Twenty Seven.

How to explain your job to your kids.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from Laura West, Founder of The Doers. She says:

“I went freelance a little over a year ago and soon after launched The Doers — a marketing consultancy powered by freelancers (*ah hum* plug over!)

I have 3 young children (almost 4, 2 and 9 months) and struggle to explain to them what I do, why I do it, why I don’t go into an office like Daddy etc. etc. Last week my eldest told someone I work in a cafe (not far from the truth, I love a cafe hop!) and I couldn’t find a way to explain to him what I actually do in a way he could understand.

Frankie, Steve and the DIFTK community do you have any nuggets of wisdom of how the explain the freelance life to little people in a way they understand and can be proud of what I do?

Many many thanks, Laura”

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:00:52] – Frankie
Hello. You’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:01:02] – Steve
Hello. Welcome to another one! Each week we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids community. Do our best to answer it as best we can, but we also like to get your comments on the show. So we start each episode with your comments from last week’s episode. Last week’s episode was about…

[00:01:30] – Frankie
Coping with Christmas madness.

[00:01:33] – Steve
So many people finding this apt.

Lisa Clavering says,

“This is such a universal issue. I wholeheartedly agree that lists, lists, and more lists are a good way to get through this minefield. Like Steve said, home stuff. All home stuff needs to go on a list. Also, when something occurs to you and you think, ‘I must remember to do that’, either do it now or add it to your list now, otherwise you’ll forget it again. Once you have everything in your list system — paper, online, organised in whatever way works for you — make sure you regularly ask yourself, ‘what is the best use of my time right now?’ That might not be doing client work. It might be spending 20 minutes rattling through your small admin tasks so that your head feels clearer for the rest of your day. Or it might be to get your head down and break the back of a job that’s been stressing you out. What’s most useful will vary often, and the key is being able to work out what is valuable to you at any given time.”

I love this. Right now, I’ve switched off client work so that I can spend an hour clearing the decks of my general work admin and doing some Christmas stuff. Otherwise, I’m going to keep feeling distracted and stressed by all and not concentrate on what I’m meant to be doing. Yes, I’ll have to make up the hours tomorrow on a not usually working day, but I’ll be able to do so with a much clearer head.

[00:02:53] – Frankie
Laura Mingozzi-Marsh says,

“I’m tempted to program my December 2020 out of office now so that I don’t forget. December will definitely be only considered two weeks long from now on!”

[00:03:04] – Steve

[00:03:06] – Frankie
Don’t forget it, people.

[00:03:07] – Steve
And Ethne Toobe says,

“I had to listen twice as the first time round, I was reminded I needed to pay after school club fees. Nice little public service you’ve got here.”

[00:03:18] – Frankie
You’re welcome.

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:04:26] – Steve
This week’s question comes from Laura West, who is the founder of The Doers, I love the name the Doers by the way.

Laura says,

“I went freelance a little over a year ago and soon after launched The Doers, a marketing consultancy powered by freelancers. *ahem, plug over*. I have three young children, almost four, two and nine months, and struggle to explain to them what I do, why I do it, why I don’t go into an office like daddy etc, etc.

Last week my eldest told someone I work in a cafe. Not far from the truth, I love a cafe hop! And I couldn’t find a way to explain to him what I actually do in a way he could understand.

Frankie, Steve and the Doing It For The Kids community — do you have any nuggets of wisdom on how to explain the freelance life to little people in a way they understand and could be proud of what I do?

Many, many thanks, Laura.”

[00:05:25] – Frankie
I love this question. It’s a great question. I don’t know the answer to this question.

[00:05:32] – Steve
Okay, well, I mean, you have a four-year-old, just like she has a four-year-old, right?

[00:05:37] – Frankie
I do. I do have a four-year-old.

[00:05:39] – Steve
Do you get the question?

[00:05:40] – Frankie
Yeah, he does ask. Well, yeah, he does ask me that. I don’t think my four-year-old fully understands what I do and has some weird misconceptions about what I do based on the fact that I work from home and my husband goes out, physically goes out to work. But I also think a lot of that comes down to me a lot of the time in that… so I like to do the thing where I talk about my day to my son in the hope that he might tell me anything about his day at school. I try and do that but maybe I go into too much detail, because rather than, like, “Mummy went to work”, I’m like, “Mummy went to meet someone to talk about a job. Mummy went to a meeting. Mummy made a logo for someone…” I tend to break down my day. Maybe that’s too much detail? It’s like, “Mummy did these random tasks”, rather than, “Mummy went to work”. Whereas Dad just goes to work and does things he’ll never understand. I mean, I barely understand what he does. So, yeah, I think it’s partly like I maybe overthink it or…

[00:06:48] – Steve
Yeah, we have to put ourselves in their shoes, don’t we? Which is fun, because kids shoes are usually way better than adult shoes.

Think about how weird it is. They just hear from a very early age, “oh, blah blah is going to work”. “Blah blah is going to the office”. I’m saying Blah blah, because for us, in our house, it’s mummy is going out to work.

