my mother keeps telling me I won’t get the jobs I interview for

A reader writes:

I’m getting ready to interview for a position with a college. While I’ve interviewed with this college before, about two weeks ago for a different position with a different department, I’m finding myself feeling defeated.

My mother has made it very clear she does not think I can do this job. She feels the competition is too strong (it’s an admin role) and that I don’t match up with what they’ve listed in their position description. She feels I should have passed on it, because they are probably just looking to fill a “quota” for interview candidates.

I feel it’s worth going to. I don’t feel I’m unqualified or even “underqualified,” but it’s hard to get that across to her and I’m starting to let her doubts creep into my head. This isn’t the first time she’s made statements like this and I doubt it will be the last. I’ve received offers before for jobs she didn’t think I would get or could do. I’ve done well in them, and in fact the position I’m currently in was one she was adamant I shouldn’t interview for.

Normally, I’m good at ignoring her or recognizing where it’s coming from (i.e. she’s tired of seeing me ignored after interviews or being turned down) but this is getting increasingly more difficult. I’ve gotten to the point where I try to avoid telling her I have an interview, until the last minute. But since I live with her, it’s kind of obvious when I don’t go to work, what I’m doing. Any advice on what I should do?

Stop talking to your mother about your job search.

Seriously. No good is coming of it.

If there’s no way to avoid her knowing that you’re going to interviews, then tell her explicitly that you’re choosing not to discuss your job search with her because her commentary makes you doubt yourself, that in the past she’d discouraged you from interviewing for jobs that you ended up getting, and that while you know she is trying to help, she’s ending up doing the opposite.

If she argues with this, just nicely tell her that you appreciate that she wants to look out for you, but this is the best way for you to handle it. If she still argues, you’re going to need to tell her it’s no longer up for discussion.

Since you live together, if she’s the type who will making life at home unpleasant because of this, then you just smile and nod and ignore her. If you absolutely must tell her you’re going to an interview (and I don’t see why you’d have to), don’t tell her anything about the job. Be vague.

But really, you’ve laid out the facts pretty clearly here: Your mother’s assessment of your chances is not in line with reality. She has been wrong about it before, which you know for a fact, and she’s still wrong about it now — which I can tell you for sure because you have an interview for this job. That’s the clearest indication possible that the employer thinks you look qualified, and your mother is way out of line for telling you that she knows better than the employer and that in fact they won’t want you.

Therefore, you need to make this topic off-limits with her, because she is messing with your head.

From this point forward, she’s banned from knowing information about your job search, because for whatever reason, she can’t stop herself from using the information in a way that’s harmful to you. Inadvertently, maybe, but it harms you nonetheless.

Talk to her about anything else you want, but no more job search info.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 148 comments… read them below }

  1. KAS*


    As the daughter of someone who used to make the very same type of comments. Please know this: her comment says more about her than it does about you. I know it’s difficult to hear, but not all mothers are capable of the “correct and loving” type of feedback. For your own mental health (and self esteem) please do as Alison says and don’t talk to her about your interviews.

    One more thing–I am very sorry that you are getting this kind of feedback from the person who is supposed to be in your corner.

  2. Felicia*

    I think I have the same mom as the OP. I never tell her about any interviews I have which has made things much better for me.

  3. Sabrina*

    WTF? My dad isn’t the most encouraging person but even he wouldn’t say stuff like that. Get a good job and move the hell out.

    I might even go so far as to leave the house on days I had an interview and hang out somewhere if not at work, somewhere that’s not home so she doesn’t have to know and can’t be negative.

    Why, again, universe, did MY mom have to die when I was 18? This is total BS.

  4. kdizzle*

    Hrm…I also have the same mother. You’re right to try to involve her as little as possible.

    I feel like my mother just wants to spare me from any potential dispappointment and keep my expectations realistic, but does it in the worst way possible. And…she doesn’t know the professional version of me, so it is difficult for her to know what I’m actually capable of in the workplace…like, “They want you to do what? Manage a $750 million budget? You can’t even manage to put your dirty clothes in the hamper.”

    Limit her information about your search, keep proving her wrong, and she should come around.

    1. lonepear*

      This is my family. And it’s true, I *can’t* manage to keep my bedroom or kitchen neat, so it’s fortunate that no one is paying me to do that instead of my complicated professional job! (My family, also well-meaningly (I think), wanted me to go to community college because they didn’t think I was mature enough to go away for school; I was one of the most academically accomplished kids in my school district.)

      1. Jessa*

        My bedroom? Mess. My kitchen? Eh. My office? Pristine. Work is not home. Not the same at all.

  5. periwinkle*

    Wow. Does she limit her confidence-stomping to your job search activity, or does she continue to be negative after you get the offers and start the new jobs? Do you ever talk about work and hear things like, “oh, so your boss hasn’t fired you yet?” Does she talk negatively about other aspects of your life, or just your working life?

    It seems that you are doing well professionally and have the qualifications and intangibles that land interviews and job offers. Excellent, keep on the path to awesomeness and don’t let your mother’s commentary shake your confidence. And don’t tell her about your job searches! If you have to take a full day off to interview, schedule the interview in the morning and spend the rest of the day hanging out somewhere fun instead of going home to face the Gauntlet of Doubt.

    1. AF*

      Possibly, but probably something her mom made up in case she tried to challenge her about her qualifications. If she said “well I got an interview,” this is a form of belittling her by implying that it was only because the employer had to, not because she might – gasp! – actually be qualified for the position. It is mean to do that to your child. Seriously.

      1. Rana*

        Yeah, this sounds rather like gaslighting to me. It makes me wonder if the mother is anxious about her adult child becoming more independent financially, and is trying (subconsciously or not) to sabotage the OP’s efforts to gain that independence.

        1. QualityControlFreak*

          That was my thought as well, that Mom may be acting out of separation anxiety rather than a desire to hurt the OP.

      2. FiveNine*

        My mother not only continued to push for me to try to get a job as a cashier at Wal-Mart when I had been a national reporter and was doing contract editorial work, when I did land a new 3-month project that paid $50K she and my cousin attributed it not to any skill I had but … to the ghost of my aunt (her sister, my cousin’s mother) who died 20 years earlier. They just felt she had interceded and bestowed me with such “luck.”

        1. JohnQPublic*

          Seriously this had me rolling… Luck from a dead aunt? You know, because they can sway international corporations to do their bidding… Lol

          I guess I’m not the only person with crazy family members!

      3. Jessa*

        Yes, what’s that quote from “the Help?” Paraphrased – “It’s a hard thing when a mama don’t think her child is pretty?” It’s a mean thing to bring your child down with that sly almost polite backstabbiness.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sometimes (not as a matter of course, though), but there’s absolutely no way to tell from the outside, and definitely not for someone once removed from the process, like the mom. It’s a silly thing when anyone without real inside information about the process says it, and even more bizarre when it’s said in this context.

      1. Anonymous*

        I work for a public library, and we have a certain number of candidates we have to interview per opening, but all interviewees are given the same chance for the job. We don’t hold interviews just for kicks or to fill a quota.

        1. Angelina Retta*

          But isn’t having a certain number you’re expected to interview the definition of a quota?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think Anonymous was saying that they don’t bring people in where they’re thinking of them as not a real interviewee — it’s not “we have to talk to these 3 people, but we already know who we’re going to hire.” There ARE some places that work like that, but that’s where it’s impossible to know from the outside.

            1. Kim*

              I have worked in libraries, both public and academic, for two decades, and they absolutely do that. (Bring people in to interview that they have no intention of hiring, because there is an interview quota. And yes, a lot of the time, they already know who is getting the job.)
              The last hire we made was to a friend of the manager’s, to whom she sent the interview questions the night before and prepped her answers.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yes, the point isn’t that it doesn’t happen; it certainly does, sometimes. The point is that it’s not the norm, and it’s impossible to know whether or not it’s happening from the outside (so it makes no sense when people assume that it is).

                1. Kim*

                  Agreed 100%. Just wanted to clarify that about libraries, because they seem to work differently (read : WORSE) than businesses in this and a lot of other ways. Unfortunately.

                2. Jessa*

                  Yes and it’s usually fairly rare (and DISCLAIMER – I say that knowing that it did happen to me once. I had been working in the job as a temp, and they were going to hire permanently but did have to open it up. If someone senior had wanted it I would have lost it, but I was pretty much a shoe in because well I’d been DOING the actual job for 6 months.)

              2. Pussyfooter*

                But regardless of minimum numbers of candidates to be reviewed, it’s not standard op procedure for managers to just hire their buddies most of the time–right?

              3. Anonymous*

                I’ve been the victim of this. I already had the day off to interview, so it’s not like I missed out on work, but it was a huge waste of time for everyone. It’s so disrespectful.

