I just came from Pinoy Moms Network and there was an entry by Analyse entitled What do you want to be when you grow up? I’ve traveled down that road before when I tried to analyze what seems to be a very simple question from different perspectives. There are no simple answers to that simple question. Issues of access to quality early education, personal interests and financial capacity are all factors.
The socio-economic factors I have already written about in a column about a year and a half ago. What I’m trying to ponder on right now is the preference of the individual vis a vis pressures from parental expectations. In a country where obeisance to parents’ wishes is the norm, how free is a person to really follow his heart when making career or professional choices?
A few generations ago, parents assigned professions to their children. The oldest male will be a doctor, the second a priest, the third a lawyer… the females almost always became teachers. During my mother’s time, there were only a handful of females in law school.
Today, many parents push their daughters — and even sons — to take up nursing because it is the current money-making profession. In some cases, the choice is made long before the child becomes an adult. Hence, parents who take their young children to every kind of audition or talent (sic) contest hoping that the exposure will lead to a career in entertainment.
Between then and now, how many Filipino children can actually stand up to their parents and say no, I will decide for myself?
When I filled out my application form to take the UPCAT years ago, I wanted to take up either European Languages or Theater Arts. But my mother said she wouldn’t pay for my tuition unless I chose Journalism. So, I did. A choice between going to college and not going to college, well… that’s a no brainer. One semester later, I shifted to a pre-law course — a choice I made out of spite because my mother specifically did not want me to take up law, a choice that had the support of my father.
Speedy’s passion is cars. To be more precise, he loves tinkering with their machines. He told me how he preferred to take up related vocational course after high school but it wasn’t an acceptable choice for a middle class family. So, he went on to become a mechanical engineer instead.
So, when I became a mother, I told myself I would consciously refrain from making comments — even in the guise of suggestions — as to careers my daughters should choose. So long as their choices make them happy, I will be content. See, for me, that is the mark of a truly productive person. A person who is allowed to do what he is most passionate about — to follow his own heart — has the best chances of becoming successful in his chosen field.
When Sam went from dreaming of becoming a vet to a professional chef to a professional photographer, I said the same thing every time she changed her mind — we will find the best school that offers the course she wants and proceeded to give her a digital camera. When Alex said she wanted to become multimedia graphics artist at the age of 11, I bought her a drawing pad with a matching stylus — the kind she could plug into her laptop so she could see on the screen what she was manually drawing on the pad with the stylus.
Some people think I give them things that are too expensive. I see it differently. I look at it as a chance to allow them to explore and hone what they feel passionate about. And if youthful interests turns out to be full-blown careers, then they will have the advantage of starting out early.
Like I said, whatever makes them happy.