My daughter is barely three years old and already the undercurrent, “What will you be when you grow up?” seamlessly seeps through our daily air.  As a stay-at-home-mom, I cringe at this question, and yet I am the guiltiest culprit of all. 

My husband and I watch her as she gently pets the dog, and in unison coo, “I bet she will be a vet when she grows up!” We see her get out a play doctor’s kit as she pretends to check baby brother’s heartbeat and chime, “Maybe she will be a doctor when she grows up!”  We watch as she takes apart her toys, inspects them, then puts them back together, as we emphatically exclaim… “Engineer!” And as she bosses us around, successfully navigating her way through our home, we laugh, “She will definitely be the boss… whatever she does.”

And here I am.  Justa stay at home mom. And to be honest, it was not like motherhood stole me away from a booming career. Truthfully, I changed paths too many times to reach a place of leadership that I often craved. So what will I say when my daughter looks at me one day and sees me as someone that didn’t become… a vet, a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, etc…  What will I be able to teach her then?

For, I am acutely aware that wanting something and working hard towards a goal, is actually not a guarantee. It is absolutely a pre-requisite, but never a guarantee. We play our hand of life with the best set of facts at our fingertips at any particular moment, not knowing how it will turn out.

So again, I ask myself, “What do I hope to teach her about what she will be when she grows up?”

I want to give her the opportunity to find her strengths. I want to give her the internal resiliency to go after her dreams, and then if one day she looks at her life and realizes, “Oh no my dreams never came true.” Well then, who cares? Work hard. Chase your dreams. But never be afraid to dream new and different dreams. I hope she is able to keep moving forward all the while always appreciating the gifts already enveloping her beautiful life.

Because who we are actually isn’t defined by our job title. Instead, I want her to be the person that returns a $100 bill she finds on the street. I want her to be the kind of friend that shows up. I want her to tell the truth when the only person she will hurt by it, is herself. I want her to always try. I want her to feel fear and face her fears anyway. I want her to love after loss. I want her to really care about others, even strangers. I want her to practice patience. I want her to feel her own internal strength.  And I want her to find her joy. 

So what do we want to be when we grow up…really?  Do we want to be doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs?  Or do we want to be honest, strong, hardworking, loving, compassionate, curious, fierce, skilled and joyful people?

Because maybe one day my daughter will be a vet, maybe she will be a teacher, maybe she will be an attorney, maybe she will be a waitress, maybe she will be a writer, maybe she will be a mom, but then again…maybe she won’t. The thing is NONE of those things will ever be WHO my daughter is. In fact, none of those things will ever be WHO I am either. 

So the next time I watch my daughter dissect a dead bug I will fight the urge to sentence her to a destiny of scientist.  Instead, I will comment on how much I enjoy watching her curiosity grow.

Because ALL my daughter ever needs to be when she grows up… is the beautiful person I know she already is. So maybe it is time we start asking the question to our children, “Who, not what, do you want to be when you grow up?”



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