        2. Forrest*

          Wait, so what do you do if you don’t get enough qualified applications to fill those interview slots?

          1. Kim*

            Re-post to a wider pool until you do. Or just interview the unqualified applicants so it can be over with. I’ve seen both happen.

            1. Forrest*

              Seems like a waste of time if you find someone you want on the first go around but can’t hire them since you didn’t have the proper amount of interviews first.

    3. Amy Lynne*

      Lots of places have quotas – almost any federal or state agency, or businesses that do a lot of government contracting, are required to talk to a certain number of candidates and report their statistics to the EEOC.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        I was working at the time when quotas came into being via Affirmative Action. It’s true that at that time, black people were sometimes not given the same opportunities as white people, and it was thought that legislation would fix that. I’ve seen it go right, and I’ve seen it go wrong. Whenever I hear the word “quota”, and they’re not talking about manufacturing, I still cringe.

        I think now, though, that it usually just means that a certain number of applicants needs to be considered for a job opening. And I’ve had interviews that were a complete waste of time because the hiring manager already selected the one, but they had to interview a number of candidates to satisfy their corporate rules.

        1. K*

          I have certainly experienced that as well. In one case, it was a very well known company and I was beyond excited they even called me in to interview. Needless to say the excitement didn’t last long when it became clear, I wasn’t going to be selected and they had someone in mind. Less than 24hrs later I had a rejection email. Was I miffed? Sure. Because I rushed to get there on time and get back to work at a reasonable hour. But it also made me realize that my resume was strong and I was going in the right direction.

          As for quotas, most places now state that they are EOE and they actively recruit women and minorities. Especially many of the universities.

    4. Anonymous*

      For most school and government jobs, yes, there usually is. We have to have a minimum of 5 interviewees. Reason is (I think) that otherwise it looks like we did not advertise properly, and nepotism would be one reason for that. So, they err on the side of caution. I know that will sound silly to AAM but this is your government, we should be open and fair to all, even to the extreme lengths we have to go to.

  6. Ramona*

    Don’t listen to her. If you’re getting interviews for admin positions in higher ed, you’ve already beaten out a lot of the competition. (Depending on where you are, these positions get hundreds of applications for each opening). At this point, put your energy in preparing for the interview. That’s what counts. People also told me that I wouldn’t get an admin position in higher ed, and I recently landed such a job.

  7. AF*

    Wow – I have the same mother too! And I had to stop telling her about job stuff as well (I live with her too, and it has been extremely challenging). Not to get too personal, but I agree that she probably does this in other areas of your life. I’m so sorry, OP. It is most difficult when it comes from someone whose opinion you value most (even if it’s not good for your self-esteem). Believe me when I tell you that you deserve a good job, and you can absolutely do it. It took me many years of hardship to understand that my mother’s opinion comes from her own fear and self- doubt, and has nothing to do with me. How would she know whether you’re truly qualified for this or any other job?! Best of luck with your interview and please keep us posted.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It took me many years of hardship to understand that my mother’s opinion comes from her own fear and self- doubt, and has nothing to do with me.

      I think this is so often the case. It’s painful in a different way when you see it that way.

      1. AF*

        Absolutely – and a topic for a different blog, I’m sure. But it takes a lot to realize it’s even happening, let alone overcoming it. I also agree that you should find a strong support network – I have a group of friends who are the best people in the world and always encourage me when I have an interview. They are my true family.

      2. Anonymous*

        It took me moving 1200 miles away and hearing from my father, many years later, that while it was pretty shocking to them that I literally moved to Hollywood (yep that one) with about $10 in my pocket and no job when I got there, that he felt getting away from my mother was one of the smartest things I’d ever done. I guess the Master’s, not so much, eh Dad?

  8. Brett*

    Let’s just assume for a moment that your mom is right, you are being interviewed to fulfill some sort of “interview quota”.

    That means you are the top candidate from an underrepresented minority in your profession, and at a academic institution. That makes you a very desirable candidate! Just look at the impact of the Rooney Rule (a real “interview quota”) in the NFL to see that the top minority candidates have fared extremely well under quota systems and do routinely get job offers. Maybe the impact on racial hiring as a whole is not that great, but the system has worked very well for the best minority coaches.

    So, even if she is “right”, she is wrong.

    1. Cathy*

      It doesn’t necessarily mean this person is a minority. Some government and public universities have requirements that they interview a certain number of outside candidates for each position. The “quota” is just the number of people they have to talk to. The candidates do not have to be members of any racial minority.

    2. Brett*

      Good point. Although that sounds odd for an admin role at a college. I figured the hypercritical mom scenario sounded more like, “you’re just a token” than “you’re just a number” :)

  9. Ellesa*

    Always, always surround yourself with people who support you and help boost your confidence, not stomp on your dreams.

    The fact that you got the interview means you beat a considerable number of applicants. That in the eyes of the college you’re applying for, you’re worth something. Your mom may not see that, but it’s important that you do.

    My advice to you is, move out as soon as you can. In the long run, though you try to turn a deaf ear to her comments, they will eventually affect you and WEAR YOU OUT.

  10. Tina*

    I’d just like to echo what everyone else has already said. Your mother’s judgment is clearly not as accurate as she likes to think, nor are her comments helpful. Does she give you any positive suggestions, or just criticisms?

    Sometimes people do need someone to give them a reality check if their expectations are too far off the mark, but given that you’re getting interviews and even offers in some cases, that’s clearly not the case. Besides, “realistically”, if you don’t at least go to the interview, you definitely won’t get the job and then where does that leave you?

  11. Anonymous*

    I have four children, three of whom are adults, and I say to you:

    If you’re an adult, you don’t have to talk to her about anything you don’t want to talk about. It doesn’t matter that she’s your mother. Do not engage.

    And if she does volunteer any insight about your work/search/life in general that you disagree with, don’t argue with her. Doing so is saying, in effect, “This is open to debate.” And it’s not.

    In a day and age where hiring managers are inundated with resumes for each opening, scoring an interview is a major win. Always go to interviews, because if nothing else it’s awesome practice for the day you’re interviewing for The Job You Must Get.

    Go get ’em!

  12. anonymous*

    Wow, I have a lot of siblings I didn’t know about! My mom is SO like this.

    LW, please move out as soon as you possibly can. My mom is just like yours and nothing got better between us until I moved out. Even once I turned 18, I couldn’t make any decisions or choices without her criticizing them. The criticism has not stopped 100%, but now I can choose to end phone calls or walk away when I need to. And I’m old enough now that my mom realizes I have been completely on my own for over a decade, and I managed to stay gainfully employed, pay all my bills, take care of myself, and stay out of jail the entire time, so she has been able to relax now that she has proof I can thrive without her direction or warnings.

  13. Ruffingit*

    It’s letters like these that make me even more grateful for both of my parents. They have been divorced since I was 4, but they have both been extremely supportive of my educational and work goals. I am truly, deeply sorry that not everyone has that kind of support, it makes a world of difference.

    OP – listen to Alison. Really, truly listen to what she has said because it’s spot on for your situation. You are not obligated to share your job search/interview/etc. info with your mother.

    And, listen to the other posters and me as I chime in with the same advice – MOVE OUT. Maybe you need a roommate to make ends meet (or more than one roommate). Whatever it takes, get out of the toxic environment you are in because it will wear you down. It already is as your mother’s doubts are creeping into your head. GET OUT NOW. Can’t emphasize that enough.

  14. Gobbledigook*

    This makes me remember all the time I wasted “pounding the pavement” and going out handing resumes when really, no one did that anymore and my parents’ job search advice was way out of date. I totally agree with Alison. Talking to your mom about this is doing you no good. So just block it out and think positive thoughts. It sounds like you know you are capable which is great. Have a fantastic interview!!

  15. fposte*

    To put it another way: your question is “How can I make my mother be different?” And the answer is that you can’t, but *you* can be different in a way that makes what your mother does less of a problem.

  16. Mena*

    Oh Dear, who is exactly running your career? You or your mother? Please listen to Alison’s advice.

  17. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

    I agree with so many of the posters here– stop telling your mom about your job search, and move out as soon as possible.

    Also, get yourself a copy of Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud. My guess is if she’s like this in this area of your life, she’s also affecting you in other ways as well. You need to set some clear boundaries with her, or she’ll continue to be a negative influence.

    1. IronMaiden*

      I second reading “Boundaries”. Given that we learn to set our boundaries from our parents, it is likely you have boundary issues in other parts of your life.

