I’m Not Telling My Kid To Follow Her Dreams Because I’m Kind of A Monster


I come from a generation that was told that everything was in reach, if only we would follow our Lisa Frank-hued dreams to the end of the magical aspiration rainbow where they converged at Happytime Station. Astronaut? Of course. Ballerina? No sweat. President of the United States of America? Yes, yes, yes! Your heart will never lead you astray!

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we live in a world with a serious dearth of Presidential Ballerinas. Of course, that’s not for lack of trying, and now people see our generation as “generation me”. The generation that can’t stop sending tweets long enough to put in a hard day’s work at the Imaginary Job Factory, doesn’t buy enough houses, and won’t start making lots of babies already, damn. It’s not uter-you, ladies.

In truth, I know a lot of people my age that are extremely hard workers, way less self-obsessed than GIRLS would have you believe, and would buy a house in a heartbeat if only the Imaginary Job Factory hadn’t tragically shut down years ago.

If Millennials complain, we are usually told that if we hadn’t gotten our Bachelor’s Degree in stupid things like Puppetry or Public Education, we’d be perfectly employable.  Fair enough, and that would have been some stellar advice back when we were all riding the dream pony to A-for-Effortville back in the day.

I didn’t really follow my dreams. I followed a boy to art school which is almost the same thing only way dumber. If I ever meet someone thinking of following a boy to art school, I will tell them how stupid they’re being because I owe it to past me.

I will be the first to admit that I didn’t make a wise choice when thinking of my future career. I started out in Fashion Design and then switched my major when I had my daughter, entering the very in-demand and high paying field of Art History. Yes, I love history. No, I shouldn’t have spent money or time on a degree in Art History, and sometime between looking at unpaid internships that required a Master’s Degree and five years of experience to do preservation work on priceless artifacts for free and my fifteenth failed attempt at landing an administrative assistant position, I began to wonder who allowed me to do such a thing.

Well, I did. I’ll own it. I had no direction, no parental pressure, no real guidance beyond “Do what you love, and you’ll never be bored!” It honestly never occurred to me that I would totally end up bored anyway because unemployment isn’t exactly thrilling.

So that’s why I will offer my kid what I didn’t have: a voice of reason and a modicum of common sense.

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  • Ashlea Phenicie

    I 100% agree.

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    I wanted to play for the Toronto Blue Jays when I was a little girl. Everyone made sure I knew that was never going to happen.

    • 502 Bad Gateway

      Aren’t you glad for that? I mean, imagine facing the Rays, BoSox and Yanks every year. That’s gotta be tough.

  • Emily Wight

    Hi! BFA in Creative Writing here, and I am approaching the raising of Toddler into Full Grown Person the exact same way. Spouse and I could have been doing a lot better if we’d put our smarts into something lucrative but we really loved poetry and short stories and so here we are, never entirely sure what will become of us if the rent goes up or if one or the other loses our jobs. I should write a poem about that.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      feeling your pain- HND in Creative Writing and Journalism.
      I had to admit to my stepdaughter the other day that although I LOVE writing, it doesn’t always pay the bills.
      “That’s why I have to put up with psychos coming into my shop” =)

    • Emily Wight

      Same. I realized too late that you can love writing and be great at it, but maybe it’s something you work on as a side project while earning other income until you are able to afford to write full time.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      I do try to work on it when the shop is quiet (joys of having a laptop constantly on)
      i do find it hard to push for a publisher though. have you yourself had anything published?
      I’ve a compilation of short stories, one for kids, one for adults but I keep losing confidence every time I go to send them to a publishing house!

  • CMJ

    One of the best things my mother said to me about my “dreams” was this: You are beautiful, talented, and smart but just remember, there is always someone more beautiful, more talented, and smarter than you.

    I knew she supported me but I also grew up knowing the risks in having sometimes unrealistic dreams. I think that is the problem with a lot of people today: they are told they can do whatever they want if they work hard enough. That’s just not true. To me, it’s not about crushing dreams, but having a realistic expectation about what the “real world” is like.

    • Sara610

      This is so weird, my mom said something very similar. When I was in college (and still being a complete pain in the ass about their refusal to pay for a $150,000 degree in vocal performance) my mom told me a story. She also went to UMich, and one of her classmates there was a (now) very, VERY famous opera singer by the name of Jessye Norman. My mom tells about walking down the practice-room hall while Ms. Normal was practicing, and you could just tell that she had “it”, that quality that separates the pretty-good from the truly great.

      My mom said to me one day, “I love you and I think you have a great deal of talent, but you are not a Jessye Norman. You’re just not.” At the time I thought she was being horrible, but I understand now why she said that. Putting all your eggs in that basket is such an enormous gamble that if you’re not one of the very few, the truly TRULY great, it’s just not worth the risk–and even if you are, it doesn’t always work out.

    • CMJ

      I actually only have ONE friend who has “made” it….and I know SO many people who were theatre/vocal performance majors.

      This girl (who also went to U of M, actually) was an opera major and that was it (no other major). She also “had” it….and everyone always knew she would make it…she sang at the Met last year.

      There are just so many people who don’t realize how hard it really is…even now, many of my theatre friends are under this delusion that they are going to move to New York and automatically be on Broadway.

    • Sara610

      Or–even worse–what about all the young people who are told, “You can have anything you want if you just want it bad enough?” Hard work ever even enters into the equation. I’ve met more high-school students than I care to admit who think they’re going to be the next American Idol even though they’re musically illiterate, not particularly hard-working and don’t have all that much God-given talent, but they think that because they really, really want it it’s just going to happen.

    • SarahJesness

      It’s not just being told “you have to want it bad enough” that causes the problem. Public schools the past several years have been reinforcing it by giving lots of “A’s for effort” and making the class and assignments as easy as possible so no child gets left behind. So even the laziest, most school-hating kids pass and it takes little effort to get a B or even an A. Bleh.

  • Lackadaisical

    I wanted to be a pirate but I didn’t work hard enough at it and assumed a pirate ship position would just land in my lap.

    When my kid said he wanted to be an astronaut I warned him that few people get to be astronauts but it was a good thing to try for as only people who trained hard made it to space. I also pointed out he would need to work hard at maths, PE and be good at taking orders so needs to listen to his teacher. I really sucked the fun out of that one, didn’t I? Oops.

    • Mila

      This I feel is the best way to approach things with kids. I wanted to be a vegetarian until my Uncle pointed out hotdogs and hamburgers. My friend’s son pointed out a mustang he wanted to buy at the car dealership. She went over the cost to purchase and insurance with him. Sometimes they just need a good dose of reality. I liked a lot of jobs until my mom was like “hey, lots of math” and then it was like onto the next amazing career…

    • Natasha B

      My mermaid tail never appeared, either :(

    • Bunny Lucia

      Johnny Depp never fell in love with me. D:

      We should have a “Our dreams didn’t come true.” party. Filled with booze and cake.

    • Véronique Houde

      Your paths never crossed :(

    • G.E. Phillips

      I never got to produce the rom-com screenplay I wrote when I was 14, starring Keanu Reeves and a young ingenue named G.E. Phillips. Too bad, it was going to have a really great soundtrack heavily featuring Edie Brickell and Concrete Blonde.

