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What do you tell a 5-year-old about the world of work?

by Kate Paine  |  2689 views  |  0 comments  |      Rate this now! 

"Mummy," my daughter asks. "When will I have an office?" She mimes hitting the keys of a computer for a moment, before picking up her fork and digging it into the bowl in front of her.

Her father and I look at her and both reach for our wine glass at the same time. Has it really come to this? Is working in an office the pinnacle of our daughter’s aspirations? Does she really think that that is all there is? Time was she wanted to work in a jungle or be a fairy. We both take a gulp of wine, before carefully placing our glasses back on the table and turning to our daughter, who waits expectantly, spaghetti cooling on her fork.

"You don’t have to work in an office, sweetie," says her father.

"You do," she replies.

"That’s true," he says, "but there are lots of other jobs out there."

"Do you like working in an office?" Her father reaches for his glass again, buying himself just a little bit of time to think.

"Not all the time," is his diplomatic reply.

"Then why do you do it?"

"Well, I like the work I do and I get paid to do it. But I’d rather spend more time at home with you," he replies winningly.

"Why doesn’t Mummy get an office then, and you stay with me?"

Because mummy will never in a million years earn as much as me now that we live in Switzerland, might be the more honest reply, but instead he explains that mummy already works.

"No, she doesn’t."

"Yes, she does," he says.

"No she doesn’t," our daughter insists. "She stays at home and reads books and plays the piano."

At this point I look out the window. It’s true, I do read books, but not all the time. And it’s true, I do play piano, but I’m a music teacher! I have to play the piano!

"Mummy works, too," my husband now says, reassuring both our daughter and me. "She teaches music, she writes, she studies, she looks after our house and she looks after both of us." And now he turns to me and grins. I roll my eyes.

I feel my daughter’s speculative gaze on me now.

"Mummy," she says, "do I have to teach piano, too?"

She seems relieved when I say no. I explain that there are lots of different jobs out there and it doesn’t matter if you are a girl or a boy. "Some involve working in an office, sure, but others are outside or at home. Some involve helping or teaching people, some are with animals, some are..." My mind goes blank. How can I encapsulate the whole breadth of the working world in just a few sentences?

About the Author

Kate is a music teacher and writer living in Switzerland. She has previously worked as a career counsellor and researcher in the UK an Australia.

Read more by Kate Paine




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