When Mommy Goes to Work: How To Teach A Toddler About Working


Teaching a toddler about “work.” Is this a good idea or not?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know my two-and-a-half-year-old yearns to know more about why I leave for work, and what I do at work. Sometimes she says, “Mommy is in a meeting with other Mommies,” sometimes it’s “Mommy has to go talk to people.”  Seeing my daughter react when I go to work, and playing “pretend work” at home, I thought I should use that as a learning opportunity to educate her on what mommy does at work when I leave the house in the morning.

This all started a few weeks back when she started getting really mad at me when I said goodbye in the morning before I left for work. She refused to kiss me, was mean to me, and flat-out would give me dirty looks as I bent down on my knees trying to kiss her goodbye. This broke my heart is so many pieces. It seems to be  the worst on Monday mornings, for the obvious reasons, because we spend hours of fun together over the weekend, and Mondays we mess up her routine by heading off to work.

More recently, I tried to say goodbye to her, and after a few attempts (and running late), I had to blow her a kiss, tell her “Mommy loves you”, walk out the door, and drive down the street. A couple minutes later, I answered my phone to a very upset, crying little girl telling me “Mommy!”and “love you Mommy”. UGH…those phone calls, those words! You might as well have taken the steering wheel of my car and run it into the wash (I’m kidding, but those moments are so hard!)

These moments break my heart and are the days being a working mom is the hardest! It was clear that my daughter was crying for my attention and she thinks that if she doesn’t tell me goodbye, perhaps maybe I am not going to leave.

My daughter and I pretending to work together

This all made me think. I need to use this behavior as an educational opportunity to let her know what mommy is doing. I know she is very young and cannot grasp this concept in totality, but I thought if I can instill some guidance of what we are doing in our family dynamic than that will be success in my eyes.

I turned to the Internet and I found a fabulous website called Money As You Grow: 20 Things Kids Need To Know To Live Financially Smart Lives. I LOVE this site. You can filter between the ages and learn some great activities to help teach your kids about money.

I learned some wonderful tools that I have incorporated in my relationship with my daughter. For children ages 3-5, they suggest some fantastic tips and activities. One activity involved going around town and identifying people who are working and talk about it, another was to bring your child to your work so they can have a visual of what Mommy does when she was work. These activities were so helpful to my daughter and I feel like she has a much better understanding of what Mommy does when she leaves. I will admit, she may not always understand nor like it, but I know she is learning the values that are needed to understand this message in the future.

I am not an expert in this and I am not sure if this is the best way to do this education but it is what is working for us right now. The choices we make can be hard, but it’s how we handle and manage our lives around these choices is what matters the most.

Do you have any ideas about teaching the lessons of working?

 Photo credit: Flickr Photos


  1. Great post Jen! I love the pic of you two working together – I just split half my office into a play room (this should increase productivity, yes?) and the results have been great. I feel less guilty when I have to sit and work because she is in the room with me and happily playing Barbie, kitchen or drawing. She also has her play phone so when mommy has a business call, she can be on the phone too. My favorite is when she abruptly tells me “Mommy, I’m on a work call and I need you to be very quiet”. It cracks me up, but being responsive to her request has helped when it comes to her being responsive to mine!

    • Thank you Beth! Such a good idea to split the playroom and office. That is so cute that your daughter tells you to be quiet while prentending to work. Love it.


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