    • http://www.gamedevwidow.weebly.com/ Theresa Edwards

      My honest to god first ever aspiration was to be a Koala Bear. I’ll just leave it at that.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      …..I wanted to be my favourite cartoon character. male cartoon character.
      i sometimes still wish I was lol

      this was my exact expression when I was told “You can’t become a cartoon character”

      (See what I did there? appeased my desire to be a cartoon by using a picture of said cartoon) =P

  • Bethany Ramos

    Here is my criticism:

    1. You are an awesome writer, so hilarious and so relatable. Suck on that.

    2. I really agree with your philosophy. I’m not sure exactly how I will handle it when my kids are older, but I’ve always felt that I can rise to the top in any job that I take on. So, in a way, that’s kind of similar. Instead of saying to try, try, try to be the special snowflake, kids’ talents can be celebrated in a realistic way. If a kid feels like they can work hard and excel in almost any environment, it widens the job pool significantly, without feeling like they have to be the prettiest ballerina.

    • http://www.gamedevwidow.weebly.com/ Theresa Edwards

      Delicious. Thanks! And exactly on point two–we have this weird hard on for like, telling kids that if they aren’t the absolute BEST EVAR at something it’s not worth pursuing. There is so much fulfilling, good work out there. Not everyone can be Hollywood.

  • G.E. Phillips

    No criticisms here, you’re absolutely right. To this day, I still get conflicting messages from my parents. They are equally, “You need to find a stable job that will allow you to provide for your family, even if you hate it” and “You’re so good at/you used to love theater/writing/singing/twirling a baton in your bathing suit on the front lawn, why didn’t you ever pursue that? You should do that again, it’s never too late.” *headspinning*

    I definitely want to teach Face about money, mainly because no one really taught me, and I suck at managing it. Even now, if he wants something and I can’t afford it, I tell him it’s because Mommy doesn’t have enough money. Unless he’s an exceptional student with a very clear idea of a relatively safe career (medicine, law, accounting, etc.) I’m not even sure I want Face to go to college. I’d just as soon encourage him to learn a trade first. Here’s hoping Face develops a strong passion for the Plumbing Arts. He can paint/write/twirl his baton on his own time.

    • LadyClodia

      My husband has said repeatedly that he hopes that our boys will be interested in going to a trade school or into an apprenticeship rather than college. Otherwise we’re going to try to send them to university in The Netherlands because it’s way, way cheaper (and they’re Dutch citizens too.)

    • Bethany Ramos

      My husband and I did not go to college and make more than all of our friends. NOT a brag, just fact. I think success can go either way.

    • LadyClodia

      My husband didn’t go to college either and is very successful. He did get an online degree after a few years when he was looking for a new job but that was really only a formality.

    • Natasha B

      My hubs has a 2yr degree in auto mechanics from a ‘trade school’ He makes 3/4 times what I was making when I worked. Success is directly tied to work ethic, in my opinion. Not always how many degrees you have.
      Also, having a live in mechanic who can fix/make anything is pretty awesome. And hot.

    • Alex

      “Success is directly tied to work ethic, in my opinion.”

      I would disagree. There are millions struggling in poverty who work a hell of a lot harder and at tougher jobs than I do. The difference is that their skills and talents (or rather, the skills and talents that their backgrounds enabled them to develop) aren’t as well valued by the job market as mine are.

    • Natasha B

      You have a valuable point, and I hadn’t considered it that way. I meant it along the lines of, even though hubby comes from an extremely poor background with zero role models in terms of education….he worked extremely hard and has been very successful. If he didn’t have the work ethic he does, he would not be near as stable and successful as he is today.

    • AP

      Sometimes, people with an awesome work ethic end up getting screwed because they get taken advantage of by their employer. You can work really hard, but if you’re not being sure that you’re getting something out of it to move you forward, you’re not going to get ahead.

    • jsterling93

      I would argue that isn’t true. Computers are not my thing. My husband on the other hand was programming before he was in 1st grade. He has no degree and makes a ton more than I do. I on the other hand have multiple degrees I worked my ass off for. I work 50-60 hours a week, more during certain times of the year. I present at national conferences. But I don’t make that kind of money because I went into education for a job. Some jobs pay more than others.

    • G.E. Phillips

      For reals. I’m the only one of my group of girlfriends who graduated from college, and I’m by far the poorest. Plus I’ll be paying off my student loans until I’m 112 years old.

    • http://www.gamedevwidow.weebly.com/ Theresa Edwards

      Not gonna lie. I’ve thought about faking my death to get out of mine. Just really pleased that I didn’t have to give Sallie Mae my firstborn child as a part of the promissory agreement I signed.

    • G.E. Phillips

      Seriously, fuck that bitch Sallie Mae.

    • JLH1986

      Blessed to have parents cover undergrad. I took on Masters. I will never ever ever ever ever ever encourage anyone to get their Masters. I think my kids are going to be paying off my student loan debt…I regret virtually nothing in my life as well regret is pointless and changes nothing. Except Grad School. I regret that every. single. day. It appears I’ll be regretting that every month until I die.

    • G.E. Phillips

      The only way grad school could be more useless is if you drop out after a year and never get your masters. Ask me how I know that, haha.

    • JLH1986

      HAHA! I’ve thought about it but in for a penny, in for a pound. I’m 5 months from graduating I might as well get that absurdly expensive and useless piece of paper…sigh.

    • G.E. Phillips

      Congratulations! Still an awesome achievement!! :)

    • JLH1986

      Ha thanks! I’ll be glad when it’s over at this point! lol

    • March

      Well, you know, there is a reason Dutch universities are way, way cheaper. The cheapness is NOT just in the college fees. Speaking from experience here.

    • LadyClodia

      I ended up at least $50K in debt from university, and I didn’t even go to a top of the line school. If my boys are really good at something then they’ll get a scholarship for a school in the US, and I won’t have to worry about it. Otherwise, I doubt it’s that big of a deal.

    • Natasha B

      I find more and more parents are feeling this way, which I think is a good thing. Your child can always go back to school one day and get that Master’s in baton twirling-once he’s established. My parents drummed into all of us that we had to graduate top of class + get a 4 yr degree so hard. Like there were no other options. Which, we did…but honestly, I only used my business degree for a few years before becoming a SAHM. Not by design, but that’s life. If my kids want a 2 yr or trade degree, hey that’s their choice! I believe in the value of higher education-but we’re also realistic. Our oldest is 100% set on being a veterinarian! but at 9 she knows how much work it will be-my younger sister lived with us while she finished undergrad, interned for a year, and is now in Vet school…so our daughter got to see firsthand exactly how passionate and hard working you have to be to achieve that dream. Which is awesome.

    • pixie

      I wanted to be a vet when I was a kid. I knew how hard the training was and I was good at math and science. But then I learned that as a vet you have to put down animals. Even though I realize sometimes it is better to put down an animal rather than extend its suffering, I knew at a pretty young age that it would be very, very difficult for me to actually do the deed myself and even now I don’t know if I could do it. (I know it’s not easy for any vet, either, but it’s just something that I don’t know if I could make myself do)

    • Natasha B

      My sister does have a hard time with that, but I think interning with a large animal vet helped her with handling it. We’ve even had chats with the 9yo about it-my parents elderly dog had to be put down recently, and as sad as it was, it was a good thing to learn.
      And we tell her (and my sister) that they can always just go to med school instead-much easier! (I’m kidding)

    • Marie

      I was 100% set on being a veterinarian too, until I was about 14 or 15. That was when my parents started to get me to really investigate what it would take to become one, including spending a weekend with my cousin at university. She was studying teaching, but her school had a vet college and I was able to get appointments with an academic counsellor and got a huge dose of reality. Getting in was extremely competitive and vets don’t actually make that much considering how much they have to spend on their schooling. I ended up deciding that with good grades in math and science and a love for animals, I was way better off becoming a nurse and indulging my love of animals by having lots of pets. I spent four years in school, I’ve never been unemployed and I make more money than most vets do once they take business expenses into account. And I can volunteer at a local animal rescue where my nursing skills come in handy. Overall, I’m happy that my parents let me follow my dreams while I was young, but I”m also very grateful that I got that dose of reality when I really needed it.

