am i ok with my daughter aspiring to ‘mummy’? (what we want for our kids: a great career)

img_20170223_211934Every once in a while a familiar article sweeps its way through the press. From whichever angle it’s coming, the premise is that children whose parents ‘don’t work’ are less likely to work when they grow up.

Although I know that the article is mainly referring to a demographic of which I am not part, it still makes me bristle and ask a thousand questions. What is ‘work’? Does work have to be paid, in order to make it worthwhile? Why must we all do paid work? What is the value of parenting? What if the work of a stay-at-home parent is more visible to their children than if they were going out ‘to work’?

Last year my daughter came home from Nursery with a smiling photo of herself holding a chalkboard saying ‘Mummy’. Apparently, the teacher had asked them all what they wanted to be when they were older. I expect I should have felt honoured that my daughter had watched me at work and wanted to replicate. But largely I felt like I’d let her down. Here was a sharp, articulate, opinionated, creative, funny and thoughtful little person, with a huge range of talents. Why was she not aspiring to ‘more’? Later on, I was able to see the full display of children’s photos in the classroom, with all the chosen careers of a bunch of 4 year olds. They ranged from ‘cleaner’ to ‘teacher’ and ‘doctor’, with the odd ‘pirate’, my personal favourite. My daughter’s response, however, was in the minority.

Of course the irony was not lost on me, and within seconds I realised my double standards. Here I was, having made a deliberate decision to break my paid career in order to raise our children myself, never feeling like I was wasting my education, intelligence or talents in doing the demanding job of crafting small people into becoming confident, happy, selfless members of society, shouting about the pros and pros of this lifestyle to anyone who would listen – and yet, for my own daughter, this same decision was apparently going to cause me a lifetime of disappointment.

The truth is, of course, that none of my children could ever be a disappointment to me – but, if I’m totally honest (and this series is about just that), then I would love them to discover exciting and satisfying careers – and motherhood just doesn’t seem to cut it. Money is not my motivation, although it is for more parents than would like to admit it. (My husband, a former student pastor, was always shocked at the number of students from apparently Christian homes whose parents were putting pressure on them to enter well-paid professions.) For me, the career thing is about finding yourself, discovering what you’re good at, and learning how to contribute your gifts to society. I suppose that what it eventually comes down to is my need to know that I’ve passed on valuable talents to my children. They reflect me – in genes, in upbringing, in the experiences I’ve opened up for them. If they can’t do anything brilliant with this cocktail, then I’m frightened for what it says about me.

But if it’s ultimately about gifts and talents, why can’t I reconcile myself with the idea of my daughter (or my sons, for that matter) using their innate abilities to become wonderful parents, crafting the next generation as I’ve taken pride in crafting theirs? Perhaps I’m actually more concerned with status than I’d like to let on.

Can you relate? Do you hope and pray your children find careers which fulfil and satisfy them? Do you long for them to achieve financial prosperity through their hard work? Or status and recognition in their field of expertise? Would you be ever-so-slightly disappointed if ‘all’ they chose to do was a voluntary job, looking after young children or a sick partner? If they chose a low-paid job for a church or charity? If they went overseas and lived by faith?

Let’s try and pull out a few ideas which might help us overcome these unhealthy leanings towards our children’s careers:

  1. Read the gospels and allow yourself to be changed by them. I don’t need to tell you how unconcerned Jesus was with status. Listen, if my son was Jesus I’d be the proudest Mum alive – and yet he had no academic qualifications, no impressive CV, no management role, no salary. And he invested time in others who had little or no status when it came to their jobs. He also lost patience with those who were successful in the world’s eyes. What do we really want for our kids? Success with man or with Jesus? Success in this life or the next?
  2. Admit it’s your problem, not your child’s. This is huge. Say it out loud to God. Admit it, repent, ask for His help going forward.
  3. Confide any fears you have regarding your children’s future to a close Christian friend. Being accountable to one or two others is such a great model, found in Scripture, not least because it removes the blinkers in our own lives. As well as admitting your fears to God, admit them to your closest Christian friend so that they can pray for and with you about these issues too – they probably won’t disappear overnight, so we can do with all the help we can get.
  4. Pray, pray, pray that your children would become knowledgeable of, and confident in, the gifts God has given them as they grow older. Pray that they would end up in jobs which used these gifts. As we pray, God changes us, so I strongly believe that if we pray for what we know we should, then eventually we find ourselves praying for it because it is what we want.
  5. Spend some time with those you know who do ‘alternative’ careers – whether that’s something unpaid, or low-paid; a caring job or administrative role; something which the world does not deem ‘valuable’ enough to assign a salary to. Talk to them, listen to them, hang out with them – how do they see themselves? Why have they chosen this path? Are they any more or less satisfied? Do they crave money, power, responsibility and status? Opening our eyes to the varied ways in which people work will give us broader perspective as our kids grow and we help them navigate their own careers.

