A long time ago, my father told me that after about three paychecks, what you make is what you make.

He told me this as I pondered whether or not to take a particular job, and he reminded me that while money is nice, you have to take other factors into consideration. This sage advice has served me well.

I’ve never really made a lot of money, though I suppose your mileage may vary on what constitutes “a lot.” I’ve certainly always done well enough to keep a roof over my head, food on the table, the bills paid and some extras thrown in, all of which I owe to learning how to live well within my means. Not making much money has something to do with the fact that I grew up knowing I wanted to be a writer of some sort, and writers don’t make money. Admittedly, I assumed I’d be the exception to the rule – HA! – but basically I resigned myself to a life where I might not rake in the cash, I certainly would be a happy person.

Now, of course, I’m no longer a writer by trade, and haven’t been in about three years. I still write, sure, and it’s not as if the skill set just disappears completely, though this blog may be evidence against such a claim. But I’m not a paid writer, and nothing about my title would even suggest otherwise. I’m a Vice President at a very large public relations firm, and while it’s not entirely true that what I do is help companies figure out how to play nice with their customers online, it’s been the best way I know how to explain to people why it is that I get paid to play on Facebook and read blogs, and even then that’s not really accurate.

This isn’t the path that I chose for myself long ago, and while it’s ended up paying better than being a working writer ever did, holy hell has it made me happy.

I’ve been noticing (though I know they’ve never been not there) studies lately that comment on myriad things when it comes to women and the workplace, the glass ceiling and pay discrepancies. There is probably something about my thinking that betrays my feminist sensibilities, but I’ve never really cared much about whether I was making the most money or had the most powerful job. Maybe if I’d been a man, and been socialized differently, as tends to be the argument, I might approach my life differently, but I don’t know. I was raise primarily by my father who pushed us hard and always emphasized good grades and eventually finding ourselves in a good career. And in the midst of all of that, he reminded us to find a career, not a job, and remember that you have to wake up every single day to work, no one escapes it, so you’d best find something that doesn’t make you want to scoop out your intestines with a spatula at the thought of it all.

When people ask me what I like about my job, the actual work I do, and how I’m compensated for that work, comes in lower than things such as kind people, supportive work environment, smart thinkers, good benefits. But the exchange, for someone like me, is that I end up working harder, working more, for my clients and my company than I would if being among good people wasn’t part of the gig. When I read stories about people who are just starting out, in their early twenties, and them wanting better job titles and larger pay increases, I know that much of it is a product of being awfully tired of living paycheck-to-paycheck. But I also just want to shake my head in wonder about whether the next job they take, the one they think will finally get them over the edge, will bring the happiness they think such things will give them. Maybe it will; my experience has been that it takes a few other factors until that title and salary makes them happy. Usually it means leaving a job or two. Which is perfectly fine.

Amy Chua’s book on “Tiger Moms” has caused an understandable uproar. I didn’t find her methods necessarily oft-putting, probably because I’ve been conditioning myself, to the best of my abilities, to take how people raise their children with a grain of salt and only a modicum of caring. I mean, you should have been privy to some of the “tough love” my father put us through, and I turned out just fine and with an in-tact relationship with the man. Mostly I understand that people object to her tone – which seems to be “my way is better than your way,” though in subsequent interviews I’ve heard her give she seems to try to verbally backpedal a bit of this.

It’s hard now, of course, not hear these stories and reports about women and careers and not view it through the filter of my own daughter. Will I push her? Absolutely. Life is littered, absolutely littered, with people who were raised with a never-ending supply of Get Out Jail Free cards from their parents. These people were never pushed to be more, to expect more from themselves, or to take responsibility for what they put out there in the world. Even worse, these people (as pointed out by a friend of mine) are OK not being successful, no matter how you might define the term. Honestly, nothing irritates me more than these people. Absolutely nothing. Our daughter will not be raised to believe that no matter what she does, she’s the center of the universe and that her actions have no consequences. I’ve said this before: we will be the not-cool parents. She can be cool on her own dime, people. Not ours. Life is unfair, we all have to do things we don’t want to do, and I’m not doing it for her.

But. Oh here’s the but. I want her to see life as something worth all of that work and sacrifice and consequence-paying. I want us to raise her to be someone who follows her heart while bringing her brain in for consultation. I want her to know that, really, money doesn’t matter. Being responsible with it and respectful of it does, but there is no evidence that Biggie was wrong to suggest that more money doesn’t equal more problems. In the end, what you make is what you make, and it’s better to wake up every day as happy as you can be with what you’re out there doing. The rub, of course, and I think it’s the thing that gets most people, is that even working toward the things you love can be demeaning and unfair and hard. This is all the more reason to fight harder, work smarter and take your lumps when they come.

Of course I’d love if our girl broke a mould or two. It would be nice if she made the sort of money that allows her to live comfortably as well as afford her some fun and frivolity. But I think I want what most parents (soon-to-be or otherwise) want, and that’s for her kid to be happy. And while I believe some of that happiness stems from it being well-fought and hard-earned, mostly I just hope that if she’s reached that glass ceiling, and decides breaking through it is someone else’s problem, it’s not because she’s giving up because it’s too hard, but rather because she’s found fulfillment and reward in other places in her life.

If I push to anything, I hope it’s to that place.