What I Want My Son to Learn About Work and Family (part 2): My Wife’s Career is as Important as Mine

Our job as fathers is to equip our children to have productive, happy and meaningful lives. In my opinion, the best way to do so is by role-modeling the values, priorities and actions to which we hope they will aspire.

I hope I can role-model good work-family values for my son
I hope I can role-model good work-family values for my son
One day, I hope Nick will get married, and I want him to value not just his own career, but also the career of his life partner. This is not a lesson that is taught effectively through words. I hope that, by seeing how supportive I am of my wife Amy (and she is of me), he will seek out a supportive spouse and that he will value his spouse’s career as much as his own.

First off, if you haven’t already, please read Part 1, which I posted on Monday. This article picks up where that one left off.

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What I Want My Son to Learn About Work and Family (part 1)

What lessons about work and family should we be role-modeling for our children?

For me, I hope my son learns that work can bring fulfillment, meaning, and opportunities to help others- not just money. I also hope he learns that work-family balance means family first and that his career priorities should take his future spouse/family’s needs into account.

I hope I can role-model good work-family values for my son
I hope I can role-model good work-family values for my son

Young kids don’t fully understand why we sometimes have to be away from them and at work. They know they miss us, and they can get resentful- it’s only natural. In response, it is easy to say that we work for money- to buy them things- and that we’d rather not work and just be with them.

It’s a comforting story in the moment, but I bet it is not entirely true for most of us- and I think it actually sends a very different signal than what we should be sending.

Someday, and sooner than we think, my Nick* (and your kids) will be making choices about their careers. And I’d rather he understand that work is not JUST a chore, and not JUST about money. Right now, he wants to be a Jedi (he’d be really good at this!), baseball player, geologist, waiter and circus performer. But when the time comes, I want him:

  • To choose a career that makes enough money for his life to be comfortable and so he can take care of his future family.
  • To choose a career he enjoys, finds interesting and meaningful, and through which he can make a larger contribution.
  • To understand the importance of balancing his career with that of his future life partner (see part 2)
  • To understand the relative importance of work and family and of working towards a balanced set of priorities. 

I once heard a quote that “the best way to teach your son to be a man, is to be a good man and let him watch”.

This is why I am very mindful about sending signals to my son about the importance of both work and family. These are hard things to teach directly in words, but I try to get these lessons through by my actions and by how I talk about work when he is around. Here’s what I hope he learns from me:

1. Work is for money, and money is important.

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Expert Perspectives: The Dual-Career Mojo that Makes Couples Thrive

To make dual careers work, a couple needs to be on the same page regarding their career and life goals and how they will support each other in achieving them. Here are four strategies from Dr. Monique Valcour for developing and maintaining an effective dual-career partnership.

A consistent theme on this blog (see here, here, and here) is the need for couples to work together to set their priorities about their family life as well as their own individual work and life goals. Then, couples need to constantly communicate and support each other. No matter what arrangement couples decide on, the key is to see that the kids’ needs are met and the couple supports each other.

My friend and colleague Dr. Monique Valcour is a leading expert in work-life issues, and she was kind enough to let me repost an amazing piece she recently wrote on her blog at Harvard Business Review (I also highly recommend her twitter feed). Her article pulls together a lot of what I’ve written about and packs it into one amazing piece.

Friend and Work-Life Expert Monique Valcour has some great advice for dual-career couples
Friend and Work-Life Expert Monique Valcour has some great advice for dual-career couples

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Why I Don’t Cover Baseball Any More

Carter Gaddis had his (and every baseball fan’s) dream job as the beat reporter for the Tampa Bay Rays. He gave it up to be a more present father. Here’s his story.

Guest Blogger and former Rays beta reporter, cater Gaddis, with his kids at the Trop
Guest Blogger and former Rays beat reporter, Carter Gaddis, with his boys at the Trop

“Sharing Experiences” is a series of posts in which a variety of dads, all in different work-family situations, share their experiences. I hope this series can forward the important conversations we have here, and spark ideas we can apply to our own lives.

Opening Day of Baseball Season (which should be a national holiday) is just four days away, so here’s a guest post that fits the happiest day of the year! Enjoy- SB

Why I Don’t Cover Baseball Any More

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NCAA Tournament Coaches- Michigan’s John Beilein (Final Four!) and Belmont’s Rick Byrd- Career Priorities, and Tradeoffs

Coaches Beilein and Byrd took different paths to the NCAA tournament, involving different work-life trade-offs. What we could learn from their stories.

Both Beilein and Byrd are fixtures during March Madness
Both Beilein and Byrd are fixtures during March Madness

I’m not a big college sports fan, but I enjoy March Madness. The school spirit, close games, tantalizing upsets are a perfect recipe for excitement.

But this year, something else caught my attention. Some coaches, like legends Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski, have helmed prestigious programs for decades. Most coaches aren’t that fortunate.

To climb the ranks of college basketball, coaches often parlay success at a smaller program into a new job at a larger one, often changing employers many times until reaching the highest ranks. This ambition and career focus is admirable, but must come at a cost to other aspects of life. Imagine moving your family cross-country five times in a 20 year period? This has to take a toll.

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Simplifying: Living With Less Can Leave Us With More

Freeing oneself of unnecessary possessions and financial commitments can eliminate stress and open up time and energy for the more important things in life- involvement with family and pursuing meaning in one’s career. Here are two people who have done it, and some advice for us all.

Fight Club’s Tyler Durden had it right (well, not the whole blowing up a city thing, but still): “The things you own wind up owning you

The third rule of Fight Club: "The stuff you own winjds up owning you" (official movie poster)
The third rule of Fight Club: “The stuff you own winds up owning you” (official movie poster)

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Fathers, Work and Family Issues in Super Bowl Ads: Expedia’s “Find Your Perspective” Ad

I love this commercial!

(sorry, I can’t embed video from this site, please follow the link)

The Disney teacup ride helped the dad in this great Expedia commercial think through his work-family priorities.

Expedia just started airing a fantastic ad, focusing on a father who was clearly struggling with work-family balance, and who (of course with the help of Expedia- it is an ad, after all) was able to have a moment of joy and clarity (on the Disney teacup ride) to help him realize his work-family priorities.

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Balancing Parenthood, Couplehood and Work by Committing to Each Other’s Careers

Disclaimer- Like all of us, I find balancing work and family to be a constant challenge, and I certainly make my share of mistakes. In this piece, I’d like to discuss something that works well for my family. My intent is to share my experience, not to self-congratulate. 

Finally, an excuse for me to post a wedding picture!

As I detailed in this prior post, my wife, Amy, is a musical theater actress and her career presents interesting challenges to balancing work and family.

When Amy and I got engaged, my well-meaning-but-from-a-different-generation Italian great-aunts/uncles/grandparents/etc got to meet her for the first time. When they met Amy, they were welcoming, lovely and gracious. However, to a person, they asked Amy, “So, are you still going to be an actress now that you’re getting married?”

At first, this question puzzled Amy. She smiled and responded with grace and humor that “Yes, and Scott is still going to be a professor.”

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