Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don’t let ‘em pick guitars or drive them old trucks
Let ‘em be doctors and lawyers and such
The Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson song still holds true today. We mamas want the best for our babies – and that includes encouraging and helping them on to a future career path.
I’m a parent of a three-year-old boy. And I work in the field of college access – specifically, talking to middle school students about preparing for their education after high school. As Mother’s Day approaches, I’m reflecting on my passion of mothering and college access – and the impact I can make on my son.
The first thing I’m aware of is exposing my son to career experiences. In his short three years of life, we’ve watched a telecommunications company dig and install new lines in our neighborhood, he and his daddy have “fixed” a number of small engines, and you can often find this little human on his stepstool in the kitchen “helping” cook dinner. Children are soaking up many new experiences. Pay attention to areas where they linger, then linger a bit longer. It’s all leading to interests and skills they will build for the future.
Next, reading is essential to the development of a child. Experts recommend a child is read to at least 15 minutes daily. Not only is reading happening at daycare, but it’s also a part of our son’s bedtime routine. And our bookshelf has expanded to include rotating library books. I’m always looking for books to expose him to new career fields; currently, there is a book about a mechanic and another about a farm vet sitting on our couch.
Finally, one of the most heart-wrenching stories I have heard out of our office are parents of high school seniors who are shocked to see they didn’t receive any government grant aid (even though it can be hard to pay the bills each month), their child didn’t earn the amount of scholarship money they were hoping for, and they saved very little for college.
And I don’t want to be in that position, as much as I can help it.
I don’t want to be stressed to the max about how I’m gonna help my kid pay for college. I know some people believe their child should pay for college all on their own, but with the rising cost of tuition, that’s just not realistic. Baby Boomers could cover tuition by working a summer job. But Generation X and Millennial parents (like me) know a different reality. We know the student loan burden we had to take on. And that has slowed our generation in buying homes and contributing to the economy because we’ve got to get the debt monster off our backs.
So the number one action step our family has taken to help my little guy on his path to college: start saving in a 529 College Savings Plan. It’s one of the best investments my husband and I are making right now. (Click here if you want to learn about these accounts and their benefit. Then go set one up. It’s seriously so stinkin’ easy. This is not an ad, y’all. This is the truth.)
I understand the stress of finding extra cash right now. Between student loans, a mortgage, and daycare bills, you’re just praying that really old car doesn’t break down. In our house, we are only putting in a measly $25 each month (via automatic draft, otherwise you know I’d find an excuse). But with the investment of those funds over time, I know the payoff is going to lead to peace of mind come college decision time. My guy is too young to totally understand how finances work, but if you’ve got an elementary student on up, I’d encourage you to begin talking to your younger child about paying for college.
And mamas of middle and high school students, check out my other blog articles to help you as a parent in guiding your child: How to help your child choose a career and 5 questions to get your student talking about their future.
On this Mother’s Day, I know I’m doing my best to ensure my little cowboy is being prepared for the future – no matter what that future might hold.