my parents won’t stop nagging me about my career choices

A reader writes:

I have a bachelors and masters degree in counseling psychology. I thought I wanted to be a mental health counselor in undergrad, and a masters is required for licensure and certification, so I wasn’t just going willy-nilly to grad school. Unfortunately, I realized in my grad school internship that I didn’t enjoy counseling as much as I thought I would.

Long story short — I stuck out grad school since I had already finished over a year of the program, but I have never used my masters in a professional counseling capacity and have never bothered getting the most basic license (in my state, you can get the LPC right after grad school, but need two years of supervised counseling work to get the second tier license). I graduated with my masters approximately 10 years ago.

Since then, I’ve worked in a variety of jobs — I’ve done some editing and marketing work, I did a year in AmeriCorps, etc. I’m currently working in an admin and marketing capacity. I don’t make a ton of money, but I love my job, I love my boss, and my husband and I can afford this and have worked it out together.

My problem is that my parents (especially my mother) do not consider my job a “career” and are constantly harping on me to go back to school and get more degrees for a different career path. I have tried talking to my mom and have asked her to please drop this subject and not bring it up again as I have no desire to return to school right now, and as an adult in my 30s, I feel this is none of their business anymore. Recently, my husband and I hosted a large party where one of my best friends pulled me aside and told me she just had an entire conversation with my parents where they talked to her all about this and said they are okay with me not wanting kids (…I don’t, it’s not a secret), but then I really need to return to school to get a “real career.” (!!!)

I found this insulting, patronizing, and highly inappropriate. I truly don’t know what else to do at this point. I would love any words of wisdom you could offer.

Well, you can’t make your parents stop doing this. What they’re doing is rude and insulting, and you can ask them to stop, but if they choose not to, all you can really do is decide how you’re going to respond to that.

I’d have one final, clear conversation with them where you’re as explicit as possible that their comments on your career are unwelcome and you want them to stop. I’d say something like this: “I need you to respect that while this isn’t the career you would have chosen for me, I’m happy where I am, and I need you to stop suggesting that I return to school or change careers. When you continue to suggest that even though I’ve told you I’m happy with the decisions I’ve made, it comes across as patronizing and insulting to my choices. It’s making it hard for me to have the kind of close and mutually respectful relationship I want with you. Can you trust that I’ve heard and noted your concerns, and agree to stop raising this?”

From there, I’d simply decline to participate if they bring it up again. If it comes up on a phone call, say, “I’ve told you that I’m not interested in discussing that. I had better go now, but I’ll talk with you soon” — and then hang up. (The “I’ll talk with you soon” is to prevent it from coming across as a totally hostile F-you.)

If it comes up during an in-person visit, say, ““I’ve told you that I’m not interested in discussing that. Should I head out now, or can we talk about something else? I’ve been meaning to tell you about Cordelia’s baby / the trip I’m taking to Winterfell / this great restaurant I ate at.” If they still won’t drop it, say, “Okay, I guess I’ll see you some other time. Let’s talk soon.”

There might come a time when you want to drop the “let’s talk soon” language, if they push you far enough — but I’d start with it and see if modeling reasonable behavior and respectful boundaries works on them.

If it doesn’t, the sad fact is that it’ll probably end up affecting the type of relationship you have with them. It’s hard to be close to people who so blatantly disregard who you are versus who they want you to be — but hopefully it won’t come to that and you can reprogram them with the strategy above.

{ 255 comments… read them below }

  1. Kara Ayako*

    These sound like my parents! I do have a career, but I’m not a professor, doctor, or lawyer (or anything easily describable, really), so they were pressuring me to go back to school to get another degree.

    They’ve backed off quite a bit after I kept repeating that I was happy then changing the subject.

    1. Hooptie*

      The first thing I thought of is that if the parents paid for all or a significant part of their child’s education, they may be considering that their investment is not paying off and that could very well be a big part of the issue. If so, I would re-examine the situation and respond more appropriately. Unfortunately, I am very money and return-oriented so I can understand if this is the case.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        I’m not sure what you would consider “appropriate” in this situation. Go into a demanding career you dislike and are bad at? (And in the case of being a professor or lawyer, likely end up broke anyway no matter how you try.)

        1. Hooptie*

          I think what I meant by appropriate was at least acknowledging the situation and showing extra appreciation for the parent’s contribution.

          1. 0hword*

            How long does one need to grovel at their parents’ feet for paying tuition? It seems like she (or he!) has graduated over 10 years ago.

          2. Honeybee*

            Parents make a choice to pay for their children’s college educations knowing that there’s no way that they can force their child to do anything in particular. And what is an investment “paying off” mean? If a parent pays for their child’s education, the only “return” they get is their child’s happiness and success later in life – there’s no financial return to the parent themselves. OP sounds like a self-sufficient, happy adult in her 30s; that is the only return parents can expect for paying for their child’s education.

            And that’s even assuming that the parents DID pay.

            1. Anxious Adult*

              Unfortunately, a lot of parents who do choose to pay for their child’s education assume that their child will pursue a career that they chose their child to major in. Parents might think that the child could have made even more money if they stuck to a career path that has to do with their major.

              In some cultures, parents expect their child to take care of them and give them back some money as their child grows up to work and earn money.

              Also in some cultures, it is perfectly reasonable for a parent to push their child to pursue a career path even if their child’s mind isn’t in tone with what their parents push them to study. I am living in that culture in my household.

        2. TootsNYC*

          And actually, hey aren’t demanding that she go into that career. They want her to go back to school for a different career.

      2. jmkenrick*

        I think MegMurry’s comment below does a good job of addressing this particular issue. The point you raise is valid, but on the other hand, part of being a parent is raising (and yes, investing a lot of money) with the understanding that, despite your hard work and investment, there is no promise this person will turn out as you would like.

        I think if that is the case, then a different conversation maybe needs to be had with the parents, acknowledging and thanking them for their help, but underlining the fact that it’s time to move on.

      3. Kara Ayako*

        For my parents in particular, it’s not a money thing (although I’m sure it is for others). They would honestly rather I get a PhD in philosophy (which is what my BA is in) and be an adjunct professor than do what I currently do very successfully.

        To them, education is the end in itself, so more education is better. They feel this so strongly that I’m positive they’d be perfectly happy if I got back to back PhDs and never got myself out in the “real world.”

        1. The Strand*

          Oh dear. They’re academics, then? Or in science? They assume, with a PhD in philosophy, that even an adjunct position is available. Often, it’s not. I know a philosophy PhD who has never taught – even as an adjunct.

      4. OP with Overbearing Parents*

        Hi Hooptie! I went to my local community college for my first 2 years of undergrad — they did pay for that, but the cost was minimal as I lived with them and classes were relatively inexpensive. I transferred and got a scholarship for my junior/senior year to a 4-year college. I continued living with them and commuted. They paid for, in total, approx $10,000 for those last 2 years combined and I took student loans for the remainder that my scholarship did not cover. I paid for graduate school & my living expenses 100% on my own with student loans.

      5. Kat M*

        Parents need to really think about that before paying for their child’s education though……You can’t plan life and children are not projects or investments. As for appreciation, sure, but some parents expect groveling levels of appreciation and that’s just not nice. Particularly when the parents (as many are guilty of) don’t prepare their children to take on the adult responsibilities themselves or give them the option of paying.

      6. Anx*

        If this was about a financial investment, wouldn’t the parents be pushing them into a career with a higher ROI. Medical and law school are pretty expensive and graduate school can be, too, depending on the field.

      7. Just Another Techie*

        And if the child does do exactly what the parent wanted, and then, god forbid, got hit by a bus? What of the investment then? Children aren’t investment vehicles, they’re people. The parents should be grateful their child is alive, healthy, and happy.

    2. maria*

      I agree with you. You will definitely move of the job and salary ranks in Marketing. I hope that your parents will appreciate that Marketing is a complicated discipline and very difficult to land a job in. If you like the job and your boss, you’re luckier than most. Keep up the good work, and parents be proud of your daughter and get off her back. She is not lazy nor is she not in a real job. All the best!

  2. Katie the Fed*

    Ohhh boy. Been there, done that. I have parents who push boundaries too. Long story short, I ended up in therapy to come up with some strategies for dealing with them. Some tips, many of them already mentioned by Alison:

    – Just don’t engage. There’s nothing to discuss if you’re not party to the discuss. If it’s in person, change the subject. If they try to bring it back to the topic, be direct “I don’t want to discuss this anymore. Pass the peas?” If it’s on the phone, get off the phone as soon as possible. Don’t explain yourself or your decisions – you’re past that. I hate to say this, but it’s kind of like training a dog – don’t reward bad behavior.

    – Address it directly if you have to, but that might blow up in your face and lead to lots of drama. I usually find it easier to just ignore it and change the subject. It minimizes my stress and then I don’t have my dad calling me to tell me Mom’s upset, etc.

    – Laugh about it to your friends/husband. Seriously, it’s kind of amazing/funny that they’re STILL so hung up on this! Your friends will understand – most of them have parents who drive them crazy too, I’ll bet.

    – Limit contact if you have to. My mom liked to pull the silent treatment if I wasn’t responding in a way she liked, and she expected me to call her back to apologize. Once I stopped doing that, it totally changed the terms of the relationship. You CAN refuse to play by someone else’s rules. It’s not easy, but it’s doable.

    1. Just another techie*

      My father keeps telling me it’s not too late to take the MCATs and go to med school. I’m 35 and have two degrees and a career I love in my chosen field. At one point in grad school I did some interdisciplinary research that overlapped my field and my father’s medical specialty and asked him to collaborate with me (he is pretty much the country’s foremost expert in a particular type of disorder, one which my grad school advisors thought was a good candidate for applying machine learning and data analysis techniques too). Instead of doing anything useful or being pleased that I was interested in his discipline, he berated me, told me I was a “f****** idiot” for thinking my research proposal was possible, and said that even if it were possible I was too stupid to be able to do the work (nb, seven years later, some students in my old research group are working with the university’s teaching hospital to implement some of my advisor’s ideas, and directly benefiting patients, so nyah nyah; me, I declared victory, dropped out with the MS degree, and have a job I adore now.)

      The one good thing that came out of that whole debacle is that I finally learned that my parents, and especially my dad, will never be happy with my choices. Now that I’ve given myself permission to just ignore their advice and attempts to micromanage my life, I’m much happier. I think they’re happier too, since we don’t fight anymore, and I actually talk to them and visit more often. I don’t think they’re even self-aware enough to realize that all our conversations boil down to pleasantries and gossip about extended family, and never really touch on anything of substance.

      1. Christy*

        This is my relationship with my mother–I’m not sure that she realizes that we don’t talk about anything deep, at least on my end. We talk daily, but it’s really surface-level for me.

        1. Andrea*

          Same situation here. We talk frequently, but never about anything other than surface-level crap, and it’s because of this right here: “It’s hard to be close to people who so blatantly disregard who you are versus who they want you to be.” I’m in my mid-30s, I have a good career, I’m financially independent. I have an MA in professional writing and rhetoric, and I use that degree in my job. But that’s not enough, I should have gotten a PhD and become a writing professor. I frankly don’t need people in my life who don’t get it. I’d give anything for a parent who understood this and who wanted to know me and to be in my life, because I really could use that. But I don’t have it, and I’m sure my folks have no idea why we aren’t closer (if they even have an inkling).

          (Oh, and OP, I’m also childfree, and they are “fine with that! Totally fine!” But they’re the ones who bring it up all the time so that they can tell me how fine they are with my choices. I feel your pain, is my point, and good luck.)

        2. Marcela*

          I have the same relationship with my parents: superficial, nothing of substance, not even a glimpse to our dreams or expectations. It saddens me I can’t talk to them about, for example, the real possibility that I am not going back to my own country (mostly because I won’t have a job: software development is next to non existing there, and I love what I do) and what that means for all of us. Or the fact that while I’ve never wanted children, the reality is I can’t conceive, and I know they are disappointed. We can’t talk about anything beyond their health issues or the weather. I wonder if I do have a relationship with them or I am lying to myself.

      2. puddin*

        I have the same shallow conversations with my Mom. I cannot share success as it will be minimized. I dare not share problems as they will be exploited or I will be blamed and shamed.

        She owes me a lot of therapist money.

      3. Anyonymous*

        I talk to my parents maybe once a month and even then we don’t talk about anything deep. We’ve never had that kind of relationship.

      4. Honeybee*

        My dad kept trying to convince me to drop out of my PhD program and do [insert something here that probably doesn’t make sense]. He had the sort of opposite approach: He didn’t have a college degree, and no one around him did either, so he didn’t really understand why I needed a four-year degree much less GRADUATE school. Once he realized that you got a master’s on the way to a PhD he kept insisting I could drop out and make big money doing something ridiculous that I didn’t want to do and didn’t even make sense for my qualifications (like be a school principal, when my MA and PhD is in public health psychology).

