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You Want to Be a WHAT?

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Is it wrong to nudge your little girl toward a lucrative career?

girl dressed up as a doctor

Beth Falkenstein: My oldest girl just started high school, a time when childhood starts to appear in the rearview mirror (as new wrinkles appear in my bathroom mirror), a time when choices start to matter and mistakes can take longer to fix. Maybe it was time, I thought, to persuade her to give up her lifelong career goal of becoming Bon Bon, the fourth Powerpuff Girl.

Okay, that's something of a writer's flourish. She has also shown interest in more realistic professions, such as a rock star and a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. Not that those pursuits aren't valid, they're just a little too elusive to assuage my parental concerns. That's fancy talk for "they can't guarantee she'll be able to support herself before she's 30 (and I'm on Social Security)." My dilemma is clear: if she is not on the path to prosperity, when is it the right time to start pushing her relentlessly -- I mean, guiding her lovingly -- in the right direction?

I can see the comments now: "Control freak!" "Financial security isn't everything!" "Three words: President Mojo Jojo!" And I don't disagree with you (although I do feel a bit sorry for one of you). But let's be honest. All those mothers out there who want their kids to become doctors and lawyers aren't doing it because they love discussing contracts and craniotomies at the dinner table. They do it because they want their kids to be able to afford health insurance after they turn 21. Consequently, what's the harm in insisting -- I mean, gently suggesting -- my child declare a major in the 9th grade?

Perhaps I am more concerned than many others due to the fact that I myself am still stymied by the age-old question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I sometimes think that if I had had more direction and focus during my Wonder Years, I might have more accomplishments under my belt by now and (okay, I'll say it) more money. Furthermore, if I had started a wee bit earlier, that novel I want to write might be finished by now and I could be taking a lot more naps. Is it wrong to want my children to be less aimless?

As a matter of fact, my position is actually quite idealistic, because it is based upon the belief that dreams, pursued enthusiastically, can come true. Therefore, why not give my daughter an early shove -- I mean, start?

So, with that in mind, can anyone out there help me program subliminal messages from Judge Sotomayor into my daughter's iPod?

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5 comments so far | Post a comment now
ashley September 16, 2009, 5:32 AM

I am 27 and I have 2 kids (7 1/2 and 2 1/2) and I have 3 semesters of college behind (from my late teen years, not recently) and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I have been thinking about it more and more lately. But like you, I have never really known what I wanted to be. I always just bounced around some things but nothing I have ever been passionate about. I am trying to make sure my kids will be passionate about something so they won’t be lost like me.

MarMar September 16, 2009, 7:05 AM

I was always pushed, pushed, pushed into being something that was a money-maker and was discouraged from anything in the arts, as it was considered “too risky.” For example, I was quite the poet in high school, but I was encouraged to parlay any writing skill I might have into a journalism degree. I gave up drum lessons - even though I had a natural talent for playing them - once I started having trouble in chemistry class. I always regreted it. Let your kids follow their dreams - they can always go back to school later and get the “sensible” degree if things don’t pan out. That’s just my $0.02, from the gal whose mom trained her to say she wanted to be a corporate lawyer when she grew up, when she was only 9 years old and had no idea what one was. :-)

Athey September 16, 2009, 6:15 PM

My outlook on life-careers and all that is that if a person can manage to find a way to make a living doing something that they love doing, then they’ve won at life. When I was young and adults would do that whole ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ thing, I always said I wanted to be an ‘Artist’. By 10th grade, the school system forced us all into careers courses where they make kids decide what to do with the rest of their lives, and at that point, I figured that artist meant being broke for the rest of one’s life, and living in a cruddy loft somewhere.
So I looked into tech careers, cuz this was the mid-90’s and tech careers were all hot and awesome.

I loved making websites and coding and got really interested in that for a while before I came to the conclusion that anything that can be distroyed by a single misplaced semi-colon is not worth the headache it brings and went back to the old ‘art’ goal.

Where I’m going with this, is that I WAS thinking about this crap early on, and because of it, I had a good idea of what general direction I wanted to go in when I went off to college. I ended up melding the two together and now I’m a 3D Artist working in the video games industry. I get to make art, I get to mess with tech stuff; oh, and I make a pretty damn good wage for being 5 years out of school.

I don’t think it’s nessecary to make your kids find something that is nessecarily lucrative by nature - but getting them to try and find a way to make a living, doing something that they’re enthusiastic about is the way I think to go.

Gender ideas are all bull too. I mean, I’m the only female on the production staff in my whole studio. The only other women who I’ve worked with are in human resources, or office staff. I think more girls need to be reminded that career paths that aren’t traditionally thought of as ‘girl jobs’ can still be awesome options.

Kelley September 16, 2009, 7:59 PM

I’m currently a freshman in college (age 18) and I have declared my major (albeit a Drama major). Many friends and family have told me I’m ahead of the game because I know what I like and what I want to do, and have done it throughout high school. But upon arriving at college, all advisers and such have said the opposite. Leave your plans somewhat open. Take classes outside what you normally would. Explore what you might want to be. That would be my advice. Tell your daughter (especially as she is still quite young) to just start thinking about what she might actually want to do, and what skills she might want to acquire to do so. If she wants to be a Dallas Cheerleader, join Cheerleading or Dance, and who knows what other skill sets she might get out of it.

Anonymous September 17, 2009, 7:10 AM

I agree with Kelley’s advice. Nothing wrong with wanting to become a professional cheerleader or a movie star.. its dedication and a good work ethic you should be promoting in your child. I fully understand how you feel about direction as well. I didnt have any career guidance growing up either so when I finished high school i was pretty much at a loss for what to do next. I have 3 tween girls now and from birth, my husband and i have encouraged them to be passionate about their interests no matter what they are. for example I have a little poet/writer and she tells me she wants to be an author, I say go for it. My oldest wanted to be a chef at one point… u know how interests change.. but I bought her age appropriate cook books. My youngest loves doing hairstyles on ppl and designs clothes from old scrap materials for her dolls and barbies.. I encourage her and show her various careers in the fashion/stylist world via internet and television.

my oldest niece tells her mother and me she wants to be a hollywood star.. while her mother is conservative and tries to discourage her from chasing that very risky dream.. I try to bring realism.. maybe hollywood star will come one day but for now(i tell her)go to college and double major, keeping drama a priority but not losing your ground in the workforce

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