Don’t do it for the kids


Don’t sacrifice finding fulfillment in your work by using the excuse that you need to “provide for your children’s future.”  It’s very important, but it isn’t a good enough reason for you to dim your brilliant light. 

Don’t play it safe for the kids.  What they need to see is that taking a certain amount of risk is ok for the sake of happiness and fulfillment.  Do you want them to grow up and have a job?  Or build a livelihood?

Don’t sacrifice the opportunity to set the example of being a dynamic interesting individual (unless you’re not) in both your personal and professional life just so that you can stay in something safe and show kids the value of hard work.

The value of hard work means something different these days.

photo: MikeBaird via Flickr

Do not fool yourself into thinking that you must continue to plod away in mediocrity, just so that you can make money so that you can provide things for your family that you didn’t have because that is going to leave them better off.  Your kids being better off with the “things” you didn’t have is a myth that you are choosing to believe.  Many a child who grew up playing with a ball of twine in the courtyard and no shoes until they were ten turned out to be productive, happy, grounded members of society – some of them even world-changers.

The world has changed. 

The skills needed to think critically about life in the 21st Century, about the big picture things, about the decisions that are attached to our values, about how we really truly want to live and be connected to our interests and our vitality…this stuff isn’t taught in school.  If you don’t learn it through your life experience, you won’t learn it at all and you’ll end up with a lot of people in their 30’s and 40’s who feel disconnected because they did the routine ~ they went and jumped through the hoops ~ and now they’re thinking, “Is this as good as it gets?”  Does this sound like the model you want followed by your offspring?

You’re smart. Really smart.  So rethink things. 

Rethink what you think about what you’re supposed to be doing and for whom.  Rethink the collective myths that have been guiding you until now and ask yourself if they’re still valid.  (And no “buts”…!)

About the author

Heather Author: Heather Thorkelson is a small business strategist for people with heart. She's crazy grateful to make her living helping other people lay the foundations so that they too can live as they dream. Don't be shy - connect with her here in the comments or over on Instagram

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  • Anastasia Valentine July 16, 2012, 4:43 pm

    Totally hits home this one. As a mum I have always wanted to give my kids a unique view of the world, their OWN view. I see myself as the facilitator and doing the traditional grow up to settle down routine doesn’t give them that insight and wide lens! I lead by example and even when I’m out in left field a little and they question me, at least they know that not going down the beaten path is A OK…and more interesting. Not only that, but I want them to SEE the world with their own eyes. They learn so much more by BEING there than in a text book or even a year of school! I do this by taking a child mama trip to some place DIFFERENT. No all inclusives, no pre planned agenda, just pure exploration and connection to a new place culture and people. Even if you are in your mid life moments…making this shift…is not only ok, it is ABOUT TIME! Many thanks of your post honey! Can’t wait to SEE YOU in Iceland!

    • Heather July 16, 2012, 5:20 pm

      So well put Anastasia…giving your children the gift of their OWN view of the world. If only more people would lead by example! And even more importantly, as you said, not being afraid to make that shift in one of your mid-life moments. It’s never too late to start setting an extraordinary example for your kids. Thanks for commenting – less than a month to Iceland!

  • Mindy Crary July 16, 2012, 5:11 pm

    LOVE THIS! I run into a lot of people who want “the best” for their children, when in reality, kids need very little to fuel their creativity and learning. My sister and I didn’t engage in ANY sports except roller skating, riding bikes and climbing trees with friends, we went to the library with our mom every other week and by the 6th grade out tested and out played 95% of our school mates. Private school would have been a waste. AND, I also see a lot of people wanting to pay 100% of college for their kids, when in reality, kids participating in their economics at an early age is what creates financially responsible adults. So, the more we “help” the more kids expect a handout? I don’t know if that is 100% true, but I see it a lot. VERY thought provoking article!

    • Heather July 16, 2012, 5:24 pm

      Mindy, loved your comment and I have to say I had a similar upbringing. My parents would throw open the doors in the morning and tell us to come back for dinner. We played make-believe in the forest, never had any swanky toys to speak of, learned how to fish, garden, and READ (oh how reading changed my life!) at a young age. I DID eventually end up in a private school in my teens but I had already learned the necessary lessons. I even had my first job at age 13 so I understood the value of money early and it drove me nuts later to see my private school friends getting handouts and having no clue of the value of things. Mega disservice! Thanks for commenting – wonderful to hear about the experiences of other like-minded souls. :)

  • Megan Flatt July 16, 2012, 10:06 pm

    I love this. I was just thinking about this same topic this boring (eerie!) I think this is SO true and applies to many aspects of our lives as parents. When I am working with my fitness clients, one of the things moms tell me is they don’t have enough time to work out with the kids demands, but this is another case where you are setting an example for your children!

