My mother is going to be here in 24 hours and I am FREAKING OUT!
June 6, 2013 10:01 PM   Subscribe

My mother is coming to visit. I love her, we have a good relationship, but I am in sort of weird, transitional moment in my life and she seems to not be taking it very well. Or maybe it's all in my head. I am definitely not taking things very well. How do I deal with this?

After three-ish years of working in TV production, I am feeling pretty burned out and also full of anxiety that I am wasting my youth and that I should give this acting thing a chance while I am still young and cute. The job ended, I'm collecting unemployment and attempting to get some freelance gigs, and I'm auditioning and looking for auditions wherever possible. I have a little bit of a savings cushion. It's not dire yet.

Typing that out, I realize I don't sound like that much of a loser, but I'm still unemployed, shooting for an impossible dream, and dealing with a potential career that has a lot of expenses. I have to print more headshots soon. I think I've found an acting class that I can afford if I have some sort of job, but I don't yet and . . . AAAAHHHHH!

But I think once I find some sort of flexible source of income that pays more than unemployment, I will be able to chill out a little bit, mentally. If I'm in the same exact spot a year from now, I'm sure freakout 2.0 will commence, but . . .

My mom is coming to visit. She came to visit a little over a year ago and it was great, but I had a job and a more obvious course of action in my life. I live across the country from my parents and I want this visit to be AWESOME, but I'm afraid that it's going to be full of loaded questions and sighs. I spoke to my mother for the first time in a few weeks today, and she was very, "Are you working? Did you work this week?" And I was very, "Oh my god, this visit is going to suck."

So, MeFites, if you are/were a twenty-something struggling artist with parents that love and support you but also want you to make more money and find a job and fucking nag you about it all the time or at least sometimes, how did/do you deal with it? I don't need her approval, but I want to get along. Maybe I do need her approval. Ugh.

It's possible that I'm projecting, though. Like, I feel like a loser, so my mother must think that I am loser. And for what it's worth, my dad (who sadly is not coming along) has been pretty gung ho and supportive of the idea of pursuing a career in acting.

And in case it comes up: My parents pay my cell phone bill (for which I am very grateful!), but do not support me financially other than that.
posted by ablazingsaddle to Human Relations (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Just be clear about your plans. Tell her you've thought about this thoroughly, done the maths, worked out a budget and you know that you have X amount of time to devote to pursuing acting without money being a problem. Tell her what your backup plan is, in case it doesn't happen. Do not be defensive when you explain this, just be calm and matter-of-fact. If she asks if you're working, say "Yup, I auditioned for X many roles this week" or "schmoozed X many people that might lead to something" or whatever it is you did (not being an actor I am a little unclear). Tell her you are actively working on enhancing your skills so that you will be more employable (the acting class).

If she goes hyper-drama or passive-aggressive with worst-case scenarios or what-ifs, say something along the lines of, "It's all in the plan, Mum, it'll be fine. I know what I'm doing." If she gets really pointed or confrontational say, "Mum, I've decided I want to give myself a chance at the career I dream of doing, and I'm in a position to give it a good go. If it doesn't work out, of course I'll settle for something else, but my dream job is worth a bit of sacrifice." Or something.

Oh, and if you don't have an emergency back-up plan and a budget, come up with one. It's much more plausible that way.

Remember, it's a biological imperative for her to worry about you. She might sound like an unsympathetic nag, but it's because she cares about you. Might help.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:10 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: As a fellow film production person, I will tell you this.


Seriously, the ONLY way it's possible to do this job* is to accept the times when you're not working and subsisting on Unemployment. There's really no other way to do this for a living and not get completely burnt out. A production coordinator friend of mine who directed his first feature last fall is gleefully posting on facebook about how excited he is about some funemployment time. It's all part of the gig, and if you guilt yourself into a panic over it, you'll wear yourself out.

In terms of advice about how to frame this for your mom: in the past I've just been frank with my family and framed it as exactly what it is -- recharging my batteries to get ready for the next phase. Whether that's more production work or a career change or something creative. When family came to visit me while I was in funemployment mode, I would frame it as "yay, I have plenty of time to play tourist with you, isn't that fun?" This is especially worthwhile because, as I'm sure you know, when we're working, WE ARE WORKING. I'm looking at taking another production job right as I have a bunch of friends coming to town, and frankly I wish I was in a fallow hiatus type of period. Even if it's always sort of awkward to be like "Yeah, I'm between things," and yeah, you do feel sort of like an unemployed loser.

