Here’s a lesson for future working parents, and for those of us already in the thick of juggling work and life.
As a business school professor and an advocate for work-family balance, I feel a certain obligation to not only teach my students what they need to be great business leaders, but also help them gain a perspective that will help them lead a balanced life.
My semester begins today, and I’d like to share an appropriate excerpt from my book, The Working Dad’s Survival Guide, in which I share some advice for my students, most of whom are future working parents:
Our job as fathers is to equip our children to have productive, happy and meaningful lives. The best way to do so is by role-modeling the values, priorities and actions we hope they will aspire to.
At last, the finale! If you haven’t already, please read Part 1 and Part 2, which were posted last week. This article picks up where those left off.
Someday, and sooner than we think, my Nick (and your kids) will be making choices about their careers, marriages and families. When the time comes, I hope Nick will:
Choose a career that makes enough money for his life to be comfortable and so he can take care of his future family.
Choose a career he enjoys, finds interesting and meaningful, and through which he can make a larger contribution.
Understand the importance of balancing his career with that of his future life partner
Understand the relative importance of work and family while having a balanced set of priorities.
In the prior articles, I focused on the first three bullet points, Today, I’ll focus on the fourth.
One day, I hope Nick will be a father, and while I want him to value his own (part 1) and his spouse’s career (part 2), I reallywant him to know that family comes first. As in the case of the other lessons I’ve discussed, this is not a lesson that is taught effectively through words. I hope that, by seeing how I try to juggle work and family, he sees a role model for himself- just like I did when observing my father. This article is much more about my father than it is about me.
4. Work has its place, but is never more important than family
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.
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.
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.
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: