I was listening to Woman’s Hour last week (as you do) and there was a segment about research showing that hairdressers are among the happiest workers in the world. A hairdresser was on the show explaining that the job was creative, flexible, pretty much recession proof and could lead to a great career if you’re good. What’s not to love?
Except, said presenter Jenni Murray, SMART girls don’t become hairdressers, do they? It’s seen as a bit.. common. Smart girls don’t want to be hairdressers – and middle class Mums don’t want that for their little girls.
Here’s the thing.
I want to be all outraged and liberal about this. I want to say that I have no ambition for my daughter except her happiness and good health. I want to say that I'm happy to never push her, and let her find her own path in life.
But is it really true? Really?
My job (journalism) has some downsides: it’s a horribly ruthless, insecure, badly paid profession – and that’s on a good day. But it also gives me more autonomy and freedom than almost any other job I can think of, and I'm constantly learning new things and meeting new people, after more than 12 years on the job. I get to travel all over the world and have amazing experiences – from riding steamboats on the Mississippi to interviewing inspiring charity workers about safety training for warzones.
I admit it – I am ambitious for Flea.
I am not ambitious in the sense that I want her to go to law school or become famous or rule the world (though it would be handy). I'm ambitious because I want her to reach adulthood and be in a position to make choices. If autonomy and creativity, or flexibility, or intellectual challenge is important to her, I want her to be able to choose a career that will fulfil those interests and make her happy – rather than ending up on a factory floor because she doesn't have the skills or education to do anything else.
I'm not sure if that's very wrong of me. Am I putting pressure on her with those expectations, or does it just mean I'll encourage her to reach her full potential? Should I be leaving it all up to her, and not minding if she becomes a surf slacker or an office drone?
I suppose Life’s short, and I just want Flea to live it to the full. And I do think one of the best ways to do that is by having choices – what job to do, where to travel, where to live, how to spend your free time…
It’s certainly not that I’m day-dreaming about watching Flea graduate from law school, or perform her first aria at the Royal Albert Hall. It’s more than I hope for her to have a good education, a good job, a good standard of living. And the health and happiness is often easier to achieve when you have a good standard of living, of course.
I suppose I just wish her the whole world. What about you? Do you have ambitions for your kids? Do you think that's a good thing, or are they something we should keep to ourselves?