[00:07:09] – Frankie
The other way around, yeah.

[00:07:10] – Steve
And so like, what is work? For years, our daughter thought that because I drop my wife at the station each day and our little girl is in the car… She sees Mummy, then she’s gone. “Where’s Mummy?” “Mummy’s going to work. She’s off to Londo”n. So she thought London was the train station and Mummy worked in that building that she disappeared into!

[00:07:31] – Frankie
Ha! Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:07:32] – Steve
In fact, I think really, it was only when my wife took our daughter into her office that she could then fully compute where that was. I think that’s quite a nice thing if you’re able to do that.

I think we have to try and explain what work is. That’s one thing. I think we also have to explain that people work in different places. Maybe we need to link it to their world? So if your kids go to school or to daycare, like to a nursery, then probably there is a leader, if not a headteacher, who is in an office. So they have their office, and then there’s the cook who is in that place. So everybody has their role and maybe everybody has their little place in which they do it. And for us, our place is at home.

That probably helps if you actually have an office like you do. I was at the dining table for years, but it was, at the same time, pretty obvious I had a computer. And so they kind of connect computers to work sometimes, don’t they, as well? So I think if we can link it to their world and just say, “the same as mummy or daddy goes to work in an office that they can’t see — my office is right here at home. This is where I do my work and I do that so that I can pick you up and drop you off from school”.

[00:08:46] – Frankie
I think you’re right, though, that you have to grasp the concept of what work is at all, to then explain the nuances of like different types of work. We’ve definitely had chats about my job. I mean, my job — ultimately — is to look after you. That’s my job, to raise a good human and make sure that you can put your clothes on and feed yourself and go out in the world and do good stuff. But everybody also has a paid job because we live in a capitalist society!

He does understand what money is. He gets that we exchange money for things. So it’s just about the basics that we all have to have a job to earn money, to pay for the things that we need and want. That’s the basic level, isn’t it?

[00:09:36] – Steve
Yeah. I go to work or everyone goes to work to earn money so that we can live in this house and we can have clothes, we can have the car and we can go on holiday and we can eat food. All of that costs money. We have to earn money, so we all have jobs.

[00:09:51] – Frankie
Do your kids earn pocket money, for example? Because that’s the classic learning process.

[00:09:56] – Steve
Yeah, we don’t give pocket money. They have always had their jobs to earn money around the house.

[00:10:01] – Frankie
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I used to do the ironing for my mum. Classic! Do the ironing and the washing up. She’d give me like a pound.

[00:10:07] – Steve
Yeah, our son always used to feed the cat.

[00:10:10] – Frankie

[00:10:10] – Steve
And he was very upset when our cat died. And then it also dawned on him that he would no longer have a way of earning money.

[00:10:17] – Frankie
Yeah. “I’ve just been made redundant!”

[00:10:24] – Steve
This is why you need multiple income streams, son. All your eggs were in one cat-shaped basket. You can’t just have one client.

[00:10:33] – Frankie
It’s a great freelance lesson. Yeah.

And then it’s about explaining the nuances of what paid work is. We’ve actually got a really good book, maybe I’ll go and get it… I think it’s called, hang on… Yeah, so on the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got that classic book that’s called, What Do People Do All Day? Have you seen that?

[00:10:53] – Steve
No. I’ve always wondered that in general.

[00:10:55] – Frankie
Yeah, it’s a really good concept in that it’s about different parts of the world. Think like a quarry, farm, a high street with different shops and stuff, a school, and then it just shows you all the different people doing things to make that happen. So, on paper it’s great, but I don’t know exactly when it was made, but it is so dated. It’s bad. They need to do that again, but for a modern society.

But this one is called The Great Big Book of Families. And it’s brilliant because it has a double page spread for different themes and it just shows you all the different ranges of people that exist. For example, there’s a page on where people live. It’s like, “some big families live in tiny flats, some small families live in big houses, some people don’t have anywhere to live at all” etc, etc. And then there’s a page on work where it’s literally like, “some people don’t go to work, some people work from home”. It has just a little nice illustration of all these different types of jobs. And that particular page — because we read this book quite a lot! — has really helped my son see that distinction between some families where somebody goes to work in an office and some families that work from home. In fact, the image of the parent working from home is somebody at their desk covered in children, at their computer, trying to work, which is relatable! I’m not saying you should buy this specific book, but there are resources.

[00:12:20] – Steve
There’s a lot of that in TV shows as well.

[00:12:22] – Frankie
Yeah true.

[00:12:23] – Steve
You can always, again, about linking it back to their world… you can link it back to the shows they watch. I know lots of people seem to pick on Peppa Pig.

[00:12:28] – Frankie
I’ve got issues with Peppa Pig!

[00:12:30] – Steve
But, yeah, there are lots of jobs. Admittedly, Miss Rabbit seems to do 90% of them.

[00:12:35] – Frankie
True. Yes, she does.

[00:12:37] – Miss Rabbit
“I can’t stop long. I’ve got lots of work to do today!”

