anxiety and sensory issues would be much worse if I insisted on working outside the home and sending her to daycare — even for just a few days a week.

Honestly, I would LOVE for Nora to be able to go to daycare (or even just have a babysitter) — but at the same time, I’m so thankful we don’t have to deal with that right now.

Every family is different, and I definitely don’t think there’s a “right” answer for if you should or should not be home full-time with your kids — but I DO think it’s amazing how perceptive our kids are.

Even at 2 years old, my little girl can already distinguish between her desire for tangible goods and quality time.

I’m fairly positive “quality time” is her #1 love language (totally opposite of me by the way!) so that makes a difference too — but I think it’s super important to realize that our kids want US.

Even if they are older and say they want the latests and greatest iPhone, clothes, handbag, etc. they still want (and need) US — quality time with US, to know we’re listening and that we have time for them.

That’s more important than anything we could buy them — and it can be achieved whether we work full-time, part-time, from home, outside the home, do volunteer work, etc. — we just need to be intentional about it! 

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32 comments

  1. Paulette Smith

    03/12/2014

    This child is amazing and I’m not kidding. I am stunned by her comment.

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  2. Carle

    03/12/2014

    Gotta love the wisdom of children! You said it, our children just need us. My husband encouraged me to leave the dishes alone tonight when my son asked, “Mama, can you play with me?” And I’m glad I did – we had a great evening. Dishes can be done anytime. I want my son to know he’s more important than chores!

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  3. Jamie

    03/12/2014

    Nora’s comment seriously made me cry. She, at 2 years old, already knows what is really important in life. She is a treasure. I am a stay-at-home mom of 3 boys and we homeschool so I understand the frustrating days and being a bit jealous of the “working” mom. But at the same time I love being home with my boys and if given the choice I wouldn’t choose anything different.

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  4. deb

    03/12/2014

    All the things you say are true and yes, the grass is always greener ;) But for those of us (being a single mom) that don’t have a choice it can be heartbreaking to see our children struggle with being away from us. But honestly, it has made my son a stronger person and our time we do get to spend together even more special. I also think it’s important to stress to our children the importance of a good work ethic and responsibility….and also the fact that the world can sometime suck but you deal with it and move on :) You have a beautiful family!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Deb — I totally realize that it’s not feasible for all families to have a stay-at-home parent. It sounds like you are MORE than available for your son when you’re not working — I’m sure you’re a great mom and I’m sure he feels the same way.

    And yes, teaching our children a good solid work-ethic is SUPER important.

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  5. Jennifer

    03/12/2014

    Let me say first that I speak as a woman with no children, so I hold these opinions lightly!

    In my friends’ experience, again and again I see how good it often is for mothers to be at home some/all the time with their kids, good for the kids and often the mothers too. I also see how hard it can be for mothers trying to juggle work commitments with their family commitments, even in cases where they do work from home or on weekends. I don’t think this means parents (especially mothers) can’t or shouldn’t work. Really, I think what it illustrates is that ‘having it all’ isn’t possible.

    I think there’s an idea of being able to happily combine two parents, with demanding outside the home jobs, with raising small children, social commitments, nice home-cooked meals, and have a peaceful, balanced, organised life with Sunday walks in the park and a few hobbies on the side. But I think that that vision is a bit of a myth that culture has sold us! I don’t know anyone who manages all these things. I feel especially that this myth has been sold to ME as a young career woman with no children yet, and so no personal experience to prove anything wrong!

    That doesn’t mean we have to stay home, it just means that ‘doing it all’ isn’t possible, and it’s okay NOT to do it all. Something will have to give! If you work more you might have to cook less. Or if you want to be at home you’ll have to live to a tighter budget. Or if you want to work full-time while you have a toddler you might have to give up a lot of social commitments.

    Though it’s not at all the same, I’m noticing that in marriage relationships it’s also important to remember the value of quality time, just like Nora clearly recognises! Sometimes I think ‘being a good wife’ means cooking my husband lots of good food from scratch and saving lots of money, when on occasion it really means getting pizza so he can have the fully devoted attention of a non-tired and non-grumpy wife :)

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    Maria Reply:

    Amen! (From a working mom) :-)

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    Julie Reply:

    I recently read something that said you can “have it all” if you look at it from the perspective of your entire life. You can have your time with your small children, but you may not work at all during that time. You can have your career, but it may happen after your children are grown and out of the house. I have no children yet, so keep that in mind as you read this. But the point was, you can “have everything” if you look at your life in seasons–a time to focus on each of the things that are important to you. A time to snuggle children, a time to be a strong, assertive career woman, and a time to retire and spend more time at home. Again, “having it all” is defined differently by everyone–some women never want to have a “career” and that’s okay too. The main point I think is to simply be content with where God has placed you in your life at every stage and enjoy the differences and changes of each season. Easy to say, but difficult to live out sometimes.

