Does Parenthood Slow Your Career?


Sometimes I think that I’m not doing enough to follow my dream. Then I spend two hours with my kids putting a Lego set together and all is right in the world again.

This article is for all of you passionate fathers who want to chase your dreams but just can’t seem to get over that dirty-diaper-changing hump.

You just know you could write that book, but not this month…too many recitals. Next month. Yeah, for sure. “Next month” brings with it a nasty sickness that everyone takes a turn succumbing to…for a week at a time.

There is good news in this article for those of you fathers that want to make your mark in the world through your work. I believe we can do so without sacrificing a fatherhood we can be proud of.

But let me warn you, if you think fatherhood is not going to have a massive impact on the pace at which you chase your dream, don’t read any further.

Then again, maybe you should.

The Unlived Life

I have the dream of being a writer. The kind that writes books and articles that change people’s lives. Much like other writers’ works have changed mine over the years.   

One of these such books is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  

I’m reading it for the second time and came across this passage the other day:

Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.

Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever quit a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever bailed out on a call to embark upon a spiritual practice, dedicate yourself to humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others?

Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace, or to preserve the environment?

Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be?

Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture?

Then you know what Resistance is.

Don’t Forget to Add the Fatherhood Perspective

This just fired me up! It put me in dream-chasing mode. It also lured me into the same old trap that seems to catch me every time. That is the lack of fatherhood perspective.

When I start creating my dream-chaser potion, without fail, I initially leave out those few magical drops that change everything. That is, I am a husband and a father of four children under the age of eight.

This last ingredient slows my roll drastically. Just as it should.

Here’s why:

Therefore, although I want to write, publish, speak, travel and express the passion wells inside of me to the fullest degree, I also want to be the kind of father that causes my four small children to grow up with a mother lode of fond childhood memories.

Can I have both? I believe so, but to act like my fatherhood goals would not suffer if I went all in on my dream goals would be a mistake.

(James Clear’s great Four Burner’s Theory article speaks to this.)

Fatherhood Tradeoffs

Life is full of decisions. These decisions often come with tradeoffs. And fatherhood decisions are no different. They’re just more important. 

Here are a few real-life fatherhood tradeoff choices that I’ve been faced with in just the last few days.

  • Do I take my kids to the park and chase them around for two hours or let them play video games by themselves while I write in my office?
  • Do I get everyone dressed up on a Sunday morning and go to church as a family or, once again, hole up in the office and bang out a few thousand more words?
  • Do I spend two evening hours having dinner as a family and playing catch or microwave chicken nuggets for them as I eat a sandwich at my desk and finish that blog post?

Maximize the Margins

I’m not saying that I have absolutely no time in my schedule to chase my dream. I do. Early in the morning or late at night. Also, as a school teacher, my time off throughout the year opens up some extra space in my schedule to work (although not as much as you think).

I’m also not saying that the kids should be the center of our focus in every free moment. They need to be told no. They also need to learn to entertain themselves absent of adult attention. (If you’re wanting to steer them away from a career in fascism, that is)

The Unlived Life?

Having now assimilated these implications of my personal life into to Pressfield’s potion, I’m able to be at peace with tripping over toys as I amble after my dream.  

Because I now see that although I didn’t write a thousand words Monday through Friday, I had dinner with my wife and four kids every single night. Is this an unlived life?

I didn’t send out an email to my subscribers Monday, but I was at church with my son as he had yet another seizure. I carried him to the SUV, strapped his limp body into the booster seat and made sure he got to bed safely. Is this an unlived life?

I didn’t make one thin dime off of my art yesterday but I did have an hour-long conversation with my wife after the kids had gone to bed. Just catching up.

Is this an unlived life?


If so, I hope I’m just as dead tomorrow.


What about you? How has fatherhood impacted your life?

What do you do to keep a balanced perspective as a parent?

Join the conversation in the “comments” section below.

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