Parent: “Should I just be grateful for any job?”

Soft toy on keyboard

This week one of my clients asked me the following question: ‘As I’m now a mother should I be looking for my ideal job or just be grateful that I have a job?’ I have heard this sentiment from many parents and imagine that you may also be wondering the same thing. It would be tempting to give you a quick one sentence answer but the question is a very good one and deserves a more in-depth response.   


One word from the questions my client asked really intrigues me. That word is grateful.

 Positive Psychology teaches us that feeling gratitude will improve our outlook, relationships and job satisfaction. It would therefore benefit all of us to feel gratitude for our daily lives, including our careers.

Let me set you a challenge – can you turn away from this article for a moment, and make a list of 10 reasons you feel grateful for your current employment.

Now that you have 10 reasons for gratitude we can analyse your answers.

1.    Did you feel genuine about the gratitude you felt for your employment or did it feel forced?
Here’s an example of forced gratitude: you might have written that you were grateful to have a job that used your expertise whereas you know that in an ideal world your job could align better with your strengths, skills and knowledge.

2.    Did your answers concentrate on the positives rather than the negatives?
Here are some statements that concentrate on the negatives: ‘I’m grateful I have a job, after the financial crises I wasn’t able to find one’, ‘Many people can’t get employment, I’m grateful I have a job’, ‘had I been born in a century ago I wouldn’t have had this career opportunity’.  Comparing yourself to worse situations is concentrating on negatives.

3.    Did your answers shut out the real problems?
For example, you may have written that you are grateful to have a wonderful team when you know full-well that one member of that team makes you feel miserable.  Let’s look at the reality.

4.    Did your answer focus on more than the absolute basics?
You may have identified that you were happy to have a job, money, ideal location or good work hours. Although these basic requirements provide security, and are so very important, they do not allow your heart to sing every time you enter the workplace!

5.    Did you find the exercise annoying?
Feeling annoyed suggests that you are not overflowing with gratitude for your job.

Once you cross off any answers that are forced, concentrate on negatives, shut out real problems, and focus on the absolute basics do you still have answers representing genuine gratitude for your job? If so, you do feel genuine gratitude for your current role, which is beneficial for you.  

The words my client chose indicate that her heart is not singing with gratitude for her current job.  Can you hear the lack of enthusiasm in these words? ‘As I’m now a mother should I be looking for my ideal job or just be grateful that I have a job?’

What is an ideal job?

So what does my client mean by an ideal job?  Having spoken to her about this, I know it is more than a job which satisfies her basic requirements of pay and flexible working hours. ‘Ideal job’ means different things to different people. However, these are some words which are often associated with an ideal job:

•    Meaningful
•    Provides opportunities for progression
•    Allows me to contribute
•    Provides a positive work environment
•    Uses my strengths
•    Empowers me
•    Provides variety

You know whether you are in an ideal job when you feel positive about entering the workplace, you feel a sense of fulfilment and that your contribution matters.

Can a meaningful family life replace a meaningful job?

Being a working parent you have a busy family life that is also takes your attention and energy. This too should bring meaning, purpose and happiness.

But is the enjoyment of family life enough in itself?

Here are three questions that you can ask yourself if you, like my client, find yourself questioning whether your work-life should be meaningful:
•    Would I be happier to leave your children in childcare if I knew I was doing a job I loved?
•    Would I be a happier mother if I had a meaningful work-life?
•    Would I feel like a better role-model in a job that was fulfilling?

Only you can answer these questions.

Is it possible for a parent to change career?

Yes, a career change is possible at any time in your life. As a career coach, I have seen many mothers and fathers reinvent themselves after having a family. It often means exploring new opportunities, rethinking what’s important to you, thinking about your strengths and maybe learning new skills.  

If you are feeling reluctant to make a change because (like many parents) you don’t want to work full time it may be reassuring to know that the 2016 census shows that 33.5% of South Australians work part time; 23.2% work less than 24 hours in a week. At time of writing (November 2017) 36% of South Australian vacancies on Seek are part time, contract, temp or casual. There are many more part time vacancies that haven’t even made it to Seek.

Ultimately, it is up to you as the individual to ensure that you have enough meaning and happiness in your life. Some parents may be satisfied to gain meaning through family experiences, others may need to achieve meaning through their work environment whether this is at the same level or a lower level position.

I will leave you with a question: If you could have a job with the ideal number of hours, in the right location that provides you with happiness and meaning would you take it?

Drop me an email if you want to talk about your opportunities: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.