    • justme7188

      I did exactly the same thing, business degree and all. I was a SAHM and then a WAHM for 15 years. I eventually followed my dream and went back for my masters in a sociology-related field, once I could afford it. My daughter wants to be an engineer but her back-up plan is drafting which would be a 2-year degree, which is completely fine with me.

    • carosaurusrex

      While I agree that a four year degree isn’t necessarily the best option for everyone (and I say this as someone with a master’s who’s been left high and dry by the economy/education funding cuts of the last few years), I feel the need to play devil’s advocate a bit. While it’s true that jobs such as construction, plumbing, etc. have a smaller investment cost and higher short term return, it’s also worth mentioning that in a poor economy or folding company/business, these jobs are often the first to go (unless you own your own business). It’s not right, but it’s the truth. My dad, whom I loved very much and esteemed highly, was a talented machinist who spent 20 years with one company. All his hard work, dedication, and experience didn’t count for shit when they decided to shut down his shop and outsource the labor. He wasn’t able to find another job for years because, frankly and unfortunately, he was replaceable. Even though I’m struggling right now, I’m confident that when I do find a better, more permanent position, my combined degrees, certificates, and qualifications will make me far less replaceable to the company or organization for which I wind up working. That said, I certainly would have planned college and grad school differently if I had known the economy was going to crash literally right after I graduated college. This is what I plan to teach any kids I have: to plan carefully and get an education (whatever kind you might want) for as cheaply as possible.

    • rrlo

      My BIL is in a law enforcement career and doesn’t have a university degree.
      There was a point in time where he HATED very well paid job and we were discussing his career choices. And one great one for him would have been going to teacher’s college – because he would be good at it. But at this point in his career, going back to university to finish a degree and THEN going to teachers college would have been too much.
      So it did limit is career (he worked around it of course and now really likes his job in a supervisory role).
      I know there are a lot of jobs where advancement becomes problematic without a degree. Realistically, if someone were to go into trade – it might be worthwhile to investigate something that can easily be converted into a bachelor’s degree with some extra courses.

  • rrlo

    I am the child of immigrant parents. Following my dreams was never part of the plan – in fact I never even gave any thought as to what my dreams were. Now I have a well-paid job that I like – no regrets here.
    However, I wish I did spend some time identifying what my dreams were and then figure out attainable career choices that match those goals.

    While being President is unattainable – a career in public service, politics – like municipal politics is definitely achievable. These people make six figure salaries and actually have tangible impact in the community. Astronaut is difficult but doing aerospace engineering is achievable.

    Plus President is just a job title – I think it’s really important to figure what it is about being a president that draws a child to that role. There could a myriad of jobs that can satisfy that part of a child that wants to be the President.

    I think it’s so important to spend some time figuring out what the dreams are and they view them through a realistic lens.

  • AE Vorro

    Well said. Encouraging your kids is one thing; detaching them from reality is entirely another!

  • Janok Place

    I was raised by a “stick to the art” musician… and a die hard workaholic small business owner. Very, very different people. My husband is a Physic’s engineer, I’m a dog trainer. Everyone, do some simple math and I’m sure you can conclude who the breadwinner is. I figure our kids will have a plethora of opinions tossed their way. My father considers our 19 month old daughter a musical prodigy. My mother wants to know how we plan to pay for her BA/MA/PhD in whatever. My husband wants nothing LESS then to see his kids go to university, he’d rather raise a batch of plumbers and electricians.

    I run our home. I raise our own food. Our lifestyle is focused on creating your own sustainability. I figure, hey, whatever they do… they’ll be able to feed themselves and find shelter. It’s okay to tell them anything is possible. My little sister is on a full ride to Chicago U with the prospect of competing in the olympics in the future. I think what’s important is that they understand that the only thing they NEED is a feasible plan and the means to implement it. And food. And shelter. Money is what you make of it, it’s importance in your life is reflected by the decisions you make. Kids need to face that reality.

  • Amanda

    I love this so much. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that you and I are approximately the same age. My 10 year high school reunion is this year, if that gives you any ideas. ANYWAY, I remember vividly that I was counseled to go to the absolute best school I could get into, no matter the cost, because it was an investment and there are always student loans. Ha. That advise (that I assume was widely given out) is coming to bite lots of us in the butt, and we’re getting crap for it, but that’s what we were told to do! Any degree is great, the best schools that cost $40k a year are the best, and just take out $100k in loans to cover it.

    I’m a musician with an undergrad in music education and a master’s degree in vocal performance. I was lucky because I chose to get my undergrad at a very economical school (I say lucky because it really wasn’t me being wise, it’s just where I wanted to go). I took out a total of $3000 in loans for one year. I didn’t go into debt at all for my master’s degree, although they still both cost a LOT of money. I have friends who got music degrees at Oberlin or St. Olaf and are thousands and thousands of dollars in debt, for what? A degree that won’t ever pay itself off. I’m not saying no one should study the arts, because people can and some should (and many of my college friends employed friends both teaching and performing), but oh please be wise about how you spend your money! You can get artsy degrees on the cheap, and that will serve you so much better than paying out your soul to student loans.

    I wish someone had talked me (and many of my fellow students) about the realities of student loans when we were 18.

    • CMJ

      I was SO lucky to have my mom be realistic about that very thing…she said: “I love you, but I will not pay (and neither should you) $40,000 a year for you to have a musical theatre degree.” She always has supported me but she was also very open with me about the challenges of pursuing that dream.

    • Natasha B

      Yep, my parents were like, sure, you got accepted to Mount Holyoke, buuuut….we aren’t paying for it. Took the full ride to state school instead. Loved it.

    • http://www.gamedevwidow.weebly.com/ Theresa Edwards

      We are! My 10 year is coming up in September. I ended up with a scholarship to wherever I wanted. Unfortunately, 17 year old me was absolutely ill-equipped to put it to good use. Hence the 4 years at art school.

  • Cee

    Haha aside from the kids and your partner being a man, you are living my life. I got my BA in History while my gf got a degree in graphic design and we do NOTHING related to our fields. I am in a semi administrative field now and am pretty stupid at it while my gf is a part time teacher’s assistant. Now I’m back at school to major in what I hope will be a more practical thing.
    My sister is now applying to college and I tell her and would tell anybody her age this: If you love something that is highly unemployable, make it your hobby and go to school for something employable, if you do get a degree in something unemployable, get a minor.
    Here is the thing. When you major in something that you love and has very little demand, you come to hate and resent it because you find yourself struggling financially and are confused as to where all the jobs that were to magically appear after you graduate are. When a job vaguely having to do with what you majored in does come along, you find yourself competing with the other hundreds of people that majored in the same major, looking to get out of a that has nothing to do with what you majored in..just.like.you.

    You are not necessarily a dream crusher when you do this. it is just that you know that it is probably not your child’s dream to be unemployed and struggling financially after she graduates.

    • http://www.gamedevwidow.weebly.com/ Theresa Edwards

      Yes, this forever. I don’t regret my life as a SAHM but it certainly wasn’t a bullet point in the five year plan, if you know what i mean. The fact that I’ve never seen the Maesta in person, but I could if I had a lucrative career isn’t lost on me either. I do hatelove the art history these days.

