Why Bother?

My daughter informed me the other day that she wants to be an interior designer when she grows up.  This was news to me, because up until now she’s always wanted to be a singer, and possibly an actress or a fashion designer, but that last one is just because she likes to watch Project Runway. 

 

At first I wasn’t sure where interior designer came from, but then I realized that we’ve been redecorating our den for the last few months, and I think she’s really enjoyed helping me pick out fabrics and rugs and furniture.  (Also, I recently videotaped her singing Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain,” and when she watched it back I think she was a little disheartened.  "I’m so much better in my head," she said, after she saw it. "I stink in real life." Which, to be fair, isn’t true.  She does have a very pretty voice.  But I think she realized for the first time that she may not be a shoo-in to win The X Factor when she turns twelve in two years).

 

Anyway, what was interesting about the fact that she wants to be an interior designer is not that she wants to be an interior designer.  What was interesting was her explanation that being an interior designer a) allows you to “actually make a living,” as opposed to being an always-struggling-to-make-it singer or dancer or actress, and b) (and here’s where it gets really interesting), it’s a good job for a mom because you “don’t have to, like, have a boss and stuff and you can do it when you want to.” 

 

Okay, now, when I was nine, I don’t recall thinking about what would be a good job for a mom. In fact, I wasn’t thinking about what would be a good job for a mom when I was twenty-five.  Actually, now that I think about it, it didn’t even occur to me that being a mom might interfere with my job until I actually was a mom.  And then I was like, crap, how come nobody told me that it might not be so easy to work fifty hours a week and take business trips and have a newborn at home?

 

So on the one hand, I guess I’m kind of happy that my daughter is already being realistic about the types of careers that allow for flexibility, and that she’s already thinking about her priorities in life.  I suppose she’s heard me say enough times that writing is a really great gig for a mom because it allows me to set my own hours and be home for my kids after school, and I suppose the lessons of my life story - high-powered lawyer turned middle-powered college counselor turned low-powered novelist - must have sunk in to her little brain enough for her to understand that actually, no, you can’t have it all, or at least, not all at the same time. 

 

But on the other hand, I feel a little sad about the idea that she might already be settling for less than she’s capable of - at nine - all in the name of having a good mom gig.  I mean, how does that bode for the next generation of women?  Is it possible that the lesson of our generation is that being a high-level executive or a partner in a big law firm or the chief medical resident at a hospital just isn’t worth it?  Are we teaching our daughters that the real goal for a career is finding something to do that allows us to work from home, so that we can be there to drive carpool in the morning and help with homework after school?

schneepy
01.25.12

Your post reminds me of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's great TED talk. She makes the point that women should pursue whatever they want to, and only when they are in the situation of having a child and wanting more flexibility/a slower pace, etc, should they power down their careers. Love the message. Here's the link:
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_wom...

sweetbabyjs
01.25.12

Why is it "settling for less" to have "a good mom gig"? Some women desire high powered careers, others desire to be wife and mom, some do both whether by choice or because of cirmcumstances. Perhaps your daughter has realized on some concious our subconcious level the benefits of having her mom around more than a "regular" or high powered job would allow. I agree that we should teach our daughters that they can be anything they strive to be (I have 2). But striving to be a mom, and a mom that's home full time or part time, shouldn't be put before them as a second class option to having a career or doing things that society deems as "big" or "high powered". What we should be teaching our children is values. Your values obviously included you wanting to be home with your kids and there is nothing wrong with that. If your daughter chooses to do the same, then can't you say you instilled in values that you believe to be important, and if so, how is that a bad thing?

btwlzyq
01.25.12

and I suppose the lessons of my life story - high-powered lawyer turned middle-powered college counselor turned low-powered novelist
Steel pipe|
- must have sunk in to her little brain enough for her to understand that actually, no, you can’t have it all, or at least, no