Hi-Ho Hi-Ho, It’s Off to Work I Go

Or not.

Question of the week:

Hello, I’m Dan, listening from Ontario, Canada. In your podcast Episode 123 you mentioned that there is a benefit to children watching dad go to work every day.

My wife and I have a 2-year-old son and have a second child on the way. I work from home and am wondering if this is considered going to work or if I may be putting our children at a disadvantage? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Thank you so much for your efforts.


Dear Dan,

Congratulations on your growing family and on deliberately and consciously considering the impact of your actions on your children. The question you ask is relevant as well for many fathers who head off to offices, but whose children are utterly clueless about how their dads serve other people

It used to be that children easily understood how their fathers earned money and how they served those around them. Whether a child saw his or her father plowing with a tractor, heading off with a construction hat, tailoring a suit or providing medical help to others, the father’s actions were comprehensible. The tangible benefit from sitting in an office and typing on a computer or talking on the phone are harder to understand. Even if a child can parrot the words, “My father is a lawyer” or an accountant or an insurance professional, does that translate into understanding what those words mean?

My (RDL) words on the podcast were directed more to fathers who have accumulated enough or who have inherited financial blessing that they do not need to toil to put a roof over their family’s head and food on the table. My words would also apply l to someone achieving nothing and living off of government assistance.

What is our point? Children pay much more attention to what parents do than to what parents say. We can give lofty speeches about telling the truth, but if our children hear us lying, those speeches backfire. When I (Susan) was a little girl, my mother took me with her when she went to vote. That trip was worth more than reading a book to me about citizenship. Similarly, parents who may be generous contributors to charity but do so after their children are asleep and the house is quiet, are missing the opportunity to mold charitable children. Taking a child along to deliver soup to an ailing neighbor or even letting them put stamps on envelopes holding donations helps develop the child’s spiritual muscle.

It is vital for growing children to view themselves as people who can, should, and do contribute to others. They should know that their talents, work and abilities are to help others not just themselves. While we love our children, it isn’t healthy for them to see themselves as the only important things in our lives. While it is marvelous if a father can be at his son’s baseball game it may be more valuable for that son to understand that his father’s work involves responsibility, commitment, and obligations to others that must sometimes take priority over his ball game.

So, Dan, if we can modify the idea you asked about, the key point is that as your children grow, they should recognize the dignity and morality of what you do. They should learn to understand the connection between your work and their food and possessions as well as the satisfaction you feel in working and providing a service to others. They should see a certain amount of regimentation, structure, and discipline in terms of time and energy commitment—working from home doesn’t mean work as secondary to home.

Why did we speak exclusively of fathers in this Ask the Rabbi and Susan instead of including mothers? Children absolutely need to understand their mother’s work, but that work can be fully focused on the family, home and local community. How to teach children to appreciate that work is a separate question.

Wishing you growth in all your 5Fs,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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1 thought on “Hi-Ho Hi-Ho, It’s Off to Work I Go”

  1. Thank you Dan for asking. And thank you Rabbi and Mrs Lapin for answering this question. I need to work on this part “They should see a certain amount of regimentation, structure, and discipline in terms of time and energy commitment”

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