  18. Job seeker*

    Well, honey I am sorry your mom isn’t encouraging. That is something I believe every mom should be to their children. I am the mother of three wonderful young adults and I believe in all three of them. Maybe, your mom is just worried that you will get discouraged if you do not get the job. Still, that is a part of life. I believe a parent’s greatest role can be of cheerleader to their children.

    Good luck on this position. Just put your best foot forward and you know what, you just might be surprised. You have already gotten an interview so that speaks for itself. Believe in yourself.

  19. Lulu*

    Oh so thankful to read this! I NEEDED THIS!

    I’ve been dealing with very similar words and behavior from my mother! She will tell me I am interviewing for a job too difficult for me and that I will fail, that I have the wrong degree, that the interviewing company isn’t a good company/stable/etc. You name it! Openings in my field are common in larger metropolitan areas but not where I live and my applications, phone screens and interviews out of the area don’t work with her agenda! Of course she has no qualms suggesting I misrepresent my skills when applying for a local job that she wants me to apply for (one that I would pass up due to not having the desired skills – I don’t believe in misrepresenting myself).
    I have no idea how I have let her affect my confidence, belief in my skills and career goals, etc. Of course she has always been critical of appearance, my diet, how I wear my hair when exercising, you name it!!! I chalk it up to her insecurities and issues. I think I am mostly upset at myself for not being impervious to her words and actually letting them affect me.
    At this point I have started giving up on my career aspirations and all the little goals and paths I set for getting there. I no longer feel I can succeed at these things and question whether I really have what it takes to succeed in my field. All thanks to my mother’s words.

    1. Job seeker*

      Well, I am sorry your mother acts like this. I believe she probably doesn’t want you to move out of the area. I can understand her feelings, but that is wrong. Give your children roots and wings, Roots to know they are loved and wings to fly high and be all they can be. I hope your mom can realize you having a wonderful life and being happy is what she needs to put first for you.

    2. IronMaiden*

      Please don’t let her win. Take back you life, your career and your self esteem. Get professional help if you have to. You only have one life and you owe it to yourself to have the best life you can.

    3. AF*

      It is very hard, but you can move past it. And don’t blame yourself for believing her – she’s your mother, and she has a huge amount of influence on you, as all mothers do. But if you think you’re at fault for believing her, that just perpetuates the beating down of your self-esteem. You didn’t know any better, and now you do. Believe in yourself and don’t let her mean words and actions keep you down for one more second of your life!

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Gah! DON’T GIVE UP!

      Seriously, your mother’s behavior is about her, not you. My parents are loving and supportive, but they also treat me like a tiny baby (trust me; it’s not just love and concern) and it really makes me feel inadequate and incompetent. It has taken me YEARS to get out from those apron strings and I still hate myself every time I have to even ask them a question about something. I finally had to just stop telling them stuff and start telling myself “You can do this; you did it already. You did X by yourself, you did Y by yourself. There is nothing wrong with you.”

      If you need to talk to someone to get this crap out of your head, do it. NO ONE can make you feel bad unless you let them. I know it’s hard to hear it over and over and over and not believe it, but you have to not believe it.

    5. FreeThinkerTX*

      I didn’t move four states away; I took the more radical approach of “breaking up” with my mother. I didn’t see her or speak to her for six years. That time away from her let me see her for who she really is: a human being with a lot of character defects vs “Mom, the Ultimate Dispenser of Unconditional Love” (which is, of course, how I saw her when I was a child, even though it was never true).

      Six months after I reunited with her, she moved in with me and my boyfriend. It took me two years to get her “trained” to my new way of dealing with her, but she eventually caught on. She had to; it was the only way I would interact with her. I spent a lot of time repeating myself, “Mom, that’s none of your business and I’m not going to discuss it with you. Please change the topic or one of us is going to have to leave the room.”

  20. AF*

    Just to reiterate what Alison said, there’s no way for the mom to know if there’s a quota, and even if there is one, that’s not helping the OP with her situation in trying to feel more confident about the interview and her qualifications. I’m all for being honest and objective, but we don’t know for sure whether there is a quota. It’s awesome that she got an interview!

  21. Lulu*

    Thank you! I think I will be checking the book “Boundaries” too btw (and also silently chuckling about the benefits of possibly moving four states away if offered a position I am currently in interview process for). Glad to hear that a mother’s influence is a pretty “normal” thing.

    I do wish she were more supportive and I do wish I could please her, but not at the expense of my goals and career . Lots of great advice and encouragement in the post and comments.

    I really hope the OP gets the latest position she is applying for and I hope she knows she isn’t alone in this. Kudos for having the courage to write in about this and also for attending the interviews anyway. I do believe that even the interviews that seem to be a waste of time offer us practice in our interviewing and presentation skills.

    1. Pussyfooter*

      Hi Lulu,
      I agree with what the others said to you above.

      Would add that knowing you’re being told untrue things doesn’t show you *which* are real versus which are your Mom’s imagination. This is why even after you recognize that the problem is going on, it can keep sapping you.

      Try to spend regular time outside her house, with friends if you can. Counseling can at least give you a shoulder to lean on, if this is going to continue a while. Take a long weekend to decompress at a friend’s house if one can offer you that kind of relief. And yeah, it’s unnatural to have to put up with hostility in a place that’s supposed to be your refuge (home)–you deserve better.

    2. K*


      I’ve also considered moving several states away. I’ve applied for jobs in Boston, CA, FL. (I even found myself seriously considering applying for a job in TN.) These potential moves have nothing to with my relationship with my mom, it has more to do with my frustration about my unsuccessful job search.

      I hope you get the job.

  22. scw*

    My mom is the opposite in some ways. She assumes I will get any job I apply for, ANY one. So I could apply to be CEO with no experience and I’m a failure if I don’t get it. Then I land an awesome job that is a real promotion and stretch and it is “eh, so? I knew you’d get it.” She believes in me, so she is NEVER impressed with anything I do or any job I land. I became a manager after nine months on a job, a jump no one in my company thought would happen, so I was very excited. My mom wasn’t really. When I worry about interviews, she tells me “why worry, you are good at interviews,” as in good at interviewing not at jobs.

    Mothers, they know all of your sensitive buttons to press.

    1. IndieGir*

      My spiritual director once said to me “Of course your mother knows how to press your buttons — she’s the one who installed them!”

    2. Windchime*

      Heh, my sister and I used to work at the same place….she was a project manager and I was an entry-level programmer. My mother thought we ran the joint and was incensed that we were in basement cubicles instead of corner offices with windows!

    3. Cait*

      My mom’s a lot like yours. She’s constantly telling me to apply for jobs that I’m in no way qualified for, and then makes me feel like I’m slacking on the job search when I refuse to waste my time. An unrealistic view of your child’s abilities is not helpful in either direction.

  23. Plynn*

    Hey, it’s my mom! And my husband’s mom! (oh dear god, will *I* eventually be this mom? ACK!) Basically, the reasons have been:

    -Totally not understanding what I do for living, what my education was like and how I might actually be qualified for the position
    -Trying to protect my feelings, prepare me for disappointment
    -A hint of bitterness that I might be successful at something DESPITE CONSTANTLY IGNORING ALL OF THE WONDERFUL ADVICE OFFERED BY MY MOTHER
    -An outdated or industry-specific idea of how hiring/working life operates

    I know all of this in the logical part of my brain. And sometimes it’s even funny. But it’s also been very hurtful and confidence-sapping in the past.

    You can’t ignore it, but really, the only advice is to ignore it…

    1. EM*

      “An outdated or industry-specific idea of how hiring/working life operates”

      This is my mom, also. She INSISTED once that I get a letter of recommendation to keep from a previous supervisor as a reference. I tried to gently point out that letters aren’t really useful except for very specific industries and she started getting very angry, so then I just did the nod & smile response, heh.

      1. anon*

        Ahh, the reference letter suggestion. When I left my last job, both members of the parental unit suggested I get a reference letter from my store manager. I told them I did but I fibbed. I don’t think he can per corporate. The corporate line for all non-transfer references is to confirm dates of employment, job title(s), and pay. They also use an automated number for that purpose, as well. They don’t realize that most employers find them to more a nuisance and prefer to contact the candidate’s references and past supervisors themselves.

        My parents love to offer career advice. The father fancies himself an expert because he does hiring in his role as a plant manager. Some of his advice is worthwhile, like always be extra nice to the receptionist or person contacting your interviewer. He’s seen candidates who seem to click with the interviewing panel torpedo their near offer by being rude and dismissive to the receptionist. One person they interviewed for the head of HR ruined her chances when she was rude to the receptionist both times she interviewed in person. He said that the receptionist attributed her attitude the first time to nerves, but when she was dismissive the second time, they figured that was her attitude towards people in subordinate roles. She also had never worked in an union shop and had a history of job hopping, but the receptionist’s feedback killed her candidacy.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      LOL it’s frustrating to explain to someone why they don’t know what they’re talking about when they don’t know what you’re talking about.

