Why My Daughter is Confused about “Going to Work”

Yesterday, we went to Thanksgiving Lunch at my daughter’s Mother’s Day Out program. She was very excited because Daddy came. Because Daddy has a 8-5 job as a supervisor, it’s rare she gets to see him during the day. In fact it was the first time he had been to Mother’s Day Out. He didn’t even know where the church was.

As 2 year olds do, she was very interested in when we were going home and what we were going to do when we got there. Jonathan told her that he was coming home for a few minutes but had to go back to work. She seemed to accept this for a few moments but then pressed further about why he couldn’t stay and play with her. He said “But Riley I have to go back to the office.” When she heard “office”, she immediately responded, “Daddy, Why can’t you work in Mommy’s office?”

While that may be a profound connection for a two year old, it was funny and sad for us as parents as we tried to explain. To add to Riley’s confusion, our roles were reversed when she was smaller. I had the 8-5 job 30 minutes away and her dad worked 4 AM-6PM on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But he got to stay home with Riley through the first of the week. She remembers being with him all day. She doesn’t seem to recall me working outside the house.

It’s left me pondering an explanation that she will understand all evening. She knows where Jonathan works physically. But she doesn’t seem to understand why he gets in the car every morning to go to work, but when Mommy goes to work it means something different. She obviously has more experience sitting in my office with me coloring or watching puppies on You Tube on the laptop. We do a lot of things together everyday so that is her live experience with “work.”

Now I wouldn’t go back to the corporate world even if my Blackberry was held hostage. I am so thankful that we have not been forced to put her in daycare full time to let someone else raise her. I love what I do and I work hard to be sure I can be here with Riley.

Yet, I am still faced with the issue of explaining to her why Daddy can’t come over and play all day long.  In my mind right now, this is a harder question to answer than why don’t my mommy and daddy live together. For the time being, the question is laying low while we run around for Thanksgiving plans, but I am sure it will come up and again, so I am trying to construct my answer for her.

I would love to hear your tips and if your children have asked these sorts of questions.



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About Erica

Erica Cosminsky is an HR Business Strategist for small businesses. She can slog through the pile of applicants and help deliver the best assistant to your "office door", she transforms mile long to-do lists into manageable bites, and like your best friend after a raging party, she sticks around to offer assistance or clean up any messes, etc. Find her free delegation workbook at TheInvisibleOffice.com

She is a former corporate HR Manager, and ran her own virtual business team for 4 years. She has a BS in Organizational Leadership focused in HR and is a grad student in Industrial and Organizational Psychology focused in Workplace Efficiency. Honestly, if you have questions about working with people, Erica can probably help you. Ask her on Twitter. @Cosminsky


  1. Dave Doolin
    Twitter: websiteweekend

    Perhaps you could swing by DH’s workplace around lunch sometime with a sandwich or whatnot. Let DD work her magic on everyone there for a few minutes.

    • Erica
      Twitter: Cosminsky


      That is a good point. Jonathan works in a secured facility where they rebuilt cell phones. He probably couldn’t get away with bringing me in with him but they probably wouldn’t say anything about her going in with him. 🙂

  2. maybe her daddy could do a role play with her about what he does during his day, so that she feels involved in what he does, even if its just play. or use her toys to make up a game of what a normal day means to us adults.

    • Erica
      Twitter: Cosminsky


      That is a very good point. I think we will try that this weekend.



  3. It is very important I believe to get your child to understand that work is a part of life and earning money is not easy, this will give them an indication from a young age that money does not grow on tree’s and we are all limited to what we can spend, I like your site the info and comments are great 🙂