• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


The Work-Life Balance in Childhood

What children learn about adult obligations.


July 9, 2014

On our way home from traveling this week, I overheard a conversation among the children in the backseat of the car. They were talking about the occupations they would want to be when they grew up. My son discussed his desire to work at Google and my daughter talked about wanting to work at a restaurant during the day and on weekends at a zoo. My third child wanted to be a doctor. Quickly, the conversation took a turn. My son asked my daughter how she was going to spend time with her children while working two jobs. My daughter responded that she would only work until 4 p.m. during the week and on weekends her kids could come to the zoo. My son said that he decided that his work would keep him too busy to have children and pointed out that a doctor gets very busy. 

This conversation made me think about how the children perceive the challenges of the work-life balance at such an early age. My parents both worked full-time when I was growing up but I can’t remember ever spending any time thinking about how they juggled these jobs. They were always just around and when they weren’t, we watched ourselves.  Today, though, work-life balance is an everyday conversation and encompasses more than just balancing family. I wonder that with children so over-scheduled in activities that a side benefit may be that children are learning at a young age that they have to make choices to fit all their components of their life together. I hear parents complaining about the problem of too much homework but I’m wondering whether this also gives children a chance to figure out the complexity of choosing how to balance their time.

Children have always had a different understanding of time than adults but I’m wondering whether that is changing as well. The other day my youngest child spent the day playing with her dolls. When I was putting her to sleep, I asked her if she had a great day. She turned to me and sighed, “Yes, but all I did all day long was just play babies. That’s all I did the WHOLE day.” All I could think of was that the luxury of doing one thing all day is wasted on and no longer appreciated by the youth.


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