Do you remember this anti-drug PSA from the 80s? When the parent angrily asks where this kid learned how to do drugs, and the kid answers “ You, alright? I learned it from watching you!”
We model behaviors for our kids. The kind of career we choose to have and the way we fit our work and life will inform the way our kids shape their own decisions about work and family.
Most of us choose careers well before having kids. We were in our early twenties (or late teens) and we wanted to change the world/be powerful/make a ton of money/have long-term stability, or we wanted to be a/in _____ (fill in blank with profession you always thought you SHOULD be). We believe that our work lives require 150% effort and downtime is for vacation.
Then this gorgeous baby comes along. And along with him or her comes both adorable smiles and endless nights of pacing your apartment and singing your favorite Pixies song like a lullaby until your beautiful crying child drifts back to sleep. The pressure hits soon after you bring that bundle of joy home in the mandatory infant car seat: bills, bills, bills—how are you going to pay them? Medical, preschool, college tuition, not to mention the diaper service or industrial-size boxes of disposables…
You continue to stay on track, working just as hard as you did before you were this sleep deprived and stress and all of your extra time goes into caring for your family. You think that your best path forward is to just keep your head down and power through.You begin to think that you can only pencil in enjoyment of your life while reading the Sunday morning paper, watching your favorite show on TV, or on the occasional vacation.
It’s really easy to lose sight of what is pretty critical to the whole child rearing thing—that your kid grow up with a happy, fulfilled parent. The truth is YOU are in control of the decisions–it is not what is happening to you, it is what you are creating. You have to believe that you have the power to change your situation.