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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