        1. Cath in Canada*

          Yeah, I’m 38 and pretty successful in my field and my Dad STILL thinks I should have dropped out of my PhD to become a pharmacist instead. In his mind “it’s all science”, so surely I’d be just as happy with that as I was doing genetics research and as I am doing grant writing and project managing, in a very closely related field. Um, yeah, those are very, very different types of careers, and I really don’t think I’d have been a good match for pharmacy, at all.

          The worst was when I showed him my final, bound thesis, of which I was immensely proud, and he said “I still think you shouldn’t have done a PhD” and walked away. It took years for our relationship to recover from that kind of attitude.

      5. bearing*

        “I finally learned that my parents, and especially my dad, will never be happy with my choices. Now that I’ve given myself permission to just ignore their advice and attempts to micromanage my life, I’m much happier.”

        That worked for me for a while, but when my father started speaking inappropriately to my children and telling me that it was a shame they were “stuck in my tutelage,” I said No More. I haven’t had contact with him for 7 months and I am finally at peace. I’m not sure the rest of my family will ever understand (“I can put up with him, why can’t you?”) but, as I have repeated, “I get to choose.”

    2. Chrissi*

      Katie the Fed’s last point – in particular that once she stopped going back to her mom to apologize changed the terms of the relationship – is SO important! If you are consistent in your responses and you cut them off from what they want out of the interaction, the behavior has the possibility of changing and there doesn’t have to be a big dramatic confrontation.

      In my case, after my dad died, my mom wanted me to do everything for her (call the cable company, set up her auto bill-pay, make her decisions for her) like my dad always had. My siblings and I absolutely did for a while because she really did need it at first, but after a couple years it was more like learned helplessness. I was terrified of pushing back because I was scared she’d be mad and hurt, and also I wanted to be kind to her and help her. My therapist got me to push back, very gently, and just refuse to do stuff for her, so she would do it for herself. I didn’t come out and tell her she was doing anything wrong, I just changed the way that I reacted to her. She was a little out of sorts at first of course, but she changed her behavior extraordinarily fast, like within 2 months. It shocked the hell out of me because I was absolutely certain that she couldn’t change and that was just the way she was. The key is being consistent. Not to be condescending, but it’s kind of like training a dog – reward good behavior and withhold what they want for bad behavior (don’t punish, just don’t give them what they want), but it only works if you hold fast and do it every time.

      In your case, I think that would mean reacting like Katie the Fed said in bullet #1 or what Alison said about the phone call. It won’t be as bad as you think, I promise!! Good luck!

  3. KT*

    I have this. I worked a very high-powered job in the pharmaceutical industry bringing in 6 figures. I was miserable, stressed out, and would spend Sunday nights vomiting from anxiety, so I quit and took a 50% paycut to work for a non-profit I love. I am a zillion times happier and healthier.

    But my family cannot wrap my head around it. They were so gosh darned proud of me in my old job, despite the fact that I couldn’t sleep without sleeping pills.

    They keep saying that this is just a “phase” and that I’ll learn to “man up” and return to a “real job” rather than dawdling around in a non-profit (their words).

    No amount of me explaining what my job is, the work I do, or how fulfilled I feel will ever correct their mindset.

    The only thing that has worked is just not engaging. I simply do not discuss work or money with them. If they bring up work, I say I’m happy and I change the subject. If they start to ask why I’m not searching for another job, I say I’m happy and change the subject. If they tell me I can make more money, I tell them I’m happy and change the subject. Repeat as necessary for every tactic they try. Eventually they mostly dropped it…only a few disappointed hints now and again instead of CONSTANTLY.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Ahh this. As far as my mother is concerned, I have been 100% content with pretty much everything in my life and every decision I’ve made for the last decade! Because any hint otherwise provides an opening, and I’m not going to let that happen.

      1. Artemesia*

        It is sort of sad because parents don’t realize they are in effect cutting off a really deep relationship with their adult kids when they meddle. I have a strong personality and was a teacher for much of my life so I know I can come across as dominating so I am very careful to not give advice unless it is asked; when they ask they really do want to know what I have to say. This has mean a very close relationship with one of my kids and a closer one than I would have otherwise if I tried to direct his choices.

        I dealt with my overbearing parents by shutting them out; I still saw them and interacted with them but on a very superficial level. I have tried not to do the same with my kids as my folks did unconsciously with me. I know they meant well and were socially unskilled but this behavior destroys the chance for intimacy.

      2. Shannon*

        This signed so much.

        It was very hard for me to never talk about my goals with my parents, because I’m a very goal oriented person. Way back in the day, I went to vocational program so I could qualify for better paying/ more flexible jobs while going to college. Instead of being excited that I was going on to college, it became “Oh, you must not be happy in your vocational job because you’re going to college. I told you that vocational job would never work out for you.” The reality was that I really liked my vocational job; it just required more education to advance in that field.

    2. Althea*

      My husband’s brother has this attitude. He’s quite wealthy, doing something in finance. My husband and I both work in public service earning a decent amount, but Brother-in-law cannot fathom that we are content, how we could even afford to buy a house, or how we could even consider ourselves happy and well-off. He doesn’t understand not equating wealth with value, and is always striving to compete with even wealthier people.

      Frankly, he’s not that happy of a guy, and while he doesn’t understand us, he does envy our happiness. We don’t need his approbation!

      I could easily imagine all those “advisers” are more interested in having that power/wealth status for themselves, so they can’t understand being satisfied with less…

      1. VintageLydia USA*

        Sometimes my husband gets this way about my brother about this (my husband makes a good income, brother makes slightly more than minimum wage.) But then my brother was able to save enough to buy a little house of his own and Mr. Vintage backed off. For the record, I knew my brother was (mostly) satisfied with his job and income. I don’t care what he does or how much he earns so long as he’s comfortable (by his own standards, not mine) and happy.

        Now I just gotta work on my parents. They rag on him all. the. time. The only reason I escape it is because I married someone who makes “enough” money. I don’t work and haven’t for almost a decade and I made less than my brother when I did–but it was a dual income household. It’s frustrating watching him being given crap for the same stuff I’m “guilty” of as well (I never finished college, I was making roughly minimum wage, I was even making more than my husband was at the time when we married so it’s not like my current lifestyle was planned or anything.)

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I think a penis is supposed to magically attract money. Or something. I don’t get the dual standard either, so I’m just guessing.

            1. Lizzie*


              Even in fields traditionally “run” by women this is true. Social work is a field where the practitioners are overwhelmingly female-identifying. None of us exactly rake it in, but guess who’s making more money?

              1. Honeybee*

                My mother’s a nurse, and she says whenever her unit would get a new male nurse (rarely) he’d be promoted up to management so fast it gave you whiplash.

                1. Sarahnova*

                  There’s actually a name for this: “the glass escalator”. Far from being discriminated against in traditionally female fields, men are disproportionately singled out for progression and frequently hustled right to the top.

      2. Decimus*

        I obtained a law degree. I have never used it to practice law. I went into a different and much lower paying field, but also one I liked better and is less stressful. My parents were supportive – but then I married and left my job because my wife gets paid a lot better than I do. All of our parents seem baffled by this. Ah, well. We just don’t discuss it with them much.

    3. Anyonymous*

      I was a reporter for a hot second early in my career and my father referred to it as “wearing a pretty dress and typing”. That’s when I decided nothing I did was gonna be good enough.

  4. Althea*

    You could also try a light-hearted approach and see how it goes.

    “Well, I’ve been thinking about becoming a newt biologist in Nicaragua. Interested in footing the bill for 6 more years of school and paying our mortgage until graduation?”

  5. Allison*

    Do they not realize or remember how much college costs? Whether you’d be going back for another undergrad or graduate-level degree, it’s a ton of money. Plus, it’s not easy balancing work and school. Really, going back to school is something one should only do if it’s necessary to advance a career or get a job you *know* you really want, because otherwise it’s not worth the investment or the stress.

    Since you’re married, and you and your husband are an independent, self-sufficient household, it’s really none of your parents’ business what your job is as long as you’re happy. If they had to take you in or give you money to help you pay bills, I could see them feeling like their two cents is relevant, but that’s not the case here.

    Maybe the problem is that they’re empty nesters with no one to advise through school, and they feel like in order to keep “being parents” they need to advise their offspring on something, and right now since you’re already married and don’t plan on having kids, your lack of a career seems like the obvious thing to give advice about. Is there anything else you could potentially solicit their advice on to divert their attention from this?

    1. potato battery*

      Ooh, yeah, that last point really makes sense. I have two sisters, and sometimes we have to call each other and say “please call Mom and tell her about your life so she’ll stop bugging me!” Do you have any siblings to take the pressure off?

      1. Honeybee*

        Haha, me and my siblings do that all the time. We have to take turns being in the hot seat.

    2. Van Wilder*

      My first instinct was that their comments are all about advancing their legacy. They need to be able to brag to their friends about something. If it’s not going to be grandkids, you’d better be a career woman. If you’re not going to pass their genes on, you’d better cure cancer to make sure that *their* time on earth meant something. Mortality, amirite?

      1. Artemesia*

        Bingo. One of the things I did for my folks although I was totally emotionally closed to them was try to buy gifts that were showy. e.g. after a visit I send them some gorgeous embellished bath towels for their guest bath — and for the 30 years those things hung pristine and pretty much unused they would be able to say ‘oh Artemesia sent us those’ when people commented on how pretty they were. I gave my mother beautiful sweaters which was something she wore every day in the climate they lived in; every time someone said ‘oh that is so unusual, where did you get it’ or ‘that is lovely’ she could say ‘oh my daughter sent it to me.’ The sad thing is that I was very successful professionally but my very wealthy brother, the only begotten son, was the one they liked to generally brag on.

    3. Serin*

      The spouse’s father likes to hector us about the house and how we didn’t take proper care of it and how we ought to knock down this wall and enlarge that window. It just seemed weird to me, but of course the spouse has hot-buttons around home-ownership (of course he does; the Father-in-Law installed them).

      Before we go visit, we usually come up with a handful of deflective questions, so that at the first sign that the conversation heads in the direction of remodeling, one of us is ready to jump in with a quick segue to the Merchant Marine or the Salesman of the Year award or … the Father-in-Law is capable of talking for a long time, in a genuinely entertaining and interesting way, about all sorts of subjects. We just have to be prepared to nudge him onto one of them.

      This experience is the reason that I give my teenager rules and explicit requests, but not un-asked-for advice. I’d hate for her to grow up and have to develop strategies to manage me.

      1. Josh S*

        And yet I can all but guarantee that your teenager will still grow up with strategies for how to manage you. ;p

        1. TootsNYC*

          Oh, no! Don’t say that, Josh!

          But I think you’re right. I’ve tried as well to be unsolicited-advice free (don’t always achieve it), or to give unsolicited advice in a way that’s as non-naggy as possible (don’t always achieve that either).

          So that hopefully even though she needs strategies for managing me (I think, actually, that all kids do; parents have an enormous power), the damage I leave behind won’t be so bad.

          I’m reading this whole comments section with an eye for how I can be a parent to my own college-age kid.

        2. Artemesia*

          LOL. I have worked very hard to not be the judgmental jerk who closes down my kids, but I know they have strategies to manage me. But we still have a much more intimate relationship than I had with my folks (or so they let me believe.)

          1. Anna*

            I think the difference is, does your daughter roll her eyes so that you can see because she’s slightly amused? Or does she shut you down because it’s not an open subject? That’s the difference.

  6. Artemesia*

    Alison’s suggestions are spot on. I used this technique with my mother who would NEVER let anything go. It is a basic behavioral process. You simply disappear every time they bring it up. One last conversation that ends with ‘I never want to hear another word about this.’

    And then you don’t discuss it again or mention it again. Every single time they bring it up, you leave. If on the phone it is ‘Well I’ve got to run’ and hang up. If you are visiting, it is ‘look at the time, we need to get going’ even if dinner is coming on. If they are visiting you, you have an errand to run and leave. EVERY SINGLE TIME.

    The EVERY SINGLE TIME is important because doing it off and on actually encourages them to be persistent. It works. If they get upset that you have no time for them, well that is the cost of nagging. And if they bring it up, you can say ONCE ‘I will not be nagged about the choices I have made with my life.’

    You don’t have to put up with this carp.

    1. Josh S*

      “You don’t have to put up with this carp.”
      Or with the grouper, the halibut, the swordfish…

      /sorry, I’m punchy today

  7. Jeanne*

    Parents. Sigh. My mother will never stop nagging me about some things. They key in my opinion is compromise and selective listening. Let mom nag about some things so she feels like a mom. Other things just keep saying, each time, “I don’t want to talk about it.” When she’s going on about some things just kind of zone out and nod. But give her at least one thing where she thinks she’s giving good advice. Remember: moms will always be moms.

    I would ask her to stop getting her friends imvolved. That’s a little too much.

    1. Nina*

      Yeah, the whole thing is annoying but discussing your personal issues with your friends is completely out of line. Your parents are probably thinking your friends can “talk some sense into you” when they’re only making the situation worse.

      1. some1*

        I actually went through this with my mother about 8 years ago. My mom would complain to any friends or family behind my back about me not being in a relationship, as if it would never get back to me.

        I did confront my mother finally complained about this to my coworker that she happened to meet by chance. I told her that it was none of her business and I didn’t want to hear her discuss my private life with anyone ever again, especially not my coworkers because it could damage my professional repuation.

        Like Katie mentioned above, there was initially a good deal of fallout from my mom. She cut me off by yelling at me, hanging up, then calling me and leaving a tearful voice mail about how she doesn’t get where she went wrong and why we aren’t BFFs like her friends are with their daughters. Then she refused to attend any events if I would be there for awhile – but it’s 8 years later and she has never done it again that I know of and we have a much better relationship.

        1. TootsNYC*

          “as if it wouldn’t get back to me”

          Oh, no, I don’t buy that. I think she *knew* it would get back to you. That’s why she did it.

          1. some1*

            Well, that was one of the things she bitched me out for that day on the phone – she was clearly pissed that my coworker had told me about it. My coworker is about my mom’s age and I think my mom saw the conversation as commiserating mom-to-mom instead of her daughter’s colleague.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I would say that this is such a big issue, I’d rope a few of my closest friends in on my strategy. And to ask them to say much the same thing to your parents if they start in on the proxy.

        And also, ask them to never, ever tell you about it. You don’t need to hear that.

        One thing might be to frame this as the equivalent of passing gas. When someone does that, it’s considered *so* disgusting that (in proper etiquette) it’s never, ever mentioned. One doesn’t even say “excuse me.” It’s just not spoken about. Totally taboo. This should be like that

        And the last one is what I call the cut-and-paste strategy. Come up with a line (funny is actually good) that basically is a non-answer. Or that restates your boundaries.
        Use it EVERY time they bring up your career or going back to school. Don’t vary it by the least, not even if they change the question or topic.
        So let’s say they say, “You should go back to school and get a different degree.”
        And your reply is, “I’m really happy with my life the way it is.”
        They say, “It’s such a shame you never used your first degree. What a waste of money.”
        You: “I’m really happy with my life the way it is.”
        Them: “But you could make so much money! Have more plower!”
        You: “I’m really happy with my life the way it is.”
        Them: “Why won’t you discuss this with me? I’m your mother, I only want what’s best for you!” note topic switch
        You: “I’m really happy with my life the way it is.” note LACK of topic switch
        Them: “You’re so rude to shut us out like this!”
        You: “I’m really happy with my life the way it is.”
        Them: “I’m sure it wouldn’t be expensive! You can get loans.”
        You: “I’m really happy with my life the way it is.”
        Them: “Your husband deserves to have a wife who contributes more. You’re a bad wife for not pulling your financial weight or contributing more to the household.”
        You: “I’m really happy with my life the way it is.”

        No matter where they try to take it, you drag it back to that one statement.
        I’ve seen this work. I think it’s more effective if you can come up with something funny, but even this is fine–I like to suggest addressing the only acceptable reason for them to be intrusive (that they want you to be happy) and ignoring all the other parts of anything.

        1. LaraW*

          We actually had to do this with my husband’s mother, who was constantly asking us how much money did we make, how much did our house cost, how much did we spend on our car, how much do we pay in daycare, blah blah blah. The answer to every one of those questions was “Oh, about $100”. She did finally stop asking us, but I don’t know if she asks others the state of our financial health.

          If it ever comes up again, my answer to her will be: “We have lived in our house for 15 years, our children are well-fed and clothed, and we are not in jail. You know from these things that we make enough money to pay our mortgage, feed and clothe our children, and pay our taxes. That is all you need to know.”

        2. periwinkle*

          Ah, the Marshawn Lynch method of communication.

          (For non-U.S. football fans: Lynch is a star player who hates talking with the media so when he’s surrounded by reporters asking inane questions he may simply repeat one set answer such as “thanks for asking.”)

      3. KMS1025*

        Totally agree with Nina…as uncomfortable as it is to continue having the monotonous discussion with you, it’s rude and beyond all kinds of disrespectful to be having the discussion with your friends. Frankly, I would have to tell the parents this, in the most respectful, but clear language possible. The friend conversation is a whole level of meddlesome that needs to stop immediately. With daughters of my own now in various occupations, some of which (the occupations that is) I like and others not so much…it’s not my life, it’s not my choice, it’s not my consequences, good or bad. I just need to love and support them, and that’s what you need from your parents. Tell them so clearly.

        1. Blurgle*

          They call that “releasing the flying monkeys” elsewhere. They want what they want and they’ll enlist anyone they think will help to get it. So horrifically contemptuous and cruel.

  8. Elizabeth West*

    Family. Urgh. I had someone in my family tell me “You should write something that will sell.” >_< I tweeted that under the #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter hashtag and Candace Bushnell faved it. o_o :D

    1. Sascha*

      Love it! My dad still thinks I can be the next J.K. Rowling because of some stories I wrote in middle school, and I’m just not trying hard enough. :)

    2. Josh S*

      Well, apparently you should stick to Twitter–the things you write there actually catch on! ;p

    3. I'm a Little Teapot*

      I’d fave it too. I get that too. Or “You NEED to rewrite that story focused on two particular characters into a 250-year history of the world it’s set in.” Which would be totally inappropriate for my publisher and is not the story I’m interested in writing, but thanks for the input, person who doesn’t even the genres it’s in!

  9. TotesMaGoats*

    Use those skills you got in grad school to figure out what’s at the root of this and why they are ignore your explicit desires to let this subject drop. I too wanted to be a counselor until my next to last semester where 3 hours of dictation after each session sucked all the joy out. And then our licensing rules changed and by then I knew I wanted to stay in higher education. So I finished out the degree. Now, I still use my skills and you probably do to, just not the way you thought.

    Maybe if you can get to the root of why your parents won’t let it go, you’ll be better prepared for that final conversation. Address those things head on. Then repeat the things Allison has said.

    1. Charlotte Collins*

      I agree. Start analyzing them!

      But to be honest, I think that mental health care is definitely one of those careers where you really have to want to do it. Otherwise, you’d do more harm than good. There are some careers where you can see it as a paycheck-bringer only, but that is not one of them. So, kudos to those of you who realized it wasn’t for you and got out.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        Here’s the thing: I still do it! It’s just in a different form. I’ve had students and potential students come in and spill their life story and all those skills about active listening and reframing and building unconditional positive regard, I use them. I actually had a full blown session with a potential student and his wife at an open house once. She was classic Type A and he was about as far from that as possible. Things came to a head in a large classroom and I took them out and we sat and had a session for about 45 minutes about their relationship and goals and boundaries. They left happy and together. I can’t remember if he ever applied but that hardly mattered.

        But I do agree that it’s a field that you have to want to do more than you want money. The money ain’t there.

    2. Meg Murry*

      Not so much analyzing them, but it might help to look at what the root of the problem may be coming from and address that.

      -Did your parents put themselves in a lot of debt to put you through undergrad/grad school and now they feel like you “owe” them by at least getting a higher paid job? Did you ever at least say to them “thank you, I understand that you made a lot of sacrifices to put me through school, and even though I didn’t wind up becoming a counselor, I appreciate that you supported my dream at the time, and hope you can be happy for me now that I’ve found something else to make me happy.” If they really put themselves in a lot of debt or paid a lot out of pocket, you may even want to talk to your husband about considering repaying them. My husband and I have had serious consideration about repaying his parents for the loans they took out for his education, just so they will shut up about it already!
      -Do you come from a culture or background where it is expected that children take care of parents in their old age? Any chance this is coming as a round-about way of them saying ‘we expect you to support us financially when we retire but you can’t do that without a higher paying job’?
      -Is your mother feeling regret about the paths she didn’t take, and trying to live vicariously through you? Is it possible she had some kind of dream career (or just dreamed of a career in general) but had to back burner it for some reason, and wants to make sure you aren’t doing the same?
      -Any chance your mother is hinting that you shouldn’t rely so much on your husband supporting the 2 of you for the long term? I know that is a very personal decision, but it is possible she’s seen women who opted out of having a career who really struggled when their marriage fell apart or the spouse died, or the spouse lost his job and the woman had been out of the workforce (or at a lower level in the workforce) for a long time – she might worry about that for you.

      While I am generally of the “parents don’t get to have a say in their adult children’s lives once they are adults” camp, I do think that if your parents spent a lot of money on your education you need to at least acknowledge that, and as others have mentioned, explain to her that you really are happy, you aren’t just saying that to save face. And then never complain to her about not being able to afford something, or your vacation time, your commute or anything else job related – because that is just opening the door for her to complain about it again.

    3. Honeybee*

      My degrees are in psychology too, and my philosophy is that psychology is endlessly useful in everything: professionally and personally. It’s literally the study of how people think, feel, and behave, and everything we do involves interaction with other people. I’ll never regret it, and I’ll always use it.

  10. PNW Dan*

    I really wish we would get past our “degree = specific carreer” mentality. It puts lots of people into school who really don’t want to be there.

    1. Laurel Gray*


      I feel for every person with a J.D. who is not a lawyer and has to “explainify” their alternative career choice. Or every person with an accounting degree who isn’t a CPA. Yada yada yada. I too loathe this mentality and I think some adults do teens such a disservice with it. They go into college (and debt!) thinking they know what they want to do only to find out they want nothing to do with said field after the degree is attained.

      1. Sascha*

        They should check out that comment thread from a few days ago (I don’t remember exactly which post…an open thread maybe?) where people listed what degrees they had, and then what jobs they were currently working. I think most everyone who responded was not doing the job(s) that matched their degree(s). Like me, I’m a business intelligence analyst with an English degree.

        1. Mike C.*

          The other thing that thread shows was that there can be a huge overlap in what was studied and how it applies to completely different fields.

        2. Honeybee*

          There have been a couple of related ones. There’s a thread from the July 31 open thread where someone asked about JDs who weren’t working as attorneys. There’s another one in the July 24 thread about people working in library science and what degrees they have, and then there’s a more general “how did you decide on your degree and job?” thread from July 3. I think the last one is the one you’re referring to.

          (I went looking for it because I wanted to bookmark it when I saw it, and forgot.)

      2. Allison*

        OR they get degrees in a field they want to work in, and after struggling to find jobs in that field find themselves going in a completely different direction because you gotta do *something* after college that lets you be self-sufficient, and sometimes people end up loving that career instead.

        As someone in the aforementioned boat (political science degree, now working in HR . . .), I do feel for anyone who got a JD and couldn’t land a job as a lawyer in the flooded market. They don’t need to be made to feel like failures every time the family gets together.

        1. manybellsdown*

          My best friend has a masters in Theatrical Design. She just ended 8 years in the Air Force. She spent a year working in actual theater design before she decided she was tired of it. But her parents really wanted her to have that MFA!

        2. OfficePrincess*

          So much this. I took a “the bills have to get paid somehow” job, got promoted, and now I’m kind of digging it. I’m not sure if this will be what I eventually retire from, but the job I thought I wanted is looking less and less appealing.

          1. Allison*

            I still kind of wish I could work in the political or nonprofit advocacy field someday, but I’d need to figure out how my experience here could map to a job there. I may not want to be here for life, and I have a few ideas of where else I want to go, but I have figured out that I don’t need my job to be my main source of happiness. I need a job I like, that gives me the money and flexibility I need in order to do what actually makes me happy, and I’m good.

    2. Anonathon*

      I loathe it too. Especially now, every career-related article advises teens to major in Whatever, so they can get a high-paying job in Whatever and stay there for decades. But realistically, that’s not how life goes. Most people figure out what they can and/or want to do through trial and error. The most accurate way to find out which field make sense for you is to do it for real, not just study it.

      (I majored in a subject that I really enjoyed, but that has no relation to my current job. This is also the case for 90% of my current colleagues.)

      1. Allison*

        Usually those high-paying jobs are high-paying for a reason. Either they require a certain aptitude that not everyone has, or they’re stressful and involve long hours. Sometimes it’s both! Regardless of why, high-paying jobs pay a lot because they’re not for everyone, and when people who aren’t suited for them try to break into the field anyway just because they want the big money, it’s a bit like trying to shove a square peg through a round hole.

        1. Anonathon*

          Exactly! I understand the logic of telling teens to go to school for XYZ because it has a clear career path … but not everyone can or should do XYZ. And forcing yourself into a field that’s wrong for you, no matter how high-paying, is probably not going to end well. Plus, lot of jobs out there, maybe the majority of jobs, don’t even have a direct correlation to a college major. (Mine doesn’t and shouldn’t.)

      2. Anx*

        Then there’s the fact that even bright or responsible teens can’t forsee the future, and then you end up with a glut of specific majors.

        1. Honeybee*

          Thiiiis. Whenever I see people trying to push teens into majoring in engineering or computer science now, I try to remind them that when I went to college in 2004 everyone was pushing us into law, finance/banking, and real estate. That turned out well.

          1. Anx*

            Yep. My one friend is so happy she’s on IBR with her loans after law school, because at 30K a year there is no way she could have paid a private loan back. She’s hoping to either get a lucrative career in law one day or try to get a longterm* full-time job in a nonprofit to qualify for debt forgiveness.

            *I think one of the many ways our tuition/student loan system is failing is by requiring long-term (10 years min), full-time employment for its public service forgiveness programs when you can be fulling dedicated to service without ever moving up to a full-time job, let alone keeping one for 10 years.

      3. Honeybee*

        My least favorite article ever is this really stupid one from…I think They have a list of like the top 10 lowest-paying majors. But they didn’t actually go and look at majors’ average pay; they selected a list of 3 jobs that seemed most heavily associated with that major and used the salary of those jobs to put together their list. There things like chaplain for a religion major, social worker for a sociology major, and rehabilitation counselor for a psych major. Not only were they just WRONG it was so frustrating because I already feel like I have to combat the image that psychology and other social sciences and humanities degrees are “worthless.”

    3. SystemsLady*

      Yeah, and then you get the people doing vanilla [degree X] who misunderstand specialty jobs and tell you you’re not a “real” [degree X].

      Usually thrown as an insult, 99% of the time because they don’t understand your part of [degree X] and need to protect their egos, along with unnecessarily explaining everything they think you don’t know (but usually do) like you’re five years old.

      People like that are not fun to extract information from, trust me.

      1. SystemsLady*

        Most of these people are recent college grads who haven’t picked up how little you end up using your degree yet, to be fair.

      2. FormerEditor*

        Yeah, I work at a university, and I try not to let the college students down when they ask me about my school/major and how it ties in with my career field. I love my job, but it took a lot of meandering to get there, which is not encouraged in college marketing materials and can make them discouraged!

    4. Honeybee*

      +1 million. I’m a moderator on a college admissions forum, and we get soooooooo many questions like this every day – basically some permutation of “what major can I select that will make me a lot of money/be good backup plan to law/medical/dental school?” We’ve also gotten a lot of questions that basically boil down to “I want to major in engineering/computer science because I’ve heard engineers/software developers make a lot of money, but I don’t like math.”

      They’re both so irritating, but I do feel sympathy for these students because they’ve only been exposed to a few careers by high school and they really haven’t grasped/learned that specific degrees don’t necessarily lead to specific careers.

  11. Steve G*

    Hello OP!

    1) Have you actually gone through a whole conversation with them – asking them all of the difficult questions – or are you always shutting it down 1/2 way with “I am not going back to school?” It may keep the peace if you just go through the whoooolle thing once with them, asking all of the questions – how will I pay for it, what if I can’t afford my mortgage because the loan payment is too high, what if it eats at my 401K growth opportunities (and I’d be interested in what the #s look like – the difference between investing in the 401K vs. a career), what if there is no program in the area or that doesn’t conflict with my work schedule, are you going to financially support this, etc.? Also, if you want to apply to multiple programs, with they pay the application fees? Buy the books when you start? Cook for your family when you are never home?
    2) Is there any merit to their claim, regardless of the messaging? Can you tell them “its really busy at work now and applying to school isn’t something you do lightly but it is on my LT agenda?” to keep them quiet? You are accepting a low paying job, only because you’re husband is able to make up the difference financially. Is that really what you want long term? You admit you’ve done a variety of jobs. You do need to think about the long-term viability of admin/marketing work as a career path. The economy and lots of non-specific admin type career paths are fading away. Those types of jobs are also the ones getting hundreds of applicants. What will happen if you’re over 50 and have been in similar roles for years and you’re competing against hundreds of younger applicants? You’ve probably thought about it before, and your parents are probably coming from the same place of concern.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      I have to disagree with this approach (#1). I think the more we engage with meddlesome parents, the more they continue to meddle. If the OP invests that much energy into a conversation where she makes going back to school more about certain factors and less about her desire to not want to go, the conversation will ALWAYS be on the table. It will become “Have you figured out your finances for grad school?” “Is your husband finally going to earn more money?” and variations of this loathsome foolery.

      I don’t have much to add to the second part only that I do believe that one can still be a career admin, remain employed through retirement, and do pretty okay to great along the way, economy be damned!

      1. some1*

        This. The LW doesn’t need to justify why she doesn’t want to or isn’t going back to school.

        1. Koko*

          Yes – the LW doesn’t have any of those questions. She’s not looking to explore how to make going back to school happen. She’s happy in her current career and has no desire to go back to school. It’s irrelevant whether she could pay for it or how she might fit it into her schedule, etc. The discussion ends with her lack of desire or interest.

      2. AnotherAlison*


        Parents have to be shut down, period. My parents are happy with my career choices, but they’ve felt the need to meddle in my parenting and relationship choices throughout my life. Which turned out to be quite funny once I knew the infidelity issues they had.

        On the second part, point is it’s HER business, not ours or her parents. To pretend we can know what a viable career is 20-30 years from now is arrogant. There’s a lot of hand-wringing about disappearing jobs, such as those good-paying auto manufacturing jobs. Those jobs only came into existence 100 years ago! Throughout all of human history, most jobs didn’t exist. She’ll figure something out, as-needed, just like the rest of us will have to do.

      3. Steve G*

        But with the shifts if the economy, that may not be viable. We’ve all seen the mass layoffs since 2007/8 (see “The biggest mass layoffs of the past two decades” for a refresher) and that many of those types of jobs have disappeared and not come back. It is not crazy for a parent to be concerned about their adult child’s viability in our new economy.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But if the OP doesn’t want to debate it with her parents and/or is happy where she is, it’s her prerogative to say it’s not up for discussion. She’s not obligated to keep entertaining this discussion, and it’s actually doing their relationship a disservice to continue allowing it, because it’s alienating her. It’s kinder to everyone to put a stop to it.

        2. Laurel Gray*

          Steve, you are right – it isn’t crazy for a parent to be concerned but if their adult child is working hard, happy, not asking them for handouts etc then I don’t see a problem. The success we eventually have may not be in the same way our parents were hoping for. That’s on them but in the meantime, we have the right to, as adults, create boundaries with them and ask (or demand!) that they respect said boundaries.

        3. puddin*

          I think there is a difference between caring, concern, and dismissive behavior. The parents sound belittling of the current choice. The message becomes, “You are not good enough, you are an embarrassment.” This is different than saying, “I worry for you and want the best for you.”

          1. OfficePrincess*

            Agreed. This may have started from a place of worry, but the parents crossed the line a long, long time ago. Nagging for more than a decade and complaining to OP’s friends? Not even a little bit ok.

        4. Observer*

          Aside from the fact that the OP is an adult and doesn’t have to discuss it with her parents never mind her parent’s proxies!), the same could be said of ANY career.

        5. Tinker*

          The answer to that, essentially, is “The job market quite probably will change in unexpected ways multiple times during OP’s career. When that happens, OP will have to deal with it.” That, essentially, is the only answer there CAN be, and it’s an answer that is already quite available to OP’s parents. That OP, rather than their parents, will be the person in the best position to determine what needs to be done at the time it needs TO be done is a slightly more obscure point, but also important.

          That the pestering is ensuing despite those facts — given that OP is to all indications competent — is an indication (though one that’s easy to miss, given cultural biases) that something else is at play here. To throw out an illustrative war story here — my mother once pursued an argument with me about my dangerous practice of taking the garbage out to the dumpster after dark, where the dumpster was across the parking lot in my gated apartment complex in a low-crime area of a low-crime city. She had this argument with me by cell phone in the middle of my evening commute during rush hour on the highway. Knowingly. When I hung up on her, she had my dad call me back for round two, “your mother is Just Concerned”. In other words, clearly the matter at some point became less about my actual physical safety, which was actually in most peril from being crushed by a truck, and more about the worry and the thing that the worry happened to have latched onto.

          (I don’t answer the phone in the car anymore.)

          There’s an entire rant here that I may or may not break out, depending on the amount of effort I have available for such things now, but one of the things about anxiety-driven pestering is that it can look superficially “logical”, but what is driving it is not actually logic and playing whack-a-mole with the processed logic product does not help. In my experience, if the conversation does not stall for other reasons, you eventually run into the intrinsic unpredictability of the future, at which point ties go to the party with higher social rank, in this case the parent. If anything, going down the rabbit hole amplifies the anxiety, because more time is being spent on the subject and more details are being given that can become foci for additional rumination.

          It’s like the tree-of-heaven in that regard — it seems like a good idea to chop off each of the sprouts, but doing that signals the plant to propagate aggressively under the surface. In order to actually solve the problem, you’ve got to kill the roots. To the extent that I’ve been able to apply it, I’ve found that the advice given in the answer here is the method to do that — closing off the subject using simple words and playing high-status (that latter is good both as far as getting boundaries followed and in providing subconscious reassurance, I suspect).

      4. Honeybee*

        And some parents really enjoy this part of the meddling. If I had gotten into an extended conversation with my father like this, he would quite gleefully offer all kinds of advice and solutions to every single one of the questions, whether the advice was feasible, made sense, or not. It would just dig a bigger hole rather than help me get out of one.

    2. Artemesia*

      All this JADEing is IMHO a mistake. A grown woman does not need to justify, argue, defend or explain her life choices to her mother repeatedly. Parents get ONE nag or difficult question, but then they need to let it drop and stop harassing their offspring. Not time to ‘explain’ but time to make clear that this out of bounds. ANd going to friends (or as in another example, co-workers) is beyond out of bounds.

      Often behavioral techniques work without the subject being aware, but in a case like this a clear statement to cease and desist followed by unwillingness to stand and take it will do the trick.

      1. Blurgle*

        JADEing always makes things worse, even with parents who aren’t belittlebots. There’s an old saying that goes “never complain, never explain”. The first part of it is absolutely horrific advice – complaining is the most essential non-violent agent of change on this planet, and only pampered privileged elites can afford not to complain – but the second part is gold in circumstances like this one.

        When you explain, you give the person you’re explaining to the impression they have a say in things. The LW’s parents want that toehold, want desperately to be able to control their adult child. All JADEing does is lead them to believe that they could have that control if they could just “fix” the LW’s “excuses”, as they see them.

    3. The IT Manager*

      I think point 1 is a terrible idea because the LW is saying that she doesn’t WANT to go back to school. That is a valid choice that doesn’t need to be backed by financial reasons why she can’t go back to school.

      #2, though, is interesting and may have merit. Maybe the LW can figure out if there’s a valid concern underneath all the pressure to return to school. Like the parents think that returning to school for a career will save her from whatever problem they think exists with her current career path. This could help only if their concern is rational and timely and not based belief that the working world hasn’t changed in the last X ears since they held a job, but maybe it’s something that could work.

      1. Jeanne*

        It is almost always worth it to take the time to think through a problem from the other side’s perspective. You may not change your course of action but it can help a lot.

    4. College Career Counselor*

      Steve G, that’s far too logical and assumes the OP’s parents are rational actors! (which after a decade of this behavior, according to the OP, I think it’s fair to assume they’re not)

      Some people double down on the argument when you engage them in discussion. They think, “this is a debate, and it’s just a matter of finding the right argument/data/appeal to get OP to change her mind!” So, while I see your point, I suspect that the time for that approach may have come and gone.

      1. Anna*

        While nowhere near the level of scary, it reminds me of the advice in The Gift of Fear that the author gave the business owners about engaging with a guy they decided not to hire. Every time the owners tried to explain logically why they went in a different direction, the guy took that as an opening and continued his pestering. He took it to mean they were in a conversation and that his point would get across to the owners and they would change their minds. Don’t engage! Don’t give them the idea that this is an actual conversation. Any time you explain, it means they have an opening so you have to shut it down, close the door, and end the conversation.

  12. Sascha*

    My parents do this too, my mom especially. She jumps to the career counseling every time I complain about my job. And yes, sometimes my complaining sounds like I want out entirely, but I’m wanting just another job in my field, not another career path. I like my field and I want to stay in it. But she equates “the temperature is never right in my office” with “I need a new career path.”

    I keep telling my parents it’s an issue of time, energy, and money – I have to have all three in abundance in order to pursue more schooling.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      This is exactly why all career related complain-fests are done with my “support group” of people who go through similar. We eat food, we have drinks, we air our work/school/personal life related grievances and then return to work Monday with, at the very least, an “at least I ain’t the only one going through this type of s–t” glass half full attitude.

  13. Guera*

    I have the perfect solution and you need not read any further. Tell your mom to call Dr. Laura for advice and tell her you will agree to whatever Dr. Laura tells her (your mom) to do based on the condition that the discussion will be closed at that point and up for no further debate or comment. It’s important your mom call and not you. If you have ever listened to Dr. Laura you know that this will take care of it. :)

    1. Lizabeth*

      Yes! We used to live for her radio show at one printing company I worked at, very entertaining to listen to :)

  14. AndersonDarling*

    OP, you have my sympathies. I wonder if your parents really understand that you are financially stable and happy? My sibling is rolling in cash, but my mother thinks she is broke because she talks about the payments on the car and how much it costs to get a babysitter. These conversations shadow any logical understanding my mother has of my sister’s income.
    If you talk about problems at work with your parents, that may think your work is all problems and you are unhappy.

