I definitely haven’t started this line of questioning with my daughter. I’m pretty sure when I was a kid I volunteered the information more than I was asked. I wanted to be a nurse, a teacher, an opera singer, Madonna, and a psychologist at different periods in my childhood.
My mom stayed home, so I didn’t have her as a career role model. She always said I’d be a good teacher because I liked to boss people around. The other day my daughter, who is a few weeks short of four years old, offered up her opinions on her future career path.
Baby Galen: Mommy, you’re an author?
Me (cooking lunch or dinner or doing dishes): Yep.
Baby Galen: But you write books for adults.
Baby Galen: Mommy, I am going to be an author, but I’m going to write kids’ books.
Me: You are?
Baby Galen: Yes. But I have to wait until I get a little bigger.
Me: Yes, and you need to learn how to read and write.
Baby Galen: I know how to write! I can write A and B.
Me: That would be a short book.
And off we went to another conversation, but what I thought about later was the fact that this isn’t the first time we’ve had this conversation. I mean, it was the first in this incarnation, but it wasn’t the first time she told me she wanted to be an author. And it wasn’t the first time I thought, I don’t want her to be an author.
I promise you that when I was growing up the profession (I sort of laugh when I write that) of author never even occurred to me. I didn’t realize writing could be a job (again, laughing) until I was probably 25. Author is not a typical job, unlike firefighter, doctor, or teacher. Obviously, this interest Baby Galen has in being an author stems from wanting to do what her mommy does. Just like the kids of movie stars want to be actors and kids of engineers want to be engineers.
But I don’t want Baby Galen to be an author. Author is not a sturdy, solid, reliable job. For most authors, writing is their second job. The rest of us have rich husbands, a trust fund, or have been doing it so long we’re finally breaking even or making enough to pay a few bills. There’s no health insurance, no unemployment benefits, and you’re only as good as your last sales report.
Yes, I love being an author. I love writing books, and I am extremely lucky to be able to do what I do. Would I have chosen this as a career if I didn’t love it so much? No way. It’s a lot of work for very little monetary reward and a hell of a lot of public criticism. There’s no job security. I want Baby Galen to choose a career where she doesn’t have to worry if she ‘ll still be employed in six months or whether she’ll be able to pay her medical bill if she’s in an accident.
What did you want to be when you grew up (or maybe you’re still working on that)? What do you hope for your kids?