On Career Advice for Children, Photography, the Cost of Babies, and Pregnant Teens

by on December 3rd, 2014
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Question

My daughter, nearly 8 years old, says she wants to be a photographer when she grows up, but her dad said she “has to choose a better career.” This little girl has been planning to be a photographer since career day in 1st grade, and taking pictures is her favorite pastime. How do I get her dad to understand that he’s really hurting our daughter every time he criticizes the photography profession and says she must do more with her life? He thinks it’s no big deal and that she’ll get over it – and over wanting to be a photographer.

Answer

Photography is honorable work. It doesn’t pay like medicine or law, but unlike many careers that dip into the artistic world, photography can actually pay the bills. Perhaps your daughter’s father is lumping photography in with the broader category of “artist.” If your daughter wanted to paint or write poetry, I’d side with her father. Such professions are challenging even if you have immense natural talent, and nearly impossible if you do not. But photography – particularly commercial or journalistic work – is a valued and marketable skill.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook , 158,000 people worked as photographers in 2008. More than half were self-employed, and a shrewd businessperson with creative ideas can carve out a comfortable niche. The median wage was $29,440, meaning that half of photographers made more than the median and half made less. However, the median understates the true earning power of the profession, as many photographers work only part-time, and many others focus on fine arts and make very little money. The highest-paid 10% of photographers earned more than $62,000.

Hopefully the facts I cited above will help you educate your daughter’s father.

Also feel free to remind him that most children who select a career at age 8 change their minds several times because they truly have no idea what they will want to do when they get older. Eight is way too young to choose a career, which means it is way too young to start giving a kid a hard time about her career choices.

At age 8 the Crown Prince thought the career of Batman alterego Bruce Wayne sounded great. Wayne, of course, is a billionaire bachelor playboy. Admittedly, a nice job if you can get it, but far from practical. Since then, the Prince has considered a number of other careers – and none of them are probably close to the one he will actually pursue several years hence.

Even if your daughter’s career goals change over time, photography can remain a fine hobby. And if her passion for photography lasts until her teenage years, help the girl by steering her toward professional photographic instruction and summer workshops, as well as knowledge about the business world, so she can have her pick of options in the field.

And even if she doesn’t make enough to drive a Mercedes, if your daughter finds a job doing something she loves while being financially independent, she’ll be way ahead of the game. A number of studies have suggested that when it comes to happiness, enjoyment of the job itself is far more important than the amount of money the job pays.

Question

Why do pregnant teenagers believe their parents will pay the costs for their incoming baby?

Answer

Not all teens believe that. But those who do believe it are probably correct. In many cases, parents of pregnant teens end up covering some or all of the new mother’s expenses.

Sometimes the grandparents are excited about the new baby. But sometimes, even though they’d rather not foot the bill, they can’t bear to see their children and grandchildren live in the poverty so common to teenage parents.

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