question to ask our daughters

Like many other stay at home moms today, I went to college. I went to college, and I’m still paying for those degrees I’m not really using (and I’m not sure I ever will).

As I watch that loan payment deduct from our bank account month after month, I sometimes question my choices. I wonder how I might have chosen differently had I known that I wanted to be a mom, and a stay at home, homeschooling mom at that.

You see, that wasn’t the plan.

In high school, when I was touring colleges and picking degrees, I wasn’t planning on getting married at 21 or having a baby at 23 or having four kids by now. If you have told me then that this is where I would be fifteen years later, I would have laughed in your face! Motherhood was not even a thought. In fact, I shunned the idea altogether and imagined having kids later in life.

And now I have a daughter.

Parenting often means asking hard questions, having challenging conversations - ones we're not really sure how to navigate. I wish someone had asked me this question. I wish I had thought about the future with this in mind, and now I have the chance to ask MY daughter. This advice might change nothing, but it just might change everything.

What Our Daughters Might Be One Day

Like so many other moms, I want to say to her, “What do you want to be when you grow up? You can do anything!” I see how absolutely awesome she is, her tremendous potential and so many possible career paths ahead.

But I hesitate, and that last part doesn’t leave my mouth because she’s a daughter…and I know what she might be one day.

A mom.

Yes, she just might become a mom, and despite what our society tells us (you CAN have it all – career, motherhood, marriage, THE WORKS), moms everywhere know the truth: when you become a mom, it’s just not that easy. Choices, so many really hard choices are thrown at you the second you see that little pink plus sign.

I am not saying that when you become a mom, you have to drop everything, scrap all your future career plans and stay home with your kids.

Not at all.

I know that path isn’t for everyone, and I also know (and am so thankful) that there are a million and a half ways to do motherhood in our modern world. I’m currently navigating my own mix of work at home, stay at home mom life right now.

What I am saying is, what if our daughters become moms, and they want to stay home with their kids?

What if they realize that in their heart of hearts, that’s what they want to do? What does that mean, and should it change the way they plan their lives, even from the time they are teenagers?

The Complexity of Motherhood

No one prepares us for the complexity of motherhood, for all those crazy feelings you feel when you hold your first baby in your arms. Even the women with the most resolute plans to return to work in six weeks are caught of guard by that moment. Some of those women toss those work plans right out the window at their first glimpse of their precious babies.

Other moms start out rocking the whole working mom thing, only to have life throw them a curve ball.

Remember the episode of Parenthood where high-powered lawyer Julia Braverman walks away from a very successful career because balancing that career with the intensity of motherhood and adoption was just too dang hard? She just wanted to be home with her kids, to stop missing everything, to stop splitting her focus in so many directions. (And yes, I know that didn’t work out too well for her, but that’s a whole other conversation.)

Whatever anyone else says or wants us to believe, motherhood changes everything.

It splits your focus in a thousand different directions.

You can balance work and motherhood, but it can feel like walking a tightrope…and the whole balance part? It doesn’t really feel like balance at all – more like crazy pendulum swinging back and forth from one extreme to the next.

Some days, you’re an awesome wife; other days, you’re an awesome employee; still other days, you’re an amazing mom. And all of that awesome? It rarely aligns on a single day.

Does it mean degrees are worthless if you decide to stay home or change your career path because of motherhood?

Does it mean that everything you have worked for is wasted?

Does it mean you will never get to do what you love to do, what you believe you are made for?

No, but it does mean you’ll have limits, ones you didn’t have before you became a mom.

question for our daughters about becoming moms

There are little people depending on you, after all, little people you love so fiercely, you don’t know how your heart doesn’t burst just thinking about them. Those little people need you, and because they need you, there will be less of you to go around for a while.

And that changes everything.

It might mean your dreams get put on hold.

It might mean they change altogether.

It might mean those dreams are fulfilled in a completely different way than you originally pictured.

It might mean you learn to juggle a whole lot of stuff in order to do it all.

We’re moms: we know this.

Related: Why Moms Should Quit Doing What They Don’t Absolutely Love

On the other hand, marriage and children are never a guarantee.

I have dear friends in their thirties with no obvious marriage prospects, as much as they desire to have a family. If they had planned their entire lives around motherhood, they would probably be more than a little bitter right now.

