Dear Carolyn: I am a 20-something recent college graduate who works full time. While I am thankful for the experience of my current job, I find myself extremely unhappy at work. My unhappiness has seeped into all aspects of my life. I knew something was very wrong when my mother asked if I was depressed.
I started to look for other positions and found an opportunity out of state. The job description fit my background and interests, so I applied. I was ecstatic to find out I was selected for an interview.
When I told my mother about the job, she was upset. It was not so much that it was out of state, but that I would be taking a sizable pay cut.
I do not have any financial obligations and am responsible with my money. I understand her concerns with being financially stable, but I disagree that I should have to sacrifice who I am and what I want to do for a larger paycheck. When I explained this to her, she insisted that I stay with my current job until something more suitable comes around.
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I am trying desperately to seek some ounce of approval or support from my mother because I love her and want to make her proud. I also know I can’t let her dictate my future and career because it’s my life. How do I make her understand that it is time to make my own decisions – whether she’s on board or not?
Not A Kid
DEAR KID: By making your own decisions whether she’s on board or not.
It really is this simple, because “How do I make her understand” (equal sign) mommy dictating your future. When changing someone else’s thoughts or feelings is your goal, you hand control of the outcome to that person; what your mother feels and thinks is entirely up to her.
It’s not easy to take your rightful control of your choices against others’ advice, of course; we all want loved ones’ support. It’s especially hard when you’ve been taught, explicitly or otherwise, that it’s your job to please your parents. But when you reach a point where your desires and goals are in direct conflict with your mom’s, you have to start making choices. Live for her or live for you.
This isn’t to say you can’t take your mother’s or anyone else’s advice ever; certainly there’s room for consideration about, for example, the financial and career implications of big pay cuts. (For what it’s worth, it’s also possible her money objection is just cover for her not wanting you to move away.)
I am saying, though, that you aren’t a minor and she’s neither law enforcement nor your boss, so her “insisting” days are over. Guilt-tripping – its craven cousin – is out of bounds for her too.
“I love you, Mom, and want to make you proud. If I get this job, though, I’m taking it, because I think it’s best for me.”
It’s her job to learn her new role: to advise only when asked or when forced to by imminent or unseen harm, and to recognize that any steps you take beyond that – even some bad ones – are yours alone to take. Good luck with the interview.
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