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    Julie G. Reply:

    One of my husband’s college nursing professors told her class, “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at the same time.” What true words! I’ve been both a full-time working mom and a full-time stay-at-home mom, and the race to have it all at the same time was just not worth it for our family.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing this Julie — I COMPLETELY agree with that college professor. I totally think that we CAN have it all — just not all at the same time. I actually did a blog post about this a while back and explained that we need to prioritize what’s important to us at each phase of life and then only focus on THOSE things.

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    Andrea Reply:

    This is great Julie — thanks for sharing!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing Jennifer. As someone with no children yet, you definitely have a lot of wisdom in this area!

    And I agree that quality time is very important for marriage too. I love how you mentioned that getting pizza for dinner allows you to actually be a better, more devoted wife… I’m doing a post semi-related to that concept next week!

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  6. Cris

    03/12/2014

    I’m lucky to work part time and I am usually there to get my kiddo off the bus, but I’m not lucky enough to be able to stay at home full time. I would like to point out that the evenings at home after work are not necessarily “uninterrupted time” with the family. I gave to still do chores and housework in the evenings that I can’t do during the day while at work. This brings more guilt for me.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Don’t let yourself feel guilty Cris – I’m sure you spend more time with your family than you think. And just an idea… would it be possible to do some of the household chores together as a family? This would make them go faster and you’d be spending more time together!

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  7. Tosha

    03/12/2014

    I totally understand everything you said in this post! I, too, never intended on being a stay-at-home mom or work-at-home-mom, but after losing my “real job” while pregnant, everything just fell into place to start my own business and work from home. I truly believe everything happens for a reason. My son (who turns 4 today!) is also very perceptive and made nearly an identical realization a few months ago when he asked “Why does Daddy have to go to work?” I said, “So we can have a house and toys for Christmas.” And without missing a beat, Ryker replied, “Well I already have enough toys.” Heartbreaking! But again, we have to do what’s right for our family. Keep up the good work!

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  8. shelly

    03/12/2014

    Love your post! I think the quality time with our kids is what is leading to a lot of emotional problems that play out in different ways. We have chosen to have less so I can stay home. It isn’t always easy. This means no new car, no house of our own right now and so many other things that we give up but it is so worth it. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am very thankful and trust the Lord will continue to bless us.

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  9. Stacie Kaltz

    03/12/2014

    I was one that knew that I wanted a career and was not sure about children, until I had my son! After having him I knew that being a mother was my first priority however I still wanted to finish my college degree. I was a single Mom working partime and going to school partime. I did work full time once he started school. The time I struggled the most was during the summer when it was difficult for me to leave my son. I finally received my degree many years later after being married and having two more children. Then I started my career. It was VERY difficult for me because I had a 1 year old who did not care for daycare at first and would cry my oldest daughter was starting kindergarten and leaving them I felt like part of me was dying, but you go and move on. I thought to myself, I have to work I have finally received my degree I cant NOT. But everyday was sooooo difficult. It did get better as time went on in some respect. My youngest has developed fine, she was the one that was in daycare the most as out of the three. She has developed fine, and we have a strong bond still. But honestly I am raising my daughters to believe that if you choose to be a mother make sure that you live on one income and live within your means, because you may one day wake up and decide to be a stay at home Mom. Same for my son to ensure that he lives with one income and is able to have the choice for his wife to stay at home if they have children. All in all I think all woman who have children struggle with finding a balance between working and being with their children. I do know that Andrea’s blog does provide information on how to survive with living simple and how to be frugal to live within your means which might help with being a stay at home Mom! Thanks!

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    Andrea Reply:

    I agree — this is something most WOMEN struggle with – but surprisingly (or maybe not) most men do not struggle with this at all.

    Sounds like you definitely did what was best for your family during the different seasons of your life. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  10. Amy

    03/12/2014

    I’ve thought this many times, but just not said it yet. Nora and my girl have birthdays within a week of each other. Naturally as her mother,I think my little thing is a smartie :) and chatterbox…and has a fantastic sense of humor. But on several occasions I have been blown away with where Nora is developmentally. Obviously we’ve never met, but I keep thinking the sensory/sleep issues are from Nora being a highly intelligent little girl. That comment is STUNNING! I think she is headed for great things and has a huge heart.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Amy — Nora does have a HUGE heart and it’s so sweet to see her interact with Simon this past week. I dont’ think I’ll EVER get tired of hearing her tell me how much she “woves” me :)

    We’ve been told many times that her sensory/sleep issues are at least partially because she just can’t shut her brain off and is ALWAYS thinking… so you could be right. I love that she’s always thinking and learning, but I wouldn’t complain if she learned how to shut her brain off for a few hours at night!