I also have a good friend who married young, but her journey to motherhood was filled with pricks and pokes and tests, and tears – so many tears, as she fought the hard battle of infertility. Her badge of motherhood was hard won and by no means was it a sure thing.

So what then, should we ask our daughters as they approach adulthood? What do we ask when motherhood is a possibility, but not an absolute certainty?

The Question We Need to Ask

“How will your plans change if you become a mom?”

Notice I didn’t say, “How will your plans change if you become a stay at home mom?” My only proposition here is that we talk about the concept of motherhood and that it changes things…get the idea out there. I mean, biologically speaking, as women, we are made to be moms, so it only makes sense to discuss it as a possibility.

I’ve heard so many women wish their parents had asked them this question, women with numerous regrets.

They would have avoided college debt.

They would have thought just a little bit more about that random liberal arts degree they’re still paying for month after month.

They would have chosen a different career.

They would have figured out how to work from home a lot sooner.

So many “would have’s”.

But even asking such a question as a woman in today’s world feels like we’re moving backward almost, working against what women have been trying to achieve for centuries.

And we’re afraid – afraid that by even asking at all, we will hold our daughters back from reaching their full potential, from doing all that they are capable of. We risk them choosing a different path based on the thought of something that might never actually come to pass.

Of course, asking the question doesn’t necessarily mean their plans will change. Our daughters are young after all, and they are perfectly entitled to make their own mistakes and walk their own road.

But what would you have done differently, if someone had asked you? Maybe you’ll ask, maybe you’ll start that conversation, and their plans will change. And maybe that’s a good thing.

Not taking on college debt? Good thing.

Going to college with a clear purpose (not because it’s the thing to do)? Good thing.

Choosing a career with motherhood in mind? Good thing.

Educating themselves about work from home options? Good thing.

I don’t know the timing of it all, and I honestly have no idea how such a conversation will go. But kind of like talking about the birds and the bees, none of us parents really know what we’re doing anyways (if you do, please tell me your secrets!). We don’t always know exactly what to say or how to say it.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t have the conversation.

We need to try.

We need to open the door to conversation, to a connection that will hopefully strengthen our relationship with our sweet daughters, so it can endure the ups and downs of growing up and becoming the women they are meant to be.

Even though it opens up a whole can of worms, let’s be brave, mamas. Let’s go there with our daughters.

They need to know about the joys and the complexities of motherhood.

They need to know it might change things.

Maybe asking won’t change anything, but they at least deserve to be asked.

I wish someone would have asked me. Do you?

Note: Special thanks to Chrystal Evans Hurst, who inspired this post when on a recent episode of the Inspired to Action podcast, she mentioned the need to ask our daughters this question.


Parenting often means asking hard questions, having hard conversations. I wish someone had asked me this question, which is why, as complicated as it is, I'm going to ask my daughter this question. Take this parenting advice as just that, advice. But at least consider it.

 

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23 Comments

  1. What is an education for? Is it an entry ticket to the rat race, or the cultivation of a mind? Why not worry about teaching our children of both genders to navigate and negotiate the work/family balance fairly for everyone?

    1. Author

      Great question Lauren! Thanks for sharing it. I agree that it is a question for both genders, and I hope to help all my kids give careful thought to their career paths. We certainly will be avoiding college debt, whatever paths they end up choosing.

  2. June,
    This is a great post. As I have been working in corporate America for the last 10+ years, I have spent quite a lot of time thinking about women in the workforce and in society, in general and have LOTS of thoughts 🙂

    1. Why not ask your sons the same question? i.e. How will they factor in fatherhood into their lives? I understand the argument that you are making regarding women biologically being the ones to carry and birth the child and agree that is obviously not something that is debatable. My point is that we have had a cultural revolution where we are telling our daughters that they can be anything they want to be, they can work outside the home or inside of it. But, we are still not telling our boys the same thing. What if boys want to work inside the home? There is so much stigma attached to boys who enjoy caring for others or who want to be stay at home dads. Example, there is a huge nursing shortage in our country and a large number of unemployed men from factories that shut down, but these men will not train to be nurses because of the stigma that nursing/teaching/raising children is “women’s work” and somehow beneath them.