Your mom is probably just worried about you. It's probably not a judgment at all. It can be really hard to explain to your parents that you're making a living and doing OK hopping from thing to thing in the entertainment industry. Especially if you can't frame it as "hiatus" but "I want to concentrate on more creative stuff".

My parents eventually just learned to let go about it (though recently I interviewed for a big corporate job and my mom was suspiciously excited). At this point they trust that I'll eat, and if I'm not eating, I'll find a way to support myself. My guess is that yours eventually will figure this out, too.

TL; DR: Just own it. Be upfront with your mom, and if possible, demonstrate that you're getting by OK. Probably seeing you and seeing that you're happy and eating and you don't live in a hovel will make her feel a lot better. And yes, you're projecting.

*I somewhat frame this as if you are between production gigs and not as if you have put gainful employment behind you forever in favor of acting. That's partly because, seriously, it's just like that quote from the Godfather about getting pulled back in. And that's also because, even if you do continue on as an actor and no longer a production person, you'll still hustle. My downstairs neighbors are actors who wait tables. They work. They pay the bills. They're doing OK. You'll be fine.
posted by Sara C. at 10:20 PM on June 6, 2013 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I honestly wouldn't tell her too much about The Plan. I would just tell her that it's happening, you're fine, and if all else fails there's a spot behind an espresso bar with your name on it.

I've found that the times I tried to explain to my family The Plan For How I'm Managing To Eat While Working In Hollywood, they have worried more than the times I just showed up with Christmas presents or tickets to MoMA or whatever and pretended like I am a millionaire and my source of income is not up for discussion.
posted by Sara C. at 10:22 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can you clarify what's the "weird" part of this moment?
posted by Dansaman at 10:31 PM on June 6, 2013

I work in film and my parents ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask me what I'll be working on next even if I've just started a project. I don't think they're nagging me, I think that they're just trying to make conversation and that it comes from not really completely understanding how you get work when you don't have a stable 9-5.

It's also hard for some of my friends with real life jobs to understand that sometimes I work for 14+ hours a day for months on end, and sometimes I have weeks where I'm not doing anything.

I know that venturing into the acting world of the entertainment industry is a new step, but it's basically still just freelancing. I would just be like "I'm taking a little time off to pursue some things in between projects" if you really think that she's worried about you.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 10:31 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Especially if you can't frame it as "hiatus" but "I want to concentrate on more creative stuff"

That is the crux of the issue, for my parents and for me. I'm not on hiatus from network television anymore, so I'm not really on hiatus. I'm not looking toward the next, similar gig. I'm doing something else. Well, sort of.

Can you clarify what's the "weird" part of this moment?

I'm switching gears, life-wise. It feels weird to me. If this is meant to say that I am not such a special snowflake, believe me, I know. Tale as old as time.

And yes, I need to enjoy the funemployment more. Still have money! Hanging out with my dog! Playing tour guide to lots of friends! Thinking about jacarandas and going swimming, etc. etc. Life is pretty good.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:43 PM on June 6, 2013

Is there a reason you have to inform your mom of your intention not to do production work anymore? If you hadn't worked for a year, I could understand your concern, but honestly work comes and goes and most people in the industry have various career and creative goals that they pursue at different times. Can you just leave it open ended?
posted by Sara C. at 10:50 PM on June 6, 2013

Response by poster: I hope this is clarification, and not threadsitting:

Can you just leave it open ended?

I have, in that I know that, like the mafia, I will probably get sucked back into production at some point and that I'm just sort of muddling along and seeing what opportunity comes my way.

The issue is that my parents are relatively cool but also super uptight and embody a lot of Jewish stereotypes. They - my mother, really - are used to me being their little "naches machine," and now they are like WTF?

My mom is not off the rails sending me law school applications and badgering me about moving back to Boston (anymore), but she's still baffled and annoyed by a lot of my life choices. So, I think the vibe I am getting from this thread is:

-less information is better
-appear upbeat about funemployment and optimistic about the future

Thanks for the fantastic answers, folks. I feel better already. I will maintain my boundaries. It's hard, though, because my mom and I are really close despite being very different people. I just want to let her get inside my head or something.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:07 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just want to let her get inside my head or something

Ah, this totally makes sense. You're nervous, so maybe at some level, you just want your mother to comfort you? That's what I'd be feeling. It stinks that the whole situation is so out of her comfort zone that you cannot turn to her for reassurance without freaking her further out. (Then again, maybe she'd surprise you?)
posted by salvia at 11:20 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lots of people actually _do_ make a living as actors. The human psyche is designed to notice and remember bad outcomes more than good outcomes, so the "failures" are what you know about -- but just look at the cast list for Game of Thrones, every other show on TV, etc. -- the sheer number of currently-employed actors is not nothing.

