Doing What You Love Won’t Fix Your Life
BY JANICE QUIRT
Photo © baandit.studio/Twenty20
Feb 18, 2021
There’s a saying: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
And while it’s shortened to “do what you love” to better fit onto water bottles, tank tops and other merchandise, I find the phrase unrealistic.
"Who doesn’t want their kids to grow up working in fields and on projects that interest them (at least, most of the time)?"
I’m all about people following their passions and interests (and hate hearing of people being stuck, despising their jobs or careers), but the reality is that doing something magically spectacular day in and day out is sometimes going to feel like a drag from time to time. And that’s OK. Even if you absolutely adore pizza, and ate it every day, you’d soon not love it as much.
The same is often true of turning one’s passion project or hobby into a career. Oftentimes it’s thrilling, but it’s still simply work.
I think it’s an important point to raise in the parenting space, because it’s easy to get caught up in the “if-onlys.” If only I could make a living pursuing my side hustle. If only I had taken a different major. If only I lived somewhere different.
Maybe it’s because we feel responsible for our happiness and that of our entire family, or perhaps we feel the need to crack the code to happiness and just try super hard to make everything right.
Megan Kinch has a successful career as a construction engineer. But there are days where it can take an emotional and physical toll.
As parents, and as carers to those sweet kiddos of ours, helping understand what can lead to happiness is pretty critical, and job satisfaction is certainly a factor. Who doesn’t want their kids to grow up working in fields and on projects that interest them (at least, most of the time)?
But what you do and how much you love it is not the only factor. Some people may not love their jobs, but have simply amazing lives in every other facet.
Flexibility is important
When little ones count on you, flexibility is key. There will likely be times when you need to move your work day around to accommodate doctor appointments, sick kids, holiday concerts and volunteering on field trips. I once had to leave work early because my son had fallen in a massive mud puddle, and needed another set of clothes. My employer at the time wasn’t perfect, but they knew they had won my loyalty by being flexible with these parenting demands, and not making me feel guilty when I had to leave.
Not everyone has a comfy desk job. Shift work presents its own unique set of challenges. Read that POV here.
That job was awesome not because I necessarily adored what I was doing, but because I loved that I could do that job and be a parent without feeling pulled into a million pieces.
Striking out on your own, following a passion project, or trying something new are all amazing career experiences. They may or may not come with financial gains or even security, and sometimes the best thing a certain job or career has going for it is that it provides a good, steady stream of income. This can be important when you have dependents.
It’s OK to value this more than following your dream job. Sometimes what we need — what we really, really need — is to not worry about paying the bills. Sometimes having a boring job and a healthy bank balance equals having a happy life and stability for the family.
Sharing the Load
I’m incredibly inspired by entrepreneurs and business owners. They do so much, and often they absolutely love what they have created. They also talk about how much work it is, and about how it usually starts as a one-person show. Keep in mind as a parent that if you start your own business, you could begin with a team of one: yourself.
If you love tackling challenges as a team, then “doing what you love” might not be as fabulous if you’re doing it solo. If you thrive on the camaraderie of team meetings and coffee breaks, then being alone with your thoughts might get old fast. And if you relish the conversation and companionship of your workmates as a balance to being immersed in the land of your kids and their interests, then you may want to reconsider saying goodbye to that outlet.
No End in Sight
Sometimes following your dreams comes with a lot of long days and nights, and that isn’t always congruent with wanting to be there for your kids at the end of the workday. Some passion projects make it very hard to switch off. Turning a side hustle into a fully-fledged business model can mean working around the clock.
There’s nothing wrong with instead choosing a job that you can leave at the end of the day to be able to devote more time, energy and attention to your kids. My friend and I often talk about how we long to work at a library, because we are passionate about reading, books and talking to people about research and literature. But we also love the idea of leaving the job behind at the end of the day.
I know that I want my kids to find careers they are interested in, but not consumed by. I want them to work hard and play hard, too.
Balancing parenting and a career is no joke
Doing what you love is a very worthy pursuit, especially if it works in all areas of your parenting lifestyle. But don’t expect it to check off every box. As parents, we also value flexibility, financial security and the autonomy to shift focus at the end of the day. We need to be given the space to thrive in all aspects of life and we want our kids to grow up seeing how to do it, too.
For Alison Tedford working in the criminal justice system has affected the way she sees risk as a parent. Read her story.
It’s OK to have boring days at work, or days when we’d rather be elsewhere. The same is true even if you are working in your dream world.
So let’s not romanticize one career or industry above all else. Longing for the idyllic pastures of one workplace, job role or self-owned company might not be the answer to every bugaboo in life. Earning a living and finding a job that is doable is a gem more rare than you might realize.
Doing what works on most fronts isn’t settling — it’s finding the sweet spot.
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