What did you want to be when you grew up?

Today’s blog post is inspired by an interesting article in The Times today – where as part of the National Child Development Survey, children who were born in the same week in 1958 wrote essays when they were 11 about what they thought their lives would be like when they were 25. They read them again 50 years on and reflected on those ideas and how their lives actually turned out. It makes for poignant reading. You can read the article here.

I think over the course of our childhood we change our minds a fair few times over the years about the kinds of jobs we want to do or the idea of family we wish to have. I know I wanted to be all kinds of things ranging from vet to butcher, from fighter pilot to teacher, and in the later years of school a forensic scientist. I went to university to study forensic science but realised it just wasn’t for me. I never became any of the things I wanted to be as a child.


From http://www.magic951.com/2016/03/21/what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up/

After leaving university I did a few small jobs here and there for a couple of months before getting my first proper full time job as a Customer Services Advisor for a book club company. I hated the job, but made great friends with my colleagues. My manager used to tell me on a regular basis that I was not meant to work there, that I was better than answering phones and taking orders etc. While I didn’t enjoy it, I worked hard there and I showed I was capable of many things, I tested their new computer system, I talked to their German developers about improvements to the system. I migrated customer data over. I achieved really high sales rates even though sales was not my role. I had the highest rates of processing customer letters, I became a representative in meetings with the Head of Customer Service. It taught me many things. Over the years I ended up in several admin based roles, always quick to learn new systems and progress upwards.

I ended up getting into the world of Project Management about 13 years ago. I was a Project Coordinator working for IBM on a project for a financial institution upgrading Windows on their PCs and laptops. I ended up heading up a small team, coordinating both project administrators and engineers and reporting to stakeholders within IBM and to the client. My next role was then for that client, and then another for another financial institution before settling where my current day job is now. I’ve worked here for over 4 years now – although I started in Feb 2012 I had almost a year between contracts where I wasn’t here. I met my partner Paul here, but didn’t get together until he had left the company.

word cloud

From https://www.theodysseyonline.com/the-dreaded-question

As for my work as a Genealogist, it was something I started several years ago. Initially I was helping people out for free, family friends etc. I then started to charge people for my services. At one point, with my former colleague Dom, ran workshops at our place of work to give people information about how to research their family history. They were really popular and I very much enjoyed it. Whenever I have been between contracts with my day job I have upped the work I have taken on with researching for paying customers. I fit my research work around my day job and find it really rewarding. Ideally I’d love to do it full time, but I don’t think I could match the salary I earn in my day job to make it work for me financially.


I also wonder about what sort of things our ancestors wanted to be when they grew up. I should imagine that the options and opportunities were not as open for them as they are for us today. Many boys were either expected to follow in their father’s footsteps with certain skilled professions, or perhaps if there was a particular industry that was the main employment in the area such as mining or cotton mills, then you may be destined to work in those sorts of areas. Women of course had even more limited options, mostly domestic service or roles within areas like cotton spinning, sewing, laundry etc. or teaching or being a governess if you were lucky. It was rare for women to be in further education and often when you got married you were not allowed to work in certain occupations anymore anyway. I suppose the Victorian era was the opener for many aspirations relating to the industrial revolution such as a boy dreaming of being a train driver, or a girl wishing to be a nurse with Florence Nightingale as their inspiration. It was rare for people to move within the class divides to chase a dream occupation, but of course some did, working their way from the bottom to the top of their fields – like for example my great grandfather’s brother Philip Marshall. Of course many children were working from the age of 10, so perhaps only had limited time to dream about their futures when working long hard days of physical labour, the likes of which many of us in first world countries these days have never experienced, but sadly continues in many other countries today with child labour.


From http://www.oldpicz.com/children-labour-in-the-victorian-era/

So what would I like to be when I grow up? At the moment job-wise, I’m happy what I’m doing, personally – a mother. I was expecting a baby earlier this year but sadly had a miscarriage. We are hopeful that we will eventually get there.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you end up doing that? Have you got any stories of any of your ancestor’s aspirations? Why not tell me about it?


Image by Me



8 thoughts on “What did you want to be when you grew up?

  1. Great post, and I am going to go read that article. That kind of stuff fascinates me. As for me, I grew up when girls didn’t have many options about careers (the 1950s and early 1960s), so as a child, my first “career” goal was to be a mother. Then when I started school, I wanted to be a teacher. When I learned to read, I wanted to be a writer (Laura Ingalls Wilder proved to me that a girl could become a writer). That’s where it stood for me until college. I was sure I was going to be a teacher who wrote books and a mother.

    With the women’s movement, my options and eyes opened up. And I decided I wanted to be a lawyer or a social worker or a college professor. After getting (bad) advice from several people about why I should not pursue the latter two, I went to law school. I hated law school and hated being a lawyer. So after three years and one baby, I became a law professor, a job I had for 32 years. So I did end up being a teacher and a mother, but although I wrote lots of boring law stuff in my career, I didn’t actually think of myself as a writer until I started my blog and wrote my first novel.

    So in many ways my childhood dreams came true—just not as I would have expected!

    • So interesting Amy! I think it is such a common theme that many women were dissuaded from certain careers, either by people thinking we weren’t up to the task or thinking it just simply wasn’t a job for a woman. We still have a long way to go yet for equality but it is nice to see girls having more opportunities now than they ever have before.

      Sometimes I wish I had pursued something different at school so that I studied subjects I was good at and enjoyed and would have been more successful at, but I don’t know where it would have taken me. For example I wish I had studied history etc, but my school was only offering a course which was yet more WWII which is what I had been doing for that previous 2 years and I wanted to learn about more ancient history. Also I got put off certain subjects because of the teachers! Wish I had done more Art for example!

      • I believe we all have some of those regrets. I wish I had discovered genealogy in my youth and pursued it and history as a career. But I was 60 when I first became interested! I always loved history and English; I wish sometimes I had become an English professor.

        But we follow the path ahead of us at the time, and fortunately for most of us, it leads to satisfaction and, if we are really lucky, happiness. I know it did for me. 🙂

  2. Lovely post Alex. I am so sorry to hear of your miscarriage, and hope you can achieve your wish to become a mother soon.
    My parents assumed when I was a child that I would go to university and have a career (before I married of course — they were ambitious for me, but very old-fashioned). I studied subjects I loved, but discovered that an MA in Sociology wasn’t much of a passport to anything but academia. I stumbled in to a job in marketing because I was tired of being a poor student but never really enjoyed it.
    Now at 55, with a son all grown and no longer needing hands-on mothering, I’m still wondering what I’ll do when I grow up. 😀

    • Thanks Su. I think some of us are definitely still wondering what we will do when we grow up! Some people I know still haven’t grown up yet!

  3. I wonder if our ancestors did have dreams about what they wanted to “be.” It seems a concept that is so modern. I wanted to an author, actor, or archeologist. I thought of them as the 3As haha. I achieved #1, feel as if family history is close to #3, and decided I was too shy for #2.

    • Oh definitely archaeologist was one of my career dreams at one point. I know two people who are, and one old school friend – her father was one – even saw him on TV programmes about Nefertiti! And I totally understand the shyness aspect around acting. I did drama and always wanted to be more out there but wasn’t confident enough. I’d never want to be on TV or film!

      I think there were always some sorts of dreams for our ancestors but perhaps more in the ways of bettering themselves. As my grandmother would have put it – having ideas above your station!

      • Maybe a dream to buy a plot land to build a house, to buy another plot to make the farm bigger, a dream for something better for their child. People have always had dreams. Somehow I doubt they had big dreams about careers though.

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