    1. Allison*

      You do touch on a good point, it might help to proactively focus on the positive things at work, and how happy your job makes you. Then again, if you bring it up unprovoked, it might give them an opportunity to “but” in, and if you say it as a reaction to them butting in, it seems defensive.

  15. LBK*

    I think I’d say something like “I am going to keep doing what I believe will make me happy and I am hereby excusing myself from worrying that it won’t make you happy anymore.” Basically saying “I don’t give a shit if you don’t think this is a good idea” but in nicer terms.

  16. NickelandDime*

    Starting with Generation X, future generations won’t be goaded into taking on massive loans for additional degrees that won’t help them with career or salary growth. We’ll know not to give our kids this advice!

    1. Artemesia*

      And our generation apologizes for not providing affordable advanced education for your generation. It is one of the great failings of our society. I went to a public university and could afford to put myself through. We made sure our own kids graduated from college debt free and they are grateful as they observe their peers with huge student loans. The older generation owes the younger generation an education but in the US today the priority is low taxes for the very very very wealthy.

      1. NickelandDime*

        My husband didn’t have any school loans…but his parents are struggling financially. We save for our kiddos because I know they will have loans…I just don’t want them to have as many. My husband can’t wrap his head around this concept – that we are saving to offset the debt they will have, not eliminate the need for them to take on debt. I love my kids and I wish it weren’t this way – but I want to retire and be able to pay my living expenses!

        1. OfficePrincess*

          Give it 20 years or so and your kids will be thankful. I’m not happy about my student loans, but both my parents are now retired and I’m glad that they can actually enjoy their retirement. They’re not eating lobster every night, but the bills are paid and they can travel to visit family, and even take a yearly vacation. My student loans can be put on a payment plan, but if they were completely out of money it would have to be dealt with NOW.

          1. NickelandDime*

            My parents are retired and comfortable. The house is paid off. I am so grateful and I dutifully pay my student loans every month. I will eventually pay off that debt – but you are so right – retirement can’t really be done on a payment plan!

        2. Kate M*

          As Dave Ramsey says (not that I agree with him on everything, but I do on this), save for retirement before your children’s education. They can take out loans for college, but you can’t take out loans for retirement. Of course, it would be great to live in a society where student loans weren’t the norm and necessary. But until then, focus on exactly what you’re doing – retirement first, and helping your kids out as much as you can after.

          1. Anx*

            Also, you are doing your children no favors by sacrificing too much and then leaving them with the guilt that their college degree may have cost them their parents’ ability to live, especially now that so many college grads barely see a living wage anyway.

        3. Artemesia*

          Good point. Not everyone can afford to put their kids through college, but I encourage you to have the mindset of trying to go that way. e.g. the kids work summers and save money, you are saving and then you work hard to identify college options that are not bank breakers. Loans may be needed but there are ways to lessen the burden. Some state provide tuition for good students. Lots of schools have scholarships. (not as many options there as scam artists would have you believe, but they are out there) Have the kids as co-planners along the way.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Just because it’s where I’m at right now with my high school senior:
            Junior college – $3,000 per year x 2 = $6,000
            Jr-Sr 4-year school in driving distance = $10,000×2 =$20,000

            If he stays at home, we can cash flow this for $26,000. We don’t know what he’s going to do. He probably won’t stay home, but he has some TBD athletic scholarships factoring in. But, worst case, I don’t think we’ll contribute more than $40,000 total, which is doable w/o loans for us.

            The biggest problem is letting a kid dictate a dream school. People get into situations where kid gets into out-of-state school for “X” and they can’t afford it, but let them do it anyway because they “deserve” it. It’s your kid and your decision, but I don’t think a kid appreciates at 18 the difference between $40k in debt and $140,000 in debt.

            1. Jeanne*

              I don’t think they do either. It’s hard to appreciate how long it takes to earn that money and pay it back. You graduate and get a job and feel like you’ll be rich earning $40000/year. Then you see the percentage in taxes.

            2. Three Thousand*

              I really wish I hadn’t been allowed to go to school out of state. I apparently wasn’t old enough to understand why I shouldn’t do it, and that decision shouldn’t have been left to me.

            3. Honeybee*

              +1! The “dream school” thing is the problem. Too often parents don’t have realistic conversations with their kids about money early, or they tell their kids not to worry about money because they themselves haven’t checked costs or think that there’s just stacks of cash out there for financial aid for middle-class families (spoiler: no). I’ve talked to so many kids who want to go to some expensive public university not even in their own state for college, and I’m like…why?

              1. Dana*

                Especially after what we’ve seen here, where once you get some years of experience under your belt, the college you went to shouldn’t have any bearing on your employability–students are in no way under that impression, with U of Whatever and Something State University coming into their high schools every week telling them how awesome their school is and how they’ll get the best job ever if they convince their parents to let them go there! Parents should absolutely be making that decision.

  17. AnotherAlison*

    OP, you have my sympathy. If it wasn’t your career, it would be something else. A parent who thinks they have the right to weigh in on your choices always will, that’s why you have to follow Allison’s advice and shut them down.

    (Side note: At least your mom doesn’t try to dress you (I hope). For 30+ years, all my pants are gray, black, brown, and navy, but apparently I should give lavender with a diamond pattern a try — #thanksbutnothanksforthebirthdaygift.)

  18. Retired Teacher*

    My mother always had visions of me becoming a lawyer or a doctor. She was sooooo supportive until, “Oh My God, *Gasp,* you’re going to become a teacher!!! Oh no!!! Say it’s not so, please.” After that she was ashamed of me. She was literally ashamed to tell people what I did for a living. By the way she acted, you would have thought I had told her that I was going to engage in the world’s oldest profession. Oh well. At first I was extremely hurt. Then, over time, I learned to live with it. In the end, the source of my income did not preclude her from accepting financial assistance from me when she needed it.

    1. NickelandDime*

      And these days…People aren’t advising law school either. People are leaving law school with degrees and can’t find jobs to pay back all of those loans they had to take out. Teaching isn’t a high paying profession, but it’s pretty stable and an honorable and necessary role. You can’t always get validation from others, including family and friends. You made the best decision for YOU, and there are probably hundreds of kids that are better for having you touch their lives!

      1. TootsNYC*

        Well, it’s not that stable, and it’s tough to get the validation sometimes–teachers can also get really slammed by public opinion.

        But I agree that there are probably a lot of kids whose future are brighter because of Retired Teacher! It’s a fascinating and absorbing career, and even amid the criticism, teachers can know they’re making a difference for specific human beings–they see the evidence in front of them every single day. Not many of us can say that about our jobs!
        (teacher’s daughter/niece/granddaughter here!)

  19. KJR*

    My daughter is leaving for college in two weeks. I’m going to remember the advice I am reading here!!

    1. TootsNYC*

      Ditto! (My kid’s a rising senior in college–and in the middle of a bout of Terrible Twos/I’ll-do-it -myself’s like we never had when she was a toddler!)

      I’m having a hard time navigating it, sometimes. I try to focus on, “Does this affect me?” and stick to that. So yes, get your laundry off the sofa; and no, don’t need to say “you were out too late.”
      The toughie for me right now is, “get your driver’s license.” On the one hand, it doesn’t affect me. But on the other, if she’d done it right away this summer, I wouldn’t be needing to wrangle a day off to drive her roommate around; she could do it herself.

      1. Observer*

        But on the other, if she’d done it right away this summer, I wouldn’t be needing to wrangle a day off to drive her roommate around; she could do it herself.

        That means that it DOES affect you. This is a place where you can say “you have two choices – learn to drive or deal with the consequences.” And then stick with it – ie don’t rescue her.

      2. Kids Today*

        Not to be all, “Kids today,” but why the heck isn’t every teenager lined up at the DMV the day they turn 16?! I am shocked by the number of teens who won’t drive.

        1. Marcia*

          People are not as into car culture as they used to be. I think it’s a great thing- but you have to be willing to navigate public transit, bicycling, and walking, rather than relying on others as your personal chauffeur.

        2. Anx*

          I had a lot a anxiety about driving because I was terrified that I’d cause an accident or damage my family’s car.

          I still am an anxious driver and probably shouldn’t be on the road, but I have an above average driving record after all.

          Teens are also advised about driving in school an in public as if they are all reckless and prone to dare-devil behavior or have a sense of immortality. Those of us more anxious drivers are beaten over the head that we need to be more careful, more responsible, more focused, and take it more seriously and get to watch assemblies about drunk driving wrecks (I guess now texting too).

          It’s a lot of responsibility for very little payoff if you don’t have your own car.

        3. Observer*

          Why? Owning a car costs money most teens don’t have. If you don’t have your own, it may not make a lot of sense. And, smart parents and not going to let a 16yo who hasn’t shown clearly that they have the judgement to drive carefully take the car out. The statistics provide solid backing for that, even if you are not helicopter – the stakes are just too high. And, in many cases, it’s just not practical anyway. In some areas, owning a single car is expensive, and two just isn’t feasible, which makes a teen’s usage of the car limited, unless the kid is going to run lot of errands (which is not a big incentive) and even that it may not work out. And, where there is decent public transportation and you can walk a lot of places, it’s less attractive to have a car.

        4. The Strand*

          My dad would not put me on the insurance. There was no question of me EVER borrowing the car. He was the only person who drove it. I’m sure some kids have similar control-freak parents.
          I didn’t drive until I was in college, and then only very rarely. It actually hurt me a lot, jobwise, to not have strong driving skills right at the time of graduation.

  20. Not helpful*

    – – Recently, my husband and I hosted a large party where one of my best friends pulled me aside and told me she just had an entire conversation with my parents where they talked to her all about this and said they are okay with me not wanting kids (…I don’t, it’s not a secret), but then I really need to return to school to get a “real career.” (!!!) —
    I think this says a lot. I suspect that your mother isn’t happy (accepting) of the no children and the only acceptable reason is that you have a CAREER. Preferably a career that makes not having children understandable.

    1. Sascha*

      I agree – my mom is a lot less pushy about me going back to school now that I have a baby. In fact, now she’s pushing that I be a stay-at-home mom…can’t win, I guess.

  21. YouHaveBeenWarned*

    OP, I think AAM’s advice is super spot on, and I just wanted to emphasize that you should do everything you can mentally to not take your parents’ criticisms on board. This is not about you or your choices: it’s about some insecurities or fears of theirs about their own lives. They might have internalized your life benchmarks as markers of their own success, and have defined that success through a specific career path. They may feel less than stellar about their own careers. Whatever it is, keep reminding yourself that it ain’t you.

    Also, since it’s your best friend, you might give the friend permission to enforce a boundary with your parents too. My best friend told me many years ago that I could call her mom out on her bs whenever I felt like it, and that it would actually be helpful to have a third-party giving her side eye. A well placed “wow, I am definitely not ok with engaging in judgy gossip about OP’s career choices, OP’s Mom” might help clarify how wildly inappropriate this behavior is.

    1. some1*

      I agree a lot with this.

      The lightbulb moment for me with my mom was realizing that my mom was raised in a family where she had to earn her parents’ approval and the idea of disappointing them or, worse, making them feel ashamed was impossible for her to fathom. Consequently, she literally can’t comprehend that her possible disapproval plays no or much, much less motivation in the choices her own children make.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I agree with both points:

      It’s not about you–it’s ALL about their own fears and anxieties.

      It’s a smart idea to get your friends on board w/ your strategies, and to give them permission to be blunt. Maybe even give them the vocabulary. They can use your magic cut-and-paste phrase, word for word!

    3. Lizzie*

      +1 on getting the friend to actively shut down the parents if they come to her. It’s WILDLY inappropriate for her parents to do that, and I’m sure it’s very awkward for the friend in question. If she’s comfortable with it, I’d definitely suggest employing the same tactic Alison mentioned above. “This is really inappropriate for you to say to me and I am emphatically not going to be tolerant of it, so we need to change the subject please or I’m going to have to leave/go talk to someone else/etc.”

    1. fposte*

      Guessing–because they don’t know what the OP actually does in it, and a lot of other people don’t either.

      Jobs like those in kids’ books about what people do are a lot easier to understand and accept. Jobs where you work in an office and contribute to overall org/business goals are probably a lot more common these days, but they’re still pretty opaque if you’re not in the system.

    2. Sparrow*

      Not sure if this is the case with the OP, but it could be a cultural thing. I’m from India and luckily my parents are not like this, but I know of many families where being a doctor is considered the highest career achievement. Going into the sciences, like engineering is also good. Things like marketing may seem to artsy. My parent’s never pushed either me or my brother into medical school, but their big thing was choosing a career that was secure and had good grown potential. And for some families, they get the prestige of saying their child is a doctor.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I had a former coworker whose Indian parents did make her go to engineering school. She was an engineer for two years, then she got married and went back to school to become an occupational therapist. This could have been a win-win, except that she had engineering student loans to pay off. I have another current [caucasian] coworker who was also a structural engineer and is now a proposal coordinator after only 1 year of engineering. Engineering school is a lot of work to go do something else after 1-2 years. Parents, do not make your children do this to please you.