  • pixie

    The biggest thing, I’ve found, is that kids have to understand that they can dream of being an astronaut or ballerina or a rockstar, but it takes a lot of hard work. And even then it is not a guarantee. Astronauts need degrees in engineering; ballerinas have to spend hours upon hours at the dance studio and going to auditions; rockstars need to form bands, practice almost constantly, perform shows, and make their names known. The biggest thing to stress, although many jobs now require some form of higher education, is that a degree in anything does not necessarily equate to getting a job. A degree in Business won’t guarantee a job in the business sector, just as a degree in music won’t guarantee a job with a symphony or as a opera star. The unfortunate thing is that the job market sucks right now and there are so many students currently training for jobs that just aren’t available (I know an insane number of people in college to become teachers, both at the elementary/middle and the high school level and there just aren’t the jobs available where they want to teach).
    There’s nothing wrong with going to university and getting an arts degree; I graduated from an HBMus program last year and am in my second semester of an MA in Musicology. I know the field is limited, BUT I do want to go to college for radio broadcasting afterwards, which would help widen things up. I also wouldn’t pass up an opportunity for a Doctorate or to teach at a university. I was fully aware, however, that music is a difficult area, and was never under any illusion that it would be easy. My parents are very supportive of my choice but never gave me any fairytale illusions. I think a good exercise in high schools would be to have grade 10 or 11 students write down what they want to do as a career, then to research the necessary educational qualifications/training needed, availability and accessibility of jobs, and educational/training institutions and costs of getting the needed education/training.

    • carosaurusrex

      Lots of teachers do do this! I’ve done this with middle schoolers even. I think what we need is to take a page out of European countries’ books’ and start students’ career explorations way earlier, so that by the time they are ready for high school, they can pick a course of study geared towards what they want to do. There are vocational technical schools in the U.S. that do this, but they aren’t necessarily widespread. My sister went to one in high school (half day there, half day at regular school), graduated with her CNA, then did a one-year LPN program a couple years later after working in nursing homes and such. She has way more earning power than I do, is highly skilled, and not easily replaceable so she has job security. Not to mention far fewer student loans.

    • pixie

      That’s good that teachers are doing this. The only real “career guidance” I and most other high school students I knew/know received was a half-course called “careers” where we basically took a test on the computers to see what would “fit our personalities/strengths” and didn’t really go past that. There was a bit about the average salary, but really nothing specific. It also didn’t help that the options were so widespread, too.
      This was also the mid-2000s when I did this, so I’m really hoping it’s changed quite a bit, or at least will very soon. One good thing we had, though, was a huge interconnected youth-apprentiship program in your school district (I’m assuming similar to the vocational technical schools) for the trades and things like ECE where students could do co-op. These were just at the regular high schools, though. (Mechanics, carpenters, etc, were in the shops, ECE in the daycare, etc).

  • LadyClodia

    I totally get it. As the first person in my family to ever attend college, my parents didn’t really have much advice for me. When I started college I was intending to major in Secondary Education in Latin, which at least sounded like I should be able to get a job from it, nevermind that not many schools offer Latin. I got some bad advice from advisors and I ended up switching to Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies. I wasn’t in a position to continue my education into grad school, and the job market is nonexistent for a Classics undergrad degree. Also it turned out that even though I loved Classics I was actually pretty bad at Latin. Besides retail jobs I have never been able to get a job on my own, and the jobs I did get were because I knew someone and did not require me to have a college degree.
    My husband and I want to make sure that our boys have realistic expectations for work and life. Because yeah, just because you love something doesn’t mean you can support yourself with that. But I also don’t want to push them into something they don’t enjoy doing just because it pays really well. I do think it’s hard coming up with a middle ground, though; where you can be supportive of their passions, but realistic about job prospects as well.

  • Sara610

    My parents paid for my undergraduate degree, to the tune of about $150,000 (1999-2003), and they completely unapologetically attached the string that if they were going to sink that kind of money into my education, I needed to graduate with a degree that would enable me to get a full-time job the day I graduated. So even though I wanted to major in vocal performance and be an opera singer, I majored in music education, with the knowledge that I could always do my master’s in voice if I still wanted to be a professional singer (a field in which the success rate is about 2%) five years later.

    At the time I thought they were being completely unreasonable (“WHY WON’T YOU LET ME FOLLOW MY DREAM?!?!?”), but now as a 32-year-old who has never been unemployed and has my own daughter to raise and provide for, I realize and am grateful for their wisdom. And guess what? I absolutely, completely DO NOT want to be a professional singer now that I’ve seen some of the real-world crap that goes into making a career out of music. Some people have the stomach for it. I don’t. Instead I have my wonderful, stable job that I love.

    And yet…….and yet. I will never tell a kid that if he has a true gift for something like dance or music or art, he shouldn’t try to make it work. Because some people have to make it as the dancers and the artists and the singers, right? And study in the arts, while not a great plan for how you’re going to pay the bills, holds a ton of benefits that are often VERY transferable in the workplace. It’s just always good to have a backup plan in case your Plan A doesn’t work. At my alma mater (the University of Michigan) a lot of my fellow music majors double-majored in things like engineering, pre-med, business and the sciences. I’ve never seen a situation where that worked out badly.

    • CMJ

      I wanted desperately to be a musical theatre major – and my mom said, I love you, but will not pay for that. I never ended up doing it (mostly because I was a 17 year-old belter who wouldn’t get work until I was at least 30 and also because…well..theatre people) and while I still do theatre all the time, I am happy with my choice and grateful for my mom being honest and realistic with me while also being supportive.

      My brother, conversely, was an anthro-bio major (at Michigan too!) and was all set on going to med school (he was in like the 99th percentile for all his scores and such) when he decided he would follow his dream of playing music full time. His band is doing well and he’s happy with his life choices too.

      My parents, while always being realistic, have been awesomely supportive to all of us. I think it’s so important to make kids aware about the realities of the situation, while also being supportive when we decide our life path.

    • pixie

      See, that’s what’s important. Support your kids, but let them know the realities of the job market for various occupations.

    • rrlo

      WOW! That is a ludicrous amount of money! I’m Canadian and graduated in 2005. I had no student loans… my tuition was about 5K-6K a year and with some scholarships and paid internships – I was debt free. Granted my parents had to help out one year but it was affordable.
      I am thinking (not so originally) that tuition in the US is part of the problem. No one should have to pay 150K for a four year undergrad degree… that is just way too much pressure for a kid to graduate with.

    • pixie

      Just like in Canada, tuition in the US depends largely on the state where the institution is located, the program, and the institution itself (Ontario generally has the highest tuition costs and Quebec the lowest, though in Ontario, UofToronto and Lakehead have different tuition costs; sciences also tend to have higher tuition rates than the arts because of lab time). There are many more private universities in the US than there are here in Canada.

    • guest

      My 4 year Canadian degree (as a Canadian citizen) cost me + $100,000 with lots of help from donors, scholarships and loans. The US is no different than Canada. Some schools cost more, plain and simple.

    • rrlo

      Really? I am mostly familiar with Ontario universities… I wasn’t aware of that tuition had gone up so much… since 2005. I didn’t include residence in my estimates – as I lived at home.

    • staferny

      Is that including rent/food and other expenses as well as tuition? I have a relative who has a BA from Carleton in Ottawa and it wasn’t even close to that unless you include all of her living expenses (it was not her home town so she couldn’t live with relatives) and round up, way up. That was from 2003 – 2007

  • Jessica

    My music teacher told me the difference between a vocal major and a pizza was that a pizza could feed a family of 4. At the time, I thought he was being extremely dismissive of my obvious path to stardom. Now, I wish someone had spent more time guiding me towards professions where I could build on my strengths and not just blind faith my “talent” would take me somewhere eventually. It took me longer than I would like to admit to let go of my dream of being the next Sarah McLachlan. And since I had spent so much time in high school only concentrating on music, it was hard to figure out where to go from there. So, obviously Poli Sci, followed by Elementary Ed, followed by Education Administration followed by Special Education followed by freelance. Living the dream! ;-) Great piece!