Calm yourself. Parents panic; they're programmed to care, on a deep level, more about your staying alive and reproducing than about your happiness. It's a primal thing, as is their out-of-proportion fear of you starving. Just accept it and get on with your real life.
posted by amtho at 12:02 AM on June 7, 2013

I think it depends on what kind of people your parents are. If they are artistic and honor that spirit - you're sweet!

My father doesn't recognize his aviation pursuits as artistic, and he always pushed me towards a corporate career, like his, so we ultimately fell away from each other. I'm very successful now, but my dad wouldn't know it, because we fell out years ago when one of my artistic attempts went south.

Meh. I wish I had not wasted so much of my 20's and early 30's trying to impress him.

It sounds like your parents are WAY more positive about your endeavors than my father was mine. Rejoice! They get it!!

As an aside, working in TV for network ultimately forced me to go to culinary school. I (literally) needed to stop feeding people shit for living. That said, when I first relocated to Los Angeles, I worked again in TV production. And did well. It could have supported me and made me successful before other aspirations paid off.

I chose my aspirations over TV, again. Worked out great!
posted by jbenben at 12:47 AM on June 7, 2013

Best answer: When I was acting, I taught my parents a lot about the nature of the industry, how casting actually worked, what it was really like to be an actor auditioning, preparing for auditions, etc. It's a field that everyone thinks they know all about, because stars talk about it vaguely in interviews and there are so many movies about show business, but few people actually get the (businesslike, not-glamorous) reality of it. I went to college for acting, so my parents had four years to prepare for the moment you're at now, but I still think you can start that education process when your mom comes. Set realistic expectations, let her know this is a serious career you have seriously considered, and are trained for (or are planning on getting training for.)

One thing I wish I had not done was tell my parents about individual auditions. That just gave my mom an opportunity to nag me about them. She was more worried about them than I was; actually I was almost never worried about them, except for the part where she'd be disappointed. So after this visit, restrict your regular updates to general information unless you get a part. (My parents are also Jewish, also overly concerned with my life and welfare, though thankfully not into the "go to law school, make money" thing at all.)

There can still be naches. It's just that now it's, "she works so hard, she's in such a difficult business but she's learned so much, she's incredibly talented and determined, she knows ALL THE SHAKESPEARE," etc.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:12 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think you need to tell her what you need from her. Like, "Mom, this is my plan, this is my exit strategy if it goes wrong. I have it under control. I will come to you if I need your help. Your worrying is making me nervous and like I can't tell you stuff. But I need you now, more than ever. I need you to support me and hug me and tell me I will do fine because I have always managed so far and I am your brave, smart daughter. Can you do that for me?"

Or whatever your own words are. Parrntal worrying is often the futile wish to DO something for your kid. It can help to channel that!
posted by Omnomnom at 4:31 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh and, you might want to have this discussion before her visit if there is still time!
posted by Omnomnom at 4:32 AM on June 7, 2013

I'd just talk to her on the drive home from the airport. "Mom, I'm so glad you're here! I have a ton of stuff planned for us to do. I did want to say that I don't really want to talk about my job situation. I know it stresses you out and it stresses me out too, but I'm doing what I'm doing and I'm good with it. So, I'm thinking we can go to the Farmers Market..."

Acknowledge that what you're doing is risky, but that you're willing to accept that risk. You're young, it's not forever, and you'll always be able to find a job.

Now, I will say that servinging is the default job for actors for a reason. Not that I'm nagging.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:52 AM on June 7, 2013

Best answer: I'm a creative type with a Jewish mom and the only way to distract her from the "What do you do all day? I mean what are you doing?" has been to divert her attention to other things. "Oh, I'm fine. Have you seen Orphan Black? I think you'd like it." That kind of thing.

They mean well, but my efforts at Explaining How This Business Work have largely been in vain and just make her worry more, so I no longer bother.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:25 AM on June 7, 2013

Best answer: I am a parent, although I am not your parent. I have a mom straight from @jewboyproblems. I was in my 20's once, although I am not you.

