When will the time come that what my mom says does not matter to me
May 3, 2012 5:27 PM   Subscribe

how not to feel the need to justify myself in front of my parents. Because their approval should not matter at this point of my life, but I am still angry when they compares me to others in achievement.

I can understand wanting to please your parents when you are kid or teenager, but at mid-life, you think you can grow out of this. But I found it hard. Right now, my parents lives with me for a few months to help me out with my kids while I look for a new job. My mom "tries to help" by pointing out how others were able to find jobs while holding the old job. I got mad at her for saying so, since I kind of left my current job and stayed home for the kids for a while, now looking for a job. She always measure me against others. She also uses her children as her hope to a better life, which is understandable. I just feel that my mom does not know much about the job market in my field, she does not understand what I want and my inner growth. But the thing is I know logically that her words and thinking should not matter. I have my own standard of what I want, I forgive myself for my mistakes, I am excited to embrace life's new challenges and opportunities. It will be silly to still try to please your parents to live your life. But obvious, my logical thinking and my emotions do not match. Once in a while, I feel very angry that I have a mom like her. I try to love her, and understand why she does what she does, but it's hard to control my bad feelings toward her. I know she sacrificed a lot for us, I want to take care of her in the future the best I can, but I am stuck with the angry feelings I have toward her. I know therapy will help, but I want overcome this myself and would appreciate how others did this in similar situations.
posted by akomom to Human Relations (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
When she says "why can't you be like X?", tell her "I am not X".
posted by brujita at 6:23 PM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Divert. Ask her questions about her life and past. She tells you that other people get a job before leaving another job. You say "Mom, tell me about a time in your life when you took a chance." Or "mom, what is the biggest leap of faith you ever took?"

On the other hand---maybe she's feeling put out. You could say something like "my decision didn't go the way I'd planned; I really appreciate you helping me out. Did you get that kind of support from any of your family?"

Change the conversation -- by taking an interest in her. Takes the spotlight off you, and may make her feel loved.
posted by vitabellosi at 6:29 PM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thanks vitabellosi, your suggestions is right on target. What my mom says is just part of her habit. She probably want to help me out. Just divert and change conversation, kind of give her positive stroke. At her age, I know that she wants to be in good relationship with me. Also she's not going to change or update her point of view. I should not take her words seriously at all. Also not dig deep on my thinking on this, just brush it off, move on.
posted by akomom at 6:44 PM on May 3, 2012

How much do you sit down and talk to your mom about the things you wish she understood better? If the only time you talk about them to her is in the moment of conflict, maybe she is not absorbing the facts because she's getting hung up on the conflict. So maybe trying to talk about these things when the situation is not as heated will lead to better understanding.

Also, she's probably frustrated and worried on your behalf. I find that people who have had to work really hard for what they have, no matter how little it is, have a really hard time understanding people who work hard and don't achieve the same result. The idea of luck, good or bad, doesn't really play into that kind of meritocratic worldview, so they look at the little variations in your choices--you chose to stay home with your kids, for example, rather than staying in the workforce--that appear to be the culprit. That's what you did wrong! Aha! Or it could be more of a validation issue--she didn't choose to stay home with the kids (or didn't feel she could) and so your choice to do so feels like a rebuke. Now that you're having trouble finding a job, it validates her feeling that you made the wrong choice.

When mom compares you to other people, just treat it like good news. "I'm so glad to hear that Bobby made partner at his firm. That's such a crazy life, I can't imagine how anyone could do it. I'm really glad it's working out for him." Suddenly we're not looking at how you're a failure, but how Bobby is a success. Being (or at least seeming) genuinely gracious and happy about someone else's success makes it really hard for someone to rub it in your face, because the news is giving you joy.

Above all, try to forgive your mother for not being the mother you wish she was. That will take you further than anything else.
posted by elizeh at 7:51 PM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I second what the other posters have said about diverting the conversation's focus. If that doesn't work, why don't you just explain to her in a calm fashion that you're not going to put up with her BS and mistreatment now that you're an adult? As long as you don't put her on the defensive and explain that her negative comments are unhelpful as you try to piece your life back together, I feel like honesty may be the best way to regain control of the situation. Be brave.
posted by lotusmish at 8:08 PM on May 3, 2012

It's hard, but you have to try to quell those feelings of defensiveness when dealing with her. Agree with her and treat her point with the respect she seems to feel it deserves while interpreting it as encouragement rather than criticism. "You know, you're right, X's experience is pretty encouraging. But in this economy it's definitely easier to change jobs than to go back to work after being at home for a while and out of the loop. And there are a lot more opportunities in X's field right now. But I'm sure you're right, and the right job will come along soon."

If you can ignore her negativity instead of responding to it, she may very well pick up on your cues, consciously or unconsciously, and stop harping on you and comparing you (unfavorably) with others. It helps that you already see her as having the best of intentions toward you, even if she's going about it in the wrong way. But, yeah, that can be pretty frustrating. I think parents want to feel that they are still capable of giving their grown children useful help and guidance--but it is really frustrating when they don't seem to realize how far out of their depth they are.
posted by tully_monster at 4:04 AM on May 4, 2012

As elizeh was saying, try having some serious conversations with her. If you can - at some time when she hasn't said anything triggery lately - sit down over a cup of tea and say how frustrated you are with (example - digging through job ads that appear to be relevant but in fact have very little to do with what you want), how emotionally wrung out you are after a day with the kids or a day with your job search and both together is making you nuts, etc. Just a little confessional, a little honest and detailed venting. And if she starts to say anything, interrupt with, "Gosh Mom, I didn't mean for you to try to solve anything, I'm just venting about a really complicated situation". This plan does sound like you're opening a huge can of worms right in front of her, but the goal here is to point out that you're wrestling constantly with these problems on a really complex level, and that even when you seem fine, and even when the issue seems trivial, it's really just the tip of the iceberg. Additionally, you've got a lot more understanding of your situation than she does; in niche job markets, no outside advice is ever very helpful, but trying to say that in direct response to said advice almost always comes off as making excuses. BUT, if you can say something (in fact, a full conversation) outside that moment about how weird your niche market is, and how irrelevant internet sites about standard job searches are, that might plant some seeds that she also doesn't have applicable advice, and you can always refer back to this conversation later: "Oh, Bobby got a job [etc]? That's great, I wish that's the way my market worked, you know how I was saying the other day that [etc]?"

Also practice some 'thanks but no thanks' phrases:
"Thanks for worrying about me, Mom, I know it must be as frustating to see me struggle as it is for me to be struggling with this, but there's really nothing you can do for me right now (except help with the kids, and you're awesome!)"
"I'm sure you're trying to be encouraging by sharing examples of other people getting jobs, but when I'm this frustrated with my particular situation it just feels like you're pointing out my failures. Thanks for trying to cheer me up, though."
"Thanks for believing in me Mom, I know you just want the best life for me. I really want [something aweome] and think it'll take a while for me to find the right match, so we all need to be patient. Thanks for helping with [other stuff] while I work on this."
posted by aimedwander at 6:53 AM on May 4, 2012

thanks tully_monster and others, I really like the idea of ignore the negativity, me myself give out a positive and tolerant attitude back to her, then she will pick on on my cues, stop worrying about me and rub me the wrong way. Actually, what ever way she rubs me, take it on the surface, and rub it off me, mind my own effort of landing a good job. She's not intending to put me down and she can't at this point!! Thanks for the support here.
posted by akomom at 11:45 AM on May 4, 2012

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