    I believe that boys who want to be fathers should chose different careers from boys who do not. There are so many instances of men who have no relationship with their children because they chose a career that requires long work hours. I have met many people who have said things to me like “I barely saw my dad growing up”. The fact is that some jobs and roles are not family friendly. They require brutal hours and frankly anyone, regardless of gender, who has or wants to have a family should not take those jobs. To live a fulfilled life, I would want to make sure that my son picks a career that will allow him to see his wife and children. What if my son marries a woman who loves her job, makes more money than he does? What if it makes more sense for him to stay home instead of her? I don’t want my son to think that is not an option he should consider because somehow it is not ‘manly’.

    By not asking our sons to think about this, we are implying that they either do not have the option of staying home available to them or implying that raising their children is not their responsibility and only their wives or that their wives career aspirations are inferior to their’s. None of those are messages I would want to send to my son. We do our sons a disservice when we only ask this question to our daughters.

    2. I believe that many people get a graduate degree because they don’t know what else to do once the structure of school is gone. I know many friends who went on to get Ph.Ds because they didn’t know what to do after graduating only to get a Ph.D 5 years later and still not know what to do after. I completely agree with you that this is a waste of time and money and we should encourage our kids to think hard before signing themselves up for this, especially if they will be taking on debt while doing this. Using graduate school as a way to get out of having to make decisions about what you want to do with your life is very expensive.

    I feel differently about undergraduate degrees, however. I see your point that you feel like you are not using your degree. I can make the same argument that even though I am working,I am also not using my degree (I no longer work as an engineer). What I am using, though, is the ability to problem solve and figure things out by myself. I would argue that doing something like starting your own blog and figuring it out with no instructions is somehow similar to teaching yourself chemistry in chem101 🙂 I do think this is an immensely valuable skill that you gain from a good undergraduate education. I am biased, of course, and think it’s from learning to think like an engineer, but that’s another topic.

  3. Thank you for your words, I was nearly brought to tears a few times there. I went back to work two months after having our first baby and the split between being a new mom and working was so REAL. I ended up coming back home after two months of trying out the working mommy thing and luckily it has worked for us. My story will definitely be shared with my baby girl one day when she is older and planning her future, education, and motherhood. It’s SO important. Thank you again!

  4. Hey, friend! A very interesting perspective–and I can understand why you would have it. I know you are very burdened by the debt you carry from your years of schooling and degrees that go “unused”. BUT I can’t imagine you would make the argument that if you had known you’d go on to become a stay at home mom that you would have opted to not go to BU. Because if so, you would have never gotten involved with CFCF, gotten your life changed by Jesus, met Dave, and had these said children that are keeping you home!

    Instead of trying to talk your daughter out of attending college if she thinks one day she would want to be home with her children, why not help her think of degrees or vocations she can work towards in the meantime? Like Merry said, you can’t predict when she will meet her husband–and you might even be keeping her from meeting her future mate in college! Plus, there are so many life skills and friends and opportunities that we find in college. Personally, I wouldn’t want my kids to rack up debt just to get a bachelors in English or something like that, but if there is a vocational degree or really useful one they’re interested in, then finances can be a discussion. And how about helping her obtain scholarships and work-study programs if taking out loans isn’t an option? This isn’t a failsafe plan, but if you work towards scholarships early on, they may be obtainable.

    Like you said, you could have never predicted that you would be married by 21 and have your first child by 23. A 17 year old girl can’t truly make the decision that she will want to stay home with her kids full time or be a full time homemaker one day. Who knows when that will happen, anyway? Working hard in the real world helps make a well-rounded individual. Working and making money–even if for a couple of years before you’re married or before you have kids, can be invaluable in many ways.

    I agree that wracking up college debt willy nilly, without discussing other options, is unwise. But I don’t think staying home as a mom and obtaining a college degree have to be exclusive options.

    Thoughts? Love you!

    1. Author

      Hey Em! Thanks for your thoughts. 🙂 To be clear, I’m not saying girls shouldn’t ever go to college. What I am saying is that there are such a broad range of options available today, especially careers with flexible schedules and work from home options, that we need to educate our daughters (and sons, for that matter) about all the possibilities.

