“Let’s face it. Your kids don’t really care if you’re a flight attendant, a salesperson, a waitress, a computer expert, or a chef. I can tell you from firsthand experience that they are not impressed if you are an author or a busy professional. My guess is that my kids would be equally un–impressed with me if I were a doctor, lawyer, or even a movie star. …What really matters to kids is your time-and your willingness to listen and love unconditionally. Period!”
– Psychologist Richard Carlson, Ph.D. (1998, p. 214)
Because adults get so caught up in measuring self-worth on the basis of one’s professional status, it’s easy to get absorbed in these beliefs and assume that your children will judge you in the same way. Or that your family somehow thinks less of you if you are forced to take a lower paying job or are otherwise struggling in your professional life. This is unlikely to be the case.
The Jobs That Kids Think Are Cool
Throughout my career I’ve had the opportunity to work in multiple child care centers with parents form all walks of life. Some of them were in well-to-do areas, others not. I’ve worked with parents who were millionaire businessmen and parents who were struggling on welfare while working a low-paying job.
I’ve worked with the children of several professional sports players, including a famous goalie for the Colorado Avalanche, a starting running back for the Denver Broncos, and a potential hall-of-fame wide receiver for the same. We had a parent who was on TV every night as a leading anchor for a major news organization. Among this pool of wide-ranging working parents, guess which job garnered the most enthusiasm from children in the class? The mom who worked at McDonald’s.
Sure, the kids thought it cool that Devon’s dad would be catching passes thrown by John Elway each weekend. And it was neat when he played in the Super Bowl, though details of the parade afterwards seemed more entertaining to the kids. And Mrs. Sabine was slightly more enthralling to the youngsters, if only because she was on TV every day and her face wasn’t covered in sports gear, so the children could actually recognize her. But knowing how to work the ice cream cone machine AND being able to eat McDonalds almost every day while serving food that makes children happy? Now that was a job worth envying.
It just goes to show how much a child’s perception of things can differ from our own. As we grow up, adults get corrupted with ideas about what qualifies as a “good” job versus what qualifies as a bad one. But the reality is that these are arbitrary social judgments that people make up. Try taking a lesson from your child’s playbook, and don’t get so caught up in job status that you forget what’s truly important.