      No, Mom, just because I wrote a book doesn’t mean it will automatically be published. No, that’s not being negative; it’s being realistic!

      1. Rana*

        Oh, gosh, yes. Our parents are both supportive and practical, but even so it took years before they grasped that the academic job market is a strange, strange beast, and doesn’t play by normal rules. And even now, I don’t think they get it on a gut level; it just doesn’t make sense to them (which I can understand).

  24. EM*

    I also had to stop telling my mom about job searching/interviews/etc. She doesn’t exactly do what your mom does, but she will act disappointed if she doesn’t think the job is “good enough” for what I should be doing. She also firmly believes I should go back to school (I already have one masters degree), and so she tends to get disappointed whenever I would mention anything about a job because right away she’s all, “I guess you’re not going back to school then, huh?”

    I try my best not to give her any information at all until I know 100% what is happening — ie, I was offered a job and have accepted it.

    This took many years to really learn & implement and sometimes I still make mistakes and share something that I later regret. If it is at all feasible to move out, I would also try to do so.

    If you need to, leave the house at your normal time that you would go to work and hang out at a Starbucks or something prepping for your interview so she isn’t the wiser.

  25. Windchime*

    Also something to keep in mind…..maybe moms don’t always mean to be so discouraging. I think sometimes our moms still think of us as being 4 or 5 (or 14) years old, and so that’s why they issue all the cautionary advice. They think of us being their babies and they don’t want us to get hurt.

    That doesn’t make it right, and maybe sometimes moms really do mean to be shooting us down. But maybe we are just stuck in their minds as little kids and they don’t want us to be disappointed.

    1. Ruffingit*

      There is probably some of that at work. I know my father still does this. I took a solo trip to Europe last fall and told my dad I was going. His response was “well, you need to make sure you have an escape plan in case you need to get back to the US…” and he just wouldn’t let it go.

      He then proceeded to “I’d feel better if you had someone over there you could turn to in case you need something like your brother was when you went before…” The last time I was in Europe, I was 19 visiting my brother who was in the Air Force. He was 26 at the time.

      He finally started talking about going with me at which point, I had to say “Dad. I’m 36 years old. I am not 12. I can travel the world by myself with no problem. The escape route you talk about so often is called a VISA card. If I need to change my tickets and come home, I can do that. Having someone there I can turn to is unnecessary because again, I’m 36. And no, you can’t go with me.”

      I finally had to tell him I refused to talk with him further about his concerns. I went, stayed a month, and had a fabulous time.

      Sometimes it really is coming from a place of love and concern, but it crosses the line into serious boundary stomping, at which point you have to shut it down.

      1. Forrest*

        My dad told me that he won’t approve me moving out of the house until I presented him with a budget on how I was going to live. I blew him off because I was 25 years old! It was time to go!

        1. Ruffingit*

          LOL Elizabeth, I do enjoy your comments and feel we’re often on the same page on things so perhaps we are related. ;)

          Forrest – DAMN. Your dad apparently didn’t realize that not allowing someone to leave a place they don’t want to be is called kidnapping and/or false imprisonment.

          I’ve always said that I will always need my parents, just not in the same way I did when I was 12. Things change in life and our parents often have a hard time realizing that they do not get to make our choices for us and often, they don’t get to share their input about those choices either. It’s hard on them to really internalize those concepts.

      2. Windchime*

        I’m in my early 50’s and my dad still won’t let me get a power saw. I say “won’t let me”; I could certainly get one and just not tell him. But so far, I just let him cut things for me because it makes him feel better.

  26. Lanya*

    I have found that most of my parents’ advice (as well as my fiance’s parents’ advice) on job hunting has been incorrect, outdated, and just plain wrong.

    Trust your own instincts. Only you can be in charge of your happiness in life. And remember, it’s your path and your life. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that when you live with your parents.

  27. Pussyfooter*

    Hi OP,
    I’d just add that the “I’m not going to discuss this topic with you” deflection is an on-going strategy. It’s likely your Mom will continue to bug you as before, so realize this is likely an exchange you’ll have again and again with her. Rarely do people with these sorts of attitudes get a whole new outlook due to anyone else’s efforts.

    Just focus on limiting the effect of her latest comment in length by ending the conversation, and depth by not trying to justify yourself. That thinking about what and why and justifications is how you get sucked down.

    And your letter is a smart one; you are sharp and have plenty of abilities to feel confident/competent about. Good luck!

    1. Ruffingit*

      Yes, so true. OP, remind yourself often that “I don’t owe anyone an explanation” and tell your mother “I’m not discussing this.” Repeat as needed. And it will be needed often at first.

  28. Not So NewReader*

    Let’s see. NOT getting a job benefits your mother, HOW? It probably validates her own misconceptions. OR perhaps she believes that if you fail then she wins! (Nooo…) It could be any number of reasons.

    It so sucks when our parents don’t support us. Sometimes support comes from odd places. Look around- maybe you have a very encouraging neighbor. Perhaps an aunt has taken a huge interest in you. Seek out the supportive positive people in your life.
    For whatever reason, your mother cannot fill that role for you. And it seems unlikely that she will any time soon.

    A family member told his mother that he got a new job at a big international company. He was thrilled. All his mother said was “What if you get laid off? After all, you are low man on the seniority list.”
    With that my family member never mentioned his job again. Sadly, his mother never noticed. There always seemed to be some newer concern going on. He had to deliberately seek support from other people. This meant calling friends and other fam and sharing the good news with them- this part worked out well.

  29. TP*

    Yeah, block your mother’s words out. I tried for two years to get a job in higher ed. I live in Boston and some schools here are notoriously difficult to get into, especially if you’re not currently working in higher ed. (my background is in the public media world). I had my eyes on two schools in particular and people kept hinting for me to move on after many unsuccessful attempts. Like you, I had interviews, but no offers. That is until now. I kept trying and finally got a hit and will be starting my new job in a few weeks. It’s hard, but doable!

    1. Tina*

      Good for you for not giving up. Working in a university (in Boston, too), every department and every job is different. The fact that you didn’t get a specific job in one dept doesn’t necessarily have much impact on your qualifications for another position/department. Assuming you’re not haphazardly applying to jobs for which you have no qualifications (which clearly you weren’t or you wouldn’t have gotten interviews to begin with), I’d encourage people to keep applying for appropriate jobs as they come across them. I’d also suggest that they apply to other places as well, but I don’t think you’d need to write an entire organization off.

  30. AF*

    Her mom might not want her to get a job so she’ll live with her forever and take care of her. That’s the pattern in my family with the oldest daughters (my grandmother treated my mom that way and my mom treats me that way). If you become independent, how can I count on you to do everything for me when I become old and unable to care for myself? Also sounds like the mom in this situation (I could be wrong) is herself not employed or retired. Sounds horrible, but it’s part of a very warped thought process. I have to tear you down so you don’t get too confident, and then we have a weird co-dependent relationship. But again, that’s a topic for another blog :)

    1. Ruffingit*

      That happens more often than people think sometimes. That is why it’s really important to assess what your needs are independent of those around you. If you need to move halfway across the country for a job or school or whatever, do it! Letting others hold us back from the things that would make us happy is how we end up with a lot of resentment and anger.

  31. Anonymous*

    Funny, I have the exact opposite problem. I have a relative who emails me job postings I am in no way qualified for and thinks that the qualifications are more…suggestions. Our conversations used to go something like this:

    Me: Jane, thanks, but this director position requires at least 7 years of experience in HR. It’s not my field and I’ve never worked in HR.
    Her: Well, I’m sure they’d train the right person. 7 years is probably not required.
    Me: …I think they want more than zero years, though.


    Me: Jane, this posting is for head of the nursing education department. I…what? I never had anything to do with nursing.
    Her: Well, you majored in finance. They just need a business manager to take care of the business aspect.
    Me: …No. Just no. They need a nurse. Who can organize a nursing curriculum. Who would know if something UNNURSELIKE was happening in their school. Stop it. Now.

    I say “used to” because now I ignore her emails and try to avoid seeing her at all. She still corners me once in a while, though.

    I honestly don’t know whether I prefer her or the OP’s mother.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I hear you big time on this. A bit of a twist in a way on this problem is people who make suggestions for jobs within my field, but it’s clear they don’t have a clue about what it actually takes to get those jobs.

      I have a law degree and practiced law before switching professions to an entirely different field. When I was practicing (off and on since I was also in grad school), I would get people saying “You should get a job in corporate law. You could work for 10 years and make tons of money and then do whatever you want.”

