What I Want My Son to Learn About Work and Family (part 2): My Wife’s Career is as Important a
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.
I hope I can role-model good work-family values for my son
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.
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
To understand the relative importance of work and family and of working towards a balanced set of priorities.
In the last article, I focused on the first two bullet points. Today, I’ll focus on the third (look for the exciting conclusion on Monday April 29th). Here’s what I hope Nick learns from me about work and family:
3. My wife’s career is as important as mine
I’ve written before (see here, here and here) about my wife’s incredibly interesting and idiosyncratic career as a theater actress, and how her career poses some interesting work-family challenges. But I do my best to support Amy in her career- because I love her and want to support her, but also because I want to signal to Nick that both our careers are to be equally valued (Sheryl Sandberg would be proud).
So, when Amy is rehearsing a new show and working really long hours, I pick up the slack at home (Amy does the same for me when my work spikes). On the rare occasions she travels (for example, to Boston this past holiday season for How the Grinch Stole Christmas), I make sure that Nick and I travel out to see her. When it is age-appropriate, Nick sees his mom perform (Grinch, Peter Pan, etc.); when Amy directs youth theater, we see those shows (Nick enjoys seeing her mom get flowers from the cast as a thank-you on closing night!).
I’ll often help Nick make something for Amy’s dressing room before a new show, so he can be involved in supporting her. Finally, Nick very often comes in to visit mom before or after shows backstage and in her dressing room. Being backstage at a big Broadway theater is really exciting, and I’m really happy Nick gets to experience this.
From an early age, we made sure that Nick was exposed to Amy’s career.
One day, I hope Nick will get married, and I want him to value not just his own career (see Part 1), but also the career of his life partner. Again, this is not a lesson that is taught effectively through words. I hope that, by seeing how supportive I am of 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.
Of course, I hope he and futurespouse work out a balance that works for them, and that he understands that successful families can have many different divisions of labor (more traditional, single-earner households are also fine, as long as it is consciously chosen). Nick also gets to see successful marriages with different arrangements than ours through his aunt, his grandparents, and some local friends.
How do you teach and role-model with your kids about the importance of work? of work-family balance? of your spouse’s work or other contributions? Let’s discuss in the comments section (and look for part 3 on Monday!).
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