“Mom, I don’t really want to go to college,” my 13-year old daughter mentioned casually over hamburgers one night.
“What? Why not?” I gasped in horror, then I turned to my equally horrified husband. We have always had the expectation that both of our kids would go to a university. In fact, both David and I never expected anything less of ourselves when we were growing up, and David even went on to earn a medical degree post-college. We are higher education people!
So, where did we go wrong?
“What I really want to do is hair and makeup. Can’t I just get a license to do that and go on with my career? Besides, I’m just going to get married and become a mom someday.”
Oh, the humanity…!
To Meg and Josh, I have always been a stay-at-home mom, so maybe they’ve come to believe that as the norm and, perhaps, ideal. They don’t know my former life as a computer professional for which I earned a degree in Information and Computer Science from University of California at Irvine. Yes, I used to wear pantyhose and dryclean-only clothes and actually get a salary. I did the 9-to-5 grind and spent the weekends working on my music, dreaming of one day becoming a full-time musician.
Even after David and I got married and he eventually became a physician, it never dawned on me that I wouldn’t be “earning my keep.” He was supportive of my desire to ditch the computer work to pursue music full time, and I was in the midst of really trying to make it work when we started to have kids. I tried to continue touring and working in the biz for a while, but it just became too hard to juggle family and a musician’s life. It just made more sense for me to stay home as David’s income was much more stable than mine. So, I became a stay-at-home mom and a part-time musician.
Maybe I complained one too many times that my computer science degree was a complete waste in light of what I do now. Maybe we stressed the importance of character over grades a little too much. Or perhaps we lamented too often about the cost of higher education and the burden of student loans. In any case, somehow our daughter — our beautifully smart, highly intelligent young lady — got the idea that college would not be a necessary part of her life.
Although I wouldn’t describe myself as a feminist, I am grateful for the pioneers who opened the way for me to pursue whatever I wanted, never being held back due to my gender. I wasn’t limited to becoming a stay-at-home mom, although in the ended I chose to become one.
Then I started to think that maybe Meg has a point. Part of the freedom now afforded to women is the ability to make choices in life. And if that choice involves doing something she truly enjoys for a number of years before becoming a wife and mom, maybe it’s not such a bad thing…with or without a college diploma.
I do think that this girl would be wasting her high intellect if she doesn’t go to college. In fact, the academic world would be missing out on a gem of a student if she chooses a trade school instead of a university. We tried to persuade her into college for its many benefits — speaking and writing more intelligently, being challenged to think outside the box, learning the smarts to run her own business as a makeup artist or stylist, and generally having the respect from society for getting a college degree — but to no avail. When we brought up the fun she would have in the dorms with other co-eds, however, she became slightly more interested.
Meg is only in 8th grade, so it’s still quite possible that she would change her mind during the next four years. Although David and I are starting to feel less inclined to push her towards college if that’s not what she wants to do, this is still a bitter pill for us to swallow.
Anyone else facing a similar situation?