My Daughter Doesn’t Care To Go To College — Is That Okay?

iStock_000011763147Small“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?

Did I Waste My College Degree and Career by Becoming a Mom?

My alma mater, UC Irvine

I have a bachelors of science in Information and Computer Science from UC Irvine.  I don’t work in that field now.  In fact, I had only worked in it for about 8 years when I transitioned to pursue my music.  Since childhood, there was nothing I wanted to do more than music, but I didn’t think that a music degree would help me much in pop.  Besides, I wanted to be a good Asian daughter to my parents, so I got a very practical degree despite the fact that computers was never my passion.

It just took motherhood to realize that I had majored in the wrong field.

Today, I’m a full time mom with a part-time job in music.  I try to perform as often as I can, but a great majority of my time is devoted to being a mom and a housewife.  I have to turn down possible bookings if they interfere with my kids’ schedules, and I have to think long and hard about traveling for my work (which I’m doing this later this week and about which I will surely blog).  So, does this mean that I totally wasted my college education and degree?

Well, maybe…

Being a mom requires a huge variety of skills.  Never before did I wish so much that I had been a Child Development major.  I rarely paid attention to babies and children before I became a mom; I was too busy being a Professional.  My friends who studied Child Psychology and Early Childhood Education had it so much easier than I did as a new mom.  I was practically in tears each night trying to figure out how to put a crying baby down or, later, how to handle a tantrum-throwing toddler.  I was never so tortured by such a tiny human being.

When the kids started reading, I wished that I had studied Literature so I could do a better job introducing our kids to the literary world.  For a long time while we had babies and toddlers, all I ever read were People magazines and the backs of cereal boxes. Not exactly the Classics. (For the record, I am now a voracious reader of real books!)

Once the kids were eating solids and beyond, I wished that I had studied Culinary Arts or Nutrition.  I was making terrible meals which, I’m sure, will continue to haunt me as I my kids march down the road to bad nutritional health.

I have also often wished that I had become a nurse, because there were so many health issues to deal with when kids are young.  Fortunately, we did have one member of our family in the medical field, so I felt a little better here.

But the aforementioned member of the family in the medical field works long hours, so I was the one who often played catch in the front yard with our son.  He also needed to try basketball and baseball at one point, but I knew nothing about these sports.  How I wished that I had majored in Physical Science and Sports Psychology!  As the kids got older and I felt the need to keep them (or at least get them) into shape, I wished that I knew more about Fitness Education.

Everything I did as a mother, it seemed, I had to learn from scratch, scouring the internet and reading up on volumes of books.  So often, I cry out to David, “But I didn’t get a degree in this!”  Now that the kids are in middle school and high school, I wished that I majored in Mathematics, Accounting, Social Sciences, Biology, Physiology, Psychology, and Political Science and had become a certified school teacher.

But I’ll tell you two areas where my major and profession have come in handy:

1.  I set up the LAN network in our house, complete with wireless remote printing from any of our devices.

2.  I sang them lullabies and wrote a song for each of my kids.

And when I start playing the “I could have/should have” game, I recall these words from Romans 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

He has indeed redeemed even this Computer Science major Panda Mom, so I do know that nothing — not even my college education –was a total wast, after all!

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Did you go to college?  How has your major helped you in motherhood (or not)?  Tell me about it!