      As far as me personally, I am thankful for my time in Boston, which was obviously life-changing all around. However, I did not need to get a graduate degree following my undergraduate degree (the masters accounted for around 2/3 of my debt, and to me, was not worth that).

      If you argue that a 17 year old girl cannot make a decision about wanting to be home full-time, then how can they possibly make life-changing decisions about jobs and degrees and taking on student loans? (note: I do think a 17 year old can reach this kind of maturity, but I agree that not many have it today). This opens a whole other can of worms about our education system, what high school is and how our culture has made being a teenager an extended early childhood when in fact, it can be so much more – real training for adulthood. But you probably agree with me on that point.

      I know several women who said they knew from the time they were young that they wanted to be stay at home moms. That may not be every girls desire, but I think the subject needs to be broached. Even those who want to nothing more than to be stay at home moms do not often factor that into their future. As I said, it may not change anything. But then again, it just might, as indicated by Kendra’s story (see her comment below).

      Basically, I stand by my point that it needs to be talked about. The question needs to be asked and conversations had. I cant use my own experiences that I’m thankful I had (college in Boston), but that were poor decisions (taking on crippling student loans), to justify not having these conversations with my own daughter.

      1. Hi again;
        I think I’d have to jump into the fray again to ask more about what you might say to a daughter who wants nothing more than to be a wife and mother? That’s a wonderful desire, but that still leaves two things for her to consider: 1) What if that doesn’t happen for her, and 2) What will she do for income should dire circumstances require it (or even just the desires change as she matures and knows more about what she wants in life) once she is a wife and mother? Education is easier to come by while she’s still young and single without children.

        Not negating your very wise desire for no debt, or to stay at home with her children if that is her desire, not at all. But every girl should do all she can to be prepared, job-experienced and able to support herself in some way should the dire need arise, and most jobs without some kind of training simply won’t do it (vocational or just an AA rather than a 4-year college is just fine up front and these days perhaps preferable if there is something specific she’d like to train for!), which I learned to be grateful for, albeit in the most painful of ways. Without both vocational training and in my case nearly through college as well through having met my fiance at the end of my 20’s and then after his death at 34, I’d have been in dire straits as a “widowed nearly at the alter” adult.

        So I appreciate your article with the question and the conversation, no criticism here at all, just mentioning “the other side” challenges to add to the conversation … how to prepare girls for their futures no matter what their desires and goals might be, including if they want most to be wives and mothers at home with their children. I highly value such a plan, as parenting (whether we work outside the home or not) IS our most important role if we are blessed in that way. But circumstances can alter the best laid plans, so be sure she’s considering those questions as well as she considers her future. May God bless all of today’s Mothers as they work to help their daughters prepare for their futures in this challenging world today!

        1. Merry, I feel like you are wording my thoughts better than I could! I appreciate your input, which comes from personal experience as well.

          Love you, June!

          1. Thanks so much, but you’ve done just fine. Your experience covers one side of the dilemma and the challenge, and I’ve got the other! As Proverbs 27:17 says, “As Iron sharpens Iron, so one person sharpens another.” 🙂

      2. I agree that there are lots of different options these days, including way more affordable state and community colleges. And as far as graduate school… I just feel like one should really weigh their options, consider their passions and giftings, and listen to God for the next move. Which I know is what you are saying as well. Sometimes we find out we’re infertile, sometimes our husband doesn’t come along on our timeline… if my child is really interested in X and feels like she would make a difference in the world pursuing a masters in X, yet she stills wants to be a stay at home mom one day… It would be a conversation about what God is saying and about the financial options. I wouldn’t support just casually deciding to take on tons of debt to “figure out” what she wanted to do in life or anything like that. So I agree with you that conversations need to be had. But no matter our age, we can’t fully know how we will feel in 5, 10, 15 years; so if we feel called today to pursue a degree, then go for it–as financially responsibly as possible I guess.