  • Paul White


    Thanks. I got burned listening to the follow your dreams thing. You know what wildlife biology pays–IF you can get a position? It makes social services look lucrative and THAT takes real doing.

    I want people to be honest with their kids, particularly middle school and up ones, when it comes to careers.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      I try to be honest with my sixth graders. At the same time I don’t want to shoot them down. But when I ask them what they want to be when they grow up, a huge majority say sports star or singer/rapper. They ALL want to be famous, and easily, and it’s just not possible. I try to point out that it’s a good idea to have a backup. I think reality tv has a huge hand in this.

    • Bort

      This is supremely terrifying.

  • Abbe

    No hatred here, I completely agree with you. Kids need to be taught about money and responsibility early on.
    I paid for my own college, and I think that motivated me to pick a more practical career, knowing that I would need actual job in order to pay back all those loans. Most people I know whose parents paid for their college education majored in things like sociology and art.

  • MellyG

    I completely agree. But be careful on those fall back plans – i followed my dream to law school. Not the “Fall back” or solid plan it’s often made out to be. When i was in college, it seemed that with a law degree you were guaranteed a 6 figure salary. (which, with the crushing law school debt doesn’t make you rich, but it’s still a pretty damn good level of stability!) However, the legal market sucks, and i got laid off making 70k teaching law (dream job) because “the economy” and am now living with my grandparents, where everyone thinks i should be able to walk into any law firm and OBVIOUSLY they’d hire me. Unfortunately, right now, there are way more people with law degrees than people that need lawyers. Sorry for the rant – just the fact that following the smart and practical route doesn’t always work out either ;)

    • Paul White

      My cousin’s got a degree and has passed the bar in Alabama, Georgia and Washington state (weird combo). It took him several years to find employment…it’s not the 100% thing many people think it is

    • Needs Improvement

      Exactly – when I was in school for teaching, we were told that everyone was retiring and that there were jobs a’plenty. Cue graduation, the recession hits and after subbing for a year, I ended up having to move almost four hours from home to get a job just to start building up my resume. If there is ever a safe career, you’d think it would be teaching, especially because, at least in my state, that is the only thing that is constitutionally mandated to fund.

    • Shea

      That’s what we were told when I was getting my MLIS (librarianship degree). When we graduated, all those jobs we were told would be there…weren’t. It took me a year and a half to find a job (and I got damn lucky, spent a year working as a library clerk which got my foot in the door so when a librarian position opened, I was hired). Some of my friends from library school are still looking for work, nearly two years out from graduation.

    • MellyG

      It seems to be currently easier to find a job out of law school – i’m 7 years out with an impressive resume. Most firms are specifically looking for 0-3 years experience because then they can train AND pay 25k (i’ve seen a lot of entry level with that salary……..depending on the city, it’s REALLY hard to live off of that AND pay loans off). Either way, it’s ironic that now that i actually HAVE experience it’s harder to find a job. Ugh

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for this. Basically the lesson is “Everything you may achieve in life is hard as hell.” I work in Tech and you’d be amazed how many people are unemployed and can’t find jobs even though everyone makes it out to seem like it’s an apply-and-be-hired-instantly industry.

    • SarahJesness

      This kind of stuff is one thing that concerns me. Everyone goes on and on about how college students should only enter “practical” fields. Okay, that’s fine. But it’s just a variation of people who act like having a college degree guarantees you a job. Even with the “high demand” fields, how many have lots of decent-paying positions available?

    • http://www.gamedevwidow.weebly.com/ Theresa Edwards

      Good point. As I mentioned, my husband’s degree is nice, but he really could have gotten his current job without it. Autodidacts FTW.

    • MellyG

      I think it’s a balancing act – honestly nothing is absolute, and some things are more practical than others, but i think the tide is turning. Everyone was told to go to college, and now the most in demand jobs are the labor intensive ones. My dad pushed me to college and law school (ok, just school in general, law was my dream) because he was a blue collar laborer, and wanted “better” for his daughter. Had i followed in his footsteps, i’d have more money and more job security.

    • carosaurusrex

      I took my parents’ advice about being practical, even though I could have gone to art school or music conservatory, and honestly a part of me regrets it. I’m glad I went where I did/got the degrees I did because it has made me who I am today, but I definitely sometimes wonder ‘what if,’ especially since the economic stability my “practical” degrees were supposed to bring me hasn’t materialized. Incidentally, my mum is still pissed that I didn’t go to law school even though I’ve told her multiple times that the legal market is in the crapper and has been for a few years.

    • http://www.ambiencechaser.com/ Elizabeth Licata

      Yeah. A lawyer friend of mine works 60-80 hours a week in a really emotionally draining field of law, and the “adjusted” student loan payments he’s supposed to pay are more than he makes. He actually makes less than me, and I’m a part-time freelance blogger. It’s appalling. He’s so good at his job and does really important work, but the emotional drain of his job and the emotional drain of crushing debt and poverty makes it seem really not worth it.

    • Rachel Sea

      Oh no, there are tons of people who need lawyers, there are just very few people who can afford them.

  • Alex

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with encouraging your kids to follow their dreams but at the same time keeping them realistic about their chances and what achieving (and living) that life is like. Most of us commenting seem to be of similar guidance.

    This is where mentors and role models come in; find someone who RIGHT NOW is where your child says she wants to be and ask them to be honest with her about what it took to get there. What are the personal sacrifices? What are the rewards? What would they do differently? What are the actual skills required to do it?

    It’s fine to encourage a child’s love of history, but he/she should know that the average archaeologist’s career bears very little resemblance to Indiana Jones. It’s also true that just because you have a passion for something does NOT mean that you have the talent for it and that hard work alone is NOT enough to succeed.

  • jess
  • Guest

    I have no problems with the idea of following your dreams, as long as you have a backup plan. Majoring in one of the humanities can be great for teaching you how to write and think (skills employers hugely prize), but it’s worth putting thought into internships, summer jobs, a companion major etc. that could help position you for employment.

  • Kay_Sue

    I think it’s a balancing act. On the one hand, you have to be realistic. There’s one president every four years, who may potentially hold the job for eight years–it’s a tough act to get. On the other hand, I do think it’s important to encourage them to figure out what it would take, and to try if they are really into it. But chasing your dreams isn’t the right way to describe it, I think. More like, explore your dream and figure out if it is really realistic for you.

    And it is important to explain things like money and also how important talent and luck are in these things. If you are talented and lucky and you work hard enough and make the right decisions–yeah, you could end up on the moon. If you are talented and unlucky and you work hard enough and make the right decisions you still might not.

    • Alex

      People are always confused when I tell them how lucky I consider myself that I have a successful career. “But you’re smart! And such a hard worker!!”

      Well yes. But I’m also very lucky that the sort of hard work I’m smart/talented at is well-valued by the marketplace enough for me to provide my family with a (relatively) comfortable life. I’m lucky that I had parents who encouraged my hard work and could financially help me develop my talents. I’m lucky that I didn’t face debilitating prejudice or discrimination or disabilities while pursuing my passions. I’m lucky that I live in an economy that pays me very well (disproportionately well, I would admit) for my talents without requiring me to sacrifice or risk my physical/emotional/mental health.

      I wasn’t handed my success on a silver platter, but I didn’t have to dig it out of the rock with my bare hands either.