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  11. Sheila

    03/12/2014

    I have been a stay at home mom for 21 years and have 3 children 21,20, and 16. They still want to be with US as you said. My 20 year old is home from college on spring break. Today she has a haircut and dentist appt. As we have to fit these in when she is home and she wants me to go with her. We are going to make a day of it. I love that my investment of spending time with her when she was young is coming back to me and now she chooses to spend time with me:)

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    Christina Reply:

    I completely agree Sheila! Remember the “Cat’s in the Cradle” song?! About the boy growing up just like his dad? (I assume if you have a 21 year old you heard the song!)

    I worked the first two and was home the second two and I don’t regret either of the experiences! And YES they only want our time and attention! I have to remind myself how blessed I am at times to be ABLE to be with them, even if it’s when THEY have a moment. Making choices with your time on things to build up your most priced treasures, will payoff tenfold! I am so grateful to hear that uncontrolled laughter, to hear about the latest fiasco, and to make homemade cookies with each of them… I know one day my house will be quiet and clean and I will have time for all those things I dream about, but today, I am happy to be their mom, who is there for them listening to their dreams!!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Awww, that’s a great story! Love that your college-age daughter actually WANTS to spend time with you :)

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    shelly Reply:

    Sheila,love the way you put it “investing in time” such a wonderful way to think of it.

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  12. Tammie

    03/12/2014

    Nora is very articulate! Thanks for your honesty as you share your journey thru motherhood with the blog community. It is definitely a learning experience that continues, even after your children are grown. We recently kept our two granddaughters for several weeks while their baby brother was in the hospital. One morning when the 2-year old woke up, she asked, “Where’s Pappy?” I said, “He’s at work.” She responded with a somewhat disgusted look on her face and said, “Again?!” By the way, I love that Dave is reading his Bible with Nora in his lap in one of your photos!

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  13. Kymberly

    03/12/2014

    Loved the post – and the gentle way you framed it. :) I am the mother of a full-time working mom and I wouldn’t change the independence I gained. She was a single mom so it was her work or us be destitute – she obviously chose work and did a wonderful job if I do say so myself (love you mom!)

    That said, my path much mirrored yours right down to the mama’s girl who finally drove me home for good. I am not one bit sorry.

    The thing is, I’m writing you from about 12 years into your future. My mama’s girl is now 14 and an exuberant, self-confident, social butterly (who now LOVES her sleep so there is hope!) She got there even though we were together ALL the time once I stayed home (people warned me against it, of course).

    The truth? I just recently returned to outside work and as it turns out – it’s still there. The tasks, the colleagues, the sense of accomplishment. It’s all good and unlike your babies – it will wait.

    Bless you for sharing in such a sensitive way. Enjoy your babies! :)

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    Kymberly Reply:

    *Daughter of a full-time working mom. Oops! :)

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing Kymberly! I’m so happy your “mama’s girl” has turned out so well. I’m not too worried about Nora — but it’s still nice to hear stories like yours :)

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  14. Amber Kristine

    03/12/2014

    This was an incredible read, really. It’s so wonderful to see such a small child put priority of time over personal belongings.

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  15. Rachel R.

    03/12/2014

    I am blessed to have 2 sons almost 3 and 5 years old and we have chosen to make sacrifices so that I can be home most of the time. I do work about 8 hours a week at a children’s day out program at a church and the boys go with me. I am thankful that my boys have a good relationship with my husband and want him to stay home! We quite frequently (especially after weekends!) get the “Why can’t daddy stay home? I don’t want daddy to leave” comments. Our answer to that question has been “To provide for our family so we can have our house, food, pay our bills, etc. A man takes care of his family and Daddy wants to do that.” We are trying to teach our sons a biblical view of manhood in a society that puts down men at every turn. We want to prepare them to be men that provide for and take care of their families one day and see it as a privilege. While our situation and explanation won’t work for everyone or please everyone we are thankful it works for our family.

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    Mama Murrey Reply:

    Rachel, this is a great response. It honors your husband and helps your children to see why he deserves respect. It also is good teaching about what a real man is and does. I will remember this to tell my son next time he asks why daddy has to go to work instead of staying home and playing games with him.

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  16. Sarah

    04/07/2014

    Love that smart Nora-I think all kids feel the same…they want US…because we are irreplaceable and can’t be bought and give them attention and love…something no one else can do the same. I learned this while working as a nanny for several families-really you can be Mary Poppins, but at the end of the day and most of the hours inbetween, the kids just wanted their parents attention.

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