      FACE PALM!! So clear that these people do not understand how legal hiring or the legal world works whatsoever.

      Their hearts are in the right place, but I don’t know where the hell their brains are.

      1. Merp*

        Wait. How would that not work? I have a friend graduating from law school soon and I don’t want to sound like an idiot.

        1. Ruffingit*

          For a few reasons. Getting a job with “big law” where you make a lot of money is very difficult, especially in the current legal market. Those jobs, when they’re even available, tend to be reserved for people in the top 10% of the class. That leaves 90% of the class unable to get such jobs.

          Also, when people talk about “corporate law,” they really have no idea what that even means. There are lawyers who work for corporations of course. However, when people have said “you should get a corporate law job” to me, they mean I should be in-house counsel for a big corporation and therefore make scads of money. In-house counsel jobs are, again, hard to get and generally require several years of experience. They are not the kind of thing you just walk into right after graduation.

          Basically, there’s a great deal of misunderstanding when it comes to legal jobs and the legal job market. It’s not an easy thing to walk out of law school and land a six-figure job. People are still under the mistaken impression that it is possible and easy. Law degree = ticket to millions for a lot of people. It’s just not that way.

          1. K*

            I feel like that’s true for a lot of fields without real clear path. I certainly encountered that. It seems to be a cross between ‘what can you do with your major/degree’ and ‘why aren’t you using your degree, you should have picked something more practical.’

    2. FreeThinkerTX*

      My dad is kind of like that. Only the job postings he sends me are waaaay below my skill and pay level. I’ve had six-figure sales positions where I killed my numbers and was sent to Kuaui on a week-long vacation by the company as a reward. . . and my dad wants me to work at Costco as a cashier “because I hear they have great benefits.” Nothing wrong with cashiering, nothing wrong with Costco, it’s just waaay outside / below my level of expertise. He also thinks I can make a mint as a dog-walker. (Wha??) His latest doozy came after he re-financed one of his houses and the notary from the bank came to his house. Bingo! All I have to do is pay a small fee to the state, then sit back and watch the money roll in from my notary services. Golly, there must be something wrong with me for passing on such a sure thing. When I try to explain to him why all of these “great” ideas of his aren’t a fit for me, he jumps down my throat and tells me I’m being negative and dismissive. I try hard to just say, “Thanks for thinking of me,” and leave it at that.

      I own my own company now and work hard every day to build a customer base. And for now, while the revenue is coming in drips and drabs, my dad frequently asks me how my job hunt is going. WTH? I *HAVE* a job!! It’s called “Independent Business Owner”.

  32. Ruffingit*

    So a bit of a twist on this topic, but anyone else want to share weird stuff their families tell them about jobs/getting jobs. I’ll start:

    One member of my family believes it’s very easy to get a big law job and make tons of money in that field and just can’t understand why I didn’t do this when I was practicing law.

    I also had people telling me I should open my own practice. Heard that so many times. Because it’s totally easy to open your own business when you’re new to the profession and have no financial backing.

    Sigh. Family…

    1. Jo*

      This reminds me of a story I saw on some TV show (Might have been when my mum was watching Dr Phil…) where the husband believed that berating and constantly insulting his wife about her weight would encourage her to diet. I really can’t understand people who believe constant negativity will bring positive results.

      1. Jo*

        Sorry didn’t mean to reply to your comment specifically, just the article in general… Yay for my computer skills.

      2. Sara*

        “I can’t understand people who believe constant negativity will bring positive results.”

        I think they believe that that person will then turn around to prove them wrong. But I thin it really depends on a person’s character and personality–not everyone is able to take negativity and make something positive out of it. Esp if as a child you’re constantly torn down, confidence shattered, you grow up believing that you’re stupid. I know some who can rebel, I’m not one of those– I need positivity (and not fake positivity–“OMG YOU TIED YOUR SHOES? AWESOME!”). Negativity = can and HAS destroyed me and my confidence in myself and it’s been a challenge to break out of it.
        This has turned into a long ramble, apologies for the long rambling, but I saw that line and had to respond!

        1. Ruffingit*

          You’re so right! Some people function well under the I’ll prove them wrong regime, but some do not at all and crumble under it. It really is very dependent on personalities.

          I often tell people who are trying to get others to change (whether they are doing it in a negative manner or not) to think about the last time they tried to make a major change in their life. It takes a lot to change. It’s easy to say “You need to lose weight, your health is at risk…” It’s not so easy to actually do it. Fat shaming someone or telling them all the bad things about what they are doing doesn’t work. Change is hard.

          1. Audrey*

            I wish my husband would quit smoking. But I never ever mention it. If I did he would become more determined to keep on doing it. And he knows perfectly well what I wish.

            When we met and for the first 15 years of our marriage, he was a permanent resident but not a citizen of this country. I wanted him to become a citizen. But after a couple of “discussions” I held my peace. Eventually he made up his mind that he wanted to be a citizen and shortly afterwards he became one.

          2. FreeThinkerTX*

            My dad used to get on me constantly about my weight. After a few years I’d finally had enough and asked him the Dr. Phil question: “How’s that workin’ for ya?” I pointed out that I’d only ever been steadily putting ON weight since he started nagging, so why was he investing so much energy in a losing strategy? It actually shut him up.

  33. Kris*

    OP here (I’ll apologize in advance for the long reply):

    Kdizzle – this is exactly something my mother would say. “They want you to handle a budget or someone’s calendar, but you can’t even keep your room clean.”
    And like you said, on some level (I believe) she wants to spare me the disappointment, but her current method isn’t working.

    I’ve been searching for a while (I’m one of the lucky 08 graduates with a degree in Communications,) I feel like I’ve been searching constantly for 5 years now. I made some missteps along the way (I took her advice, when I should have followed my gut, wound up working a job that paid under 12k a year for almost two years) and she actively encouraged me to stay in that job. She felt I was good at it and on some level I was. But she also felt that I wasn’t qualified, nor would I excel in a receptionist/admin role because in her words “you don’t remember anything I ask you to do.” She had many reasons I’m sure, but I knew I couldn’t stay in that job much longer, because I was making so LITTLE and it would have meant living with her until one of us was dead. (Plus by the end, I was not happy anymore and that’s when it’s time to go.)

    So I made the difficult decision to ignore her and go after a contract position via a staffing company. Things changed with that contract and I was moved to another site, a large financial services company. And the last two years with this financial company have been pretty good. I’ve been encouraged by my supervisors at this financial company, to apply for internal jobs. (I have a work email, which allows me to be considered an internal candidate. Though I’ve never gotten past the application phase.)
    I’ve also been able to come in contact with marketing, ad, and pr agencies that I would love to work for. And they’ve been very receptive when I’ve approached them about applying for jobs. Nothing has panned out so far. But I’m always applying and generally take whatever interviews are offered, unless it’s clear from the get-go that it wouldn’t be the right environment.

    I did go on the interview and I even tried out the “magic” question, which was well received. Several comments were made that I asked very thoughtful questions, which was nice. I’m always worried about that phase in the process.

    To the many who suggested I move out, believe me that’s the ultimate goal. I live in NY (not the city) but the state as a whole is pretty expensive. I’ve scoped out some places off and on, but haven’t had enough cash flow and money saved up to go get a place. I now make just under 30k, and with car payments and insurance and credit card bills, it would be difficult without a better job. I’m the oldest, and yes my mom is retired. I also have 4 younger siblings, so on some level I’m concerned about them all after I leave. That holds me back in some ways, I’m sure.

    To people wondering about my mother’s “quota” comment, I do believe she was referring to the number of people a company had to interview. Though I am a minority as well. The college is private and independent, so I don’t know that my EEOC information was used to fulfill that sort of “quota” but it’s certainly possible.

    I want to thank Alison again for answering my question. I really appreciate it.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Thanks OP for coming back to fill in some of the gaps and answer some of our questions/concerns. I always appreciate it when that happens. The extra information helps a lot.

      Your mother is emotionally abusive and I’m glad to see you haven’t bought into it completely. She’s taking out her frustration about things you don’t do at home and applying it to job characteristics. That’s ridiculously unfair for obvious reasons so I don’t need to go into those.

      I do want to address the fact that you have four younger siblings and leaving them is a concern. Of course it is, you love them! But, you must look out for your own welfare and consider that when you are able to move out, those siblings will have a safe haven from your mother. They can come visit you and have some quality sibling time with you away from the watchful, negative, overbearing eye of your mother. That is very valuable. So don’t let your siblings being at home stop you from moving out and on. It’s better for all if you do that.

      Rather than getting an apartment on your own now, you might consider renting a room in someone’s home. I considered that myself before I found I was able to afford an apartment. Sometimes there’s just a great deal of peace that comes from having your own space even when it’s just a small room.

