Holy role models

For those of us who work at home, every summer day is "Take Your Kids to Work Day."

Our children, home from school for the summer, get to see us in (in)action at our jobs. We're their role models.

We don't want them to pick up poor work habits from us. (We'd prefer to blame someone else when our children are 27-year-old college graduates fired from Dunkin Donuts because they can't drag their carcasses out of bed before noon.)

The problem is that we home-office types normally work solo, and solitude breeds bad habits. We don't want our children to witness these aberrational tendencies and assume that regular careers center around coffee and cigarettes and cursing.

But we can't expect them to listen to our advice about work when they see we don't follow such advice ourselves. For example, it's difficult to impress upon children the importance of prioritizing when they see us ignoring our own work, yakking on the phone all day while drooling chocolate down our shirtfronts. It's hypocritical to preach about workmanlike efficiency when they see us wasting hours on Tetris.

So it's time we cleaned up our acts. As role models, we must demonstrate to the little beggars that we're proficient and responsible, even if it means changing our habits. To wit:


One of the joys of working alone is that we can curse with impunity. In regular offices, populated by fellow cubicle slaves, such verbal behavior is considered bad form. But when no one's around to hear, cursing becomes a convenient outlet for every frustration. Think computer crashes.

Now that the kids are home all day, we must rein in this compulsion and say things like, "Fiddlesticks!" and "Shoot!" Trust me, you'll be glad you've made the adjustment the next time your children attend a formal function, such as a funeral.

Telephone Etiquette

Children shouldn't witness their parents shouting into phones or slamming down receivers, even if that same telemarketer has called three times in a single day. Such behavior will be mimicked and will interfere with the child's job performance someday. Unless, of course, you're training them to answer the phone whenever telemarketers call the house . . .

Personal Hygiene

Toiling alone most of the time, we work-at-home parents forget that there are some things you simply shouldn't do at your desk. Children must learn that none of the following is appropriate on the job: chain-smoking, fingernail-biting, toenail-clipping, ear-probing, nose-picking, gargling, flossing, mindless throat-clearing, random sniffling, scratching, loud belching, and barking like a dog.


When kids watch you work, you can't go at your usual slothful pace. If they see you procrastinate, they'll learn to avoid onerous tasks, which include nearly all jobs that earn a salary. You must plunge in every day and show them you know how to work without shilly-shallying. Then, when their backs are turned, you can hide that paperwork you've been putting off for a week.

Dress Code

Look, just because you can work at home all day in your pajamas doesn't mean that's the example to set for your children. They may one day have real jobs that require neckties or panty hose (though probably not at the same time). They should learn that professionals "dress for success," and to take pride in their appearance. One exception: If your children plan careers in the computer industry, they should learn to dress like surfers.


The most important trait for success in the workplace is a positive attitude. Show your children you can be upbeat about your work. Show them that failures are mere stumbling blocks, that the worst the world dishes out can be overcome with positive thinking. This may require that you lock yourself in the bathroom while you curse your boss and grind your teeth, but it'll be worth it in the long run. Children should know that bathrooms are handy places for such behavior.

There, that's not so hard, is it? A few minor adjustments, and you'll set a great example for your kids. And remember: Summer only lasts three months. Then they'll be back in school and you can go back to cursing and smoking while clipping your toenails in your pajamas.


Anonymous said...

Steve...one my main joys in life is to get on the internet, with a gin and tonic nearby, chain smoking and picking my nose.

All my children are grown and gone and my wife takes a nap.

Except when my grand children are here and want to check My Space, I've got it to myself.


I can't wait...