My 5-year-old snuggled in and went for the jugular, as he was literally nuzzling the general area of my jugular: "Mommy, why don't you quit your job?"
This request came after a weekend spent with his sister and dad, enjoying the sites of LA and getting copious amounts of ice cream. To top it off, there was a surprise trip to Disneyland on Sunday with everyone but me. Because I was working.
No matter how burned out I was after a marathon weekend of work, I resisted the temptation to answer, "How do you think you're able to go to Disneyland, anyway?" I also stopped myself before tossing my laptop into the air and announcing my newfound unemployment/freedom. Instead, I tried to get to the bottom of the issue that was bugging my never-before-interested-in-my-job son.
"I mean, why do you love books so much, anyway?" was his next question, as I was writing my next book and facing a deadline. "Can't you do something besides write books?" Kid wasn't just going after my free time, he was trashing my career.
"Well,"I calmly answered, "I like writing books." And then he made it clear what he was really getting at, "It doesn't seem like it, Mommy." Ouch. He was right.
Instead of explaining why it was important for Mommy to work ... I just put down my laptop and hugged him back.
I don't think I'm unique in that I'm a working parent with way too much on my plate. I've been balancing a career in a creative arena long before this little guy arrived on the scene, so it wasn't like my job was something new, nor was it new that it sometimes (oftentimes) bled into our nights and weekends. But two things were new: One, I'd never missed out on a trip to Disneyland (I mean, do you see that cuteness up there? I go way out of my way to not miss that!); and two, due to a series of family emergencies, illnesses and other randomness, things had been pretty stressful around our house. Perhaps I hadn't been the most pleasant of mothers while under said stress, and my kid wanted this nonsense to stop. Message received.
Instead of explaining why it was important for Mommy to work (he wasn't going to grasp that concept, and it wasn't really what was worrying him, anyway), I just put down my laptop and hugged him back. He filled me in about Tom Sawyer Island, and I told him what I was really looking forward to on our upcoming family vacation. He left feeling better and while I still was stressing about work, I at least had a moment of awesomeness to help me through the rest of the night.
I think it's important for my children to see me work, and to see that working hard is what gets them the things they want and need. But it's also crucial that they see work as something positive, or at the least not something that makes their mom or dad angry. And truthfully, I was a little (a lot?) irritated that I was missing out on family time over the weekend in exchange for finding resources for my final chapter and reworking recipes that weren't quite there yet. But that's another life lesson for the kiddo, and for me: Sometimes you can't go play when your work isn't done. While I don't have to be happy about that (and I can expect my kids to pick up on that), it's at least worth tossing aside for moment if you're lucky enough to get a 5-year-old snuggle.