My parents are in their eighties. When they were married in the 1940s, it wasn't unusual at that time for a wife to give up work and become a housewife after marriage. It was then hoped, not long after the 'I dos' were spoken, that the good news of a child's imminent arrival would be announced.
My own mother was no exception. She left her job at the local milk bar in country Western Australia when she married my father, and never looked back. Her dream was always to stay at home with her children, and she did. She never 'worked' another day in her life.
Growing up, I had the same dream. From as early on as I can remember, I wanted to get married, have children and become a stay at home mum. I'm still glad that was my decision. However, I can't help but wonder some times: was it really my choice?
I want to preface this post by saying I am not blaming my parents for anything. I believe they only wanted for me what they thought was best, and would make me happiest - because the same thing made them so happy: a family life. I also think, had I gone to them at some stage and said, "I want to start my own business," or, "I want to do a writing course when I finish school," that they would have supported that too.
It's just that, I don't recall my parents ever suggesting a career for my future. There was certainly never an expectation that I would go on to university or undertake any further education after I finished high school. In fact, when it came to schoolwork in general, my parents never placed any sort of pressure on me at all to excel. I was always told, "Just do your best."
Which sounds wonderful in a way, don't you think? These days, I think kids are placed under an enormous amount of pressure to succeed, and from a very early age. With the workforce being far more competitive, a good education is paramount.
However, whilst I have no desire to place my children under any sort of stress or anxiety about their future - especially at such a young age - I truly believe kids need a certain amount of encouragement and motivation to do well. They need to know what's expected of them (within reason). Although my husband can't recall being told either directly or indirectly that university was expected of him and his two brothers, it always seemed to him that going on to further education was a given (and all three boys did). He is very glad he did so.
In contrast, it was always assumed by my parents - as it was the case for them - that I would leave school, find a job, then eventually marry and have my own family. End of story. For me to have a career wasn't important, in their mind. They probably figured that, as a woman, I would eventually have someone to take care of me, just as my mother had. (And my father has done a terribly good job of looking after her and my sisters and I, just as my mother did an excellent job looking after all of us.)
When my parents told me to just do my best, it didn't make me actually want to do my best at all. For me, it was almost as though they were giving me permission to take my foot off the pedal and sit back and see where life took me. With no expectations to produce a good report card, I had absolutely no reason - nor motivation or desire - to do well in school, no matter what my potential was. As far as I was concerned, my path in life was already set.
As it turned out, I am happy with my life. Being a SAHM is a dream 'job' for me. However, I do sometimes wonder, had there been an expectation for me to go on to university or TAFE, would I have, for example, perhaps pursued my writing? Pursued something else that would fulfil me alongside my role as a wife and mother?
That, I will never know.
However, what I do know for certain, is that if I had girls myself, I would never assume this future for them, as beautiful as it is. As I do with my boys now, if I had a daughter I would tell her the following: "Work hard. Always put 100% effort in. Do well in school, because if you do, you can then go on to further education and decide exactly what you want to do some day. You will have choices, and having choices means you can choose any job you want to. Doing a job you love is the greatest thing."
I want my boys to know they can do anything they want to when they grow up. That working hard will give them choices. I don't want to set a path for them per se, but I do want to help them to achieve whatever it is they want for their future, and be happy.
By giving them choices.
What's your thoughts on further education? Do you expect your children to study after high school? Were you expected to go to uni or TAFE as a kid? Do you think your parents modelled your future for you, whether unintentionally or not?
Image: We Heart It