      Whatever you decide, just know that your mother is wrong in her assessment of you. You are a good person with a lot to give to the working world. Keep plugging away, you will get there!!

      1. Kris*

        Ruffingit –
        When I said all of them, I meant my mother as well, not just my siblings. She’s a single parent, she’s raised 5 of us (four daughters and one son). I’m the oldest daughter and I like to think (and she would agree) that I do a fair amount to help her out. This mainly involves chauffeuring my siblings (since no one besides me and my mom drive) around to activities.
        You’re not the first to call her emotionally abusive, I can’t say I agree with that assessment. But in her defensive, she’s had my back a lot. Especially when I was a child (or college freshman) and struggling in school. She was the first to say I was capable and could accomplish whatever the goal was, if I applied myself.

        I will agree that she has very set ideas about what I SHOULD be doing with my life. (But don’t most people’s parents?) We disagree in that area, to say the least.

        There’s been a lot that’s happened in the last three months, that seemed to come to a head in the last few weeks. I had a car accident a few months back and my (relatively new) car was totaled, I bought a brand new car. She felt strongly that this was the wrong direction and I should have taken her up on her offer and taken her car. I said no, but thank you, for many reasons. We had done the car sharing thing before, both while I was in college and while I worked my first job post-college. After owning a vehicle, I couldn’t go back to that. There’s been a few things bubbling under the surface.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Emotionally abusive people can also have your back at various times in your life. It’s a paradox, but also the way emotional abuse works a lot of the time. The emotional abuser tends to make you believe that they are your biggest supporter, they know best, they are the ones who are in your corner. And sometimes they are in your corner just enough that you’ll excuse the other abusive behavior. It’s quite possible that your mother is not emotionally abusive, but just know that emotional abuse doesn’t mean abusive all the time and if other people are saying it too, it’s worth thinking about it.

          I understand where you are coming from in the helping with younger siblings thing because my mother took custody of my nephew when he was 8 months old and I was 17. She expected that I would come home for the first summer after college so she could have free babysitting for him. I said no. I chose to attend summer session at school instead because that was the best choice for me and my life. I reminded her that she chose to take on my nephew and while I would help where I could, I would not allow my own life to go off course for her choice. The same is true here. Your mother chose to have five children. That was her choice, you are not obligated to support that forever. Eventually you will have to move out if you want to have your own life, a significant other, perhaps your own children, etc. It can’t be expected that you will stay to help raise kids. You have your own life to consider and I just want you to know it’s OK to consider that life and leave the nest.

          I also want to address this: I will agree that she has very set ideas about what I SHOULD be doing with my life. (But don’t most people’s parents?)

          No, most people’s parents do not have set beliefs about what their kids should be doing with their lives. Or at least, if they do they are in the wrong about that. Emotionally healthy parents allow their children the freedom to make their own choices without the interference of the parent’s desires. That is the healthy tact to take with your grown children otherwise you end up with a lot of resentment on both sides.

          It would seem you’re caught in a situation where your an adult who is being treated more like a child simply because you still live at home. In order for an adult to live with their mother, there have to be clear boundaries around the relationship because you’re not a child anymore. You’re a grown up who can manage her own affairs and should be given the room to do so.

          You know your situation best so please understand that all of us who have commented here are doing so to offer our thoughts and experiences to help. I hope some of what has been said is helpful and I hope you know that this is a good place to get some considered feedback from many. You sound like a thoughtful, capable individual and the fact that you’ve thought about your career and what you need is a good sign. I hope you’ll continue on that path.

          1. Kris*

            I feel like it’s also worth noting, we’re all adopted. So yes, she quite literally chose us.

            I agree I often feel like I’m being treated like I’m still a child. Or sometimes even like a spouse. (She’s asked or expected me to babysit when someone was sick and she was working. And this was post-college when I had my first job.)

            And maybe I even revert to that in some instances. I’ve asked her to write things for me before or iron my suit, because I feel she does it better. I know I need to work on this, gain more confidence in these areas. I’m perfectly capable of ironing a suit. And my handwriting isn’t atrocious.

            I think some of her opinions about my job search, come from a generational place. She will readily admit she does not really understand the internet and how the job search works there. She felt the internet “wasn’t/isn’t working” and therefore I couldn’t really be job searching.

            She just retired, though she is not retirement age yet. She even says, when she was my age, there were very set fields for women: nursing, home-maker, teacher. And that was about it. She chose nursing and enjoyed it. But I also think on some level, she chose it out of necessity and maybe some familial pressure. Her mother was a nurse, and as she says there weren’t a lot of options. Most of my family falls into two categories: medical field (nursing, technicians) and police work. I’ve felt pressure to go into both.

            When I chose communications as my major, I had a hard time explaining it to her. Before when I was going through prospective majors, she’d ask what did I plan to do with it, what kind of job did I want. (I’m thankful for that and consider myself lucky that she was trying to prepare me for the world outside the college walls.) Even though I had a hard time explaining it, I knew that it was the right choice for me and aligned with my interests.

            I think now she’s just frustrated that, although I’ve been steadily employed, I haven’t found a long-term, more permanent job. But that is elusive for a lot of people my age and my generation.

            1. Pussyfooter*

              “Or sometimes even like a spouse.” This is what ran through my mind about the time I read:
              “This mainly involves chauffeuring my siblings (since no one besides me and my mom drive) around to activities.”

              I avoided any talk of “abuse” earlier in the day because it connotes intentional harm. It doesn’t sound to me as though your Mom wants to torture, or scape goat you. It *does* sound like she has confused the boundaries between life-partner, assistant, and daughter though. The fact she loves you doesn’t make her right…or this situation ok.

              She’s your Mom, not your lesbian lover. She adopted five kids, not you.

              My Mom started hoarding cats before I could get out of her house. But I asked her not to bring *any* cats home before this began and have been helpful (in a we all live here kind of way) to her until I’d moved out for a while and she started TELLING me when she was going out of town and ASSUMING I was automatically going to care for her 20+ rescues.
              ..Uh, NO.. How is it my responsibility for a task she volunteered to do?

              Yesterday’s Blog included a woman who is overwhelmed with caring for her boyfriend, baby, home, pets and job. Several people pointed out that her imbalanced home life is not appropriately solved by her employer’s accommodating her boyfriend’s comfort (in so many words). It is not appropriate for your Mom to *expect* any of her children to sacrifice their well-being, instead of her making hard decisions about what she can and cannot accomplish as a SINGLE!!! Mom.

              She probably loves you plenty; she still needs to knock it off and face her *chosen* responsibilities. You know–like in an ideal world. <:'P
              And since she's not, you need to refuse to "enable" her clueless behavior. (I wouldn't describe it that way to her face :), and I'm aware you may need to do unfair things to get by for a while…just don't accept it as how things are going to be for you.)

              wow. way for me to unleash the ramble!

                1. K*

                  Ramble on, Pussyfooter.

                  But seriously, I’ve found myself saying “they’re your kids, my siblings.”
                  And the spouse comment was actually said to me by people at my old job. It was eye opening. I’ve finally started to be blunt with her. I told her before and after the interview that her comments weren’t helping. And I’ve told her before that I don’t mention interviews because she’s not particularly helpful.

                  It sounds like you had your own difficulties with your mother, I’m sorry. Knowing people who hoard, I know it’s a difficult situation to deal with.

                  Lynne in AB, thanks for your observation. It is useful. Believe me, I’ve done my own back-pedaling when talking about my mother. It’s easy to do.

                  Thanks again for posting this. Your comments and everyone else’s have been incredibly helpful.

              1. Lynne in AB*

                I think, especially with emotional abuse, abusers generally don’t acknowledge even to themselves that it’s abuse. Most people don’t want to think of themselves that way. I think you’re right that the word abuse connotes intentional harm, and I think that’s unfortunate, because it makes it harder to apply the word to someone who is well intentioned.

                And there is also this conception of abusers as monsters. Abuse is a really powerful word, and sometimes it’s hard to feel you have the right to use it on someone who isn’t an evil monster. But it can be very freeing and empowering to do that, and it’s not wrong – people are complicated mixtures, and can have good qualities as well as abusive behaviour patterns.

                There was a time when I’d say something about my mom and then backpedal into a “…but she’s a good person and therefore not abusive” defense, so I guess I’m extra sensitive to seeing other people do that. Of course you know your mom much better than I do, Kris, and I don’t want to internet-diagnose anything. But it was helpful to me when someone pointed out that good intentions didn’t mean my mom wasn’t abusive. So I offer this observation up in case it is helpful to you, or anyone else reading.

