In which I offer my children some threats, I mean, advice on the future

The world is changing at the most rapid pace in history and flexibility is the key to keeping up. Last night I was talking about goals and educational paths with my older kids. I gave them this unsolicited advice, “Don’t go into manufacturing. That’s so last century. Don’t get a job doing customer service for computers. Those jobs are in India, and I won’t let you take my grandkids that far away from me.”

My oldest son wants to take a course next school year in video game programming. He thinks he’s going to get a good paying job writing code for his generation’s version of Donkey Kong. (What is his generation called anyway? Z? If so, what comes after Z?) I think we’ll start with C++ and see what happens. It’s more likely that he’ll write software for control systems for launch pads like his dad, but I didn’t want to tell him that just yet. What kind of adolescent male prefers blowing up things on a television screen over doing it in real life? Mine apparently.


This is the Atlas V that Greg launches even though we are playing Farmville in Kentucky. Since my husband owns a business that is hiring, maybe my son will launch this too one day. Being a “video game maker” is impressive to other boys, but being a rocket scientist is much more impressive to the girls. Maybe that will convince him later.

I told my oldest daughter to get a degree in nursing. Healthcare is not going away. Jobs are plentiful and portable. Chances are really good that some fine gentleman will want to snatch her up and carry her away, so it’s probable that she’ll marry and have children. Nursing is one of those things that can be worked on a per diem basis as needed, unlike say, teaching kindergarten.

Nursing is a useful skill. Skills are important. I’m sure a major in art history with a minor in women’s issues is useful to some people, but not the kind of people who can pay you money.

My daughter said, “That’s nice mom, but I was thinking about being a dentist.” Her former dentist worked one day a week and drove a convertible, but I didn’t want to tell her there might be other reasons for that. I agree with the Beetles on this one, let it be.

No matter the unemployment rate, there is and always will be a short supply of smart people with a work ethic. Be one of those people. There are few of them and you will stand out like John Stossel at a teacher’s union meeting.

College is a huge waste of time for some things, but there are specialties which require hoop jumping. There are things in life that are stupid, and I don’t begrudge my kids for thinking so. But part of life is hoop jumping, and sometimes you have to figure out how to get inside the hoop and hula like it’s nobody’s business. For a few professions, college is one of those hoops.

Of course, I’d prefer my kids to find funding for a start up and make their first million before getting married and settling down doing charitable work, but I don’t want to project. It’s annoying. The point is flexibility, and that includes supporting my kids even when they don’t take my advice. Because they’ll have the grandkids, and I have to keep myself tolerable so they don’t move to India just to get away from me.

23 Responses to “In which I offer my children some threats, I mean, advice on the future”

  1. 1
    Leslie

    I’ve been wondering about the prospects of my children’s future employment, too. In what direction will I encourage them to go? I lean more toward encouraging them to start their own businesses, but I trust that the Lord will make the path clear as we walk it. I always appreciate the humorous spin you put on things. :) Oh, and it’s Beatles…as in music beat. Not the bugs.

  2. 2

    Bwahaahahahaaa! I love your last line:

    Because they’ll have the grandkids, and I have to keep myself tolerable so they don’t move to India just to get away from me.

    I just told my second-to-last child to study to become a nurse. She wants to be a paramedic, because she doesn’t want to be stuck in a hospital somewhere. But I informed her that being a paramedic might mean being out on dark-and-stormy nights, and hospitals are somewhat safer, if you ignore e-coli and staph outbreaks. Plus, being a nurse means you can be flexible in setting work hours, and there seems to always be a shortage of nurses around here. On top of that, if she marries (assuming some godly man will sweep her off her feet) a missionary-minded fellow, she can use the nursing knowledge to bless others in far away lands. But then, she’d be moving to India to keep the grandkids away from me, and I don’t like that.

    Ah, well, she’ll do what she wants to do.

    And I’ll be okay with it. :D

  3. 3
    marian

    Though the profession doesn’t suit me at all, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I had a nursing degree. For moms trying to live their lives accommodating family needs, it is the most flexible, portable, useful thing out there (and it can even get your kids free camp scholarships if you volunteer!) Of course the downside, following from your personal concerns here, is that it’s also quite valuable on the mission field, far, far away!

    I truly believe that “video game programmer” is the new “I want to be a professional athlete.” It seems to be the stated career goal of more than half of the boys I know.