    • Tinyfaeri

      Agreed! Goals and dreams are important things to have, but its our job to help our kids cultivate the tools they need to see what they can realistically obtain, accepting that sometimes luck is a big part of life (both good and bad). Also, it’s good to have a plan B (or C, or D), and to be able to change pace and direction when needed and put in a lot of work.

  • Natasha B

    I got a bizness degree, no matter how much I loved Greek mythology. My friend with her Art History degree is currently managing a Hertz rental ;)

  • Mila

    This is something my husband and I have been discussing at length for our future children. Both of our parents did fine (CEO, administrative assistant, shipping manager, and LPN) and only one had a two year degree to my knowledge. My mother is ADAMANT that I get a college degree because I think she was mad she didn’t go further before having children.
    We both were mostly upset because we stumbled hard trying to start college and figure stuff out (a little more stumbling for me than him). Our parents had no idea on how to direct us career wise, interest wise, which college to pick, how to pay for it etc. and I feel like it would have been an immense help. Any direction at that point would have been appreciated as I’m now 26 and have no clue what I really want to do and can’t commit to finish school to save my life.
    I think the main goal for us now is to support our children and help guide them to whatever we determine all together would be their best option.

  • http://be.net/danielacortez Daniela Vassallo

    i feel you. went to art school and now i’m kinda very far away from the millions and millions of dollars that child me thought i would be making by 27. :/

  • scooby23

    I think it is ridiculous when some kid randomly wakes up one day and says “I’m gonna be the president!” And then their parents say ” OK, Speshul Snewflaque, you can be whatever you want to be cuz YOU’RE JUST THAT SPEESHUL.” I think though, if a kid has a real passion for, say, ballet, I think it’s great when their parents show them the facts about the career and show them how to really achieve that goal, and if the kid decides that, yes, they want to achieve that goal, then great, we will help you and give you the straight facts about this career. And you’re right, we should teach kids that if their dream doesn’t work out, they should have a stable, maybe less unicorn-y, job that they would enjoy. I think this was a very good, well infromed article.

    • Alex

      “You can be whatever you want be” is a great message when we’re talking about discrimination and civil rights and opportunities, and how you should never feel discouraged to explore your passions or talents just because you were born with the “wrong” genitals or skin color.

      Not so great when it conflicts with the horrible realization that maybe you’re just not good enough to carve a living out of this sort of career.

    • scooby23

      Yeah, I agree with that. Good point.

    • AP

      “Not good enough” is all relative, too, depending on where you stand in the supply-and-demand phase of hiring.

    • Allyson_et_al

      My daughter is a pretty talented singer, and I had to talk her down from “I’m going to be a pop star!” to consider careers where she could use music but still find a job. She also knows that she can develop other career interests and still find opportunities to sing. Because she’s so passionate about it, we totally support her singing in school and community settings, but yeah, I did have to give her a dose of reality on the rich-and-famous thing.

  • C.J.

    My eleven year old wants to be a dance teacher and a school teacher. I tried not to burst her bubble but I had to. I told her all dancers have to go to school so they can have another career in case they are injured. Then I had to tell her she is not likely to get a job as a school teacher. We live in Ontario, there haven’t been any jobs for new school teachers in a long time and likely won’t be for a long time. At least not anywhere close to here. I told her if she wants to be a teacher she will have to move. I told her she has time to pick a career and when she does it is a good idea to research the job market for whatever she chooses to go to school for. I would rather prepare her rather than let her have her dreams crushed by reality. Well, at least try to prepare her, life is unpredictable sometimes.

    • pixie

      I’m in Ontario as well and know a good number of people who are currently in school for teaching or have recently graduated teachers college. They were led to believe by university spokespeople that teachers are in demand, which is completely untrue, since I can remember being told this as early as the 4th grade (1999/2000) and know that students are still being told this (I know kids currently in high school). There are pretty much zero teaching jobs for teaching in Ontario, especially Southern Ontario, and almost everyone I know who has graduated can’t even get on the supply list. I do have a friend, however, who has been accepted to teach in a remote location in the territories where teachers are actually needed (he likes it up north and has no problem with being in a remote area). Not many people want to teach in the remote places, some reserves and some not, because even though they pay incredibly well right from the get-go, the locations are very remote and the cost of living is very high. Other friends who have gotten jobs teaching have gotten them abroad, either in the UK or China.

      As much as I know you didn’t want to, it’s probably a good thing you told her about the difficulties of getting a job teaching. I always tell the high school students I meet that if they want to go into teaching it is very, very difficult to even get on the supply list near where their family is in Southern Ontario, especially when school boards have been cutting back on teachers. I don’t do it to crush their dreams, they’re all great kids, but to make them aware that where the jobs are, they might not want to go. I really wish school recruiters didn’t keep insisting that teachers are in high demand.

    • C.J.

      I live in Southern Ontario. I’m 37 and I have friends my age that went to teachers college and were never able to get a job in teaching. I know one lady who is 35 and still trying. I don’t want my daughter to go through that. Our local news paper had an article in it a while back saying that the number of people enrolling in teachers college has drastically dropped and they are trying to find ways to get students to enrol again. I couldn’t believe it, why would anyone want to encourage kids to go to school to be unemployed. That is worse for the economy. I live just outside the “armpit” of Ontario. Being from Ontario I’m sure you will know where I mean. Our unemployment rate sucks here as it is. I want my kids to choose careers that at least gives them a chance.

    • pixie

      I actually wanted to be a teacher for a while until I got to university and saw just how many people in my department (and just in general) were in the concurrent education program, let alone those who just went to the university for teachers college. Luckily I wasn’t in the con-ed program so I didn’t even have to go through the process of changing programs (major would have stayed the same, different degree, though).

    • C.J.

      With people waiting longer to have kids and having less kids I don’t think there is going to be a big demand for teachers any time soon. I’m glad you were able to choose a different degree without having to change programs.

    • rrlo

      I think things were a bit better and has now gotten worse. All of my year mates that went on to teacher college found jobs – they are all employed (I am 32) but many from my sister’s (mid-20s) cohort are still jobless.
      I think it’s all cyclical. It’s hard to predict how one particular career will be in 10/15 years based on today’s data. When I was growing about there was a big hoopla about teacher shortage – so you never know!

    • pixie

      My dad tells me they were telling his group that there was a teaching shortage as well (he’s 58). I do agree it’s cyclical, but there are a huge number of teachers being trained for very few jobs in the popular regions/districts (because most people I know want to teach where they grew up/around a major population) and there are a number of teachers being laid off. Like I said, there are a number of job opportunities in the territories and in remote reserves, but not many people want to move there.

  • SarahJesness

    My parents have kind of the same philosophy with me: I gotta pick something I’ll enjoy doing but will actually get me a job.

    There’s also kind of an alternate issue that’s not addressed so much, but it deserves mention: being realistic about the amount and type of work that goes into certain jobs. I went to a public high school that had a lot of kids from pretty wealthy families. Some of these kids were overachievers, others… were not. My school had those token kids who hated reading and school and thought everything that was being taught was useless so they didn’t pay attention… But pretty much all of them had aspirations for nice careers that required college degrees, and they planned on going to these good colleges.

    Wanting to be an engineer is fine, there’s demand for that and it pays well. Same goes for being a doctor. But both jobs require insane amounts of work. I had to avoid busting out laughing when one of the proud slackers declared he was planning to be an engineer. There were a large number of similar students who planned on going to community college for a little while and doing so well that they’d be able to transfer to UT Austin. (which, for you non-Texans out there, is one of the most sought-after and competitive schools in the state) I’m not dissing community college, really, going to cc and then university is a good option for many, even I was considering. (but my parents were like “no”) But to transfer to UT Austin from one? You’d have to do CRAZY well.

