Why Being Paid to Play is Vital to Raising Your Kids

One of the things that Adam of Sprue Grey wrote in his comment on Episode 3 was that he feels that being a dad to a young kid means that he has to put his unfulfilled wish to open and own a geek culture store on hold.

Now, I’m not a Dad. Well, not of human kids, anyway: Vickie and I have a pair of fur-babies.

But that thought gets to me. Why must it be an either / or?

You look at your kid/s and you hear Louis Armstrong sing, “I hear babies cry, I watch them grow; they’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know” and you’re looking at this kid embracing all the stuff that’s new to you in the world like it’s normal and you’re amazed; you know this kid is going to just blow the world away.

But then there’s another song, one your kid is probably hearing even if they’ve never actually heard it:

In case you don’t already know, this is Shannon Noll. He achieved national stardom back in 2003 when he came in second on the first season of Australian Idol. Nollsy, as we call him out here, is still a household name. He’s helped hundreds of thousands, if not millions, feel good when they’re down.

Yet here he is, saying to the world that he’s nothing but the son of a better man: His dad.

Folks tell kids that they can be astronauts, presidents, risk takers and world shakers, yet some look to their parents and think: “Why would I want to be more than the two most awesome people in the world: Mum and Dad?

“And if I do want more, does that mean I hold my own Mum/s and/or Dad/s in contempt? That the example of those who love me, birthed me and raised me wasn’t good enough?”

My experiences as a “regular kid”

My Mum and Dad – and I really don’t want to fall into the Robert “Rich Dad Poor Dad” Kiyosaki trap of politely denigrating two human beings who were being the best human beings they knew how to be, but – while my folks did their best to make sure I had a good education and a good home to live in, what I remember most about their working lives was Dad coming home angry at the people he worked with.

Though he worked for a union, an organisation dedicated to helping the disadvantaged in a jam, I remember no stories of the good they did, no examples of why he was proud to work there. Instead, it was what someone else had done or said, some mistake or act of oblivious carelessness or rudeness that had made his or others’ lives worse.

Mum didn’t come home angry; she worked for an insurance loss adjuster’s firm doing typing, data entry and other administrative services. Yet while she’d talk about her day and the people she worked with, she never talked about the work itself, about doing anything that truly meant something to her.

Mum and Dad paid for me to go to a good high school and, later, a year of university. On weekends, there was shopping, housework, homework, television, the odd trips to movies or live acts at the RSL. It was a stable and, from what I remember, largely secure life once Dad got the job at the union at the beginning of the nineties. Mum and Dad met my needs, probably spoiled me in some ways.

Dad would debate politics with my uncle Joe when he was about, although given Dad’s Scots ancestry and Mancunian upbringing, it tended to be more him giving his opinion and telling others the problems with theirs. Though the shelves were equally divided between mum’s science fiction and fantasy and (I assume) Dad’s assorted Ludlums, Cusslers and Deightons, I don’t remember Dad reading by the time I was old enough to really talk books with him. I can’t remember him having any particular hobbies or passions.

Dad would talk about the places he went with the Navy before he met Mum; though Mum once said she regretted not continuing with her guitar lessons after she grew up, she never picked the guitar we had up again, nor did she take any lessons in anything else.

Neither Mum nor Dad talked about any dreams they may have had when growing up, and from what I could tell, neither of them had any particular dreams or ambitions while I was living with them. If they did, they didn’t talk about them around me.

And as for supporting mine… well, on one hand, Mum and Dad would buy me an electric keyboard for my birthday and lessons later, and then when I later told them I thought I’d like to sing in a band, Dad replied that I’d have to take the stage name of Robert the Fucker in order to stand out.

That’s Dad: Suggest an idea in jest (I hope) but invest in it within seconds and take it completely seriously from then on. Any wonder I spent as much of my adolescence as I could reading, in my room or out of the house?

A grown-up life of not believing in myself

So here I am in my thirties, in an office admin role like Mum and Dad when they were working. I sometimes get grumpy about my co-workers too, and the rest of the time – well, I give 100% while I’m there, but it’s just my job.

For over two decades and possibly longer (I remember a couple of lads during my high school days who were already experimenting with business ideas before they’d graduated) I didn’t believe I was worth more than a day job. When Vickie mentioned the idea of my starting a business a year or two after we moved to Cairns from Sydney, my immediate reaction was negative. Why would I want to start my own business?

It’s only in the last few years that I’ve begun to raise how crippling that mindset is,how reliant on a single external authority that makes me. Chatting with the career crazies who’ve agreed to come on this podcast has helped me, and I’m glad that it’s finally starting to be something that actually serves others; my last interview with game store owner Mick Archer helped Adam nudge his dream along a bit further.

Making Your Kids and Your Dreams Equal Priority One

You folks with kids are under more pressure than I can ever understand to “be a good parent,” to provide for your kids’ health and education. Even when those closest to you and society at large aren’t noisily placing those expectations on you, when you have a kid, that kid becomes priority one.

Yet what hope do you give your kid for its own future when all it sees is you stressing yourself out and being unfulfilled and angry and sad in order to provide for it?

Isn’t showing your kids that they have so many opportunities to walk into this world and bring some honest joy into it part of helping your kids to be the strongest, sanest human beings they possibly can be?

And is there any way better to show your kids by doing it yourself and sharing the steps you take with them?

That, I reckon, is the other side of the worry about following your dream; that you get so wrapped up in the dream that you wind up neglecting your kids as a result.

You can see it in your head, can’t you? All your friends and acquaintances talking about you as a neglectful mum or deadbeat dad, while you trip off around the world doing Things of Great Import on Grand Whims, like Edina in Absolutely Fabulous, and when your kids ask, “Where were you when I was growing up?” you say, “I was being an inspiration to you, darling!”

Here’s the thing though: You can strike the balance between bringing your kids up and realising your dream.

Yes, that’s easy for me to write when I don’t know what raising kids is like. So let me direct you to not one, not two, not three, but…

Okay, I was going to do that until I went through my archive of interviews and kept adding guests whom I knew were parents. So here are:

Eight Dad Career Crazies and Mum Income Iconoclasts

Nota bene: On that list are three people who don’t just juggle kids and careers; they also deal with debilitating and chronic illnesses.

Still not convinced? Here are more examples after a Google search on “how do you chase your dream and raise a child?”:

If all these Mum and Dads can, why not any parent? Why not you?

What’s your play?

If you have kids and have put your dream on hold, what challenges do you face in returning to it?

  • What’s something you can do right now that could nudge that dream along, even if it’s in the smallest way?

If you have kids and are still living your dream, how do you juggle them all? What, if any, compromises have you made?

Featured image of Michelle Dale stolen borrowed without asking from Entrepreneur’s Journey. Forgiveness requested from Michelle and Yaro Starak.