Parenting tips

My teenage son does not know what he wants to do and that’s OK

My teenage son does not know what he wants to do and that’s OK. I don’t say that lightly and as  a mum I am concerned but I am starting to wonder if us mums don’t worry too much.

My son is 17 and left school last Summer. He was ill for a lot of the year and his results were not a true reflection of his intelligence at all. There were some great results particularly in mathematics and RS. He has mild dyslexia and I have always said he has dyspraxia so her finds writing tiresome and struggles with presentation skills.

When I had my son,  I sort of assumed he would be academic like myself. I did not  expect him to go to any particular university but I did think he would do GCSES, A-Levels and then a degree. It was the route I took so when it was obvious he was super-intelligent, that’s what I thought would happen. I went to Cambridge and studied Law so maybe that put some undue pressure on him without me even realising it.

I told him he could take a year off after leaving school to work out what he wants to do. This has done him the power of good. He has had time to stop and stare, to play and to relax. I think our schools put far too much pressure on young people these days and then we all throw up our hands in surprise when the country’s children end up with mental health issues.

Then there is the news from friends and family members that their children are doing so well spreading their wings and once again,  I think it must be me. I have cocked up and my children will be the victims. I  can feel envious and even start disliking heartfelt friends as they crow about their kids on social media.

Of course, it all nonsense! Why should my son know what he wants to do just because that would make my life a bit simpler? In many ways, it is great for me as it means he lives at home and I have his amazing company and a bit (a very bit!) of help around the house. If he is not yet ready to fly the nest, that’s OK. After all so many graduates end up coming home to roost in the end anyway unable to afford anywhere to live and saddled with heaps of debt.

Why do we do this thing right from birth that human beings who are individuals in their own right are expected to hit key milestones at specific times? It just leads so many people to think they are failures and that is a bad message for children and adults alike.

A college/university education guarantees nothing. I have never done particularly well once I decided to leave a legal career behind in a hope I could help poorer and more disadvantaged people. Perhaps some of those  people will remember me with affection though and perhaps I made a difference.

My younger brother got less than average results and ended up going to music college as a mature student. He has travelled the word as an opera singer and teacher. This all happened because my parents encouraged my brothers to do amateur dramatics and Ian Wallace happened to visit our Town Hall and hear my brother practising. He told him he had real talent and helped him find a way to give up his job on the local newspaper and to pursue a singing career.

My oldest brother left school with just an 0-Level in woodwork and ended up a merchandiser for Monsoon and a property developer to boot. This is probably because he met his partner.

So often it is not about the exams or the experience but more about who we happen to meet along the way. My Dad was inspired to become a sailor by a relative and walked out of school with no exams whatsoever so he could pursue that dream.

My mother left school with no exams and had the sense to leave factory work behind. Again, when a cook in the nurse’s home at the hospital became ill at Christmas, Mum was in the right place at the right time and took over.

Back to my son. He has suddenly started to show an active interest in discussing what he wants to do. He has no idea really but knows he does not want  to do office work or to work with animals. He would like to work with people. I think he would be amazing in any customer-facing role as he is friendly, kind and polite. He does not drink or do drugs. He has a strong belief in fairness and is proud to say he is a feminist whilst also keen to ensure that the recent focus on women’s rights does not lead to an abuse of men. He knows so much about history and politics and keeps saying he would like to make films.

We can worry so much as parents. What if he never makes any money at all? What if he never finds his way? Not that long ago, the worry was would he ever learn to stay dry and eventually we hit that infamous Nativity Play where he stood in the middle of the stage and showed everyone his “Big Boy Pants” with pride.

The reality if in a few years time, I will probably read this post and wonder why I was concerned at all. I took a different route. Maybe he takes after me. I have made my contribution to the world and so will her.

My teenage boy does not know what he wants to do and that’s OK.