    If you can’t even be bothered to finish reading a two-page article during class in high school, what makes you think you’re ready to go to college and do well, especially in a really difficult field of study? That’s a second thing that needs to come up in these discussions: don’t just pick something practical, pick something that you realistically have the discipline and willpower and skills for. No kid is gonna be a doctor if he can’t even do an hour a day of reading/studying.

    • Sara610

      Not to nitpick, but I did my undergrad degree at the University of Michigan and I had several classmates there who started at community college, got their gen-ed credits out of the way, and then transferred to UM to finish the degree. It’s actually a great way to save a lot of tuition money and still be able to take the courses for your major and graduate from the school you really want to go to.

      The difference, of course, being that the motivator for starting at CC was wanting to save money, not wanting to take the easy way. There’s a big difference between the two, and yeah, if you start out your college career looking for the easiest way to get the least amount of work done, that probably doesn’t bode well for your chances of long-term success in a field like engineering or medicine.

    • SarahJesness

      Yeah, that’s what I was talking about. Lots of students start out at CC to save money before going out to university… But the people I’m talking about made such shitty grades in high school that CC is their only option. Again, not dissing it, I would’ve done it myself if it weren’t for my parents. But if you didn’t do well in high school because you couldn’t bother to do your homework or read a short story, you gotta change a little before heading back into an academic environment.

  • Jamie

    I do agree to a point here, but people in all fields are being devalued. People holding STEM degrees face 2 times the rate of joblessness that existed prior to the recession. Information Technology and Computer Science degree holders are facing 9 percent unemployment nationwide, a record high. There are no full proof majors or degrees or paths. Instead you need to teach your kid to be realistic about how they attain those goals. Is prima ballerina attainable? Probably not. But if your child works hard in dance, goes to a reputable school where they major in dance and minor in business while working toward a Dance Masters, they could open their own dance studio or if they’re good enough work in a major studio in a metropolitan area or at a university. Even an art history degree can be useful when paired with arts administration and the less glamorous aspects of museum work like grant writing and registrarial work.

    • AP

      I was going to say the same thing. I know a lot of people who picked a university and a major based on pre-recession hiring patterns, only to graduate to find the job landscape completely changed, and now the General Public is ready to insult and mock them for wasting their money on a now-useless degree. I know a lot of people who ended up in the same situation due to graduate degree inflation, as well (ex: a job that required a BA now requires a MA.)

      A lot of us are Millenials are hardworking, smart, and realistic. None of us are psychic.

    • Sara610

      This is an excellent point. One of the really worrying things about this whole debate (in the larger sphere, not on Mommyish specifically) is that people are pointing to the high rate of unemployment in the arts fields and crowing, “See? THAT’S why majoring in English/history/music/whatever is a terrible idea!” Things are tough everywhere, and as you say, there are no foolproof majors.

      Meanwhile, a lot of the skills that employers say they need and not many applicants have–creativity, reading comprehension, the ability to write well–are fostered in the humanities. It’s not that studying the fine arts is a bad idea; it’s just that it’s a bad idea to say, “I want to be a dancer!” and then go $200,000 into debt for a degree in dance–and study nothing else–at the most expensive university you can get into.

  • Jayess

    I really needed this article today. Last night I hung out with a bunch of friends with nice big higher-level education degrees. I had realized 2 years into my degree “hold the phone, this is going to go nowhere!” and dropped out. But school and a degree were always important to me, so I am constantly feeling like a failure. Especially since hubs, who was never certain that he would even graduate high school, is doing his Master’s. Obviously, I’m proud of him, but it doesn’t do a lot for *my* self esteem.
    It’s good to be reminded that stopping spending thousands of dollars on a dead-end street was actually a really good decision that only a smart, brave, forward-thinking woman would make. #bragging
    In real seriousness, though, thank you. Thank you a lot.

  • Snipe

    I think the best approach is to take your kid’s dreams seriously, to help them understand the time, work, education, and luck that go into certain careers, and help them to come up with similar options that are more likely to happen. In fact, it would be good if they could be involved in the process and help to research exactly what it takes to go into their “dream job”. That helps them to see that reality and the dream don’t always match up, but that’s okay. There are other options.

  • Londonlisbonite

    I just wanted to say that I think you’re amazing. If you wrote a parenting manual I’d buy it. Finally, some common sense!

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    I wanted to be a midwife lol I always LOVED newborn babies…until I watched a birth video with my mother when I was 11.
    That put me off not only becoming a midwife but meatballs for several months.

    I’m 23 and still haven’t given up on my dream of having a book published someday so does that still make me a kid? =P

    • pixie

      I also still dream of having a book published at 23, so you’re not alone. ;)

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      lol i’m my own worst enemy with my book.
      i write about fifty pages.
      re-read it.
      hate it, cry, then delete nearly all of it lol and redo it

    • pixie

      I think of a great idea, write a bit, get bored, scrap it, come up with a new idea. Lather, rinse, repeat. lol

  • Lackadaisical

    I agree with what you say and yet I have just had a heartbreaking morning at the school I work in that makes me think middle ground is what is needed. I am sure that all of you, while not encouraging the crazy dreams, do encourage your kids to aim (achievably) high and believe in a can do attitude. This is not a criticism of the article because I can see that the extreme I have just seen is not what the article advocates in any way, however it did seem relevant to the topic.

    The school I volunteer as a teaching assistant, while I work towards a qualification to be a paid teaching assistant, while in a gentle and safe area is also low income and has a very high proportion of families with no job and living off benefits in council houses (houses owned by the local authority rented out at very low rates to people with no job or low income). I was setting up the next lesson in the classroom being used for kids who had to miss playtime due to their behaviour. The teacher on duty had a chat with a 7 year old who is lovely but often there for minor things to find out what went wrong this time. The girl was very, very down on her self and sounded like she was quoting the adults around her. She told us that there was no way she would ever be any good at school as the hyperactivity in her was too big for her to be good. She said she really wished she could be a vet when she grows up but she will never be anything because she isn’t good and calm. She said that she will end up like her mum and her mums boyfriend with no job and she was absolutely certain she could never be more.

    Now I know that vet is a tough job for clever people who study hard, but while not everyone gets to be a vet there are plenty of other jobs working with animals and 7 is a bit young to write herself off. While many people want to be vets and try hard but never succeed I would also bet that those who managed to become vets also desperately wanted it and worked hard for it. Yes, the little girl could end up with no job and lots of kids in a council house but the best way for her to get out and have a future she wants is to work hard and aim high, the best way to stay stuck in poverty is to keep telling herself that she could never achieve her dreams so may as well not try and leave success to the lucky few.

    Like I said at the start of this rant, I am not accusing the author of being like those who encouraged this girl to give up and accept her fate. I realize that the author was warning about kids pinning their hopes on crazy, one in a million dreams, but the little girl reminded me that a little hope in moderation is good.

