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Family Forum: Why So Negative?

A writer negates the naysayers.

When my husband and I were getting married, we heard that, sure, we were in love now, but just wait a few years.

When we had our first child we heard that she’s cute now, but just wait until she’s a teenager.

Twenty-four years of marriage and I’m still waiting.

My daughters are now 21 and 17, and I’m still waiting. Okay, not really. Because the truth is, I understood going into this whole family business that there would be challenges. But I never doubted that I’d want to meet them. I decided early on to ignore the naysayers.

But it seems that this negative “you just wait” approach to life’s major transitions persists. For instance, my oldest wants to pursue a career in publishing, and when she went on interviews the majority of the professionals told her: “Why would you want to pursue this career?” Then proceeded to tell her what was wrong with her choice. When my youngest approached the nurses at the hospital where she volunteers to ask for their advice about a career in health sciences, they said, “Why would you want to pursue this career?” Then proceeded to tell her what was wrong with her choice. In both cases the message was clear: I hate my job and you will too, so why even bother? It seems a little mean-spirited to me. 

Now, I’m not Pollyanna, but I don’t think that the best approach to a young person’s pursuits and dreams, whether it be marriage, child-rearing or a career, is to squash them. We were all young once, filled with the belief that the future was ours. I know there are those who see the glass as half empty. Maybe some believe they’re trying to  save a younger person from the mistakes they’ve made. But if so there’s a kinder, gentler way to go about it.

I’ve been teaching college journalism classes for 10 years, a decade during which my field has struggled to redefine itself. Through it all, I go out of my way to give my students job-search strategies for the current market and share new positions that can be open to them. In fact, whatever a student’s career choice, there are job opportunities not yet created, so I see it as an exciting time to be starting out in any field. Are there situations that are challenging and unfair? Absolutely. But who am I to tell a young person they can’t be successful?

Fortunately it’s rare for a couple in love to listen to bitter words about marriage, and those negative warnings about teenagers have never been good birth control. College students will still pursue the fields that most call to them. But I would prefer, at least those of you who will be speaking to my daughters, nieces and nephews, that instead of a gloomy outlook you deliver both the pros and cons as you see them in a compassionate way.

There is indeed wisdom that can be passed down through the generations. But as any parent should know, you’re more likely to get through to kids with a positive message. And that’s something worth waiting for.

Liza N. Burby is Publisher of Long Island Parent Magazine and liparentonline.com.

Liza N. Burby August 10, 2011 at 05:10 PM
Have you heard these negative comments as you set out on a new phase in your life? If so, what was your response?
Rebecka Schumann August 10, 2011 at 07:59 PM
I enjoyed your article Liza. As a journalism student, I have people constantly telling me to not be a writer. Don't listen to the naysayers!
Andrew B. Herzman August 11, 2011 at 07:07 PM
I have a niece, who is 17 years old. I warned her not to get married and have kids until she had an education. I took the time to explain how important a career is for the quality of life. She said, "Don't worry. I know what I'm doing" Well, just yesterday, I saw on her facebook page "I'm so tired...all I do is watch the baby. I wish I could be a teenager for just one day". Maybe I should have been MORE negative with the comments!
Andrew B. Herzman August 11, 2011 at 07:16 PM
As far as a career, goes...I always wanted to work in the TV business and was always told not to do it. Even when I interned at the first TV station, the people there "jokingly" told me to "run away". Well, I proved everybody wrong and had a 26 year career in TV. Looking back, I probably could have made a better choice. In order to make money to survive in TV, you need to work at a union shop, and once you do, all the non-union shops don't want you, out of fear you'll try to start a union there. Now I'm being rejected by the union shops as well, because they would rather have young people who don't know much about their rights so that they can boss them around easier. I now am back in college taking some TV courses to catch up on the new digital world. Most of the students think the TV business is all glamor and movie stars. I won't discourage them, but I do warn them what they are getting themselves into. I'm talking about long hours, sometimes overnight or very early morning, low pay, holidays and weekends. If that doesn't deter them, then I help them with the contacts I have.

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