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Planning a Daughter's Future
I have been thinking a lot lately that the majority of my main parenting role is behind me. And I find myself mourning the loss, a little bit.

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You see, last week my husband took my daughter out driving for the first time (and she did quite well!). She's turning 16 this week, and she'll be out of the house in two years.

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I've found myself waking up in the middle night, dreams of my girls as toddlers (and of the baby boy that I lost) dancing on the edges of my brain. It's really hitting me that they will be launching out on their own soon.

And so perhaps it's been natural that I've been thinking and praying about what to launch them to. Now perhaps the title of my post is not a fair one, for I do feel that children should decide their own future, and not necessarily do what their parents tell them. But at the same time, our job is to advise, and so I am thinking about how to advise them.

When I was growing up, we were so focused on "what you want to be", by which we meant "what job you want to have", as if that was all there was to life. You had to settle on a career, and then other things would fit in around it.

In retrospect, I find that extremely silly. I married a doctor, and we have seen family members and friends also go into medicine, with its at least eight years of training, and nonstop studying and stress, and then find out that they just don't like doing call and being away from their families so much. And so they try to work part-time, or cut back, and find it's really difficult. But how do you give up on a career you spent eight years training for--eight hard years?

What matters to you as an adult is not what career you have as much as the kind of life you have, and where you want to spend your time. Some careers demand much more of you than others. They may also pay more, and let you have a certain material lifestyle, but they eat you up and spit you out, too.

Planning your life based on what career you're suited for, then, doesn't necessarily make you happy or fulfilled. It is so much more important to figure out what your values are, and where you want to spend your time, and what kind of family you will want, and only THEN figure out what job you want. Because for most of us, family will come before job.

Unfortunately, schools and universities spend almost no time talking about how you will build a family and all their time instead preparing kids for entrance tests and pushing them towards certain careers. But what if kids don't want those careers?

And so, coming from a highly educated family, I have begun to ask if I really want my children to be as highly educated--or, if so, what the purpose of education really is. And what do I want to advise them to do?

I'm raising girls, and so my advice list is very different than if I were raising boys. This doesn't seem fair I know, but I think it is reality. Most women want to stay home with their children. Most men do not. When they take surveys of working people and ask, "would you rather work less so that you can have more time with family?", the vast majority of women say yes. The vast majority of men say no. If most working women are unsatisfied, should this not count for something? Should we start asking about why and how we push girls into certain careers, then?

Of course it would be nice if everyone could work less, but practically it doesn't work that way usually. Someone has to make the money, and someone has to stay with the kids, and it's just easier if one person does one thing and the other does the other. I've known couples who have each worked half time, and that's great, too. But it's not that common.

And if most women want to stay home with their kids, and if we agree that a parent at home is superior to day care, then surely this must influence how we raise our girls?

Therefore, I'm considering these factors:

1. My daughters may have to provide for themselves for a time, or perhaps forever if they don't marry. Even if they do marry, they may have to support that husband while he's in training (I did), or be the sole support during times of unemployment or illness. Also, not to be pessimistic, but many women marry believing their husbands will love them forever, only to be abandoned. Therefore, they must have a skill that they could use to make an income. They must be trained in something that they enjoy, that they are suited for, and that matches their Christian values in some way.

2. At the same time, they should not train for a skill that would, if practiced, make it virtually impossible for them to stay home with their children. They should not spend years and years in training for something that they would, by nature of the job, have to quit if they wanted to stay home with their children. Therefore, dentistry, medicine, even teaching aren't necessarily high on the list.

3. Instead, we should steer towards jobs which are flexible and which allow part-time or even at-home work. Things like pharmacy, accounting, optometry, nursing, counseling, speech therapy, clinical psychologist, etc. etc. are closer to what they might do, because all of those jobs have part-time options (you could work a few nights a week if the family needed the income, or you could work from home).

4. University should be seen as a place to make good friends that will likely be lifelong, and so university should thus be chosen based on the type of student that is there far more than the quality of the particular program, since in the long run, who one marries and who one's friends are are of infinite more importance. For instance, I'm looking at universities for my daughter, and we're concentrating on cities with amazing churches for college & career groups, that offer shuttle services for church. We're looking at universities with strong Christian groups on campus. We're looking at places close enough that she could come home occasionally.

5. Any higher education should not assume an inordinate amount of debt, because then you have to devote your first decade of working to paying off that debt, rather than saving for a house so that it's easier to stay home with kids.

6. Entrepreneurial skills are extremely undertaught in schools, and necessary in life. Probably the best option my girls have is to figure out some sort of business they could do from home, so steering them in that direction is another thing I'm doing. We're looking at what skills the kids have, and what interests they have, that could turn into a business (after all, that's what I've done with my writing and speaking).

How would this differ for boys? Because a boy likely won't choose to stay at home as readily as a girl will want to, he could go into other careers like medicine more easily. But the other things are pretty much the same.