  4. 4
    Jill

    I just read an article about the youngest generation and they weren’t labeled Z but iY.

  5. 5
    Debbie

    ” stand out like John Stossel at a teacher’s union meeting.”

    That was good.

    I find it incredibly annoying that the kids get to keep the grandkids, ought to be a law against that.

    More than worrying about their careers, I hope my kids grow up to love the Lord more than anything or anyone else in life. Then I think about grandkids.

  6. 6

    My son is now a senior in computer science and he’s had job offers since he was a Sophomore, including the “biggies”. The University has so many students wanting to get into computer science that there is not enough space for that many students. The field is so much in demand, most students have a job lined up before graduation.

    If he wasn’t engaged, he would consider spending a few years with Microsoft or Google and he even had a summer interview set up with one of the big defense contractors. However, the person he has been working for as a student has offered him a full time position when he graduates in December. They currently develop apps for smart phones, iPads, etc.

  7. 7
    Jo

    You know, I keep reading that the trade professions are in a drought. Too many boys pass them up b/c they’re not appealing. But the benefits seem huge to me. You control your hours, you can often work outdoors and be physically active, and you can become a craftsman in certain trades. You can’t have your home remodeled in China. You are your own boss. Plus, one that was pointed out that I’d never though of, you see the fruit of your labor. That is huge when it comes to taking pride in what you do. What paper pushing job enables you to see that kind of result? If you do end up wanting something else, I’m sure that that job as a plumber ($75,000+) can help keep your student debt down and help you save lots of money in the future. Plus, it seems handy for service and outreach. My lawyer husband and I live next door to a plumber and two electricians live on our street. I’m not saying our fancy college degrees were a complete waste, but as university prices soar, those trad jobs seem more and more appealing. They can read the classics and such in their free time which they’re bound to have way more of.

  8. 8
    Jo

    And also, I’ve also seen this generation called Generation Rx. I’m not sure that’s official.

  9. 9
    Amy

    Amy, I want to leave a comment about the design of the Atlas V, but I wonder if a few of your readers might take offense instead of laughing. I guess I will just say that masculinity is not dead…yet.

  10. 10

    I can’t find it now, but I know in the past year or so I linked to an article about the fact that too many people are now trying to get into plumbing, etc. Everyone has seen the writing on the wall and now training centers are getting hundreds of applications for just a limited number of spots.

    So even trying to get into something like that is becoming difficult.

    Another big part of the problem is that the Baby Boomers are not retiring and won’t be retiring. The jobs are not opening up for Gen X to move up and then Gen Y, etc. I have no idea what the future will hold for the children of today. (But the Lord does!)

    We’re still years away from having to counsel Caroline in these topics, but I still think about it. I do think developing a few hands-on marketable skills will be key. A strong work ethic. Business savvy. The ability to be flexible and reinvent yourself a number of times. And developing a strong network of relationships.

  11. 11
    Jo

    Sallie, I’m not surprised if that’s so. I’ve heard the same thing about nursing, though my husband is pushing the field on my two daughters (5 & 7!!!). We haven’t worried as much about the baby boy yet. Either way, knowing nursing, plumbing, carpentry, etc. certainly will help keep cost of living down for a family even if they aren’t the ultimate career for the individuals. (Completely selfless, since I wouldn’t expect them to care for us in our old age or anything). We figure if we can’t point them toward a high paying job and pay for all the college degrees, we’ll have to help them learn to live on a tight budget and be resourceful. I’m still trying to figure out that tight budget part…

  12. 12
    Greg

    Amy – at the risk of getting in trouble myself – it is an efficient design in multiple applications.

  13. 13
    Amy

    Greg- My husband and I enjoyed the laugh this morning. Thanks. Just wondering, have you heard from NARAL yet?

  14. 14
    Nancy

    Flexibility is key. I had dreams of a family business that would allow each of our children to make a living. Instead, I have a twenty year old professional pipe organist who is actually making a good living and saving up for her future–possibly a down payment on a house someday if the Lord brings her a husband. My second daughter is going into nursing. Go figure– we raised her with no vaccines, very little exposure to the medical field, natural remedies, and yet, here we are. She’s doing great and is in a program at the community college that allows you to sit for the RN exams, so no debt.