Your mom/parents are simply concerned about you. They have a specific vision of how life should be or how it would be best for you and it is hard for them to deviate from that. If you want the visit to go well, and more importantly you want the relationship to continue to go well for years to come, the simple trick is to show your mom that you are HAPPY pursuing your dream. You know there are risks, but you are so thrilled to have this opportunity to follow the dream you've had for years. You just need to demonstrate that you ARE happy in the same way that their vision of a stable job, married, kids, white picket fence would make them happy.

Tell her about the acting class you are looking at. Tell her how thrilling it will be. Tell her why you want to take it. Don't complain at all the entire time she is there. Don't mention any doubts you have. You are happy pursuing your dream.

posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:32 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: -less information is better
-appear upbeat about funemployment and optimistic about the future

Yes. My job situation is basically the opposite of yours-- I work in a stable job for a large institution and make good money. I have been dissatisfied with the bureaucracy and career path, and vented about this to my parents while I meanwhile got an interview with "LARGE PRESTIGIOUS HIGH PAYING CORPORATION", which I told them about. (I had to vent to someone-- my coworkers are obviously not an option)

The thing is that every time you talk about challenges or disappointments with you parents, all they hear is, "Help! I need help! Please come rescue me!" My mom is an incorrigible gossip and has been telling everyone she talks to about my job issues to be point of asking her next door neighbor to have her husband contact me because he works in a related field, even though my mom doesn't know exactly what he does or who he works for. This is all pretty embarrassing for me, who is an established professional in his late 30s who was just thinking, "Maybe I should let my parents know more about my life and what's going on."

So yes, chin up, sound positive. Don't stress your mother with any more information than she needs. It's in their nature to act like this. This is your time to be a "protector" and shield her from information that she doesn't need to know and would just get her parent-protector brain activated.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 7:19 AM on June 7, 2013

Best answer: Oy, I understand so much about the naches. But here's the thing, once I disabused her of her more absurd expectations (uh, that Pulitzer-by-30 thing ain't happening, ma....), she actually was proudest and most supportive of the moment when I pretty much did what you're doing.

She liked telling people, "Oh, [daughter] works for [pompous publisher] these days," but it turns out she prefers having the knowledge that one of her kids can make a (good!) living working for herself. It didn't hurt that my last full-time gig was so insanely awful...she definitely wanted me to quit that no matter what.

So give your mom a chance, and be sure to paint a bit of a rosy picture of your self-sufficiency for her. She might surprise you!
posted by like_a_friend at 7:54 AM on June 7, 2013

You say your mother seems supportive of all this if a little confused by your choices, unless she says or does something that directly contradicts supporting you, you are just projecting your own fears onto her. Tell her your plans in as much detail as you feel comfortable. If you don't want her to worry about you don't tell her too many of your fears.

Remember that showing her concern is mostly from a place of love not a place of judgement. If she shows concern, show her how you've got what ever she's worried about covered and then let that be the end of that. I like to subtitle my parents worry so "what are yo going to do about health insurance" becomes "I love you and would hate for you to get sick", what happens if it doesn't work out "becomes I love you and I worry you are going to get hurt". My father used to worry about me all the time and it became and in joke, he'd worry and I'd just reply "I love you too". Maybe thinking of it like that will take some of the stress out of it for you.
posted by wwax at 7:59 AM on June 7, 2013

I'm in your biz, I'm a mom, and here's what I'd want to see/learn about you (you've only been unemployed for a month, right?):

That you have a plan of action and a routine--let me see where you go to the gym or classes, how you look for work, etc. ( I'm reassured that you're making efforts, not just sitting around at a keyboard.)

Take me to places where your fellow struggling actors hang out and introduce me to those friends who are in the same boat, so I'm aware that you're not some dreaming outlier.

Do you go to temple? If not, find a show biz temple and start going--network, network, network--you never know, it couldn't hurt (and on and on and on.)

It's always good for her to see those headshots in the drycleaners, post office, etc.. to remind her that everyone was once where you are. Even kids of the famous started somewhere.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:55 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In a similar situation, I once said to my similarly cool, similarly Jewish, similarly worrying mother, "I love you so much, and value your opinion so much, that I don't want to know what it is." We laugh about it now, but I repeated it a few times and basically said, "Trust me that I'm headed in the right direction but don't want to talk about my plans right now. Let's talk about everything EXCEPT my work plans now." It (mostly) worked, and it reduced my stress level immensely. Good luck.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 10:10 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

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