I graduated with my doctorate back in May and since then I have been a bit adrift, professionally. You see, it is difficult to forge a career in academia when you’re not willing or able to pick up and move across the country for a teaching or research position. As such, I’m left with trying to cobble together a living and a professional identity while also trying to get a foothold on what it is, exactly, I want to be doing with my life.
This can present a challenge on the parenting front in a number of ways. For one thing, you want to impress upon your child the importance of taking one’s studies seriously and developing a set of interests that can grow into a lifelong passion, preferably one that will bring in a good salary. For example, I’m really hoping that my son’s interest in baseball will someday lead to a long major-league career in which he transitions beautifully from being a highly paid player to a highly paid coach. Or that my daughter’s interest in clothes and coloring and painting will translate into a high-flying career as a fashion designer who people like Anna Wintour and Posh Spice have on their speed dial. A girl can dream, right?
But these are what my husband calls “top-of-the-pyramid concerns,” referring to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how the need for self-actualization is, essentially, the icing on the cake when it comes to life. My kids will sort things out on their own, and my hope is that I can provide them with the kind of career guidance they need, when they need it. My primary concern now is how I parent when I’m faced with figuring out what I want to be when I grow up while also packing my kids’ school lunches every morning.
As parents, we are supposed to model and encourage positive self-image and optimism and determination and all of those other bootstrappy values we value so much in the U.S. of A., but how do you square being discouraged on a daily basis with making your children feel safe, secure, and unconditionally loved? How do you keep from directing your worry and anger at your children in the form of carping about chores or homework? I feel fortunate in that I have more work than I can possibly handle right now, and that we are able to provide our children with things like ukulele and dance lessons. And for now, I’m willing to set aside my quest for self-actualization (and my dreams of opening a catering or custom quilt business) in exchange for keeping them happy and healthy.
How do you deal with changing jobs or careers/professions as a parent? Should we set aside our desires for professional satisfaction in order to ensure our kids’ well being? Or is it a worthwhile risk to follow your dreams and bring your kids along for the ride?