“Nearly every parent who’s working to support a family feels constrained by their career choices: Providing financial security for your children usually takes precedence over fulfilling your own dreams and aspirations. If you’re especially fortunate, you don’t have to choose or compromise. But many of us do, even though most of us never start out thinking that way about our working lives. As kids, we aspire to be doctors or astronauts or pop stars, and only as adults–and particularly as parents–do we begin to adjust our career decisions, first to the realities of the workforce and later to the needs and demands of other people (partners, spouses, parents, children).
My dad is an accountant. When I was very young, he served as a comptroller and then started working in small accounting firms, eventually moving out on his own. The older I got, the clearer it became that accounting wasn’t my father’s passion, even though it paid the bills. When I got to college, it struck me that he spent an awful lot of time doing things he didn’t particularly like. And this observation motivated me to think differently, and pursue career paths I’d find more fulfilling than he seemed to find his.
There’s been a lot of debate in recent years about “passion careers” and “dream jobs,” including whether they’re reasonable things to pursue in the first place. But those conversations typically focus narrowly on individual (and implicitly unattached) job seekers, with seemingly little to say to working parents whose career choices are always influenced by concern for their kids. In reality, though, opting to find purpose and fulfillment in the work you do can benefit your children in unexpected ways. It just takes a shift in perspective to understand how.”
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