One last thing: it pains me to say that I am steering my girls away from certain educational opportunities, simply because they are girls. But my girls also agree. The number one thing they want in life is to marry and have kids. Most girls are the same way. And yet schools, and many parents, tend to turn to these girls and "pooh pooh" these desires and tell them they should aim for the sky anyway in terms of careers.

If my daughter honestly felt called to be a doctor, I would of course encourage her, because how do I know God isn't calling her to that? But since neither feels that calling (perhaps because they see how hard their dad works), I'd rather steer them towards a career goal that will mesh with their desires for a family, and their calling as mothers, which I still believe is different from a calling for fathers. I don't see men wrestling with the question of whether or not to work the way women do. It's time that culture admitted this and helped girls make smarter choices, before they wind up $200,000 in debt to train for a career they ultimately don't want.

I have seven years of university behind me, and while I don't exactly regret those years, I also didn't really use that education in what I'm doing now, and I'm not sure how useful much of it was. I met some amazing people (and married one of them), and I learned how to write. But I have learned much more since leaving university (I didn't realize how anti-truth universities really are until I got there and learned that "everything is relative"), and I know so much more about history and culture and literature and life just in my own reading than I ever learned at university. I had so many friends in the Ph.D. programs at those universities, and of them all, I can tell you that the men are still working in their fields, while all the women, with the exception of one, are not. They stopped working to stay home with their kids, and then found they couldn't keep up with the research demands a career in academia had.

I think we push women far too quickly into career decisions without giving enough thought to what kind of life they really want to lead. If a girl wants to stay home, is that so wrong? And should that not be factored in?

And so I am here, thinking about what will happen when my baby is a mother, because, at 16, she is closer to her years of having babies than I am to those years past. This is a strange position to be in--I am closer to my grandchildren as babies than I am to my children as babies, most likely. And so I look ahead, and pray, and plan.

What do you think?

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19 Comments:

At 10:00 AM , Blogger Llama Momma said…

So well said, Sheila. I wish someone had told me in college that it's OKAY to consider career options that mesh well with family life. Nobody did.

So many of my "mom friends" are going BACK to college to get degrees to become nurses and U/S techs instead of marketing or whatever they were doing before. Because now that their kids are getting older, they'd like to work part-time...but not at the career they had pre-kids.

There are so few voices out there telling girls it's okay to WANT to marry and raise a family...and it's okay to consider those desires when you're in college.

Your daughters are lucky to have you for a mom, Sheila. :-)

 

At 11:07 AM , Blogger Terry @ Breathing Grace said…

Love this one too, Sheila. I think I'll put it on the link list!

 

At 11:35 AM , Blogger Janel said…

I think it's fabulous advice. It's balanced, thoughtful and exactly the kind of questions that need to be asking. Thanks!.

 

At 11:49 AM , Blogger Mrs.C said…

I agree, prepare our girls, our Christian daughters, for the path God has planned for them, if they marry.

Back in my school days, not enough was taught on your life as a parent or spouse. That wasn't addressed at all. Time was scheduled to meet w/ counselors so that they could guide you to something you could do with your life, that had absolutely nothing to do who you were, what your parents taught you. These counselors did not know the students well enough to be advising them on anything.

I know so many more parents who are thinking along the lines of what God has ordained for their child, whether boy or girl, and they're talking w/ & training their kids with that in mind, what their future will hold should they marry and be either provider(for boys) or home-keeper(for girls). It's so encouraging to see so many parents taking an active role in helping their children think about the future.

 

At 12:28 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I find this really interesting. Growing up, I never contemplated the act of balancing kids and work. It was only after I began seriously dating my husband that I realized that there were things I might want outside of the career I was training for. No one counseled me about career choices that would allow me a good home life. Now, with my last semester of schooling and with plans to start a family, I wonder if I will ever really use my doctorate. I'm not sure if it was worth it.

 

At 3:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I agree with most of this, especially that you should consider the possibility of how you will balance a career and family. BUT... I think it is wrong to steer children into career paths that seem to mesh well with family life- unless you know your daughter is going to get married (and have children). While it should be considered it should not be assumed. God doesn't call everyone to family life and definitely not always straight out of university. There can still be time for a meaningful career in which women can be used of God until God blesses them with families.

 

At 3:40 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

To the first anonymous,

I can feel your pain! I don't think education is ever really wasted; we do make use of it later, just in different ways. But I know it's hard.

To the second Anonymous: I know what you're saying. The girls may NOT marry. But here's my problem: what if they go into a field that requires a LOT of education that is very expensive, which, if you then later chose not to work in that profession, would leave you really feeling like you had chosen wrongly? That's the issue to me. As I said, if my child felt called to be a dentist or something, I'd encourage her. But absent such a strong calling, I would never push her in a direction that would require a ton of expensive and long training that then could really only be used in one way--by having an office that is open during the daytime hours, or spending a ton of time away from the family.

If they want to pursue a career before family came that they couldn't do later, but that career didn't require a whole ton of years of education, I'd have no problem with it. My problem is with women spending all of their twenties in training, only to realize at age 32 that they can never really use that training. I don't think that's helpful.

