Madwoman Out of the Attic

a feminist trudging forward in a patriarchal world

Thursday, December 01, 2005

changing expectations...and desires

Over at FMH, someone posted saying that English was a "worthless" degree because you couldn't earn any money with it. He went on to say that he was actively steering his daughter away from the humanities and was hoping that she would become a CEO someday.

His comments really bothered me. And the fact that they bothered me shows just how much I've changed in the last few years. In my younger years, I too would have wanted my children, male and female, to go into lucrative, prestigious professions. This was what I expected from myself. This is what I expected from my husband. This is certainly what I wanted for my kids.

But life has turned out a little different than I expected. Instead of marrying a doctor or a lawyer, I married an academic who will never bring home the big bucks. After earning two masters degrees myself, I went into teaching, a profession which earns little prestige or respect. And perhaps because my life has turned out to be different financially than I thought, (and perhaps because I want to justify and legitimate the choices I've made - cognitive dissonance and all) I've pretty much done a 180 on this topic and have really begun to question my former mindframe.

I asked myself, is the high powered, high stress, huge money corporate life what I want for my children? And I've come to the conclusion that this is no longer what I want for my kids. Of course, I want them to do whatever makes them happy, but I've come to believe they might just have a better chance at happiness if they don't have that lifestyle as a major goal. What I do want for them now seems a bit more soulful and substantial to me.

Now I want them to feel like they are making meaningful contributions to the community, stretching themselves, constantly challenged, with their visions and perspectives on life continually enhanced. And, of course, I would like them to have time to spend with their families. This has come to mean a lot to me as I reflect on some of the perks of Mike being an academic. It means everything to me that he will have an incredibly flexible schedule and be able to equal parent with me.

To me, these things - contributing meaningfully, continually being challenged, and time with family - will have a good chance at leading to a meaningful and fulfilling life, despite the fact that this may not lead to a six figure salary.

And so, my future children, I hope you will keep yourself open to the humanities. Painters, librarians, teachers, social workers - any of these professions would make me proud. But if you are passionate about and intrigued by law or medicine, I'd be ok with that too. Just don't do it for the money.


Anonymous Mike said...

Are you sure that the FMH comment you mentioned was made by a real person? (Especially given our friend Brian's recent events.)

I'm happy about your 180 turn. I think life is better with financial stability than without it, all else equal, but I believe that a happy and fulfilling life is achieved not through income maximization but through good relationships.

I did laugh at your comment about "the high powered, high, stress, huge money corporate life." My job has high stress but no power.

12/04/2005 4:46 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Yup, I'm pretty sure that was a real person, and even if it wasn't it still bugged.

I agree with you about the good relationships:)And you're right to point out that life is easier without having to be enormously stressed about providing the bare essentials.

And baby, you do have power. You have status. You have automatic credibility because of your PhD. The only one out of those that you don't have is huge money. But I suppose even that's relative. And, of course, your stress will go down once you're tenured.

12/04/2005 8:41 PM  

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