Tell them where you're going
Reveal your reasons. If your decision to work is based primarily on the fact that you love your job (lucky you!), you can talk to your kids about a particular thing you enjoy doing. When working is a financial necessity, it's a good idea to help your children make the connection between a job and money, which is something they don't immediately understand without some grown-up assistance, says Lisa Spiegel, codirector of Soho Parenting, in New York City. "Try saying something like, 'Mommy and Daddy work so we can make money to pay for our house and our clothes and our car,' " says Spiegel. Explaining that you need to earn a paycheck in order to live is also a great opportunity to teach your child about how the world works.
Don't be an echo. When your child whines, "I don't want you to go to work," it's natural to want to reply, "I don't want to go either. I reeeeeeally hate to leave you." But that would be a mistake. "It sends a confusing message to children: You say you want to stay, yet you're leaving," says Lori Long, Ph.D., author of The Parent's Guide to Family-Friendly Work. While it's fine to acknowledge his plea, make your job sound fun to your child by sharing something you're excited about doing at the office. This will help him understand that work is an important part of his mom's life. And for mothers who feel guilty about working outside the home, consider this: "Your child isn't saying you shouldn't be working; she's saying, 'I don't like it when you leave,' " says Betsy Brown Braun, author of Just Tell Me What to Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents. And this is exactly what she'd say if you went out to dinner or dashed off to catch a movie with friends.