              2. Ruffingit*

                Such good advice here and this basically sums up my own viewpoint as well: It is not appropriate for your Mom to *expect* any of her children to sacrifice their well-being, instead of her making hard decisions about what she can and cannot accomplish as a SINGLE!!! Mom.

                Your mother CHOSE to become a single mother. It is absolutely NOT appropriate for her to expect you to pitch in with raising her children or to make sacrifices in your own life to help her. So many people feel guilty that they don’t help their parents more. But, it is not your job to help your parents. It is the job of your parent to raise you to become a self-sufficient human being who then goes off and makes her own life.

                Your mother’s idea that you need to be a partner in raising the other kids is completely and totally inappropriate.

                You love your mother and I have no doubt that she loves you. But because you are a grown-up in the house, she has changed your role from daughter to life partner/confidante/friend/helper. None of those roles is appropriate for you and it’s not fair of your mother to try and put you into those roles.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  OP, please listen to this. I’m sure your mother is a good person, but she’s drawing you into an unhealthy role. As the comment above says, the job of a parent “is to raise you to become a self-sufficient human being who then goes off and makes her own life.”

                  Please honor your mom by doing exactly that!

        2. EM*

          If your mom is retired, she should have plenty of time to be driving the younger kids around without your help. Even if she wasn’t retired, it’s not your responsibility.

        3. Anonymous*

          You wrote, “I will agree that she has very set ideas about what I SHOULD be doing with my life. (But don’t most people’s parents?) ”

          I’ve got several grown children, and no, I don’t have a set idea about what any of them should be doing with their lives. It’s their lives, you see; I have no business telling them what they should do.

          Keep doing what you’re doing; tune her out. Move out if you can. Good luck!

    2. Tekoa*

      You can get an awesome, uber high paying job and buy a 5 bedroom house. Then your siblings can all live there with you while they search for other awesome jobs. :)

      1. K*

        OP again:
        I certainly welcome the “uber high paying job” but I don’t think my siblings need or would want to come live with me.

  34. Annie O'Nymous*

    Wow, did this resonate with me.
    But what would you do if the person discouraging you was your significant other?
    For years now, if I’ve already had a job, and tried to apply for another one, my spouse has discouraged me by pointing out every single negative thing about the proposed job. For e.g., if it involves painting chocolate teapots, he’ll say, “But you hate painting teapots. The last time you had a job painting teapots, you never stopped complaining about it.” He’s partially right–I am not really an ideal employee and I do complain about just about every aspect of a job. I’m just a crabby sort of person and it’s something I’m working on. Of course, too, I realize that every job has aspects I won’t like.
    What he does is keep asking pointed questions until I lose my temper and decide not to apply or go to the interview. He says he’s in my corner but this feels more like sabotage.
    Even when I tell him that others have told me said job would be a good fit, he’ll dismiss their comments in a “yeah-but-they-don’t-know-you-and-your-job-history” way. Most recently he told me a lateral job was “a piece of dung” and a “step down” and “the equivalent of scrubbing floors.” No matter that I would be learning a different part of my company’s operations, and possibly gaining valuable experience toward future work. He’s always pointing out how I’m overqualified for every job I apply for. (Funnily enough, I can’t get a super-cool job in my former field.) Anyway I’m rambling.
    What would you do if the discouraging party were not a parent, but a spouse?

    1. Ruffingit*

      There are a couple of issues here:

      1. If you’re complaining about your jobs frequently, it may be that he is tired of hearing it and is trying to discourage you from going into something he feels you will dislike based on your job history. Because if you go into that job, he will hear about it. I think you need to acknowledge that you may need to reframe your work complaints (every job has something crappy about it) and spread out the burden of discussing it. Perhaps you could agree with him that you and he both get 10 minutes at dinner (or whenever) to complain about things and no more. That means you have a set time limit and that can help because I know that I find myself going in circles when complaining about work. 10 minutes is a good limit and frees up the rest of your evening time to relax.

      2. Specifically discuss with him what you need from him. “I need you to be supportive of my job hunt. Specifically, I need you to trust my judgment when I’ve found something I believe will be a good fit. It’s OK to ask questions, it’s not OK to badger me or use phrases like “A piece of dung” or “step down.” In return, I will be open to hearing your concerns, but I need them presented in a respectful way.”

      You are telling him what you need without blaming him or using phrases like “You aren’t supportive.” You’re telling him exactly how you need to be supported. If he can’t get on board with that, some sessions with a marriage therapist would be helpful.

      1. Annie O'Nymous*

        Thanks for responding. You might be right, in that I am spending too much time complaining about work.
        As for trusting my judgment…I don’t even trust my own judgment. I can’t expect anyone else to. The minute anyone starts asking me questions, my confidence wavers and I start doubting that I ever thought there was anything positive about the new job. Or, I think, “Did I gloss over the fact that there was painting work involved?”
        And then I sort of fall apart.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Other people should trust your judgment and it’s perfectly OK to expect that, especially from your spouse. The issue you’re having is one of trusting your own judgment so that is something to work on. Doing so may require some individual therapy, but you can also start with some basic research.

          Figure out what you think you’d like to do and then figure out what the good and bad aspects of the job are. You can do this by talking to people in the field/job you want to be in. Ask specifically what it is they like/dislike about their jobs. Figure out what aspects of your previous jobs you’ve enjoyed and what you haven’t. Maybe you love to write things for the company newsletter, but hate to talk on the phone to customers. Whatever it is, figure it out and then, using the research you’ve done with people in the field/job you want, you can better assess how much of the job you might like/hate.

          Learning to trust your own judgment takes a lot of work, but you can get there. What you have now is not working at all. You don’t trust your own judgment and your husband doesn’t either. His distrust feeds into your own distrust. It’s a vicious cycle. Break it. Google “learn to trust your own judgment.” There are a ton of resources out there to help with this.

          You’re smarter than you think and you know yourself better than you think you do. Give yourself the credit you deserve. It takes time, but you need the support of your husband to help you get there.

          1. Annie O'Nymous*

            I will do that (look into trusting my own judgment and possibly therapy). Right now I am in a tight spot. I had an interview set up for the “crappy job” and he’s right, a lot of the work looks clerical in nature (and I hate clerical work). I talked to the interviewers informally (it’s an internal position) and I thought there were aspects of the job that sounded not *too* boring and possibly valuable should I decide to pursue an advanced degree in my field and go further. However, now I’m afraid to even go to the interview (interviews scare me, and what if I am just wasting their time).
            sorry, that may have been TMI.

            1. Ruffingit*

              Not TMI at all, it’s a legitimate concern and many people share it. You sound like you have low self-esteem and you’re certainly not alone there either. Learning to trust your judgment is a facet of good self-esteem. You learn that your viewpoints and feelings are just as valid as anyone else’s and you learn that you have a right to those viewpoints and feelings even when someone else disagrees with them.

              Take a step back and just breathe. Seriously, take a few really deep breaths for a moment. Then, think about this job. Now that you have some extra info from the informal discussions with the interviewers, can you see yourself doing this job? Why or why not? Are the crappy parts of it something that you can live with for awhile or not? Is what you’d receive from the job valuable enough to overcome the crappy parts you’d have to live with? Ask yourself those questions and then go from there. Don’t ask your husband, ask yourself. If you need to, discuss it with a trusted friend who knows you and can help guide you through the process.

              Once you figure out if this is something that will bring value to your life and if you feel you can bring value to the company in that role, you’ll know what to do about the interview.

    2. Pussyfooter*

      Did you used to complain about every job before you met your SO? He could be a bigger issue than mentioned.

      If he’s basically ok and it’s just this topic, you can try this:
      make a list of your way of doing things, how you like to do tasks (on and off work), any tasks you actually enjoy doing (no matter if they seem small), and things you know you do well. (Heck, put the SO to use and ask him why he fell for you, what he likes about you, etc.)

      Look it over for what’s helpful to others and what lights you up. These things are the parts of you that you naturally tend toward. They are the enjoyable, positive things about you. Memorize a couple of them or stick ’em on a little note you’ll see in your wallet or wherever. These are the positive *facts* about yourself that you can be “confident” are true ;’)

      Ex: I organize and neaten wherever I’m put, my friends/family use me as a walking spell check, and am the only person *ever* patient enough to win over my friends’ wimpy cat. So, when my confidence takes a hit, I can limit my fear by running a few of my favorite traits through my head. Sure I will suck at an occasional thing, but *I* don’t suck. :D

      1. Annie O'Nymous*

        Pussyfooter, I have to confess: I’ve rarely ever had a job I liked. This goes back to my very first days as a teenager. I think I expect too much from work. I expect it to be “fulfilling,” as in “this will make up for everything else that’s inadequate in my life.” I did have one job where I felt I had *finally* found my niche…and after a year or two, it went south when I lost the best manager I ever had, was given a promotion (doing something I knew I didn’t want to do, but was afraid to turn it down) and then lost the job in the aftermath of 9/11.
        There are other issues with SO regarding employment, but I won’t go into them here as they are really kind of off-topic.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I can relate to this a bit in that I’ve had jobs I’ve liked, but the environments were horrible to the point where I’ve quit a couple of them without other places to go. It had to be done though because the businesses in question were doing illegal/unethical things and it would have reflected badly on me to be associated with that.