        1. June, my last comment was meant for you and others who’ve commented every bit as much as Emily! We all have unique perspectives to offer to give well-rounded thought to the whole subject, which can only benefit those making the hard decisions for their yet-to-be-known futures. Our hindsights combined can become valuable tools to help them with foresight, and I realize that’s why you wrote the article in the first place! Well done! 🙂

  5. I appreciate your article… there is no easy solution in attempting to have foresight, for sure. I am on the other side of the equation. I wanted nothing more than to be a Mom, homeschooling my kids and staying at home with them someday. I took the “one year business college program” track, then spent my 20’s in “adventure jobs” here and there… ski resort, entertainment industry, personal assistant with lots of travel, etc., before taking an Administrative assistant job and reluctantly starting toward a 4-year degree at age 29 when I hadn’t connected with “the one”. Then I met him, of course. I continued with college until tragedy struck when he died 6 months before our wedding. Disheartened and grieving, I left college a year short of my degree and moved away, and have spent the time since then as an event coordinator in various places over the years – enjoyable, but nothing I ever would have chosen as a Mom, and in hindsight, I do wish I’d hung in there and finished first. I’m now working toward adoption from the foster care system, a long and painful road, while I try to figure out the best career that would allow me to raise this child myself and be at home as much as I possibly can while still bringing home the income we’ll need.

    The point is that we just can’t know the future! Even if you choose to be at home, if something happens to your “breadwinner”, whether through death, illness, unemployment or injury, it may then be up to you to provide for your family, and staying at home may be off the table as an option. So encouraging your girls to at least get some form of education, whether their AA degree so they’d only have 2 more years of schooling should the need arise to go to work, and/or some type of career training and then experience in that field at least until they have children – any or all of these would make life far more easily doable should the sudden need to find work arise in a crisis situation like this.

    I agree with you that years of debt from a 4-year degree you aren’t using can feel wasted, but you just never know! I still haven’t completed the last year for mine, not needing it due to my experience and expertise in my current career, so it’s a guessing game on just what you might need to make ends meet, but I’d have more options now if I had that degree… regardless of how irrelevant the degree, it still has value for opening doors no matter what the field. Still, at least some type of training and/or education and definitely some career experience would be critical should the need for working outside the home again suddenly arise. Even if you choose to start a small business or online job, that can take time you may not have in an emergency. You may also decide to take up a career when your children are older as well, and that degree gives you more options.

    So don’t consider it an “either/or”. I appreciated yours and the other comments as well… just so many angles to consider when you can’t know what the future may hold! Independent as I am, I’d have hated being a “spinster” in the days of old, forced to “be a burden”, to live with my parents or marry someone I didn’t want just to be provided for. So thankful I live now, when being a single career woman holds a completely different impression. 😉 We women are required to be Wonder Women for sure in today’s world, but we also have options that women of the past did not. Lots and lots of prayer in all decisions is my best recommendation!

    1. Author

      Merry – I so appreciate you taking the time to comment and share your own story! The more perspectives we have to glean from, the better. My heart goes out to you at experiencing such tragedy with the death of your fiance.

      You do bring up such a good point – we never know what life will throw at us, and perhaps the more options we can give our children, daughters or otherwise, the better off they will be. A good friend and I were just yesterday having a healthy debate about the necessity of college. Her main point was that so many parents today saying college isnt necessary are ones that DO HAVE college degrees. They don’t know the other side of the equation to be able to so easily brush off something they already have themselves.

      Still, I do stand by my passion to have my kids not have college debt at all, and if they do choose to attend, to do so with purpose. And as you said, lots of prayer in everything!

      Best to you, Merry, as you pursue adoption! I have watched several friends walk the journey of being a foster parent and hoping to adopt. It can be painful, but they consider it worth the pain and the risk of more pain in order to love on these kids. I admire everyone who adopts, and especially those who are doing so through the foster care system. It sounds like you will be a great mom!

      1. Oh, absolutely… I definitely agree with the passion to NOT rake in the mountains of debt that college can cost, just for a piece of paper. Finding grants, scholarships and other means to “pay as you go” are in everyone’s best interests, or choose another route if possible unless you have a specific career goal that requires it. These days, a 4-year college is not the only route to every career future, and today’s university degrees often don’t prepare or enable you for a career at all! Choosing wisely, whatever path, is critical.

        In your case and in hindsight where you can’t undo the debt, I only meant that since you already have it, you’ll have some additional options (and less obstacles) in the future should the need or desire arise.

        1. Author

          That’s what my mom keeps saying! 🙂 Let go of regrets, be thankful you have the degrees you have and trust that you have it for a reason.

