Childhood experiences and adult choices

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Childhood experiences and adult choices
Sun, 04-06-2003 - 9:19am
This has been mentioned in a few other other posts, how the experiences you had as a child influence your adult choices.

I see it in my DH's family. He was a child of divorce with a dead beat father, much of his childhood he lived on welfare.

The way it has effected his older sister is she has always worked she has either been the primary support of her family or at least equal. What she learned from her childhood was not to depend on a man, be able to depend on yourself.

The way it has effected my DH and his brother is they take a lot of pride in supporting their families, in both cases they have not always been the only support but they have been the primary one and it means a lot to them. A few months ago I said to my DH that for the first time I felt like I had to work, in the past I always felt that if I wanted to stay home then I could but because of circumstances I no longer felt that. He had a look of hurt in his eyes, he felt a lot of pride in knowing that he could completely support his family and it hurt to not feel that. Another way it has effected the males is they take marriage and fatherhood very seriously, they know what it is like to grow up without a father and they never want their children to experience that.

I grew up in the "typical" household of the time, my dad worked and my mom was at home (although she did return to work after I was out of the household when my younger sister was in middle school), they were married until my mom died. My dad is similiar to my DH in that he also grew up dirt poor and always has had pride on supporting his family. How my view is different from my SIL's because of our different backgrounds is I have never felt the need to work "in case". I can very easily believe that my DH will never abandon his family because of what I greew up with.

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-12-2002
Sun, 04-06-2003 - 10:57am
Interesting topic. :)

My childhood was a disaster, with 3 of the most inept parents I could have been given. My biomom opted out of my life when I was 5 1/2. Drugs and men were more important to her than me and my brother. So she and dad split around that time, and my little brother (only 1) and I lived with our maternal grandparents for about 2 years after that.

My grandparents are the most incredible people I will ever meet! :) They have ALWAYS been involved in my life, from the day they were at the hospital when I was born. Grandma stayed home with me and my brother, while my grandfather worked. His hours were weird, as he worked for the city. He sometimes worked nights, sometimes days, sometimes weekends. And he did have a second job. He was in the National Guard, and would work for them one weekend a month, and I assume some extended times, but I don't remember that. BOTH of them were involved in my life. My grandfather didn't opt out b/c he had two jobs. He and I are very close, even today (grandma and I are too). But it was grandma who was there every day after school to pick me (and sometimes my friend for playdates) up.

However, when I was 7, "father of the year" came back into my life. He had a new wife, so he took us to live with him, my stepmom (hereafter referred to as mom), and my stepsister. Mom worked nights at a hospital, dad worked days and alot of evenings for the police dept. I say alot of evenings b/c as a detective, he worked undercover alot and also was on-call. Mom would work all night, sleep all day (yes, even in the summer when we were home), and we were to wake her at 6 :30pm, though she didn't always get up, and as we became teens, she wouldn't get up until about 9:30 b/c she would stay up in the AM doing "errands". She would throw together something disgusting like Hamburger Helper or Sandwiches or Soup or Pot Pies for dinner, but again, when we were teens, we were all on our own, no family meals. Dad was rarely home, he was either working or at the bar. On moms days off, she would join him at the bar.

Both my brother and sister had MAJOR issues in our teens. Sister dropped out of school, and moved in with a guy at 16 1/2 or 17. Brother dropped out in the 8th grade, and now at almost 22, still doesn't have a steady job or even a steady life. I believe he has one child already, and maybe another on the way. He knows neither of them. He blames everyone else for everything that happens to him. My sister is doing great now! :) She drives me completely INSANE, but I love her to death. She went through alot of drug problems, two abusive live-ins, etc before becoming pregnant with abusive live-in #2. After he beat her up while pregnant, she moved in with mom and dad where she stayed for 2 years. She stayed home with her son for one year, then went to work, and has really worked hard on that end. Though, she still doesn't support herself completely, she COULD. Mom and dad bought her a house to live in before mom died, and she just bought an SUV herself for cash. She is very involved with her son, unlike our parents, but she has taken on our mothers "no man is good enough for me" views. She has made it clear that if she ever does marry, she will not have combined finances with him, and that everything of "hers" is her sons when she dies.

Me, on the other hand....all I wanted as I grew up was a normal damn family. Too much drama in mine! I knew from about 11 that I wanted to be a SAHM like my grandma. I wanted to be with my kids when they were not in school, and I wanted to be available to them even when they were. I am very adament about special time with my kids, spending at least 2-3 days each month spending 2-4 hours of 1on1 time with them, individually. I am very involved in their activities, and get to know them as well as I can without intruding (can a mom really intrude at 4 & 6? *giggle*). I will never take the couldn't give a damn attitude all 3 of my parents had, though I will not coddle them either. From day one, I have made it possible for THEM to do what they need to do, rather than asking for it from my husband or myself. And so far, they are both great kids, with alot of heart and alot of drive.

