Love, Always

“Mommy, do you love your blog more than me?” What to do when your child feels in competition with your work.

“So, how did it go?” I asked my friend.

She had just finished teaching a writing workshop. Her students were mostly women entrepreneurs, many of whom were juggling “work” and “writing” and “family,” trying hard to create time for all the big priorities.

“Great!” she said. “Although, several of the women who attended my workshop are dealing with some pretty big challenges.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Well,” she continued. “Here’s just one example: one woman has a very young daughter. A toddler. She told me that after she launched her business and started blogging, her daughter felt uneasy because mom was suddenly spending so much time on her computer. In fact, her daughter actually asked her, ‘Mommy, do you love your blog more than me?’”

My friend went on to explain that this question — “Mommy, do you love your blog more than me?” — completely rattled this working mom. She started to feel “guilty” whenever she sat down to work on her blog — which, of course, created major writer’s block! She was worried, of course, that her daughter would feel neglected or abandoned because of her work.

This is a very common conundrum, especially for working parents.

You want a satisfying, meaningful career. You want to be an attentive, loving parent. Except, you can’t do both at the same time.

Or can you?

I would argue: yes, you can.

Your approach will depend on the age of your child (two year olds have a very different grasp on reality than twelve year olds, for example), but here are some universal guidelines to remember:

– Share your joy with your child.

If you’re brimming with excitement about a work or business project, call your child over, show them what you’re working on, and explain why you are so excited.

“Isn’t this amazing? Mommy just learned how to create an e-course! See all those names? Those are people who signed up to learn things from me! I’m so excited!”

– Get your child involved, when appropriate.

Inviting your child to help you make business decisions — even very small ones — can help them to feel “included,” not abandoned.

“Which logo do you like better, sweetheart? The one with the blue letters? Or green?”

– Transition from family-mode to work-mode, gracefully.

If you’re spending quality time with your child, and your cellphone beeps to signal an incoming email, don’t abruptly “rip” yourself away from your child and bound into the other room to read it — especially if your child is very young.

Many parents don’t realize it, but an abrupt change like this is very frightening to little ones (ages 0 – 6), whose frame of reference is “out of sight, out of mind” — as in, “if I can’t see you, you don’t exist.”

When it’s time to shift from family-mode to work-mode, do it slowly and explain what is happening.

“This has been fun! It’s time for dad to get back to work now. Let’s both focus on our projects and then read another story later.”

– Ask questions. (Calmly.)

If your child says something like, “Do you love your blog more than me?” or “Why do you care about work more than me?” try not to “react” (… even though it might feel like a knife in the gut).

Stay calm. Ask your child, “What makes you say that?”

Encourage your child to speak freely. Try to get to the root of this statement.

Is your child upset because you broke a promise (working on your computer when you promised to go out to the park)? Or feeling un-noticed because you’re always talking about work-related success to your friends, never talking about your kid’s success at school? Listen without interrupting.

Finish by reaffirming for your child, “Even when I am working hard, or focused on a project, you are always in my heart. You are my top priority. I am sorry if I behaved in a way that made you think any differently. I love you very much.”

– Above all: be affectionate and present.

If you give your child lots of love, physical touch (hugs, snuggles) and attention — throughout each day — then your child’s “love-tank” will always be full.

He (or she) will not be operating from a “deficit,” moving through life with emotional needs that are going un-met. This means that when it is time for you to work, he (or she) will be far less likely to feel upset.

(Think of it this way: when you pull a plate of food away from a starving person, she’s going to freak out! But when you pull a plate of food away from a person who is well-fed and satisfied — and who knows that she’s going to receive another meal very soon — she’s not going to protest.)

By “showing up” for your child, every day, being affectionate and present, you will be teaching your child an essential lesson. Your child will understand: “There is no shortage of love around here. I have nothing to fear.”

That’s quite a few points to remember.

But if you take nothing else away from this post, take this:

Show your kids that you love them — daily.

No matter how “busy” you feel, spend time with them, talk with them, share with them, teach them, play with them.

Expressing your love in this way — through quality time and shared experiences — can ensure that your child feels secure in your love.

With this feeling of security in place, your child is not likely to doubt your love based on anything that you say or do.

Even when you’re out of the room, away from the house, or locked into your computer, your child will know:

“I am loved. Mom / Dad might be working right now, but that’s OK. We’ll be spending time together again, soon. They’re not going anywhere!”

. . .

A question to consider:

Do you feel completely “present” when you’re spending time with your kids and family? Or is work always tugging at the corner of your mind? What could you do to address that?