It’s 7am in 2018, and I am driving my 10-year old son to school. As usual, we are having general conversations. But this time, I just wish to get an affirmation of what he really wants to be when he grows up. He has told me before that he would want to be a doctor of money— which I interpreted to mean having a PhD in economics not necessarily somebody with money. How do I know he meant economics and not accountancy or business administration? It’s because he would say ‘just like you, I would want to be a doctor of money.’ You can imagine the joy in getting your son admiring your career and the envy that registers on your spouse’s face.
But this particular morning when I asked about his professional aspirations, he tells me without hesitation that he wants to be a medical doctor like his uncle. I look at him with renewed interest. I am wondering why the sudden change. After some five minutes of silence, I tell my son that his choice is a noble one. However, I go on to mention how sad I feel in that medical doctors, despite all the great work they do, don’t get paid that much in Malawi. At this stage, I get more surprises from my son. He goes ‘it is not all about money, dad. I don’t care about money, if only I can save lives.’ I then change gears and slow down. I look my son in the face and feel such huge pride flowing down my spine. I hope he lives to this nobleness. I can only thank his teachers for inculcating such civic and noble goals in him. I pat him at the back and say to him ‘you are very right, it’s not all about money. I will support you to become a medical doctor.’
You see parents, it indeed is not all about money. While I spend time every week advising on managing personal finances, I need to also mention that I do not mean to advise that money should come first in all out undertakings. There are noble goals that we need to pursue in life. Such goals are important to teach our children. We should not force our children to pursue a profession simply because it promises more money. Instead, let us encourage our children to pursue their passions and talents—they are bound to do better in life as they will be doing what they love. They will also make a huge contribution to society as they pour their all in doing what they know and love best. They will be driven by an agenda bigger than money.
By the way, there is a difference between a career and a profession. Your child can be a medical doctor by profession but pursuing a career as an entrepreneur. They will be very happy if they pursue a profession that reflects their passion and talents without focusing on the money. But they will make their money through their career as entrepreneurs—they can be running successful businesses that have nothing to do with their professions. The challenge in Malawi is that we parents force children to have a profession that will also serve as their career path. In the end, and sadly, money drives profession choices and not children’s talents and passions. So while money is an important tool for achieving happiness, it should never be an end in itself.
Blessed week-end to you and yours as you encourage your children to pursue their passion and noble dreams—money will follow later.