Your child is also God’s child. Like you, He wants the best for them. Unlike you, He created them and designed them to be the way they are. If we would only learn to trust Him with our little people then we might discover all sorts of new definitions for ‘great career’.

This is part of a new series called ‘What we want for our kids’. You can find the introduction here and the next post can be found here. Please share it on your social media channels if you’ve found it helpful. Ta!

8 Replies to “am i ok with my daughter aspiring to ‘mummy’? (what we want for our kids: a great career)”

  1. Full disclosure: I am a mum of two boys and a girl, who works part time.

    This is really interesting Lucy. There won’t be much of an order to my thoughts here, but here goes…

    Someone once told me that there is more value in making a person happy than making a happy person. It’s for this reason that I think adoption is so impressive. Of course then there’s this little thing called biology that gets in the way so that’s why we procreate. But (and it’s late so I’m probably going to sound harsher than I mean, so readers please take this as it’s meant – I’m grappling with it too!) I can’t really accept that motherhood is a ‘profession’ or a ‘ministry’. Doing something for a cause or reason that already is in need counts for that in my book, but creating lives and then tending to them is for me a vocation and calling. That doesn’t mean that it’s not worth doing, or that it should be valued less highly, but I think we should recognise the privilege here (and I count myself among these women who have done it). These people add to society, but their primary mission field or reason for their ‘profession’ is something of their own making (yes I know, God’s making, but there aren’t millions of potential babies that God assigns to people to bring up – they don’t exist except for us).

    So I understand why you and I feel inside that we want more for our children – is it not something more outward looking? Something that does more than just continue the biological cycle of birth and death.

    It’s interesting too what you or husband said about Christian parents wanting their children to get highly paid jobs. In my experience in student work it has very often been the opposite. Middle class Christian parents have worked extremely hard and told their kids “we will love you whatever you do, don’t feel you need to go off and work in the city. Follow what God is telling you.” And inadvertently they plant a seed in their children that it’s all going to work out and they’ll be able to have the same life their parents had and gave them, but without really knuckling down, drifting from student sabbatical officer job to think tank position to charity admin work to graduate studies… I have seen it so many times. I really believe hard work is a kingdom value and whether or not we see that in the home as a parent, I think a balance needs to be struck between telling our kids we love them unconditionally and helping them to discern a calling that allows them to not waste their talents.

    So I guess that’s why I work. I’m fortunate not to need the money but I want my children to see that it’s possible – girls especially whose mothers work are far more likely to be higher up within whatever profession they end up. Now they might end up being stay at home mums, but I wouldn’t want to feel I am limiting my daughters options or aspirations. This way she has more choices. I guess you might say that staying at home gives her a model of that though – so that’s where, like you, I come a bit unstuck. I’m muddling through I guess.

    Anyway, go easy on me, I know it sounds judgemental but I have thought a lot about it and am also just trying to do ge right thing

    1. Hi Alison, thanks for your thoughtful comment and for taking the time to reply. I love it when these blog posts inspire a discussion! No judgement here – it’s a safe place 🙂 Yes I can totally relate to a lot of what you say. I suppose for me the issue is separating what I’m culturally conditioned to believe (which includes ‘status’ in a job as being of high importance) and what comes from the Bible. Yes, hard work definitely comes from Scripture but, the older I get, the more forms I realise that takes, many of which don’t have any ‘status’ or value in the world’s eyes. I notice the double standards as I prepare to (eventually) return to work…am I doing it purely for the status, the money, the feeling of success, the notability? Or because God is calling me that way?

      Here I’ve focused on my own story, but this is not really about arguing for or against mothering as a profession, more a general question of “Are we wanting God’s best for our kids, or the world’s best?” This life, fortunately, is not the end goal!

      God bless. xx

  2. Oh Lucy, thank you so much for your honesty. I do hope you’ve found grace abounding in your own journey as you’ve set this all out on paper (or screen?!). ‘What is work?’ – well, quite. I wonder if a big part of this might be that our language needs to change – and I know that starts with me! X

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