I come from a long line of 'company men'. My father worked for Ford as a translator for most of his long career. I had no examples of striking out on one's own and creating a destiny. My father, bless him, came home every single night, sat at the dinner table and complained about the stress of his job and moaned that retirement couldn't come too soon. My only impression was that he didn't like his job much. I was in my early teens when I suggested that since he loved sailing so much, that maybe he could get a job translating at a boat company. At least he'd be surrounded by a subject matter that he enjoyed. I thought it was a good suggestion: he thought I was an idealist and didn't understand the real world (silly me). I promised myself I wouldn't live my life looking forward to retirement. It didn't quite worked out the way I thought it would. I did go to college (albeit I graduated with a writing diploma... what good was that in the real world?). I even got jobs obscurely related to writing in the beginning... until they had nothing to do with writing. I came home and complained about the stress of my job and longed to quit. Huh. I became my father after all.
I worked my whole life. I had a paper route when I was 9. I started babysitting by the time I was 11. Part-time jobs all the way through high school. Worked every summer. Having a job and paying for the things we wanted was a clear expectation in our household. We lived in a middle-class neighbourhood (we lacked for nothing), but my parents were certainly not going to pay for any extras. We learned the value of a dollar at an early age. No question. Later, as a single mother, I worked overtime hours on a regular basis to make ends meet. I thought I was setting a good example. I thought I was teaching my children well –– instilling responsibility and a strong work ethic. My daughter, when she was about 17, looked at me and said, "one thing for sure, Mum. I sure as hell don't want to work as hard as you do... cuz that's just crazy." Everything I thought I was teaching my children backfired. But she was right. I certainly wasn't the best version of myself. I didn't laugh very much. I worried about money. I was serious, on edge and wound tight. She saw the real me, she knew I was in there, and she didn't think losing myself was worth it. Living in an apartment, driving a second-hand car and taking more holidays would probably have suited her better. She didn't care what my work title was. She didn't care about the stuff (that much)... she would have preferred to have her mum around more. (Full disclosure: something I've learned is that as parents, whatever we do, somehow it won't ever be quite right... it's universal law, so just let that whole idea go... right now! For the love of God and all things sacred.)
So the above preamble leads me to this nugget of wisdom. Our world is changing. The idea that we continue in our parents' footsteps with the same expectations for our kids is quite frankly ridiculous. Our teenagers and young adults are facing a very different landscape in terms of jobs/careers and life choices. My 18-year-old son is highly intelligent and capable of great things, but the education system hasn't been particularly a good fit for him, but I know he's going to figure it out. I trust him even when he doesn't have all the answers. Neither of my children will be going to college or university, as it stands at the moment. My daughter has an entrepreneurial spirit and has launched a photography business. And she's rocking it! She has a job that pays the bills and lets her live the life she wants. And she's happy. Isn't that what we want for our kids? She's had her rough times and through her own experiences she's grown and has gotten lots right. I'm really proud of both my children. They're not taking any of the traditional steps that our society drones into them. They're thinking on their own two feet. They're following their tug and making it happen for themselves. As it should be. No judgement. No fretting.
Parents of my age have to start realizing they did a good job (certainly the best they could with what they knew), the world IS different than when we were younger (it always is, always), and we all have to learn to hug the bend in the road. We can't live our children's lives for them. We don't know what their soul story is. The more we fuss, think we can help them by giving them all the answers (to outdated beliefs), they'll retreat and run the other way. Didn't we do the same? Whether they pursue a formal education or not, let them follow their own tug. If they go to university and college, they'll enhance their knowledge, not necessarily land a career. Some will, some won't. I think it's all learning. Learning what we don't want is just as valuable as learning what we do. And it's way better than feeling stuck longing for retirement.
I would love to hear your thoughts.
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