So I'd rather find a career they could be happy with that they could use to support themselves, if necessary, but that they could also work at part-time, if that also became more of a reality.

 

At 3:58 PM , Blogger Cara said…

Looking back, I wish I had thought about the future the way you describe it here. Instead, I feel regret. I don't regret having a college degree, but I definitely regret putting so much time into something that I do not, for the most part, use. On top of that, my husband and I continue to pay for that education years later. I truly hope that those who read this post will put a lot of thought into it. Thank you for sharing!

 

At 4:16 PM , Blogger Cindy said…

I love the way you approach careers for daughters. I plan to give my daughter (now 2) precisely the same education I give my sons, and then prepare her to aim for happiness, rather than prestige, in choosing a career. She WILL feel the pull toward home when she has children, and I don't want her bogged down under tons of student debt or a demanding career. I want her, like her mom, to be capable of doing whatever she needs to do to be a good mom, not what feminism *wants* her to do, which is practically anything but that. I wrote a post about the push for girls to decide "what they want to be" when they grow up. It's here if you want to take a gander: http://getalonghome.com/?p=4362

 

At 4:23 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Cindy,

That's a great post! Just read it. If you all haven't read it, click through here:
http://getalonghome.com/2010/06/just-mommy/

You said a lot of interesting things, but one of the things I really took away from it was how we are doing our children a disservice by not teaching them how to run a home. We somehow figure people will discover that magically, all on their own, so instead we should focus absolutely ALL our energy into preparing for a career, even though that's down the list of priorities for most people. And then we become mommies, and we're overwhelmed!

It's sad.

 

At 5:51 PM , OpenID lettersfromnebby said…

Well, I dropped out of grad school (an expensive one at that) just when I woudl have been beginning my PhD dissertation. I left to be home with my kids. So far, nine years later I have no regrets about leaving nor any desire ot go back to that lifestyle. On the other hand, I met my husband while we were in grad school together so I also can't regret the time I spent there. I guess for me the main thing is that we don't have to feel like failures for changing tracks mid-stream. Just because you don't finish something doesn't mean that you were not following God's will, either in beginning it or in choosing to leave it (whatever it is for you).

 

At 10:21 PM , Blogger Kelly@Tabitha's Team said…

I wouldn't second guess yourself for a minute. Like you said, it would be a different story if your daughters felt a deep passionate call to be doctors or astronauts or whatever. I wrote about this once and called it the "smart girls" lie. Girls my age grew up with the message that "smart girls" don't stay home and become mothers. The result? Confused women who now can't make that choice, and a generation that places no value on motherhood.

You're not telling them they "can't.". You are giving them the gift of empowerment.

 

At 1:10 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

This post was well written and clearly stated. Thank you for sharing the excellent points you made! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this! Tiffany K.

 

At 5:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Not all of us are going to marry doctors or even men who earn enough income to support a family (and rather than a character flaw, it's part of our society). In that respect I am thankful that I have the education to help provide for our family's needs and be able to work part-time (although I do not work nights--and I believe shift work can take a toll on married couples).

Nurse Bee

 

At 5:06 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Nurse Bee, I totally agree, which is why I wrote about trying to find careers where you could work part-time or from home, if necessary, if you had to supplement the income!

 

At 1:05 PM , Anonymous kharking said…

Excellent advice! I especially appreciated your first point that daughters should be prepared to support themselves if necessary, something that I often see missing in discussions oriented toward encouraging daughters to prepare to be at home. I entered a career that supported me until I met my husband, supported us until he finished his degree and found a job and, now that I am home with our baby, allows me to work as much or as little as we need to make ends meet. So my life is a great example of how well that approach can play out. As an instance of encouraging those who feel called otherwise, let me propose one of my sisters, who is unmarried and unlikely to have children because of serious health problems, is pursuing her masters in a field that she loves. More power to her!

 

At 11:18 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I didn't pick nursing based on that criteria however. Getting married was for me a (pleasant) surprise, and never something I planned on.

I only have daughters right now, but I imagine that we will counsel all our children to pursue careers they will enjoy and that allow time for family.

Nurse Bee

 

At 12:28 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I only wish that I had been able to counsel my daughter in this fashion. I did not and now she too is struggling to "find her way". This is a very well written post and I do hope that many of today's mother's take it to heart and practice it.

 

At 11:34 AM , Blogger Bethany said…

I love the rationale! I think it's important to remember that sometimes, you may have to turn down what seems like a good option to choose God'd best. Sometimes, though, God enables us to do multiple things we wouldn't have thought it possible to combine! For example, I'm a stay-at-home mom to three little kids - but I'm also someone who puts high value on higher education. Now I'm able to combine both: I'm a fulltime mommy by day, and a university student by night (once they're in bed!), because I take courses by distance from AthabascaU. It's amazing how God can work things out to allow us to balance multiple aspects of life!

 
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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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