  6. Thanks, June, for broaching such an important and delicate subject. I too went into college and grad school not having thought I would have a bunch of kids, and homeschool – yikes! Not in a million years! 🙂 I had a friend in high school who did think hard about this question, and she chose to get a 2-year degree in something that would allow her to get a specific, well-paying job she enjoyed, rather than, ahem, a 4-year degree in something vague followed by a graduate degree in something vague. I thought this friend was a little weird to be thinking so far ahead, and I saw myself as the “intellectual” one; why should I limit my choices for something as unintellectual as having babies in 10 or 15 years? Ironically, I am now the homeschooling, SAHM; my friend did marry and have kids but sends them to school and still loves her job, which has the benefit of being pretty flexible. I guess my point is that we never know what we’ll end up wanting, and it’s good to encourage kids to make choices that will allow them flexibility in the future!

    1. Author

      That is ironic, Heather. What are the odds? It is so true that we never know what we will want. It seems like giving lots of options and flexibility is the consensus!

  7. Here’s our story:

    Daughter #1 is a great student and very self-motivated. She loves math and science and was considering a career in dentistry, following in her dad’s footsteps. But her dad knew something else about her: She wants to be a wife and mom someday. A homeschooling mom, too.

    And so, he talked her out of dentistry, not because he didn’t think she wasn’t cut out for it or because he felt *all* she could do was wife/mom, but because there is the reality of dental practice in 2017. The reality is undergrad debt plus $300k dental school debt plus being the main producer in a business, which means there is no paid maternity leave. While you take that maternity leave, however long that might be, no one on your staff is being paid and you still have the school debt looming over your head, plus overhead expenses, and well, you get the idea.

    I know one could argue that she could graduate from dental school and go to work for someone else, but how long will that salaried position scratch her career goal itch, and how long will it take to pay off the debt? If she’s married and having kids, there is likely a mortgage and cars and health care in there, too.

    At the end of the day, she has decided to get her biology degree instead, leaving the next step open for when that time comes. Currently she thinks she’ll be a high school biology teacher, but college is exposing her to other career paths. There’s a chance she’ll decide to go to dental hygiene school, too, which isn’t a bad idea in terms of her life goals. Like nursing, dental hygiene often affords a per diem schedule at a substantial rate of of pay, making it an excellent option for a woman who wants to juggle work and children.

    1. Author

      Thanks for sharing Kendra! I have a friend in dentistry, and it definitely sounds like a system in need of revamping. To have so much debt and it be such a difficult field is disheartening. My husband and I only had a third of that together, and it was such a heavy burden. I can’t imagine more! It sounds like you and your husband have provided good counsel from experience. You do touch on another benefit of college – exposing you to different career paths and options. There are so many jobs I never even knew existed. I wish our education system could find a way to share the vastness of all that’s out there with its students.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment for everyone’s benefit!

  8. I agree, we need to talk openly about what choices and options there are. I’ve been successful in my business ventures and I did not get a degree, not for lack of wanting to, life just kept throwing me curve balls. But even if I did, the degree I was aiming for is nothing near what I am doing now, so it would have been useless. I created success without a huge college debt. Our world is changing, the view of what success is and how to get there is narrow, but it doesn’t have to be in yours or your child’s mind. I think this goes for both girls and boys. They need to think harder on what they really want in life (not just in a job) and learn realistic truths about college, is it truly necessary for their life path?

    1. Author

      You are so right! The road to success in life is very broad, especially with technology and the internet – for both men and women. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  9. Although the work-motherhood balance is difficult, I am actually amazed at our unique positions a women to be able to fulfill both these roles. I decided to start my side business to show my daughter that you still need to pursue your passions. We aren’t just moms or great employees – they are part of our identities but not everything that we are. I hope this is something I can model for my daughter so she knows it’s totally okay to have passions and use her talents and still be a great mom, if that’s in her future.

    1. Author

      I agree that it is crucial for our daughters to see us pursuing our passions. But even with blogging, I am only able to do it to a certain extent in this season, which is something I’ve had to accept. Instead of feeling like my kids are holding me back from doing what I love (which is tempting sometimes), I have accepted that I am able to do only so much, that motherhood is big part of my calling right now. A time will come when I will be able to more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jena! It’s always awesome to have more opinions and perspectives.

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