    We had no idea that our girls would even be doing things outside the home. Their rigid mother(me) would prefer they stay home, sew and bake bread. They pretty much mastered homemaking by sixteen and were ready for new challenges whether I was or not. Thank God His ways are not my ways. As I watch my daughters grow and develop, I can trust that the Lord that they love and serve will continue to lead them. I hope I can apply these lessons I am learning as the rest of our children grow.

  15. 15

    No matter the unemployment rate, there is and always will be a short supply of smart people with a work ethic. Be one of those people.

    That’s brilliant. However, it is important to note (and to tell your kids) that networking is important too, almost as important as basic job skills. In fact, if you have good skills and a good work ethic, if you lack networking skills, you can still fall through the cracks. Always be polite and respectful, always be aware that the person to whom you are speaking could hold the key to your future. Unfortunately, we live in a very political world, and whom you know has at least as much bearing on your success as what you can do. One can sulk and say it isn’t fair, or one can go to work at making friends and good impressions.

  16. 16

    “No matter the unemployment rate, there is and always will be a short supply of smart people with a work ethic. Be one of those people.”

    That’s brilliant. However, it is important to note (and to tell your kids) that networking is important too, almost as important as basic job skills. In fact, if you have good skills and a good work ethic, if you lack networking skills, you can still fall through the cracks. Always be polite and respectful, always be aware that the person to whom you are speaking could hold the key to your future. Unfortunately, we live in a very political world, and whom you know has at least as much bearing on your success as what you can do. One can sulk and say it isn’t fair, or one can go to work at making friends and good impressions.

  17. 17
    Mitzi

    The computer science field is not all high demand and plenty, though. There seems to be (and my Indian friends confirm that it is true in their country, too) an unofficial but strictly enforced (unless you own your own business or are in gov’t work) retirement age of 50. Demand may be high for young college kids who can be paid peanuts, but when they get old enough to demand a salary, they are put out to pasture. This happened to my programmer husband. A young man came to a tech meeting in our city looking for a job running cables to help him get through school, and silence greeted his request. One of the older men quietly said “Son, there are no jobs. Those of us who have them are holding on for dear life.” I met a laid off programmer who was trying to get into pharmacy school. She said her colleagues at a large American company were like rats in a cage, not knowing who would be fired next. Don’t go into compsci unless you have a lot of drive, creativity, and a desire to own your business (and a wife who makes enough money to live on when your contracts run dry during economic crashes). Please.
    Health care is good, though, especially nursing (you won’t generate too much debt to have a decent life). Dentistry or pharmacy may be OK, too, though the debt load is substantial. Trade work may be the best deal, if you can get it.

  18. 18
    Jean

    My four older grandchildren, all with degrees, have no careers, just jobs – anything they can get. So I started on the younger ones: Don’t do any further education until you have a career in mind. And I also pump any professional I have to see: doctor, optician, dentist and ask them how they got the qualifications at school to enter their profession. So then I go back to the littlies and say “Be a dentist” “Ugh” ” be a optician” “Ugh”. But I’ll continue to push my message I think it’s vital

  19. 19

    My husband is operations manager at a small machining shop. The work keeps coming but the skilled machinists (most often using computer programmed machines) are very hard to find. They have jobs to fill – and cannot find skilled men. The ones employed earn 20+ dollars per hour and get lots of overtime.
    So industry is actually a good opportunity for employment. :-)

    I became a nurse at age 45 and now work in a hospital as a lactation consultant. Nursing has such variety in the area in which skills are put to use. I never pictured I’d be doing what I am – and I love my job. Nursing now gives options if pursuing nurse practitioner. I entered late in the game and after finally completing a BSN, I’m done with school.

    Just wanted to give industry and nursing a couple of plugs. :-)

  20. 20

    skilled PEOPLE that is….

  21. 21
    beth

    Maybe they’ll move to India as missionaries, which would be a great way to pour out their lives as well.

  22. 22
    colleen

    Amy You can encourage your sons to be nurses too. It is not unusual and we need more RNs.

  23. 23

    My oldest wants to be a veterinarian and an opera singer – go for it, dude, sounds busy. Middle, a dog trainer, counting on referrals from her older sister, I guess. Son – I told him he could just live with me forever, and he allowed as how “my wife won’t want to live with you”. I suspect he’ll be alright, his motivation level is high, even for a seven year old.

    I’m so glad you’re around again.


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