Work Ethic

Labels Make No Sense. An Example? Consider 'Workaholic Helicopter'

Labels Make No Sense. An Example? Consider 'Workaholic Helicopter'
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I’ve never liked labels; I hate them, actually. Labels box us into perceptions and structured roles often associated with negativity. And labels are a frequent occurrence. We’ve all fought labels our entire lives, in some way, shape or form. I’ve fought a few of my own.

Related: Is the Notion of a 'Good Work Ethic' Generationally Biased?

But one label in particular personally offends me. It’s going to seem “light,” versus others that are far more damaging, but it’s a label that bothers me, nontheless: workaholic.

I hate that label because I don’t believe there is such a thing and don’t think this one applies to me.

Entrepreneurs aren’t workaholics. We just work hard because we have to. We have a vision and mission that is larger than life, yet we generally lack the resources to match the amount of work in front of us. So, we work hard, all day and all night, sometimes. Weekends, too.

That’s not being a workaholic; that’s just rolling with the demands of being an entrepreneur.

We weave our work into our lives and around our lives, so it often looks like all we do is work. Quite the contrary, though: We just never give up on our work. No matter what the odds.

Related: Advice From a Recovering Workaholic: Make a Shift to 'Less Is More'

When there is parenting in the mix, it’s even worse, because then the label takes on an even more negative tone. "Workaholic" means you somehow leave your children in your wake, with work as the first priority. But that's not accurate, because we never give up balancing it all. 

Then there’s the polar-opposite label that is just as bad: "helicopter parent," meaning a parent with nothing better to do than hover over his or her kids' every move, a parent who doesn’t trust children enough to just let them be. Again, I’m not sure there is such a thing.

Who’s to say what any given child really needs. Parenting is an individual decision and approach that should never be judged. One person’s “helicopter” is another person’s caring attention.

As I write this, I wonder if it’s possible to be a “workaholic helicopter.” Actually, I really don’t want to know. I’d rather we drop all of the labels entirely and embrace the fact that we are all just trying to find a balance.

We should also just do our thing, no matter what that is. What I'd rather share is a philosophy about balancing work and family, without any of the labels: We should all just do our thing.

I recently released a new book called Out and About Dad, where I do just that . . . share my experience as a father trying to do my thing, balancing the demands of work and fatherhood from a time when society wasn’t so caring about my situation. I believe that by sharing our own experiences, we can start to tear down the labels that can box us in and make us unhappy.

So, let’s start by eliminating “workaholic” and “helicopter” from our vocabulary and judgment, and simply get on with the business of work, parenting and life. 

Related: 7 Elements of a Strong Work Ethic