    I sometimes feel guilty when my kids see me working on the computer on my business, but we spend lots of quality time together too and I am showing them what it is like to be truly passionate about something that is important to me!

    • Heather July 17, 2012, 6:38 pm

      Hey Megan! I imagine you hear that A LOT…about moms not having enough time to work out. But you’re right on about setting the example because the world your children will grow up and become adults in is so different from the one that we did. We need to set them up with the tools that will help them navigate rather than expect so little of ourselves (and them) by taking the easy route or modelling for them the attitude that there’s just not enough time in life to take care of ourselves properly. Thank for your comment!!

  • Maj Wismann July 17, 2012, 7:32 pm

    Great post – just live it. I believe that our courage gives the best rolemodel to our children :-) And I can see my teenson is learning and having the courage to go his way – THAT´S when I realised how much effect my way of living and working has on our relations.

    Thanks Heather

  • Grace July 17, 2012, 8:29 pm

    Hey Heather, great post! As you know, Paul and I did leave jobs that filled our pockets and emptied our souls to create an enterprise which (at least for now) does the opposite. I must admit the level of stress in trying to provide financially for our growing family can be extremely high when one makes the kinds of sacrifices we have made in the past 5 years. However, we are 1000% more proud of how we spend our days now than we have ever been, and we know that a decent living is just around the corner. What better example can you set for your children?

    Our kids will never have as many toys that their friends will have. Nor will they place the same value on material possessions as many of their peers likely will. We hope to impart a value set which will bring them true joy vs. the fleeting pleasure that material things can bring.

    The hopes and dreams we have for our children are exactly the same as those we have for ourselves. This may be the key. Just telling our kids to aspire to more than we do would be a pretty flimsy lesson, I think. If we want them to be curious, imaginative, courageous, creative…better to be so ourselves.

    We don’t always stop to think about these types of things as we set out every day, but it is reinforcing to reflect them in the midst of the small entrepreneur’s struggle.

    Cheers to you for your encouraging words!

  • Heather July 17, 2012, 10:04 pm

    Grace! Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. You and Paul are the perfect example of rebel visionaries! I love that you’ve gone rogue and are building something completely different and completely in line with your values. Your kids are so fortunate to grow up with the example you’re setting. Major props to you both for bucking the status quo and changing the world. Hugs!

  • Kathleen Prophet July 18, 2012, 1:07 am

    It’s perhaps counter-intuitive for some, but doing it for yourself IS actually doing for your kids. Modeling the wild life, the unimagined outside of the box life, one which includes one’s own unique gifts, creativity and talents, fosters this in one’s children. It is tricky to do, because society is bent on demanding you submit to the status quo. They are very good at making you believe your kids are not yours, but the educational systems. And then you have the standards of neighbors and other families. Lots of pressure. But… it can be done.

    I have three sons ages 21, 23 & 26. We did end up in a suburbia of Los Angeles for more years than I cared for, but we created something so unique that we are now famous for it. All my sons’ friends and community love us and our home because of the wild creativity PLAY and unique relationships our family had with each other and extended out to many, including kids who had been kicked out of their homes because they wouldn’t conform.

    As Carl Jung stated… Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.

    Live your authentic life… and free your kids to live theirs… not yours.

    Thanks Heather! love you!

    • Heather July 18, 2012, 11:04 pm

      Kathleen what a rich response! And an AWESOME quote from Jung. I love your philosophy and the way you’ve raised your boys. No doubt if I were one of their school friends I would’ve been hanging at your place. I like that you point out there’s lots of pressure *but it can be done*. You set a brilliant example for us!! xx

  • Kat Bouchard July 18, 2012, 2:44 am

    Ohhhh I love this! I have a daughter who I want to grow up with unique experiences that allow her to think for herself and truly create her own amazing life. The ideas you spoke of here are the basis for how my husband and I are trying to raise our family. We value world experiences far more than material possessions or apparent wealth. That said we want to create inspired careers for ourselves that can provide us the means to show our children the world. I love this blog and I am going to be checking back often for more of what you have to say! Thanks

    • Heather July 18, 2012, 11:07 pm

      Soooo happy you landed here Kat and love that you and your husband are building “inspired careers”. What a great term!! I feel/hope/dream of Gen Y really shaking things up in this respect and teaching our kids a whole different way of showing up in the world. Have you read Seth Godin’s Stop Stealing Dreams? If not, Google it! It’s free in pdf format. Big hugs and I look forward to future comments from you girl. Like-minded souls unite!