So, yes, I very much see where my up-bringing guided my choices. I very much wanted that family I had with my grandparents, and I wanted NOTHING for my family like I had with any of my 3 "parents". (btw...sorry this got so long...I'm supposed to be off my feet this weekend, and I guess I just needed to ramble to someone. :)

Okmrsmommy-36, CPmom to DD-16 and DS-14

Avatar for biancamami
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-25-2003
Mon, 04-07-2003 - 9:09am
My parents both had Masters in their fields...and even though they weren't able to work in the same fields when we moved to the US, education has always been incredibly important in my family.

As immigrants, my parents were determined that their professional sacrifices to bring us here wouldn't be "in vain.". They wanted us to have careers and be succesful without having to depend on a husband for our livelihood. (Must be that immigrant 'gotta keep climbing' mentality)

College was expected...not hoped for. My two sisters and I all enrolled in University as soon as we graduated from High School-- we have all received our degrees and are working in our fields. My older sister and I are both WOHM and the primary breadwinners in our family (my Sis is putting her DH through Medical School in fact)

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 04-07-2003 - 9:34am
Yes, not only the experiences you had as a child, but your parents' values. My mother enjoyed being a SAHM while we were young, but was very frustrated and bored with the fact she didn't have marketable job skills as we got older. She really chafed at having to be supported by my dad as she got older also.

When she found out I was pg with child #2 right before she died, she said,"Oh, so you'll have to find something PT." I said, "Not necessarily." She was a true feminist, but one of her generation. I'm not sure she ever imagined me working FT as a career, bringing in 45% of the household income. But I know she'd be proud of me.

<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /> 

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 04-07-2003 - 12:19pm
What else could you use to determine your path in life? The only thing you have to go on is how you grew up and how you felt about it. If you didn't like it the way it was, then you find ways to do it differently.

My grandmothers both grew up on farms and were both young widows. They made sure that all of their kids went to college so that they could get good jobs. My parents saw how hard their mothers worked to support them, so they got their education, got good paying jobs, and both worked, so that they didn't have to struggle as much with money issues.

My mother still WOH and I think I turned out OK, so that has never been an issue for me. I don't think I work "in case". It's more like, that's what everyone I've ever known has done, so that's what I do, too. It's what's normal for me.

My DH grew up in a military family and he knew that he wanted to be a more involved father than his dad had been. So he works at a job with very straightforward hours and little traveling, although he could make a lot more money in a more time-intensive job.

Don't most people think these things through and make conscious choices about them? I know we did.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 04-07-2003 - 12:32pm
My mom left her drunken/abusive husband to raise me on her own. She worked very hard at a factory job to provide for us. I know that set the attitude in my head that I would never expect a man to provide for me . . . I could see that her generation of women were raised to depend on men; there wasn't much of an education for them, heck - she had to get her driver's license when they split! To support myself and any child(ren) I might have was definately a priority - and I set off to go to college and build a career before I got married.

Now - I've married a man who's dad worked countless hours - to keep his wife in the more traditional stay-at-home having babies role. She pumped out several kids, he worked, often traveling for business. When he was home, children were to be seen and not heard. Needless to say, my husband is a way more involved dad. While it's still tough to get him to split the chores, we definately split the child care. We both work full time, but I think the fact that I'm earning a good salary keeps him from worrying about having to be driven to move up any corporate ladder. He's happy being there for the kids - to help with homework and little league . . .

I don't think I could stand being married to a man who was always working, even if that meant I could stay at home with the kids. And I don't think he could stand putting in long hours and missing out on what's going on at home.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Mon, 04-07-2003 - 1:30pm
I can honestly say that dh and I made our choices based on our childhods. Its almost textbook, lol.

I was 4yo when my parents divorced. There are many conflicting stories between my mom and dad about what happened, but the bottom line is my mom disappeared for about a year. My dad worked a LOT, eventually getting on with the fire dept which still meant he worked a LOT. I was shuffled from sitter to sitter, daycare to daycare. I was physically abused by one of my provider's husbands, and I never told anyone. Which is part of the reason I never wanted my children in daycare-even though my logical mind KNOWS chances of something happening to them is small, I also know kids DONT always tell. My dad remarried when I was 7yo and basically dropped out of my life at that point. My stepmother took over and she emotionally abused me. I ended up going to my mothers when I was 12, things did get better after that but the damage was done.

My dh was adopted at age 5 into a large family (he has 4 sisters). his adoptive parents were/are alcoholics and physically abusive. He went to work after school at age 12 and turned his paychecks over to his mom. He feels like he never *belonged* to the family, his parents saw the children as more of a pita than anything it seems. He says he remembers being on driving vacations where his parents would stop at a bar and leave the kids in the car for HOURS.

