My friend Chicken commented on my last post that I was self-aware to realize at a young age what work did and did not suit my introverted personality. While that was a very kind way to describe what was really just self-preservation on my part, her comment did make me pause and think about the careers I considered entering before ending up where I am.
I mentioned a few of them in that post - nurse, teacher, and secretary, the triad of jobs most likely to be filled by women in those days.
Many of the girls in my high school became nurses, and they all seemed to know they were born to do so. I, on the other hand, had a real aversion to being around sick people because I didn't like being sick myself and there are a whole list of sicknesses that are highly contagious. And there was the hat thing. Back then nurses wore those little caps held in place with hairpins, and I knew there was no way one of those was going to stay on my slippery hair for more than two minutes without the use of glue or nails. All in all, nursing wasn't given serious consideration.
The thought of teaching gave me longer pause. My mother was a teacher, I grew up knowing teachers as neighbour and family friends, and when I was little I went through a period of teaching my dolls and stuffed animals. I'm pretty sure a lot of kids do that. It doesn't mean they all become teachers, or that they should. I wasn't one of those kids who was good at helping my classmates if they were having problems. I could explain it once, and if they didn't get it, I was happy to explain it again, but only in the same way all over again. Coming at a problem in a variety of ways is not my strong suit. I understand it one way and you get the explanation one way. No, teaching was not a good choice.
For a few years I thought about becoming an archeologist. Stories about Pompeii, and the pyramids with their hidden treasures, and excavations of all kinds -- these were things I found fascinating. Unfortunately, I wasn't really keen on working outside, I truly don't like getting dirty, and I don't do well in the heat (I pictured myself working in the desert) . . . so I reluctantly struck that career path off my list.
For awhile I considered becoming a librarian. I liked books, I liked the library because BOOKS, I liked sorting and bringing order to things (including books), and I loved the thought of stamping things with the little date stamp and ink pad. Obvious choice, right? Wrong. Turns out librarians do a lot more than sort, arrange, and stamp. You have to know how to research stuff and help people, at a minimum. (Fellow blogger and librarian Steve could elaborate on this.) Researching stuff and helping people did not sound like fun to me. I feel I am making you think I don't like people, which isn't true; it is just that I knew spending eight hours a day interacting with people was something I would find draining, and I would not be happy in my job. (Footnote: I did get to play check-out lady when our kids were in elementary school, because parents could volunteer to help the real librarian with simple duties. And sometimes I get to use stamps and an ink pad at my current job. Dreams CAN come true.)
Studying to be an Administrative Assistant (what you call a secretary
who takes three years of university instead of a one year high school
commercial course) was the suggestion of my older brother's friend who
barely knew me. With no alternative ideas in mind I decided to give it a
try, although it turned out to be only a brief stop on the way to a
business degree, as my Friday post described.
One of my business courses was a management course, and while writing a paper on the topic of Human Resources, I thought about becoming an HR person in a big business. Here is all I know about Human Resources: you hire people and you fire people. You are working with people, lots of people, all the time. That is your JOB. I actually thought I could do this, until I realized I didn't know the first thing about people. I was only eighteen years old and a true country bumpkin when the possibility of being an HR person flitted - mercifully briefly - through my naive little head. There are a whole lot of people out there who don't know how lucky they are that I didn't pursue this career, because I would have been in a position to impact their careers and that would not have been good.
There was also that brief period of time when I considered switching from business to home economics - either nutrition or sewing - but there was a lot of science involved in nutrition, and science and me never really clicked, and while I liked to sew, I didn't want to do it every working day of my life. (I hear you saying "Fussy, fussy, fussy!" because even my older self is tempted to say it to my younger self, but it would be pointless without a time travel machine at this stage of the game, wouldn't it?)
The thing I really wanted to be - always - was a full-time mom. For me this was not just a biological role, something to do in addition to a career. It was the coveted job, the one I dreamed of from the time I was old enough to hold and tenderly care for my dollies. I felt capable and confident when I pictured raising kids, even though I was the baby of my family and had only a minimum of babysitting experience. I didn't feel capable and confident in any other role I could think of. I guess you could say raising a family was my calling. It was only because I hadn't yet met the person I could picture having a family with that I kept struggling to find a job I might need to work at for the rest of my life.
The irony, and maybe the true test of parenthood as the right job for me, is that as a mom I have dealt successfully with sickness, finding different ways to teach the same concept, being outdoors when I'd rather not, getting dirty while working, dealing with the heat (and the cold) while doing my job, helping with research and finding books, advising on careers, interacting with my kids' friends and their parents and teachers and healthcare givers and a multitude of other people . . . and I wouldn't have had it any other way. I think being a stay-at-home mother is somewhat of an archaic notion these days, and to be honest it was already seen that way when I became one, but for me it was the right choice, and I was fortunate to be in a position to do it. It was also the right choice to get training so that when the time came I could go back to work. In other words, I wouldn't change a thing.
Question of the day: How did you choose your life's work? Or did it choose you?