"Mom I told dad I wanted to be a beautician and he said I needed to pick a job that made more money". My daughter said this as if someone had knocked over her block tower and she was left bewildered by the resulting mess that lay before her. We are very practical in how we guide our children toward their adult life. With the economy as it is and with college costs escalating the way they are, we want our children to see college as an option, but not the ultimate and sole defining glory of their 18 year old selves. They are expected to go to college, but we realize that it may require creativity, hard work and even a gap year if necessary to make certain they are making the most of their time and money. College is now a strategic investment, not a rite of passage.
"Well, think about Beyoncé's stylist. Her team makes a lot of money keeping her polished all the time. What do you think about that?". She looked at me confused.
"Your father is right, you can pick something like computer programming or engineering that makes a lot of money in a traditional way. That would be like being a lawyer or doctor was for our parents' generation. But who knows what engineers and programmers will make when you become an adult. There may be a whole new industry that becomes valued by then". Deep down, I'm hoping that educators salaries blow up in the next ten years, but that's a shot in the dark. I continued, "You can also be an artist or an entrepreneur. And with these professions, it's never really about what you do, it's about who you serve. You can serve a few clients that have lots of money or serve lots of clients with a little bit of money. It's up to how you want to spend your energy gaining resources".
She seemed to get it. So I went on. "Look. When you grow up you can be whatever you want. You have to work hard and be willing to learn from mistakes along the way. Always remember that what you want to be when you grow up does not ultimately define who you are or your value as an individual. Your job is a way of making money for your family. You want to end up doing something you love and you want to make a positive impact on the world... but even if you accomplish these things, your job does not define who YOU are. Remember that forever".
Our children will live in the future. As parents, we can't crush our children's dreams with our own expectations or even fears and absolutes- it's not fair or reasonable. Its outdated to demand this. It's our job to coach them toward the qualities success requires; but ultimately allow them the opportunity to decide for themselves what "success" really means. Enjoyment, fulfillment, and success can only be decided by the individual. This goes for kids and adults.