My dad sold insurance. He worked hard every day, then spent most evenings visiting the homes of his customers. He provided for his family, but his finances never quite reflected the degree of his effort.
Written by: Dr. Michael Weiss
That’s why he and my mother encouraged me to enter medicine. They believed that, if I was going to work hard for the rest of my life, I might as well work hard in a profession that would enable me always to have a job, to live wherever I wanted to live and to be respected in the community.
Obviously, they never anticipated managed care, which introduced job insecurity into health care. But they always wanted more for their children than they ever had for themselves.
So I listened to my parents and applied to medical school.
Fast-forward about 25 years.
My children are beginning to think about their futures. I’ve decided that I’m not going to advise them to be doctors or lawyers or anything else, or to pursue the professions that I want them to pursue, or to dream the dreams I want them to dream. I’m not even going to tell them what not to do.
Don’t get me wrong: My parents’ guidance was a gift that gave me a wonderful life working at a great job, managed care notwithstanding.
It’s just that things aren’t quite the same anymore.
In the time and place where I grew up, kids often became what their parents suggested they become, or at least we strongly considered it.
In the time and place in which my children are growing up, it’s a different story: We often tell our children that they can become just about anything they want.
In fact, if the statistics I heard while college shopping for my oldest are correct, our children are getting the message that they can become any number of "anythings" - all in the same lifetime. I’m told that 70 percent to 80 percent of college graduates enter fields that are different from the ones they trained for and that the average college graduate will change careers at least twice.
What does that mean for our kids?
I’m not totally sure, but I think it’s a good thing.
It may mean that they don’t need to figure out in their youth what will bring them joy in their later years. It may also mean that they need not feel locked into jobs that they may outgrow or tied to careers that they may find unfulfilling as the years pass on. Their lives may be a little richer because their experiences may be more varied and interesting. Their self-confidence will grow a little stronger as they become more comfortable with change.
But...it also means that they’ll live with more uncertainty, as their paths won’t always be so predictable and their destinies not always so clear.
That’s where we as parents come in.
We may not chart our children’s futures anymore, but we still can help to shape them. From us, our children can learn to be flexible and resilient and true to their dreams.
I needed direction. My children need a compass.
<< Back to Dr. Weiss's Columns