          Still though, I have had the worst time finding a job with a relatively sane environment. I’m not even looking for totally sane anymore, just relatively.

  35. FD*

    I’ve seen this happen before, and had it happen some times from my own mother. What I’ve found helps for me and others I’ve seen go through this is a few things:

    – There’s a good chance it isn’t malicious. Only you can know for sure (does she act excessively controlling or manipulative in other ways, or seem to resent the idea of you moving out?), but it’s very often a reflection of her own insecurities about herself. It doesn’t FIX (or even excuse) it but it can be easier sometimes to acknowledge something like, “This isn’t about me. It’s about my mother feeling that she wasn’t good enough to have the career she wanted.” Understanding that other people’s bad behavior often isn’t about you can go a long way to making it more tolerable.

    – If it isn’t malicious, remember that parents often spend a long time worrying about their children, and trying to protect them–including often times from being disappointed. While this is misplaced in an adult (or even a teenage IMO) child, it’s understandable. I don’t know your gender, but if you’re female, there’s also still a stronger cultural expectation to protect women. This is annoying and wrongheaded, but I’ve noticed more women in general with overprotective parents.

    – By the same token, remember that just because you are related to someone does not mean they have any inherent claim on you. This is doubly so if she is being malicious. NO ONE has the right to be an a***hole to you. It doesn’t matter if they’re family or not. Whatever nonsense society tries to force on you, if a person is bad for you, you don’t have any obligation to interact with them. Don’t let anyone guilt tripping you into believing otherwise. (It absolutely infuriates me when people have the gall to tell abuse victims that ‘You only get one family!’ B as in B, S as in S.)

    I think Alison’s advice is good. Stop talking about your interviews with her, and if she insists on offering unwanted commentary, I would suggest calmly looking at her and telling her you are not going to talk about it with her. You’re an adult, and you can do this! You’ve succeeded before, and you can again.

  36. Jean*

    I want to commend everyone for their level-headed and compassionate responses. (No, I’m not the OP.) There’s some seriously good wisdom connected with this web site and its readers. :-)

  37. Jessa*

    What everyone else has said, in spades and doubled. Do not give mom details. Do not listen to what she says. No matter how hard it is for you do NOT take in her negativity. As Alison put it the prima facie evidence that you are QUALIFIED is that you’ve been asked for an interview. They don’t just ask people out of the total blue. Your resume/cover letter/CV/whatever, had to have given them SOME clue that you had something they were at least interested in talking about.

    If you take in ma’s negativity you’ll sabotage yourself by feeling down about it and carrying that negative attitude with you into the interviews. If you have a friend you can chat to, talk to them about it get them to boost you back up and be your cheerleader in this. Be your own cheerleader too. Do whatever it is that brings your energy and spirits and self back up from what ma says about this.

    You deserve it.

  38. CaffeineQueen*

    My partner and I have to deal with this from his side of the family at times. They’re nice but can be way overprotective, not to mention they give terrible job advice and have tried to intervene with his career in ways that weren’t healthy. They tried to do the same with me, but I gave a polite but firm no. My partner learned to do the same, even though it was a bit of a battle, since he is their only child and one of his parents still expects a co-dependent relationship with him. Getting jobs on his own and succeeding in the work world has helped, as has reading “Boundaries.”

    You can’t make your home a truly welcoming place until you first protect it and secure it. The same thing holds true for yourself-you can’t be a loving, compassionate person without first holding boundaries. Besides, the more steps you take to stabilize your life, the more your siblings will see you as a rock and as someone to emulate-that helps a lot more than staying in a dysfunctional relationship. Not to mention, you’re teaching them to advocate for their own boundaries by maintaining your own. That’s a really great gift-much better than acting as your mother’s live in maid/nanny/companion.

  39. LA*

    My father was like this during my job search while I lived at home. Whenever I announced I had an interview – which I had to do as all of the jobs I was applying for were four hours away from home and interviews often involved air travel – his immediate response would be, “Great. Now, when you don’t get this job, make sure you remember to ask them for feedback on what you did wrong in the interview.” Every single time I had a job opportunity the same kind of thing happened where he would just assume I was not getting the position and then “coached” me on what I needed to do next. And if I said, “oh, I’ve done that,” (because I read this site religiously, and most of what he told me to do is laid out here. Thankfully, he’s not completely outdated in his job search info) a fight would ensue because I was “being snippy” or “thought I knew better” than a person with more than 30 years of experience in the job market.

    It’s unfortunate that it came down to a blow out with a lot of tears and slammed doors, but after we both calmed down he explained that he was trying to keep me grounded in my job search and keep my hopes in line with my abilities as a job candidate. It’s seriously not the best way to go about doing that. It seriously undermined my confidence in interviews. But, he truly and honestly thought that he was helping.

    OP, I don’t think that your mother is abusing you and I don’t believe that there is any reason for people to be jumping to the conclusion that if she’s this controlling in this aspect of your life she’s controlling in any other aspects. She probably just does not realize that this is an issue and even when you speak to her about it she won’t listen because she truly, truly believes she’s helping. Living at home is difficult during a job search when things like this are happening, but sometimes it’s necessary. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re getting interviews so something is going right. Just please realize that your mother is trying to help and is doing it in an unhelpful way. Once you accept that she’s not the best judge of your character in these situations it’s much easier to shrug off her comments. Good luck!

  40. K*

    Thank you for your comments. They’re very helpful. I know she’s not abusive, but I understand how the comments I made can certainly make it appear that way. I know she’s trying to be helpful and I’ve bluntly stated that the comments she’s made are not helpful at all. I think she’s starting to see why they’re unhelpful.

  41. Chris Hogg*


    You might profit by reading and following the techniques in the book, “When I say no, I feel guilty” by Smith.

    I don’t think you need to (or should) ignore your mother, hide your activities from her, or move out of town.

    Instead, try a little fogging and being a broken record:

    Mother (M): I don’t think you can do that job.

    You (Y): You may be right mom, there’s a chance I can’t do it, but, I’m going to apply for it.

    M: But there’s too much competition; you really don’t have a chance.

    Y: Yes, there probably will be a lot of competition, because it’s a really good job. And you may be right, I may not have a chance of getting it. But I’m going to apply for it.

    M: But you don’t match up with the job requirements; there’s really no way you will be selected.

    Y: You’re right, there are some things that I don’t have, and I may not be selected. But I’m going to apply for it.

    M: I’ve seen these things before, you know? They’ve probably already picked someone for the job, and are just looking for people like you to interview, so they can fill a quota.

    Y: I know, you’ve told me about things like this before, and I appreciate your input. And you could be right, I’m sure many times jobs are advertised just to fill a quota. But I’m going to apply for it.

    M: Sweetie, I’m just saying this for your own good. It hurts me to see you ignored or rejected after all the time and effort you put into applying for jobs. You already have a good job. I really think you should pass on this.

    Y: I appreciate your concern mom, and it does feel bad when I apply for jobs and then they ignore me. It feels even worse when I apply for jobs and get told no. And you’re right, I do have a good job now. But I’m going to apply for this one. Say mom, I’ve really enjoyed this talk, but I’ve got a big day tomorrow, so I’m going to turn in. See you tomorrow. Good night.

    If you follow the preceding pattern with your mother, you will most likely (gently and respectfully) extinguish her desire (and ability) to try to persuade you not to apply for jobs.

    By engaging her, listening to her, and recognizing when she is or may be right, you will be maintaining and actually strengthening the relationship. And at the same time you will be clearly and consistently communicating what you, as an adult, are going to do and you will be able to maintain your dignity and self-worth.

  42. Tee*

    I think for the most part you want some kind of assurance from her or positive outlook but just not getting it from her. Do you come from a cultural background? Your self-esteem is hurt terribly. Don’t disclose information to people who have negative aspects on things. I know some people can’t help but be honest but it’s good to lie once in a while. I’m not saying lie all the time! Don’t be hard on yourself or try to prove yourself to someone. You’re an adult and shouldn’t have to be worried about meeting the expectations of a parent or following decisions of others. Walk away if she says something negative or joke about something of a different subject. If you don’t want to hear it, don’t listen. Best to void all that dark energy.

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