  22. Oui*

    I’m going to be the jerk, but telling OP what her parents are thinking is what’s going to help her address their issues head on.

    OP, it doesn’t sound like you have a ‘career’, it sounds like you have a job. A decent job you like, but a job. And it sounds like you’ve had jobs since you finished grad school. There’s nothing wrong with having a job instead of a career, but it’s going to look odd to other people who are career oriented especially since you spent time on education and are not absorbed with something outside the workforce like kids or art or a side business.

    If we assume that your parents love you very much, it’s clear they are worried about your earning potential and future stability and expressing it through nitpicking about your job. If you lose a job, you are generally in worse shape than if you lose a position and you are credentialed and established in a career path. I.e. if you were a counselor, you could lose your job but go find a counseling position elsewhere but ‘admin and marketing’ sounds like something that may or may not translate across companies or geographical areas or offer a lot of room to move up by finding new work.

    Now I’m not endorsing this point of view. Obviously on this blog we see lots of people get jobs with all kinds of skills and be flexible in their careers. But you have to attack the root of what your parents are worried about. Is this a stable field? Will you be able to find a new job if this one disappears? Is there room to grow? Will you be able to take care of yourself if something happened to your husband? It’s nothing to do with counseling v. marketing, etc. If you take the time to talk up your accomplishments at work, show them how your work is affecting the outside world or discuss any thoughts you might have about moving up at work in the long term, that will (probably) allay their fears.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      Serious question – are admin and marketing not considered careers or is this the assumption being made because the OP didn’t specifically list her title? A marketing coordinator at Disney can end up a marketing manager at MTV in a few years of work. An admin assistant at Local Credit Union can eventually become an Executive Assistant at Chase. Both examples scream career to me and not job.

      Or maybe we need a career vs job posting on AAM for clarity. I will be the first to admit confusion.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I took Oui’s comments as, “This is how your parents are reacting to what your job/career is. This is how your parents perceive your job.”

        Hence the advice to speak more about her employment in a way that makes it sound more like a career with a long-term trajectory.

        1. Sarahnova*

          I disagree with this. I think it MAY alter the words in the nitpicking and nagging, but I SERIOUSLY doubt that it will decrease it, much less make it disappear.

          The root problem is that the OP’s parents are anxious and are expecting her to fix that anxiety by Doing What They Want and see as the safest, rather than recognising and addressing it themselves. If she fell in line here, the anxiety would simply shift targets and they’d start nagging her about something else (my guess is about children).

      2. KMS1025*

        I am not sure I get the difference between a job and a career? Isn’t a career what you make of it (the job that is)?

        1. AnonAcademic*

          I can’t speak for Oui, but some people view jobs as something you aren’t particularly invested in doing but pays the bills, whereas a career is more of a vocation, passion project, etc. where you are typically more advancement oriented. These conceptions play on competing values of stability versus achievement. It seems the OP prefers stability whereas her parents value achievement, hence the conflict.

          In my husband’s family it’s the opposite, nearly all his relatives prefer to find a stable job and stay in the same position/function until retirement. Getting a “good job” might mean a government job with a pension rather than a role with room for advancement or challenge. Whereas my husband is achievement oriented and thus wants jobs where he can get significant promotions every 2 years or so, which so far has meant hopping to better positions every few years. At 38 he is further up the corporate food chain than his father, who is near retirement and has been at the same company and same department for something like 25 years.

          1. AnonAcademic*

            Also to add – I don’t think one is better/worse than the other. The stability mindset is certainly WAY less stressful and more conducive to having a family. The achievement mindset is maybe more rewarded culturally but causes a lot of stress in our case, as we are BOTH achievement oriented and balancing our career arcs is tricky…we have moved 3 times to make it work most recently across the country, for example. So no kids or owning property for us yet whereas the relatives in the stable government jobs have houses, multiple kids, etc.

    2. OfficePrincess*

      A chain of counseling clinics just shut down in my area. There aren’t positions for 50 counselors to get new jobs around here. Many counseling fields have specific certifications, so you can’t just flip from grief counseling to working with sex offenders, making finding a new job tougher. I don’t think you can just say that counseling is something you could just go find a new job for. Marketing and admin are jobs that exist in just about any company mid-size and larger and across every industry, so that opens up more flexibility than counseling.

      1. MashaKasha*

        I was seriously wondering about this as I read OP’s letter. One of my kids has recently switched his major from a STEM one to psychology, and since then I’ve had to tell a few concerned friends and random acquaintances to calm down, mind their own business, and stop worrying about his future. One thing I heard from many of them was, “OMG I hope he’s not thinking of becoming a counselor!” Apparently it’s one of the most oversaturated fields, with the most competition, making it impossible to find a well-paying job, especially if you do not have a PhD. And if you do have one, the amount of student loans you have to take out is insane. Why OP’s parents are so upset about her not being a counselor is frankly beyond me.

        1. Honeybee*

          Well, you don’t necessarily have to take out insane student loans to be a counselor; it depends on where you go and what kind of degree you get. PhDs in clinical and counseling psychology are generally supported with a tuition waiver and a stipend, so you shouldn’t have to take out massive debt. But I was also a bit baffled, since “counselor” is not one of the buzzword careers that parents typically push their kids into.

    3. LBK*

      Can you expand on what you see as the difference between a job and a career? I don’t really understand what you’re trying to say. The way I’m reading it comes off as pretty condescending so I’m hoping I’m just not getting your intended meaning.

    4. Anonymous Ninja*

      I actually believe it’s easier to find admin and marketing jobs than counseling jobs as the former can span a variety of industries.

    5. some1*

      “But you have to attack the root of what your parents are worried about.”

      No, she doesn’t, actually. You seem to be arguing that her parents are justified in handling their concerns this way. She is a grown-up. Unless she is asking her parents for financial assistance they need to let this drop.

      1. Oui*

        That’s a really unhelpful way of addressing the situation. Yeah, her parents are being out of line, but I’m assuming they are coming from a place where they really care about their daughter and just telling them to shut up isn’t going to stop them commenting or worrying.

        1. Tinker*

          If they won’t stop commenting when asked, that’s why the next step is leaving or hanging up — thereby ending the part of the commenting that has to do with the OP, which is the bit that is the concern of the OP. As to the worrying, that is not the OP’s problem nor is it actually helpful for the OP to make it their problem.

        2. Sarahnova*

          It’s not the OP’s responsibility to make them stop worrying – it’s their responsibility to manage their own anxieties.

          OTOH, setting boundaries has an excellent chance of making them stop commenting.

    6. AnotherAlison*

      I am not sure your assessment of what her parents are worried about is correct. I think it’s more their own status and embarrassment that plays into this. (I think this because of the “kids” comments in the OP’s letter, and because it seems from what we know here that the OP and her husband are financially stable.) I don’t think they have anything to be embarrassed about, the OP seems to be doing well, IMO.

      I have a cousin who is my age (late 30s) who has a college degree in computer systems and has worked at a department store since graduating. She has not moved up the ladder there, either. She lives in a house with a bunch of transient roommates. It’s completely embarrassing to my uncle (a PhD) and aunt (a degreed-teacher-turned-SAHM). I know because my uncle tells my dad this. I’m have degrees, a good “career”, a husband, two kids, and a house. Of course they worry about her stability–they also give her money, cars, and cell phones–but it’s definitely the reflection on them that’s the hardest for them to deal with.

      1. The Strand*

        Well, I’d be pretty worried about a family member who is in their thirties and has not moved up in their position in a decade, and lives in a transient situation with roommates, and not because of how it makes “us” look.

        It’s not a status question. I have some friends from college who decided they were happy with a “J.O.B.” and hobbies and friends, rather than marriage or a career path, but over the same period of time as your cousin, they’ve still managed to move up in their careers from entry level to mid-range, or at least make lateral moves to happier jobs. They have a support structure in their friendship circles, rather than transient roommates, as you put it. One of them in particular, I’m thinking of – she had very wealthy parents who offered her free room and board in a gorgeous condo, but only if she did exactly what they told her to. What’s called “outpatient economic care” in the book “The Millionaires Next Door”. She ended up staying in a small town where she works in IT, her friends are her “family”, and while she’s not going to be a millionaire, she still has a solid life with meaning.

        I have a relative who on paper, anyway, has similarities to your cousin: in her case, depression and crippling social anxiety kept her from pursuing any meaningful career OR a steady “J.O.B.”, and disconnected from relationships (not only unmarried, but she had no friendships and was distant from family). Is it possible that something like this could be in play with your cousin, and your uncle and aunt might be concerned because of that?

    7. Ad Astra*

      Marketing and administrative work both rely on skills that could make the OP quite versatile. Businesses of all types and sizes, across every industry, employ both marketers and administrative assistants. I actually think it would be easier to find a new job in the realm of marketing/admin than it would be to find a new counseling job in the same city.

      It’s possible that OP’s parents don’t understand that her career situation is pretty solid, but it’s also not really any of their business one way or the other. I would very much resent my parents picking apart my choices when it’s clear that I’m happy, healthy, and making enough money to support myself.

    8. OP with Overbearing Parents*

      Aside from the status/embarrassment issue, I do think Oui is very correct here. My mom has actually said some of these exact things. She is concerned I won’t be able to take care of myself if my husband & I get divorced, I think. Or if we, say, move across the country — or I lose this job. It’s true I won’t have this job for the rest of my life (who does?), but I feel fairly confident I can find another job if we move or if I need to at some point because this job becomes untenable.

      It’s also true I don’t have kids or a side business, but I am actually pretty absorbed with things outside of my job. I love to take on projects and I volunteer A LOT, especially in animal-related orgs. Of course that doesn’t pay anything. ;) That’s one of the reasons I love my job — because it’s flexible and low-stress so I have time and energy to do the things I really love. I guess the truth of the matter is that I’m just not a very ambitious person. I think they are really disappointed by that.

      They absolutely think of what I have done work-wise is just a series of “jobs” rather than a “career.” I actually used to feel really badly about this because I was raised to think I should have a career that is something I love doing, a passion, etc. Alison’s column has really helped me make peace with that. I actually have this piece written by her saved as a link and I refer to it when I feel a little down or as if I am a big disappointment:

      1. Ad Astra*

        My parents aren’t overbearing (to use your term), but sometimes the rest of the world is. I’ve always felt bad about not being more ambitious, but none of the things I really love to do will translate into paying jobs for me. In fact, I think a lot of my favorite things (sports, beer, dogs) would be less fun if I ever did turn them into a career. For now, I’m happy that I only work a flat 40 hours per week, and I’m hoping to find something with more flexibility in the future.

        So you’re not alone there.

  23. Another HRPro*

    OP, I agree with Alison’s advice and deploy a similar strategy with my parents – mostly in regards to having children and just general “here is what you should do…” advice. I find that not engaging in the conversation generally works. I also try to have empathy with them. I know that they want the best for me and we sometimes don’t agree on what that is. They are parents and as parents I think it is hard to see your children living a life that they didn’t expect. They raised you to be ____(fill in the blank with whatever)___” and you are not. For me, I should be a house wife with children living in a Normal Rockwell painting. But is not who I am, but I understand that is what their view of the perfect life and they want me to have a perfect life. So I try to not take their comments as criticisms and I tell them frequently how happy I am with everything. After all, I do believe they really just want me to be happy. They just can’t imagine that I can be in the life I have chosen.

    1. Anonymouss*

      I’ve used Alison’s exact strategy to get my family off the case about my weight too.

      It’s a solid strategy!

    2. TootsNYC*

      re: “not engaging”

      Just because someone tells you do to something doesn’t mean you have to do it. And you don’t have to tell them that.
      You can even lie to them (though of course there’s the follow-up problem–which makes lying to your parents unwise, though you can totally lie to the waitress at the truckstop: “I’ll have to look into that degree program!”). Or, you can avoid giving any answer completely, and just totally change the subject.

      Just because someone brings up a topic doesn’t mean you have to reply to it.
      Just because someone asks you a question doesn’t mean you have to answer it.

      Remember the grownups int he Charlie Brown commercials? They’re always offscreen, and their words are never distinct: “Wah wah wah-wah-wah, wah wah.” Try to mentally and emotionally think of your parents’ comments as being about that important.
      It’s all hot air. Hot air can lift a balloon–but only if the balloon is willing to hold onto it. It can move a ship–but only if the sail tries to resist it. If you let the hot air blow right past you, drop sails, it has no effect.
      So don’t try to resist their pressure–just evade. Don’t get out in front and try to stop it; just maneuver so that it doesn’t hit you. If you can decide, truly internalize, that you don’t need to pay attention, it will be a powerful thing. And evading (get off the phone, go to the bathroom, switch to the patio, go home) is a fast and useful way to physically create that while you’re training yourself to internalize it emotionally.

      It’s tough! Esp. w/ parents. Good luck.

      1. Today's Satan*

        I saw a quote on this just today: “You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.”