Lucy At Home

Twin Mummy and Daddy
Me, Being Mummy

3 Little Buttons
The Pramshed
Hot Pink Wellingtons
Mum Muddling Through

Mummy in a Tutu

Award-winning writer, blogger, social media consultant and charity campaigner. Social Media Manager for BritMums, the UK's largest parent blogging network Freelance clients include Firefly Communications and Save the Children UK. Works with brands on marketing projects. Examples include Visit Orlando, Give As You Live, Coca-Cola and Kodak. Cambridge Law graduate with many years experience working across three sectors in advice, media relations, events, training and project management. Available for hire at affordable rates.


  • Maureen

    I like your post as it is raw and honest. I have a 4 year old and though it’ll be awhile before I cross this type of bridge I know that when my son says he is five or older I always remind him to enjoy his childhood. Time is fleeting but the experiences in life that we gain are so much more important and if our children need to think and have a break that’s okay. So I agree with you that giving our children time to just slow down and figure things out for themselves is equally important as for us moms to tell ourselves to take a break!

    Maureen |

  • Jeff Wood

    All we can do as parents is help them find what they want to do in life. Letting your son take time to figure it out is perfect. With 40+ years of work life ahead, there really isn’t a rush and he will find something that is his calling soon enough.

  • Nige

    It’s tough being a teenager and yes it’s ok they will work it out fab read Thank you for linking to #Thatfridaylinky please come back next week

  • Kristie Prada

    There is so much pressure on them these days. How can you know what you want to do with the rest of your life so early on? I know there are a few children that do but I was never like that. Often work experience or internships are better for children who don’t know as you can try things first. We all have a path and I’m sure your son will find his xx

  • Jaki

    I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do when I left school. I got a job and earned money and now I finally do something that I love – something that didn’t even exist 20 years ago! I’m a big believer in that everything happens for a reason. I’m sure it will all work out! Thanks for sharing with #TriumphantTales, hope to see you again next week.

  • chickenruby

    I don’t think i worried at all about what my kids would do when they left school other than focusing on them to work their hardest and to aim to leave home around 18/19 equipped for the world. None of ours went to uni, but did all stay in full time education till they were 18 at the local college, even before staying in education was compulsory we didn’t give the middle 3 the option to leave school at 16, they’re all doing reasonably well, some took longer to find their dream job than other and the middle one packed his job in last year to experience travel and adventure #triumphanttales

  • Tubbs

    There seems to be so much pressure on young people now. Not everyone knows what they want to do and sometimes you have to try a few things out to work out what that is – or what it isn’t. Good luck to your son as he figures it out 🙂

  • Enda Sheppard

    I certainly didn’t when I was that age ..took me a good while to figure out … and even then I’m not sure!!! Just hope he can turn a buck while he figures something out! #Triumphanttales

  • Welsh Mum Writing

    I couldn’t agree more. Our son is two and already some family remark “when he goes to university” and I find myself saying “if he does…” and “if he wants to”. It’s okay to have dreams and aspirations for your child but we all find our own path. I just hope that our son grows up and is happy and preferably able to keep a roof over his head and food in his belly. I’m 43 and still don’t know what I want to do with my life. I don’t expect him to know at 15, or 25 or anything else. I must bookmark this though and read it again when I’m fretting over his future when he’s a teenager !

  • Lucy At Home

    I remember all the way through school being asked what I wanted to “Be” when I grew up. I had no idea so I eventually said a teacher because I knew it was something I was good at and ran in the family. But it wasn’t a goal that motivated me, more just something that I could imagine myself falling into when I got older… Now I have no desire to teach – I discovered blogging and I’ve found a passion for a vocation that didn’t even exist when I was at school!

    Sometimes I think we place too much emphasis on having a plan – as long as we make the most of the opportunities we have to hand, something will turn up, I’m sure 🙂 #blogcrush

  • collette dunn

    My son is also 17 and the amount of pressure he’s receiving at school regarding his next step is ridiculous. Like your son mine doesn’t have a clue what he wants to do, I think taking a year out to reflect is a fantastic idea #triumphanttales

  • Talya

    I think kids are expected to know what they want to do at too much of a young age here. My mum comes from Israel and there they have to do National Service in the army before anything which means that they don’t have to decide what they want to do until quite later which in some ways I think makes a lot of sense because how can they know what they want to do when their brains and emotions are still growing?! Anyway food for thought….! Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub Kate I have been loving your posts of late x

  • Yeah Lifestyle

    This is such a good post especially for parents who think their kids should know what they want to do / be when they grow older as not all kids do. Some just figure it out as they go along and others change their paths when they are older. There is no right or wrong to it.

