Were you ever told that you could be whatever you wanted to be? I have a cliche country song image of being on my dad’s knee and him telling me that I can be whatever I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember my mind racing with possibilities. I could be a princess, a ballerina, a teacher, a mommy, or even an astronaut. Eventually that infinite list narrowed significantly and now as I look into my little boys’ eyes, I can reflect on when that list began to dwindle.
As a senior in high school I knew the plan: I was going to get my bachelor’s degree in English and become a teacher and hopefully one day be a stay-at-home mom. Then I shared my dream with friends, teachers and family. I heard a lot of positive and even apathetic responses, but the responses that resonated the most seemed so daunting. “You know, by the time you factor in grading papers and lesson plans, you’re working 50+ hours and end up hardly making any money.” I even heard, “You’ll end up relying on your husband’s income and be stuck.” After hearing more negative responses to sharing my dream I thought the majority was probably right. If I pursued my dream I would end up being overworked and underpaid and surely it wouldn’t be worth it. At the age of 19, a freshman in college, I was young and impressionable and I decided to leave that dream behind.
Even with scholarships, grants and loans, I could not afford college on my own. It eventually became more than I could afford and I was forced to put it on the back burner. God has a brilliant plan and by His grace I am sitting here as a stay-at-home mom of two beautiful little boys. Even though I am the happiest I have ever been and am truly living a dream, I know that some believe I have given up. I could have been a politician, a lawyer, hell, even an overworked teacher. But no, I settled and gave up to be a mom with no college degree. What am I teaching my children?
Here’s what I want my children to know: I don’t expect you to know what you want to do with the rest of your life at the age of 18. That time in your life is precious and carefree and I want you to enjoy it. If you want to go to college, that’s great. But make sure you pursue a degree that will get you closer to your goal. Otherwise, if you’re getting a degree to please other people, it ends up simply being a very expensive piece of paper. If you don’t want to go to college, that’s ok too. There are plenty of careers out there for you to pursue that do not require a traditional bachelor’s degree. You’re not confined to a dream you had when you were a child. If once you’re out in the “real world” and new opportunities present themselves and you decide to take a completely new path, that’s ok. That doesn’t mean you’ve given up, that means you’re learning and living.
Most importantly, I want my children to know that my love for them is unconditional. There is no disclaimer when I tell them that they can be whatever they want to be. There’s no fine print stating that it would be best of they got a safe career with great benefits and a steady income. No, they are entitled to pursue THEIR definition of happiness and success. Whether they have a dollar to their name or millions in the bank, my job and my greatest joy is to make sure they know that they’re loved and they make me so proud.