Why Do You Go To Work?

About five years ago I was on a solo date with my eldest daughter who was four at the time. We were at our favourite fusion Mexican restaurant sitting on the upstairs patio. It was a warm spring evening, the sky was blue, and the sun’s rays casted a beautiful warm light. I cherished the moment alone with my daughter.

I said to her. “I really enjoy spending time with you.”
She responded. “Then why do you go to work?”

I can’t recall how I answered, but I know it wasn’t deep or profoundly insightful. I recall smiling and being stunned at her wisdom. She has always had an old soul.

Version 2

The old soul

I wished I’d answered. “Because I love my job, I work with great people, am constantly learning, and we are building and selling enduring products that deliver real value for our customers.” I’m not sure a four year old would have understood this answer. The point is that I haven’t always loved what I do and I wonder how this impacts my family.

I can understand why she would pose this question. I could see her brain working. “You love me. I love you. We have fun together. Why would you want to leave me?”

My daughter is now nine and she sees the stress in my shoulders and the expression on my face. “Oh no, Daddy is stressed today. He has that face on.”

It’s natural for kids to see parents experience the full spectrum of emotions. As parents we need to model that it is ok to be human; in fact it is our immutable obligation to be human and show our kids we are fallible and that is it ok to experience challenges, to pick ourselves up, and try again… to never give up.

I don’t want my daughters to think I hate my job, that it wears me down, or that I am always stressed. I wear my responsibilities on my shoulders. I know this and many see it in me, not just my family. I genuinely enjoy my work. I’m constantly learning, making new friends, adding to my network, and delivering value. There are days when the team signs a big contract and we feel a sense of elation and are proud. Then there are days when a deal slips through our fingers and we beat ourselves up with criticism and question our approach. What did we miss and why didn’t we see this coming? Invariably, I wear these emotions on my sleeves. It doesn’t mean I hate my work. It simply means that I am passionate and expect the best of myself. However, I always quickly pick myself up and look at the learning opportunities. How can we do this better the next time?

I want my kids to grow up looking forward to a career, to choosing a path that excites them and makes them passionate about leaving home every morning. As a parent I want to model a positive behaviour to work and a career.

This is a choice. Recently I’ve taken a more existential approach to my work. I still passionately care about it, but have made a conscience decision to recognize that within each day, I am learning. Failure or success, I am learning how to better manage the next situation, learning from others as they contribute, learning what to do or what not to do, knowing that I do not have all the answers and leaning on my colleagues to help guide us through to a solution. Recognizing that I am primarily driven by curiosity I cherish the learning opportunities and the occasions to coach, guide, and course correct along the way.

I’ll always “go to work.” I love engaging, contributing, making friends, building enduring products and teams, solving problems, and helping. It defines me.

5 responses

  1. It’s that old thing, Gene, about what will be important when you look back when you’re 95 years old. Of course most of us need to make a living and doing something you enjoy, at least mostly, is incredibly valuable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Tara, the point is that I want my kids to be inspired to choose a career that provides rewards. Challenges and triumphs are normal along the journey. Pretty soon I’ll be able to retire… but even if I retire I’ll still “go to work”. I’ll never stop doing things that drive my curiosity. I don’t see work as “making a living.” It’s always been more to me than that. Thanks for reading my site and for your comments.

    Like

  3. Great article! Complelety share your view. It is importamt for kids to see and witness the balance we try to achieve between the fanily that we cherish and remains our top priority, and between work that we love and use to have a positive impact on our society. This is really the message I try to pass on to them. Our impact should extend beyond our small house, to our community through volunteering and also work that we love and enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like your reflections on work life balance. I have also struggled with answering questions from my children about my stresses at work. In the past several years I have found work that I am extremely passionate about (teaching, mentoring start-ups about product design). Finding passion in my work has made a big difference for me, and results in better family time. While I find myself working harder than ever, there is more joy and less stress. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Liked by 1 person

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