Magazine article Working Mother

How to Raise Kids Who Will Love Their Work

Magazine article Working Mother

How to Raise Kids Who Will Love Their Work

Article excerpt

Megan Kashner is passionate about her work, and her kids know it. They grew up hearing stories about her job as executive director of the Infant Welfare Society of Evanston, IL, with lively dinner discussions prompting her son and daughter to ask, for instance, why some kids at school don't finish their homework or play on sports teams-or why they can't afford a bike. So when Megan decided to leave her post four years ago to launch her own nonprofit, the door to family conversation about it was wide open.

Daughter Tessa, then 11, was excited about the idea-a crowdfunding website called Benevolent that allows users to donate money to help one person with one need-while son Zane, who was 13, was more wary about the financial risks involved. Megan saw this as a chance to help him understand her passion for the idea. "I reassured him that although this was a risk, it was an important one to take because it was an opportunity to help hundreds, maybe thousands of low-income Americans reach their goals," says Megan, who lives with her family in Evanston. "I explained that if I had a chance to do that, I needed to take that risk."

Megan's openness with her kids about the purpose of her work is second nature, but findings from recent research suggest it might be one of the most profound gifts she can give them: Kids are much more likely to view work as fulfilling and purposeful in adulthood when raised by parents who see their own work as meaningful and valuable, according to a University of Michigan study. Because our culture is so achievement-oriented, children need help to think beyond the tendency to view work as mainly a source of money or prestige, suggests study co-author Wayne Baker, PhD. That's where, as parents, sharing our own calling comes in. "There are people doing the same work with different orientations," he explains. "Those who become doctors out of a desire to heal people have a calling orientation, but there are others who choose that career path to become rich."

The study authors suggest that children who learn to view work as meaningful have the best odds of becoming adults who not only love their jobs but also enjoy a greater sense of well-being and happiness outside of work. A growing body of literature supports this idea. For example, a multistudy review published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior shows consensus that a calling orientation toward work increases life meaning and satisfaction. And a 2010 study by the Working Mother Research Institute, What Moms Think, bears this out where working moms are concerned: Those who self-identify as career-oriented versus paycheck-oriented report being more satisfied and positive in all areas of their life and are more apt to say work fulfills a more meaningful purpose than just making money.

"People experience greater satisfaction when they can link what they do every day to a broader sense of purpose and meaning," say Bryan Dik, PhD, co-author of Make Your Job a Calling: How the Psychology of Vocation Can Change Your Life at Work. "They struggle when they compartmentalize their lives and work is sealed off from their sense of purpose." And clearly, you don't have to be saving lives or helping the poor to have passion for your work. The meaning lies much more within the person than the job, says Dr. Dik. A calling can come in many areas-from acting to sales to janitorial work. Dr. Dik tells of Maggie Garza, a woman he met at a hospital whose job was cleaning the rooms. His wife had just delivered their third baby, and Maggie openly shared in their joy while she emptied the trash cans and cleaned the sink. She clearly had a passion for her job, because she saw it as an opportunity to connect with people-and her cheer was infectious.

Purpose and Passion-Pass It On

So how do you translate what you do at work and how you feel about it to your kids? "It's important for moms to have conversations with their children about what they do and why, the joy they get from work and the impact they are making," says Dr. …

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