While the “job jealousy” issue is not the private domain of single parent families, I have found in my experience that many of us single parents do have to contend with our children seeing our work or jobs as being in direct opposition to them. After all, many of our children learn quite young that what “takes us away” from them and home is our work. As single parents, how can we foster an understanding, appreciation, or at least a “truce” with our children when it comes to our jobs?
When I first became a single parent and my children were rather young (preschool, kindergarten and first grade), I was determined that I would remain as available as possible and I could neither afford to turn over their care to nannies or full time day care nor did I want to. Instead, I started on a journey to try to integrate my single parent status, work, and family life all together in the same pot. It hasn’t always been beautiful or easy, but overall, I think the path has worked reasonably well.
Whenever I took a job, I always took my young children in to see my work space and help me “decorate” it so it would not be a mystery. I never hid my single parent status from my employers and chose jobs that would be reasonably single-parent friendly. I just knew that I would need to be able to bring my kids into work with me, or have some flexibility to take time off or work from home. With three kids that was going to be necessity.
Even with all that effort, there were times when my kids blamed work for “taking me away from them”—particularly when I was working a job in performing arts where I had to work some evenings and weekends. To a certain extent, some of that competition and jealousy cannot be helped. Over time, however, I think if we parents strive for balance and understanding, we can help our children learn to appreciate that we have jobs and work to do and help them to understand that it is our work that makes it possible for us to eat and have a roof over our heads! Lecturing and touting the importance of “work ethic” never worked with my kids, however—it was patience, balance, and inclusion that worked. Instead, I tried to address their fears and worries that I wouldn’t be there for them when I was working by showing them that I still was. I didn’t just tell them that I was “working for them”—but worked to show them that family really was my priority. It really takes time and is an ongoing process, but I do think we can alleviate some of that jealousy if we work at it!