“Mommies don’t work.”


My dad came to visit us yesterday in our Brooklyn apartment.  My son, who is 3 and a half, was excited but kept asking where his fiancee, “Mimi”, was.  My dad (“Grandpa”) explained that she couldn’t make it because she is a nurse and had to work.  My son then responded with confusion: “But…mommies don’t work.”

SCREECH.  Huh??  How did my son get this idea?  (I work, by the way).  Also, Mimi’s children are grown up now, so although she is a “mommy” he doesn’t really see her in that capacity.  He does have a lot of friends whose moms stay at home, but he also has many who have babysitters…

I feel like this is one of those “teachable moments” where I’m supposed to educate my son about all the choices mommies and daddies have and how they each make different choices that work best for them and their families, and I totally blew it in my complete surprise that he would say that.

What do you think, readers, what should I have said?  Is there a good followup conversation or am I just making too much of this?


6 thoughts on ““Mommies don’t work.”

  1. You don’t always have to have a retort. Sometimes I think through things and have gentle conversations with my daughter later. Those conversations usually begin with questions. I might say, “Does mommy work?” Then try to understand his perspective and then explain how life really is.

    Your lack of response is, by no means an epic fail. You are both learning and growing together. That’s the best part of parenting. 🙂


  2. This is definitely a teachable moment, and I would seize it. I think at 3.5, he will have enough retention that you can and should bring it up later. “You know when you said earlier, that mommies don’t work? It surprised me so much that I didn’t know what to say right in the moment, because *I* am your mommy and *I* work. Let’s talk about where you got that idea./Let’s talk about all of your other friends who have mommies who work LIKE YOU./Indeed, what would happen in a two-mommy family if no-one worked? etc”


  3. There all different kinds of work. You could expand the definition of work. Work to make money, work to be better at a skill, work to better oneself, work to be a better person. I don’t know am I crazy?


  4. These are all such good thoughts, thank you! I tried a little followup today but I think I’ll have to return to it, maybe during bedtime when I get a little more focused chat with him during his favorite back-scratching. With his attention span this conversation could take a while to get through all the way in short bits…


  5. I remember my sister having that issue because she had her office at home and was there when the boys came home, so they did not feel the same impact of her being away at the office as kids did whose mothers worked physically outside their houses. I was glad when I moved to academia because it gave me more flexibility to do things with/for you and Margaret during after school hours, but then I still had to squeeze a full time job’s worth of work into the remaining hours and that was stressful and you all picked that up, so there’s no easy solution that I know of.


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