[00:12:41] – Steve
So, so we have to explain work and then we have to explain what we do for our job. And I just think this is a constantly evolving thing as their appreciation of how the world works grows over time. And I think just by talking about it, even at a very young age, our kids knew that I had to go and do voiceovers.

[00:13:02] – Frankie

[00:13:02] – Steve
Daddy had to go and do a voiceover meant they had to be quiet. But they start to understand when you explain, “you see how you get voices on all these different videos and stuff like that? Sometimes that’s my voice”. Or “I’ve got to write this script” and just show them bits of your work. Then they start to get a sense of that. And I think it’s fine to say, “look, these people go to work in these offices, but my office is right here at home so that I can be around for you guys more”.

[00:13:31] – Frankie
But I guess it’s more than that. It’s about explaining that you’re not tied to anywhere in particular because Laura works in a lot of cafes, for example, which kind of muddies the ‘where does Mummy work from?’ scenario doesn’t it?

[00:13:4] – Steve
So in our house, mummy will talk about, you know, her boss and the people she works with. So I’ve explained that I don’t have a boss. I’m my own boss, but I have lots of people that I do work for. So I don’t just do work for one person like mummy does. I work for lots of different people. So I’ve tried to get that sort of idea across as well, because I like the idea of them learning that some people are self-employed, that they run their own business. You know, just the same as Matt the handyman who comes around and fixes our door every two months when it jams. He runs his own business and he has lots of different people who he goes to help. I do that, but I don’t like to get my hands dirty!

So I think it’s maybe spotting those opportunities to try and help us explain the fact that we have lots of different people that we help.

[00:14:38] – Frankie
Yeah, “Emma the hairdresser’s like me, she works for herself” blah, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, “she works in different places for different people”. Yeah, that’s a good idea. Constant reminders,

[00:14:46] – Steve
Constant reinforcement of the capitalist cycle.

[00:14:52] – Frankie
Yeah, I guess the ‘what you do’ aspect, so in terms of explaining what you do to your kids could be as basic as explaining what paid work is, because some jobs — it’s not even worth trying to explain it to a four-year-old because they’d be like, “what?” As you say, they’ll get it in time as they get older.

[00:15:12] – Steve
But most jobs can be broken down, even if, like…

[00:15:16] – Frankie
I don’t know about that!

[00:15:17] – Steve
For example, a Facebook ad strategist.

[00:15:18] – Frankie
Really? Can you explain that to a four-year-old?

[00:15:20] – Steve
Just the fact that there are adverts on TV — “I help businesses put adverts on computers”.

[00:15:25] – Frankie
True. True, yeah, yeah.

[00:15:26] – Steve
You just break it down. They’re all watching YouTube and see adverts at the beginning or whatever. Pretty much every product around your house is covered in logos.

[00:15:35] – Frankie
Oh, yeah. Explaining what I do is relatively easy! Graphic design is literally everywhere. But Laura runs a marketing consultancy I mean that’s… abstract.

[00:15:45] – Steve
Yeah but what do marketing consultancies do? No, really, Laura, we don’t know…

No, I’m joking. But you just have to strip that back. Whatever bits you do that relates to their world, because kids do get what adverts are.

[00:16:00] – Frankie
Yeah. Oh, God. Yeah, yeah.

[00:16:02] – Steve
They get what emails are and newsletters and leaflets and you know all of these things are quite tangible in their world.

[00:16:09] – Frankie
And also it’s quite nice to analyse what it is you do at that kind of level. Like, what is it that I ultimately do? You might even have that chat with your four-year-old and then go, “oh, I should add that to my tagline!”

[00:16:25] – Steve
And I do think it is a nice idea if it’s possible for your other half — if they work in an office — to take the kids into work.

[00:16:35] – Frankie
Yeah, yeah, and then that helps put into context what the other half is doing as well. It’s all part of the same picture, isn’t it?

[00:16:43] – Steve
I’ve brought them into the cowork space so they can see that. And so I’ve explained that everybody here has a different job.

[00:16:49] – Frankie
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:16:49] – Steve
They don’t go into an office — we all come together into this office.

[00:16:52] – Frankie
And I think we’ll all be amazed by how big an impact working freelance is going to have on our kids. Because both my parents were self-employed and I just grew up talking about tax returns and all that kind of stuff. And initially I went into a salary job and then was like, “I don’t want to be doing this”. And it’s funny how, like, I was clearly just destined to do that and now I’m doing it, it’s like, “oh God, I don’t want to do anything else!”

But I definitely learned by not by doing, by-, how do kids learn? They learn through watching, right?

[00:17:29] – Steve

[00:17:29] – Frankie
Witnessing what people are doing around them.

[00:17:32] – Steve
And one day they’ll watch Mummy at 11am having beer and hula hoops off her fingers.

[00:17:35] – Frankie

[00:17:36] – Steve
And think, “what a life my mum led”.

[00:17:40] – Steve
Okay, we would love to know your thoughts. We can come back in January and pick this up when we start again. How have you broached that subject of what you do, how you do it? Let us know.

What would your advice be?

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