Play Imitates Life
I was walking home from our neighborhood park with my almost-5-year-old daughter, who was dragging her sled with her baby doll on it. “Let’s pretend we’re two mommies who are friends at work,” she said to me. “Ok,” I said, and then I asked, “Did you get that big project done at work?” “No,” she lamented. “My baby has been sick, and I haven’t been able to get all my work done. It’s really rough.” That quite literally stopped me in my tracks. Over the last six weeks I have been out of work many times because of my son’s various illnesses, including a cancelled business trip (which thrilled my daughter). I knew this had impacted my daughter. She was clearly conflicted about being jealous of the extra time and attention her brother was getting and at the same time sympathizing with him. She had faked sick many times during those weeks, and it was clear the situation was impacting her. But never did I dream that she was aware that it was impacting me — certainly not that it was impacting my work. I barely even talk about work at home. But this little conversation and pretend play made it so crystal clear that our kids understand more than we think. I am bowled over that my daughter could actually empathize with me as a working woman, and I love what that says about her potential to cope when work and family collide. After all, sometimes the work/life balancing act is a job for the kids just as much as it is for their parents.