  • Michelle Kellogg

    I think its fine that your son wanted to take some time off to figure out what he wanted. The transition from high school to adulthood is a hard one. One day you’re a carefree teenager, the next you are smack dab in the middle of the “grown up world” as I call it and it can be overwhelming. I also agree that the schools put way too much pressure on our kids these days so its super important for you son to do what he thinks is best for him. I’m glad you’re such a supportive mom to him. He will do fine with you on his side:) #DreamTeam

  • Emma

    Being a teenager is never easy especially when you have to make those important decisions regarding your future. I think too much pressure is put on kids by schools etc to know what direction they want to go in so that they can pick the right subjects. I didn’t decide what I wanted to do until i was 25 and then took a course, the experience I got being out on the working world before this really helped.

  • Samantha Donnelly

    I think too much is put on kids quite early on as to what they want to do when they go out in the big bad world, that it is hard and sometimes scary when they find it looming up. I have always been the parent where it doesn’t matter what grades you get as long as they try their best. It takes time but he will find what he wants to do. It took one of my boys a bit of time and he got a great job x

  • Carol Cameleon

    I think you’re so right. Unfortunately the UK education can put so much pressure on our children to be career-orientated when they really just need time to find themselves and be happy. Because happiness should be everyone’s vocation! Thanks so much for linking up to #HighlightsofHappy

  • Michelle | The Willow Tree

    Yes you are right – right now it may feel like a worry but you will look back on this post and wonder why you did worry. In time, he will know. 17 is still so young. I was 21 before I knew I wanted to be a social worker!

  • absolutely prabulous

    Oh this is a post after my own heart. My eldest (almost 14) wants to be a singer (and boy does she have a voice) but the truth is we are at a major stage of upheaval regarding schooling and I have been in bits about choosing options for her exams here in Malta (equivalent of GCSE’s back home). Coming from an Indian background where myself and all my siblings went to university, for me it’s a given my kids will go (partly for the experience and fun!) but I am full of what if’s and huge scary doubt. Honestly, when we were up all night feeding, rocking etc, we had no idea that the baby stage is so much easier than the teen stage! #coolmumclub

  • Katy - Hot Pink Wellingtons

    I really think that is ok! I didn’t know what I wanted to do and focused on what I loved, which was music, doing a degree and then a Masters. But ultimately I’d always wanted to be a singer, but because of how long it takes for your voice to mature I really should have waited a couple of years and then gone through music college rather than university (as I already had a degree the cost of doing another one was phenomenal). I then ended up drifting around different admin based roles, initially in the arts and then in management consultancy. I think if I’d taken more time after leaving school, perhaps I would have had more of a focus, rather than drifting into what came along at the time. I think at 17 you’re still so young to be making those kind of decisions – it sounds like he has a level head on his shoulders and I’m sure he’ll work things out. Thanks so much for joining us at our last #SharingtheBlogLove

  • Laura - Dear Bear and Beany

    It’s definitely ok. I didn’t know what I wanted to do all through my teenage years and I fell into a job which I enjoyed but it wasn’t something that I knew I would do forever. Once I found my feet, I pushed myself and ended up with a career that I loved. We all get there, we just take different paths. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

  • Kel - School Runs and Shopping Trolleys

    I hate the pressure our young people are put under to perform, and to know how their life will pan out at such an early age. No-one knows what’s around the corner, so why not just let them be? I knew what I wanted to do when I was very young – I wanted to be a teacher. Did I do it? No, not quite. And it’s a world away from the work I do now as a blogger and VA. Good for you not pressuring your son and letting him come to a thoughtful and measured conclusion in his own time. #TheMMLinky

  • Marylin

    I think as parents we always find something to worry about, don’t we? I know that in my experience so far, every worry I’ve had has been proven to be unfounded by my boys! Will life work out the way we plan? No, it never does! But that’s the beauty of it all. <3 #TheMMLinky

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: