Flexible working. Feminism. Fun.

My pre-schooler wants to get a job

My pre-schooler wants to get a job

“When I’m big – like when I’m four – I’m going to go to work,” my three-year-old informed me.

I informed her that she still has another year and a half of nursery, followed by 12 years of school, probably followed by at least four years of higher education, before she has to go to work. She contemplated this.

“Maybe when I’m five,” she said.

I assume she wants to work because she’s used to seeing me and her father go off to work, and she wants to be like us. She knows that Daddy is an archaeologist and works in a museum. The other day she was playing with her Duplos and gave the Duplo Daddy a shovel, put him in a car, and said he was going off to work to do archaeology.

“Did he find anything exciting?” I asked.

“He found CAKE!” she said.

While her understanding of the specifics of archaeology are clearly limited, she gets that it involves digging for stuff, and she also knows that Daddy likes old things. My job as a service designer is more puzzling to her, as it is to most people. Service design involves taking a service and making sure that it meets customers’ needs by considering the people, technology and systems involved. Even that explanation leaves people scratching their heads, so I just tell her – and anyone else who asks – that I work with computers.

“Type type type,” I say to her, miming me typing on a keyboard.

“That’s boring. It’s more fun to stay home and play with me,” she says.

And that’s where the issue lies – as much as the idea of work appeals to her, she also knows that us working means that she has to go to nursery. And she’s right – sometimes going to work can be boring. But sometimes parenting is too. Given the choice between sitting through a three-hour conference call and playing Paw Patrol, I know what I’d choose. At least I can check Facebook while pretending to listen to a meeting.

Now that I’m on maternity leave, part of me really misses work – the office banter, the opportunity to learn, the ability to eat a meal without a tiny human strapped to my chest. I thrive on routine, and now it’s all gone out the window. On most days I don’t get out of my dressing gown until after 10am. I often don’t even leave the house. I spend my mornings holding a baby in one hand and helping my pre-schooler zip up her coat with the other. I’m literally balancing one child’s needs against the other’s, and it’s hard – harder than any project I’ve ever managed in my career. But I’m trying to embrace it.

Everyone says that the baby days go quickly, and I know they’re right. It seems like just yesterday that my oldest daughter was a screaming, red-faced infant, and now she’s a pre-schooler who’s ready to start her career. I know I’m not going to love every minute of my maternity leave – this ain’t my first rodeo – but it’s an opportunity to step back, slow down and lose myself in someone else for a little while.

My job description these days is one that even my three-year-old can understand: keep the baby safe and happy. It’s a job that she plans to take on herself one day – she’s told me several times that she’s going to be a mummy when she’s a grown-up. I hope that by the time she’s old enough to be a parent, working mothers will have it better than they do today. I don’t want her to feel guilty for wanting motherhood and a career. I don’t want her to feel like she can’t afford to work because of extortionate childcare costs. I don’t want her job opportunities and pay to stagnate after she has kids.

She deserves better. We all do.

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