  24. Lady Bug*

    I feel for you OP, my dad is like this. I finally realized he is only interested in me when I’m doing something brag worthy. Whenever I was in school getting great grades, calls all the time. When life gets in the way (hello having a baby at 20), wants nothing to do with me. Finish my degree and go to law school, best daughter ever! Get a job as an in house at a small business instead of big fancy firm, wants nothing to do with me. Sorry, I’m not working 100 hour weeks, I’d rather not have a life.

    I haven’t spoken to him in a year, and have no intentions of speaking to him again. Not that you need to take it that far, but make it clear that if they keep hounding you, your only choice may be to restrict your time with them.

    My dad’s attitude towards me has pushed me so far the other way that I am happy with whatever my kids choose to do. Neither went to college, hell my daughter dropped out off HS and I couldn’t be happier that she is getting a GED. And she is a very smart person who could have graduated with honors, but it’s her path, not mine.

    best of luck with your parents, I hope they finally start listening to you.

  25. Lizzie*

    Ugh, I feel you so much on this. I agree with having a very frank discussion and cutting them off every time, and wish I had it in me to do that.

    I had three options, according to my parents: go into the military, marry someone who was in the military and become a stay-at-home mom/military wife, or I could go to college — but only if I was studying to be a nurse. MAYBE a teacher. Otherwise, no support from them at all, emotionally or financially. No disrespect to people who choose those routes, but none of them are for me.

    Cut to me, at 26, with both of my degrees in social work. My parents still disapprove even though I love what I do and think I’m making a real difference. I don’t make a ton of money, which bothers them (meanwhile, as long as I can make my rent/loan payments and my lights stay on, I’m happy). They tell people I’m a baby-snatcher (I don’t even work for Children and Families! You’re telling the wrong offensive joke!), that I coach people in how to be a Welfare Queen (these don’t exist, by the way, and once again — not my part of the field!), and call me a “professional poor person” to my face and to other family then turn around and act like it’s a term of endearment.

    I wish you luck and hope you know that you’re definitely not the only one banging your head on the wall over this sort of thing.

    1. Artemesia*

      If my parents did this to me the expression ‘go F@#$ yourself’ would have eventually been heard in the land. This is incredibly demeaning and insulting. My parents had a script too — such that being a successful professional with a great husband (second husband) and two great kids was not enough. I had divorced, oh my. And my mother had always dreamed of a housewife daughter to share recipes with. It really freaked her out that it was my husband who cooked when she visited and was up for discussing recipes.

      1. Lizzie*

        The only reason that expression has not been heard in the land is because I have great restraint (or at least I like to think I do). I have definitely almost left the table in the middle of Christmas dinner because of this, though, and gave serious thought to just driving home without a word that day. It wouldn’t have been a great reaction and I wouldn’t have been proud of myself, but it probably would have sent a pretty clear message.

        These days I just don’t see them much. I visit twice a year or so, text more than I call and otherwise don’t engage at all unless it’s of high importance. I don’t even share my successes with them anymore, because they don’t care (I literally co-wrote a region-wide policy for law enforcement/educators/service providers in my state AND HAD IT ADOPTED last year, and they shrugged it off).

    2. some1*

      “I don’t make a ton of money, which bothers them”

      unlike military careers, which are so finacially lucrative….?

      1. NickelandDime*

        Yeah…I’m puzzled by this too.

        Parents Just Don’t Understand. They even made a song about it.

      2. Lizzie*

        Their point of view is essentially that I ~defied their wishes~ and don’t even have the ~decency~ to do something lucrative.

        I almost gagged writing that, but it’s true.

    3. The Strand*

      What do your parents do for a living?

      So many civilians these days are appalled by the idea of their kids going into the military as a career. Such as my pops, who was so, so disappointed when my brother went in, and then initially unhappy when I married an enlisted guy. So I’m thinking, are they military, to insist that it’s one of the only options for you to do with your life?

      Your folks sound really abusive, though. Which makes me hope they’re not military, because it sounds like something out of Pat Conroy’s “The Great Santini”.

      Meanwhile, congratulations on the policy adoption! That is really awesome, to know you’ve made a major difference in the lives of people in your community, let alone your state!

      1. Lizzie*

        My dad is a retired Army CSM who has taught ROTC at a private university and JROTC at a public high school (and will be moving to another public high school this month). He enlisted right out of high school, so the military is really the only thing he’s ever done and he is VERY intense about it. My mom is not military; she was a bartender when I was very small and then worked for a payday advance company for most of my life. She ended up quitting/unofficially “retiring” when she was a district manager for them.

        … and I just Googled “The Great Santini” and yeah, a lot of that description does ring pretty true.

        Anyway, thank you! It’s honestly the thing I am most proud of since getting my MSW and it’s been doing a lot of good so far in that we’re getting more reports in the section of the field I work in and getting to more people who need help.

  26. JJ*

    I agree with everyone that says the OP needs to shut down her parents and not engage. This can be done in a respectful way but it needs to be done. If the OP was asking her parents to support her then I could see their interference. The poster that said that training is the key is right. My parents paid for my undergrad during which time they offered unsolicited advice and I knew it was part of the package. Once I supported myself, I didn’t even engage. I pretty much moved on to another topic if they had an issue with anything. It was also clear by my demeanor that I didn’t care if they disagreed with me. I think this is key. If you still act like you’re upset or worried what they think, they will persist They figured out pretty quickly my choices weren’t up for discussion.

  27. Observer*

    Something that no one seems to have really addressed- What on earth was your friend thinking?! You really need to have a conversation with her. you need to let her know that it’s NOT ok for her to be the conduit for your parents issues.

    1. Nina*

      It sounds like the OP’s parents brought it up with her friend, not the other way around. And since they’re probably on good terms, friend figured she was just having a casual conversation with the parents, not knowing it was veering into “what OP should do with her life?” territory.

      1. Observer*

        I get that the OP’s parents were probably the ones to bring it up. But carrying those concerns to the OP? Let’s face it, this wasn’t a casual “Oh, I just had this conversation with your mom” This was the friend PULLING HER ASIDE. That generally signals a VERY IMPORTANT conversation. The friend needs to know that those conversations are off limits.

        1. OfficePrincess*

          I don’t know about that. If they were at a party and the friend wanted to give OP a head’s up about the conversation, pulling her aside quickly would be the most discreet and low-key way to do it. “Hey, so your mom just cornered me and was saying…. I thought you should know in case it comes up” is probably the best way to go about it.

          1. Observer*

            I hear you. In that case, I think that what someone said upthread about giving the frined “permission” to shut those conversations down sounds like a good move.

        2. Rock*

          I may have read it wrong, but I read it as more the friend being like, “OMG I just had the weiiiirdest conversation with your mom you need to know she’s talking about this stuff to folks.” Not, “your parents and I are very concerned.”

  28. Minnesota*

    As someone whose parents are both gone and whose kids are on the verge of adulthood, I would just encourage all of you to take a step back and think about what kind of relationship you want to have with your family. As a parent of young adults who loves them and wants them to survive and thrive in the world without me when I’m gone, I will tell you that any advice that I offer (and I don’t offer much, but mostly try to listen) is not because I am embarrassed but because I truly hope for the best for them and think I have something to offer that might help them. And as a now-50 year old child of parents who I know struggled with how to have the best possible relationship with me, I wish they were here now so I could tell them how much I appreciated them even though I didn’t always agree with them. I rarely don’t read all the comments, but I think I won’t go back to this thread–it makes me sad. I would just encourage all of you to try to view the world from the other party’s perspective and with compassion.

    1. Kat M*

      This isn’t about kind parents, though. Many, many parents unfortunately view their children as mere extensions of themselves and nothing that child does is good enough. Doesn’t matter if there are good intentions behind it-it’s toxic and abusive.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You know, I have this reaction sometimes when someone is complaining about some minor (to me) irritation with their dad. I think to myself how much I’d love to have my dad back, doing all the things that used to irritate me.

      But these parents are doing something that’s actively alienating to their child. The strategies we’re talking about here are ones to employ so that they can have a close, respectful relationship; what the parents are doing now is what will make that harder. If she didn’t want to have a good relationship with her parents, she could just blow the whole thing off. But she wants to enjoy their company, and that’s a good thing.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I’ve written a couple responses here and deleted them. I understand what Minnesota is saying & completely respect that opinion.

      What comes to my mind is that some people have manipulative, narcissistic liars for parents. It took my therapist to tell me that, yes, my dad’s behavior is that bad and that it was okay to keep him at arms’ length, and my mom ends up there too by association. There’s a difference between the nagging mom who repeatedly asks when you’ll have a baby or start a career and an emotionally abusive situation, but I want to be sure that we recognize that some (not necessarily the OP’s) people’s parents are emotionally abusive. They might actually want what’s best for their kids, but they can’t provide a trusting, respectful relationship that allows them to speak into their kids’ lives anymore. It’s okay for their children to walk away from that relationship to whatever degree is needed.

      1. MashaKasha*

        I did the same!

        While writing my responses, I realized that, while I can envision situations where I’d be terrified about my kids’ career choices, that at the end of the day in those situations, I’d probably take a deep breath and tell myself that I’ve raised my kids well, they have common sense, a good head on their shoulders, and some degree of work ethics, that should all be enough to get them out of a financial crisis if needed. And then I’d go on with my life and maybe offer help if I’m able to and if such help is needed. I would NOT nag them to death or, heaven forbid, go around talking about them behind their back to their friends and who knows how many other people. Something tells me that Minnesota’s reaction to kids’ questionable choices would be more like mine and less like the OP’s parents’.

      2. The IT Manager*

        Yes! My parents are great, but I can’t help but remember an ex who acted more like the parent for his father (a long time alcoholic who abandoned him as a child) than the son. It shocked me that the parent-child relationship was so reversed. Even though my brothers and I are all adulating very successfully, my parents still are very supportive, proud and parent very unobtrusively.

        Some parents aren’t like that and need to be treated by a heavy hand and it sounds like that may be the case for the LW’s parents.

    4. Observer*

      It makes me sad, too. But it makes me sad because I realize how much I miss my father – whose advice was invaluable, and who NEVER pestered us.

      It also makes me sad, because it’s clear that there are too many parents who simply do not or cannot treat their children with basic respect, thus destroying their relationship. It doesn’t make that much of a difference WHY this is happening. The reality is that there comes a point where the constant intrusive and repeated advice becomes too much, especially when boundaries are crossed in such a blatant manner.

      As someone in your age bracket who is a bit of a”sandwich”, let me offer you one piece of advice. If you want your children to thrive, to come to you in good times and bad, and to seek your advice then you need to really keep the unsolicited advice giving to a minimum, and the listening to a maximum. You seem to get that, in your behavior. I think you are missing that many of these folks are talking about parents who do NOT behave that way.

    5. OP with Overbearing Parents*

      I love my parents and I wish I could have a really close relationship with my mom like some of my friends have. But it is really hard sometimes. I often feel like a huge disappointment to them. I KNOW they want me to be happy and they love me, but it drives me crazy to constantly feel on the defense. I have already realized that I can’t share a lot of things with my mom because she is the type of person that will NEVER drop things. It makes me sad too, to tell you the truth.

    6. Tinker*


      The thing is, I do think that the reason why my mother converted the 2013 holiday season to the 2013 “let’s make passive-aggressive snipes at Tinker over how they are a man-hating lesbian” season was because she wanted me to survive in the world, and she thought that if she just brought the subject up enough I’d realize the error of my ways and get back on the path to happiness, which involves a husband (having one, and not being one). It is probably true that the reason why I have to be careful about mentioning cool things that I do with people that I care about is because my mother hopes for the best for me, specifically that I will someday get rid of the social life that makes me happy in favor of something that is easier for her to imagine her own happiness in. I imagine she did want me to thrive by not prematurely cutting out the prospect of working as a licensed civil engineer in another state just because of petty silly childish things like not having a degree or any experience in civil engineering, and that’s why she picked at me on that subject continuously through a fairly tense job search when I was afraid that I’d have to leave the city that is my home or wouldn’t get to work in the field I wanted. And yet, that doesn’t make those experiences any less miserable.

      I wish I had the sort of relationship with my parents as I have with my friends — where they know more or less who I am, because I’m comfortable with telling them most things about myself, and they appreciate me on that basis without openly and continuously wishing for me to be otherwise. But the fact that my parents are still alive does not necessarily enable that sort of relationship — it’s dependent in part on their actions, and their actions make this difficult. Partly because, amusingly enough, they don’t view the matter from the other party’s perspective and with compassion — not out of malice, I don’t think, but more along the lines of the “it’s cute that you think that, but it doesn’t matter” attitude that one has to the opinions of a small child or an animal. Which is hard to take, when you’re an adult trying to get other adults to stop doing things that hurt your feelings.

      So, with that, what the “taking a step back” and “viewing with compassion” and all of that is — yes, those things are valuable, but in this case what they amount to is “do you realllllllllly have to not let people do things that hurt you?” To which the answer is — yes, actually, I do. Both for my own sake, and for any hope of an actual relationship in the future, however much hope for that exists.

