A bachelor friend of mine once gave me his philosophy of life. He said guys are for friendship, girls are for sex, and your career should be entertaining and give you a sense of accomplishment. By the time I heard my friend’s take on life, I was already a father of two with a set of twins on the way, so my thoughts were, well, it might work for a single guy with no commitments, but as a dad things have to be different. I am going to skip the guys and girls part of his world view, and just talk about work; I suppose, after all, a guy could still hold the other two views as a dad, but work takes on a whole new meaning to a guy with kids.

First of all, work should be fulfilling, it should be something that gives you a sense of accomplishment and bring some joy to your life. In a perfect world, anyway. Many men do not have that luxury, unfortunately, and so work becomes something you have to do rather than something you want to do. However, the rent must be paid, the lights have to stay on, and all the other financial obligations you need to meet.

If you do not have your dream job already, the resulting grind can cause stress and tension, and the endless list of demands you need to meet for home and family can take a lot of the joy out of being a dad. In those situations, try to remember that you can gain a sense of accomplishment out of any job—your sense of accomplishment can come from getting the job done and meeting your family’s needs. And keep your eyes open for opportunities to get into a better situation, work-wise.

Perhaps you don’t have a fantasy job. There are some things that can be done to increase your satisfaction with your life and your job, and perhaps open more opportunities in the future.

  • Change your mindset. So you’re a construction worker, a cop, a desk jockey. You know you’ll never be President or an astronaut or a clipper ship captain, whatever that is. However, you have a job, and it’s necessary in its own way. Your job doesn’t define who YOU are, unless you allow it to. If you have a job you really despise, start the hunt for a new one, but in the meantime, realize that it’s putting food on the table, and your time off the clock is your own, to enjoy as you like. Think of that dissatisfying job as being the means to an end, nothing more.
  • Take classes. If you don’t have time for more than one at a time, that’s fine. Online universities are out there by the hundreds; most physical colleges have online departments, offering great classes that can help further your career, broaden your knowledge base, or just satisfy a craving to learn something new.
  • Get involved. In something—anything. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, shovel shut-in elderly adults’ driveways when it snows, help out at a local shelter, whatever. Take your kids with you. You will all be better people by dint of doing something good for others, and your kids will see you as an example of what fathers (and all people) should do in caring for society.
  • Get crafty. Many men I know, including myself, find themselves almost aroused at the sight of a shiny new tool or mechanical doohickey, but far too many of us don’t have much of an idea how to actually use them. Take a workshop class at a local community college or vocational tool if you’re interested, and you can quickly embark on an extremely fulfilling hobby. My personal preference is building model ships and planes, while a good buddy of mine builds kit cars. It keeps us active, close to home, and it’s a lot less expensive and more productive than hitting the bar every night, since you actually have something to show at the end! Or, you can collect things: comic books, baseball cards, whatever. By amassing a collection and learning more about that area, you become a more well-rounded person.

Balancing your home and work life can be draining to the best dads, but with the right outlook and perspective, you can keep it all together.