Journal Mother Love 8/29/11
When our son Jonathan was a teenager, we made it clear that he was expected to get a summer job. He tried hard but couldn’t find anything, so I asked my architect friend Charles to give Jonathan some office work. We made a deal that I would pay Jonathan’s salary in secret: he was not to know that his proudly earned paycheck was coming from his mommy.
Jonathan came home one day and announced that Charles was not happy with his appearance. He had been showing up for work in his usual attire of stained t-shirts and scuffed sneakers - at a company that was all about style and image. So I had to go out and buy my son a whole new wardrobe so that he could earn a salary that I myself was underwriting!
We ran out of money just around the time that Jonathan graduated from college, so he knew he would have to make it on his own. This turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to him. He struggled for a few years, and shared expenses with a few roommates. He tried a variety of jobs in film, photography, carpentry - even waiting tables when he got really desperate. Finally I said, “What kind of job do you think would make you happiest?”
He said he’d love to work in publishing - a notoriously low-paying profession. I did not advise him to go for the money. Instead, I encouraged him to follow his dream. He got a low-level job at a dot.com which was just starting to produce audio books on the Internet. The company, Audible.com, took off, and Jono ended up being head of a department with a good salary, stock options, interesting travel, and all those other perks that I’m told people with real jobs enjoy.
Eventually, Jonathan got tired of the corporate grind, and decided to take a lower-paying, less stressful job at a non-profit do-goody institution. Again, I encouraged him to follow his heart and not use “Show me the money!” as his only mantra: a relaxed, meaningful life-style also counts for something. Of course, I may regret this high-mindedness when I’m in my dotage and Jonathan can’t afford to take care of me.