  • Cathy Sykora July 18, 2012, 4:52 am

    I actually was just thinking about this yesterday. I kind of agree…and kind of not. I think that children should not get everything they want. I even think that the best thing you can do for them is often to say no. I worked really hard to make sure that my kids could go to good schools. I am really proud of the fact that my son graduated with a PhD without a penny of student loans. While others were getting giant diamond rings and other frivolous things…I didn’t…I paid giant tuition payments from 1st grade through college. He appreciated it and actually had a 1/2 scholarship and graduated a year early from college and got his PhD by doing research. So, he still learned the value of the education and took advantage of it. Of course, when my daughter started after her 4th major…she got to start paying for it on her own. I think the secret is in discernment. I do think if we are going to have children, we should do everything we can to offer them a bright future, whether it means saying yes or saying no. Great blog…I may have gone on as long as you. It helped me to finish my thought. ~Cathy

    • Heather July 18, 2012, 11:20 pm

      I totally hear you Cathy and I think we’re ultimately quite on the same page. I totally agree with you that we should do our best to provide for our kids and TOTALLY agree that the secret is in the discernment. This idea that we must sacrifice our dreams is what bothers me, because what does that example tell our kids? But providing good education to give them the best springboard is definitely key. If your kids understand the value of money and education, AND are aware that they may have to go against the grain to find professional fulfillment, then it’s all gravy in my books. :) Problem is…so many people have lost the plot. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. Much appreciated!

  • Fatma July 18, 2012, 4:26 pm

    As a Mom of 3 children (25, 21, 12) I think being a Mom is about interdependence vs independence. I have made my decisions by keeping my children as a priority in my life while following my dream. I love to see my children live their own uniqueness. It is also so wonderful to see them support me and be inspired by me doing what I love. Your words are a great encouragement to not forget your heart’s desires when you have kids.

    Fatma XO

    • Heather July 19, 2012, 12:04 am

      Fatma, you’ve said it so beautifully – “live their own uniqueness”. I love it! And what a gift that you’ve modelled a life of pursuing your own dream – they no doubt see the world, and what’s possible with their own lives in a very healthy way. Thanks so much for your comment!

  • Tina Pruitt | The Green Juice Coach + Healthy Life-Stylist July 18, 2012, 8:32 pm

    OMG…totally love this post! I feel the same way…I don’t want my son to go to school just to learn how to pass tests and prepare for a job! I want him to live, experience, love, and yes – have a livelihood! He already says he wants to be an entrepreneur and has since he was about 7 or 8…I am not sure I even knew what that was at that age, so I am totally thrilled about that!!!! I sometimes let fear creep in, but pull it back and realize I am teaching my child some awesome things!!!!

    Thanks for a great post!
    xo, Tina

    • Heather July 19, 2012, 12:08 am

      Hi five Tina! I love it! I WISH I knew what an entrepreneur was when I was a kid. It would have saved me a lot of mental agony. Moreover, when I did learn what an entrepreneur was in my mid-teens, I wish entrepreneurship hadn’t been painted in such an awful light. Everyone in my sphere talked about entrepreneurs either like they were sharks (opportunists in the bad sense) or idiots (“because 2 out of 3 businesses FAIL in the first 18 months!”). What a disservice!! If I had known…if SO many kids had known what’s possible, I think my generation wouldn’t be collectively suffering from quarter life crises and such. Thanks for your comment Tina – I love this thread!

  • Kerry February 23, 2015, 12:47 pm

    Love this! I’m motivated to do something different in my life specifically to show my kid the alternatives out there. We have not played it safe for years and it can be a challenge when your child expresses disappointment in current housing situations because she was imagining something bigger. That said both his father and I have been able to be very clear that we make the financial choices we do (less house = more money for travel/experiences) based on our values. This has led to great discussions as to why and how we make choices in our lives and we ate trying to leave space for him to make his own choices even if they are different than ours. This only happens when you’re not going through the motions.

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