So, needless to say dh and I are on the same page when it comes to family. We definitely wanted something more for our kids. We both agreed that we needed to be there for them on every level. We planned it so I could stay home for a couple years when ds was an infant, and dh is lucky enough to have a flexible job that means he doesnt miss any of dd schoool functions, parent teacher conferences, etc. We will admit that we are more of the *child-centered* lifestyle, but its because we both came from homes where children were considered a burden and nuisance rather than something to be cherished.

As far as working goes, I think my age when I became a mother had a lot more to do with my attitude. I have never had a fear of dependency because I have complete faith in my ability to get a job. I've never had a hard time finding work, I always worked very hard. And because I was older when I started a family, I was already in a pretty secure position financially. If anything I think my dh is probably more dependent on me-I manage all the finances and such, and it is my investments that will mean an early retirement for both of us. He had *nothing* when he and I started dating. His life has improved about 100 percent since then, lol!



"Now when I need help, I look in the mirror" ~Kanye West~

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2003
Mon, 04-07-2003 - 5:45pm
I grew up on a farm. My Mom was technically a SAHM in that she never worked other than on the farm. But so was my Dad. We could "go to work" with him whenever we wanted and he was very involved in my life as well as my brother's. I grew up around tractors and trucks.

My Mom ran a greenhouse and a market garden, even though she had been a teacher in a previous life. Spending time with her gave me a definite green thumb. :) My mother grew up with a "traditional" father who believed that women (IF they worked) should ONLY be nurses, secretaries and teachers. When I suggested I wanted to work in one of those professions at a young age (What else was there - Farmer, Dr, Fireman, Secretary) she was quite offended and immediately made me understand that I didn't HAVE to do a traditionally female job.

Then high school came and I was good at computers, as well as greenhouse stuff (management and or landscaping) and flower arranging (I had odd hobbies). Given the option of going to university/college or just getting kicked out of the house and living on my own, I knew that education would help me get a better start in life at that time. I applied for all 3 disciplines listed above, and was quickly accepted into all 3. My acceptance into technology also came with a 1/2 scholarship to pay for it which totally made my mind up for me. My parents would save 1/2 and would be able to use that for whatever they wanted. Forget that the other courses were at the very most 1/2 of my full tuition in computers. LOL

So, 7 years ago, at 20 years of age, I received a B.Sc. Some days I wish I was working in a greenhouse or drawing up landscape diagrams. But I can do that in my spare time. Soon enough it'll be time for a career change. I may make less money when I do so, but I hope that my career will have more respect in the marketplace. And one that isn't considered to be "just a cost-center" for the company.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-01-2003
Tue, 04-08-2003 - 4:05am
I guess I am not worried or thinking at all about my husband working vs me, as this is not the situation for me. For me it was always important that my kids not be put in daycare full time ever. Particularly when they were 3 and under. As far as social development goes, he attends preschool 3 times a week. We also have many friends who have kids and get together frequently. My plan was to begin seriously looking for a good job when they were both in school full time. As far as other jobs are concerned and money, once again this is not the problem or priority. We are in the military and people move all the time. Goverment Service jobs come up frequently , particularly during PCS season. I am not worried about not being able to get a job as I have a lot of qualifications. On the flip side, I know everyone in the clinic, and I like them. That is a very important part of any job. I already know how to do the job. That just makes it easier to transition to the job/full-time. However I also think the job is boring, but who doesn't. I would have to work there full time for a year before I could look for a different, higher up job in the GS system. We are only here for 3 more years so I would only have two more years maximum to work at a better paying job while here. Maybe I have just answered my own question? I don't want to sacrifice my priorities just because something came up. I want to be there on my youngest son's first day of school and when he comes home. It was always important to me.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Wed, 04-09-2003 - 12:32pm
I have a lot of strong women in my family, and most of us have good marriages to really nice guys, so I feel pretty comfortable working or not because I have a good sense of self and a good marriage. A few of my aunts were divorced, and they did great on their own. My mom mostly sah, but she also went to grad school and volunteered heavily and worked some and was really involved in our community.A college education is pretty much a baseline in my family,so I don't get the whole wasting your college education by sah.

Avatar for cyndiluwho
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Sun, 04-13-2003 - 8:18am
I think childhood experiences do affect adult choices. Dh grew up with a father who worked his butt off and never saw his kids so my MIL chould SAH. He has no intention of following in his footsteps. I think we have little difficulty seeing what our parents did wrong and we, probably, do have a tendency to avoid those things. My parents split when I was 6 weeks old and my father was determined to make her pay, financially. My mother had never prepared for a career and that left us all out on a limb. While her marriage to my step father was great, I am not comfortable dependent on a man because I know how fast it can fall apart. Never say never. I've seen people I NEVER thought would up and leave their families, up and leave (moms and dads). You never know what is going on in someone's head.