What Will We Tell Our Daughters?
If there is a god of after school activity schedule coordinating, he must have been smiling down on me when I discovered a gym that offers gymnastics classes for four year-old boys and six year-old girls, at exactly the same time. And then he must have decided that I have a nice butt, or something, because he did me the further favor of populating the class with several children who just happen to have smart, fabulous, interesting mothers. So not only do I get to kill two birds with one stone each week, but I also get to do it with a group of, well, I don’t know what you would call people who kill birds with stones, but whatever, my point is, I get to hang out with a cool group of moms while we wait for our kids to finish jumping on trampolines, falling off balance beams and performing vaguely cartweelish-type maneuvers.
The gymnastics coffee klatch group is an eclectic bunch – aside from me, there’s a former lawyer, a former investment banker, a very part-time voice over actress, and an independent television producer with the luxury of setting her own work schedule. And most of us are in the same place with our kids – one or two in elementary school, with another one or two still in preschool. We talk about our kids, of course, but inevitably, the conversation always seems to turn to work. What will we do when our kids are in school full time? What options are there for a former investment banker or a former lawyer, aside from going back to work as an investment banker or a lawyer? What would it be like to go back to school now, at this point in life, in the hopes of starting a new career? And this week, a new twist in the discussion: when our daughters go off to college, what will we tell them about choosing a career?
It’s an interesting question, and one that I, personally, hadn’t thought about before. After all, when I was a kid, my mom told me that I could be anything I wanted to be, and I’ve always just assumed that that’s what you tell your kids, whether they’re girls or boys. But one of the moms that day pointed out that we, as the first generation of mothers to fully understand and accept the idea that ‘having it all’ is an impossible goal, are in a unique position to guide our daughters into careers and lives that might, ultimately, spare them the angst that a lot of us are going through right now. After all, she said, knowing what we know now, would we still have chosen to work at big law firms, or at major investment banks, or might we have chosen jobs with more flexibility from the start?