    • pixie

      That’s so sad.
      I know a girl around the same age who’s kind of like that, but she also twists things to get more attention. She rides at the same barn I do and has confidence issues when she rides sometimes, despite her being a decent little rider. When she has bad days, they’re really bad (crying and freaking out at the tiniest things, which stresses the horse out), so her godparents (who are the ones who take her to lessons) ask her seriously if she really wants to ride because 70% of the time she seems to not enjoy it. She insists that she wants to keep riding, so they bring her back. Away from her godparents, though, she’ll come up to me, one of the other girls, or our riding coach looking all sad and saying her parents and godparents are telling her she’s a bad rider and should quit. Now, I don’t know what people tell her behind closed doors, but I am about 99% sure that her godparents and parents have never told her this. I’ve talked to them, seen their frustration in private while watching her lessons, but always seen them be supportive. It makes me sad that such a young girl is taking things and manipulating them for attention, or is projecting her insecurities onto other people for more attention.
      Obviously, I’m not saying that’s not what the little girl you know is doing, but it just reminded me of the girl I know in terms of age and being insecure.

    • Lackadaisical

      Yes, I do know what you mean and it is a valid observation as sometimes the kids do like to pull on our heartstrings to get out of trouble or to get sympathy. Perhaps she was doing the same but to be honest she is just one of many kids with a sense of hopelessness and worthlessness in the area where I live. It wasn’t an unusual thing to hear.

    • AP

      That’s incredibly sad, too, because at least in the US, it’s fairly easy to get jobs related to being a veterinarian. Vet tech, for example, or perhaps a caretaker or clerk in an animal care facility, a groomer, or a worker at a big-box pet store with a daycare/boarding component. If she likes farm animals, even better, since small farms don’t require certifications the way a big business would.

    • Lackadaisical

      Same here. There are plenty of jobs in animal care and vets themselves are assisted by other staff. A kid doesn’t have to aim further than their capabilities (although 7 is young to be sure of that), working out the kind of thing you like (animals) and having a bit of hope is good. The area I live in has a lot of families with no jobs or jobs that aren’t enough without top ups from the state. There is a lot of feeling that the future is more of the same and that going to university is for other people. I was accused of being a pushy parent by other parents for assuming my bright, well above national expectations, kids would study for A levels (qualification studied between 16 and 18) so if they knew we financially plan for university (although we won’t force or pressure them to go down that path) they would think I was completely alien to them.

  • Oryx

    I just had this discussion with a friend the other day. My husband and I are the perfect example of the differences between the “follow your dream” camp and the “get a real job” camp. I grew up wanting to changing the world and now have two degrees in political science/public policy. I graduated with few job skills. My husband wanted to change the world, he was pushed into medicine, which he did not want to do. Now, he has the real opportunity to find meaningful work wherever in the world he chooses. I am a mountain of debt and make the same salary as my friends with no higher education.

    When it is time to have this talk with my daughter, I will tell her to focus on what her actual day-to-day working life will be, and how she can contribute practical skills to any field that she likes, but she has to obtain those skills first.

    No one is going to hire me to run their political campaign because I know a lot about modern political theory, but they would if I was a communications and PR badass. Luckily, at least one of us is a good example.

  • KaeTay

    You know there is a difference between being encouraging to your child and being a monster. Like if my daughter wanted to be a psychologist. I would gather information on how locked up the career is. HOWEVER! I would try to find careers where she could combine it for a fantastic job, like possibly a forensic psychologist. But hopefully in 17 years if she wants to be one, the field will be open since I intend on encouraging her to follow dreams like that. Either way I’m going to be encouraging good grades and nothing below a C (for math). It’s the same rules my dad had on me and I was able to live within those guidelines.

  • Freela

    I agree with you that ‘do what you love’ needs to be tempered with common sense, in the way of ‘do what you love if there’s a market for it.’ I also think we need to remind our kids that many (perhaps most) people work to live but don’t live to work. We tend to think push the idea that if we do a job we love, we will be happy and fulfilled. In reality, a lot of people probably don’t love their jobs, but love their lives… the job is just one part of it. So I will encourage my kids not only to work at the job itself, but what else they want out of life and how a job will fit into that. Some jobs are very localized. If being mobile is important, this may not be a great choice. Some jobs involve a lot of contact with people, some are very isolated. Some jobs are 9 to 5, others will require a lot of travel, overtime, late nights, etc. Think about what you want in life generally, as well as what your strengths and likes are, and consider what fields are in demand and what fields not, and try to find something that satisfies all those criteria. I know I’m not doing anything I would have imagined doing as a child, but my job fits into my parenting and family life, allows me a lot of flexibility in terms of hours, and I’m happy generally with it and with how it works with the rest of my life.

  • NotCinderell

    I also have a degree in art history, and I understand your mindset. I joke that my degree is just enough to make me overqualified to be a secretary. And I’m in my 30s now getting a degree in dietetics, so I can have a job that pays.

    However, don’t be too tempted to hold your daughter back before she gets out of the starting gate. My mom (who hated my art history degree) told me I wasn’t good enough to be in college choirs, so I never bothered auditioning.

    Looking back, that was stupid, and I probably was good enough to get in.

    I realize it’s a fine line between being realistic and ruining someone’s self esteem, but we all need to be thoughtful.

  • Rachel Sea

    I was told I could be anything I wanted, but that good Jewish girls either marry doctors, or become them. I wanted to be an artist, but everyone told me I’d never be successful, and I believed them, and gave up. I tried for a nursing degree, but had an impossible time working full time, and getting into the classes I needed. And frankly, I hate school. Now I do bookkeeping, which is fine, but boring, and I do basketweaving (which I should have gone to college to study) on the side.

    I think I’ll tell any kids of mine that most people don’t like their jobs, and to pick something that they are at least good enough at that they’ll be content to put in the effort indefinitely, and that makes them enough money that they can still do what they love in their spare time. Most people don’t want the reality of careers doing their hobbies anyway.

    • SA

      Exactly. I’m also going to remind them to think about what type of family life they foresee and to look at the hours and work schedules typical of that career to see if the two mesh. I left a job that I loved to find something that provided less travel, less hours, and more of a set schedule so I could have time to see my friends and family; take holidays/vacations; etc

    • Rachel Sea

      The career path of my early 20s was thrown on it’s head when a wolfdog adopted me, and I broke my leg. You can’t be a touring pyrotechnician for rock bands when you can neither tour, nor walk.

      Thinking not only about the lifestyle they might have, but the lifestyle they might get is an excellent idea.

  • Leslie Hoff

    This post made me laugh, very well written and so true! I wanted to be a zoologist/ballerina/Broadway music star when I was little. Now that I have wised up and my daughter is getting to that age (HIGH SCHOOL) where her future needs some planning I thought we both could use some help. I found an amazing book by author Sarah Galimore called, “10 Things I Wish I Knew in High School” (https://www.eppinspires.com). Her book and her website have all the resources you and your child will need to help them plan for their college education and career pursuits! The author makes it very clear that education can be a huge waste of time and money if there isn’t a well devised plan not put in place. I went to school for Psychology and my debt is ridiculous…turns out I’m not even working in my field. I wish I had this book to open my eyes and help me make the right choices, because that’s what it all boils down to, the students choice (whether it be his/her major, college, career path, etc). I highly recommend it to parents and teens. High school and college can be overwhelming but if you don’t take advantage of the experience your working life probably won’t be much better!

  • justme7188

    My 8th grade daughter just had a “follow your dreams” assembly today, she explained it like this: “Mom, there was a 300+ pound girl who wanted to be a pop star and a skinny white kid who wanted to be a professional wrestler. Give me a break.” Not terribly PC, but at least she gets it.

  • Saphere

    I totally understand this article. Hard work doesn’t always pay off and you don’t always get what you want. But who really knows what they want, exactly? I’m going to university this year to study art, and I probably have more of a chance of getting a job with a degree than without one. My parents have always told me that art isn’t a ‘real job’ and I’ll end up a poor failure. I disagree. I don’t know where I will end up, but I could never turn my back on what I love the most, no matter how hard it gets.