      1. Steve G*

        Your posts today are interesting, including the one about the monsters lurking at the apartment complex garbage facility. I guess I leaned towards the “hear your parents out” camp because my parents seem to have been very hands off compared to other peoples’ parents (despite being an ’81 baby which the media keeps saying = millennial which = you were coddled as a child). The hands-offness is not only good for our relationship in general, but was doubly good in regards to being gay for me, because it was always don’t ask don’t tell when being gay was one of the least interesting and important things in my life, and I didn’t want it to be the focal point. I guess because my parents were more or less hands off, that when they do rarely harp on a topic or ask me to do something, I am all ears.

        1. Tinker*

          I think the difference for me isn’t necessarily that my folks are hands-on all the time, or necessarily were in a way that was overt. Perhaps when I was a minor, but I was also weird as hell as a minor, in ways that make it difficult to say what was normal (although there were points, even then, that could be singled out as questionable). The catch is more that the pattern of these things coming up wasn’t really responsive to my life in a useful way.

          That’s kind of an abstract concept, and I certainly didn’t get it for a long time, but for instance: the garbage monster thing came up during a time when my mother would fairly reliably get stressed out by an annual fundraiser event that she volunteered for (an arts thing, so entirely unrelated to any of the items that she would get after me about), and usually during that time would end up riding me about one of a list of three to five rotating items. These being things like skin care, feminine presentation, career, personal safety, social life. So in this case, the reason why garbage monster happened didn’t have any connection to it being more likely that there were monsters in my garbage or necessarily that I was being incautious about mentioning that I had gone to take out the garbage (which is not ordinarily a thing that one should have to exert caution about mentioning, anyway), but rather was most likely related to the prospect that rich people might not buy enough nifty gadgets for arts thing to meet its budget.

          So this (and also things like that I have tried engaging in reasoning on some of these matters and have failed, partly because a lot of them ultimately come down to balancing values but also because… I simply don’t get listened to, frankly), leads me to think whenever my folks get to harping on a thing that I don’t already believe is a problem: “What is the probability here, that they have landed on something important that all my thought on this subject thus far has not revealed — or has the damn arts thing not met its budget again or some such matter, and this time the card came up ‘men won’t like you if you don’t dress like a woman’?” Thus far it’s invariably been some variation on the latter. So I tend to file that sort of thing as “the problem I have is that my parents are harping on a thing” rather than “the problem I have is what my parents are harping on”.

          On the other end, and something of a counterbalancing indication that it’s not simply a me-problem, I have folks in my life that I do credit when they bring things up. There, their track record and behavior indicate that on the occasions when they do point something out, it’s likely to be related to me and responsive to my values and situation. So when I’ve got a friend, say, who has a history of being diligent in respecting my perspective, who says “if you don’t mind me mentioning” and actually means it, and who more often than not says things where I do end up thinking “you know, you actually do have a point” — if they bring something new up to me, I think it’s quite possible that their perspective is both accurate and relevant. Because they’ve proven that, by their behavior, and because what they tell me lines up better with the evidence.

          So basically, I think I’m at the point where it doesn’t necessarily matter that much how rarely or often my folks decide that they really need to chime in with unsolicited advice — when they do it, I find that usually what makes it THAT important is their own hangups and anxiety, not an accurate and reasonable perception of my life, and that as a result it’s almost always not of great use.

      2. Sarahnova*

        Thank you for your lovely, articulate posts, and for spelling out the problem with what Minnesota advises.

        I have a lot of compassion for my mother’s anxieties (and am a mother myself, with my own anxieties for my still-infant son), but that doesn’t change how intolerable, how grinding, and how hurtful it is for a parent to constantly make it clear that who you are is Simply Not Good Enough. It is not uncompassionate or cruel for an adult child to enforce this boundary for their own protection.

    7. Florida*

      Before giving advice to your adult child, it’s appropriate to say, “would like my advice on that?” If the adult child says no, don’t give any advice – no matter how much you want to. At that point, it doesn’t matter what your intent is, he specifically said he isn’t interested. Conversely, if the adult child says yes, you know that your advice will be welcomed (not necessarily followed) but at least he is willing to listen.

  29. Colette*

    One thing I’d add – think carefully before you invite your parents to events where your friends/coworkers are. You can celebrate events with them separately, and talking/complaining about you behind your back is a sign that they can’t handle being included.

  30. Wilton Businessman*

    Your parents (probably) dropped some serious coin to make sure you had a better life then they did. They seem to think they can get a better “return on their investment”.

    But I agree with AAM. You need to sit them down and tell them that you are happy doing what you are doing. You know that’s not the life they envisioned for you, but it’s your life. If it doesn’t look like you’re getting your point across, you can always pull out the old “I’m sorry I have not lived up to your expectations” guilt trip.

    1. OP with Overbearing Parents*

      I kind of answered this above in regard to Hooptie’s comment, but I actually think they got off (fairly) easy — especially compared to what today’s parents pay! — for my education. They paid for 2 years at my local community college (which was fairly inexpensive, esp back in the early 2000s), and then approximately $10,000 for my junior/senior years combined at the 4-year school I transferred to. The remainder was covered by a scholarship I received and student loans taken by me. I paid for graduate school (and the associated living expenses) 100% on my own (still repaying those loans!).

      1. Wilton Businessman*

        Understood it could have been worse.

        $10K+ is still some serious money, especially back in the early 2000s.

      2. MashaKasha*

        Yup I agree, they did get off easy. I’ve paid /am paying something in that neighborhood for my kids’ education and I have no problem telling people that my oldest had a full ride and my youngest is going to school tuition-free. (which is correct in both cases.) I always get envious looks. Yes I still ended up paying about 10K for one and 10K so far for the other (he’ll be in school for a while, so who knows what the future will bring…), but most parents I know would kill or die or perform black magic to end up with a college bill that low. Yet few of them expect some kind of specific returns on their investment… as it should be!

      3. E*

        They had the option of asking you to pay them back or not expecting to be repaid, but this doesn’t get held over your head forever to give them rights of input in your life decisions. That’s not good parenting and definitely not a healthy relationship.

  31. OP with Overbearing Parents*

    Thank you Alison for running my letter & giving me advice! Also thanks to the community — I haven’t read every comment as it’s very busy today at work, but I will later this evening.

    I wrote this letter to Alison right after the party was over and I was feeling extremely frustrated & emotional (upset). This is nothing new with my parents — this topic especially — and boundary disrespect in general. I can usually handle it on my own, but I was absolutely horrified and pretty angry when I found out they were discussing this with my friends.

    I was on the phone with my mother about a week after the party and she brought up the topic again and mentioned she had had a similar conversation with ANOTHER one of my friends who was visiting for the party. At that point, I did try having another conversation with her where I told her I felt it was inappropriate to be discussing this with my friends and I would like her to cease & desist with this topic. This did not go over well, as she started screaming at me over the phone, told me to shut up, and told me she “never” brings up my career/going back to school.

    At that point, I felt it was fruitless to continue discussions as she has a history of being irrational and I just can’t keep trying to logic with an illogical person. Part of the problem is that she does have a pattern of denying things, but the other issue is that I truly believe she forgets she talks about things on a continual basis. She is in her mid 60s and I have noticed her memory has gotten worse in the past few years.

    I do think that one of her major issues is that she can’t get over not being able to tell people her daughter has some high-visibility, impressive career like a doctor or similar. She constantly is saying that I’m too smart for my current job and I’m wasting my abilities.

    I have decided that there will be no more conversation about this from me and it will be an automatic topic changer when she brings it up in the future. I have also considered saying something like Althea mentioned along the lines of, “Would you like to finance my return to school plus our living expenses?” She knows I have my educational award from AmeriCorps (and often mentions using it to go back to school), but the award is approx $5,000 and would never pay for another degree fully. In addition, I STILL have student loans from my degrees that I’m using the award to help pay off.

    I will respond to specific commenters as I’m able to. :)

    1. Sascha*

      I do hope things get better for you, I understand completely since my parents do the same thing. Especially the “wasted ambition” part – they keep telling me I’m so smart and should be starting a business/writing a book/becoming a doctor/any number of career paths that, to them, are more prestigious and a better use of my talents.

      I took the “would you like to finance it” line with my mom, and she actually offered to pay for me to go back to school, so careful with that one. :) Now I just respond that I simply don’t want to and end the conversation, and that has worked the best.

    2. Ad Astra*

      It sounds like you’re handling it the right way.

      Sometimes parents get so wrapped up in the specifics of the life they wanted for you, they start to think you couldn’t possibly be happy with anything different. They convince themselves that they’re making these comments out of concern for your happiness, when really it has more to do with their ego.

      I hope you can find a way to strengthen your relationship with your mom and still shut down her comments about your job.

  32. Today's Satan*

    I have gone back to school to finally get a Bachelor’s (with an eye on a Master’s afterward) in Accounting. I hope to become a CPA and do the books and taxes for local small businesses. When I told my dad my plan last fall, He replied to my email thusly, “You’ve told me before that if I can’t say anything nice, I’m not to say anything at all. So I’ll leave you with *this*,” which was a link to an article about how much dog walkers make in San Francisco (I live in Dallas), implying that I should take up dog-walking instead of accounting.

    I can’t imagine there are too many parents in this world who would actively discourage their children from getting an education in favor of a manual labor job.

    P.S. Dog walkers in San Francisco make muuuuuuch less than independent CPAs in Texas.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Oof. A dog walker > accountant?

      I toyed with the idea of med school when I was ~29. My husband was on board. My dad’s reaction: “It’s embarrassing when someone leaves a good career. . .”

      I was blindsided by the reaction. I was/am an engineer, but I thought dr. > engineer in the list of professions your kids could have, so I didn’t think he would think it was an “embarrassing” decision. Never mind that it wasn’t his business and didn’t affect him. [I decided not to do it for numerous other reasons.]

    2. MashaKasha*

      Dog-walking in 100+ degree heat sounds like a well-paying job. Or, alternately, moving to SF to become a dog-walker sounds like a shrewd financial move given their RE prices! Has your dad considered being a professional career counselor? Wow. And best of luck with your CPA plan, it does sound good (seriously, no sarcasm here.)

      1. Today's Satan*

        I know, right?

        I’m quite certain my dad made the dog walking suggestion (and all of his other manual labor suggestions) because I’m overweight. Which is a horrible sin and negates anything positive about me. Intelligence, resilience, shrewd business sense, kindness, property ownership, a decent sense of humor, a fulfilling life. . . all mean nothing if the person possessing those things weighs so much as 10 lbs more than their ideal weight.

        So, yeah, I’ll only discuss superficial things with him now. And I never mention school or finances. I got straight A’s last semester (my first full semester back) and made the Dean’s list. My dad doesn’t even have a clue.

    3. Newsie*

      Not that you need this, but my mom always tells me that if I’d been an accountant, I could live anywhere with a well-paying job. (And presumably marry anyone, which is her end goal for me.) So one of our parents is advocating for us?

  33. No Name Today*

    This was so validating to read this letter and all of the comments. I am going through this right now with my mother. It is comforting to know there are others in the same situation.

    I have a decent job. I’m not on the Forbes richest list, but I support myself. Both of my siblings make more money than I do, but more importantly (in my mother’s eyes), they are both professors – a respectable profession. My mother has never been happy with what I’ve done career-wise. She’s even told her friends that I do different work than what I actually do. When I worked for an employer, she said I should work for myself. When I worked for myself, she said I should get a regular job. When I worked in nonprofit, she said I should work in the corporate world. When I was in the corporate world, she said I should move to academia.

    It was only recently (late 30’s) that I finally accepted that no matter what I do, she will never be happy with my job. If I were elected to US senate, she would wonder when I was going to become president (I’m not in politics, it’s just an analogy.)

    Actually, last week I was featured on the front page of an out of town newspaper because of my career. The front page! Plus a full page spread inside! I was so excited to share it with everyone. But I didn’t tell my mom because I really didn’t want to hear her opinion on it. At that point, I just wanted someone to say they were proud of me, and she is not the person who would say that. (Or she would say she is proud of me, but…)

    OP, it is very hard to disengage from these conversations with your parents. You want to discuss it because, well because it’s your mom. Also, you want to defend yourself. It’s very hard, but it gets easier each time you do it. You can’t convince someone with logic when they have come to their decision based on emotions. It’s exhausting to even try.

    Good luck to you. From your comment above, it sounds like you are on the right track.

    1. Three Thousand*

      It was only recently (late 30’s) that I finally accepted that no matter what I do, she will never be happy with my job. If I were elected to US senate, she would wonder when I was going to become president (I’m not in politics, it’s just an analogy.)

      I sympathize completely. In my case it’s if I were elected to the senate, she would wonder why I didn’t go to medical school, and if I went to medical school she would insist that I should have become a lawyer.

      1. Kristine*

        Remember Justice Clarence Thomas’ autobiography? His grandfather, who raised him, did not speak to him for years until he was dying. Why? Thomas decided to read law instead of theology. His grandfather called him a “worthless [unprintable].” Thomas, to this day, cannot bring himself to criticize such an exacting and unforgiving control freak.

        1. Observer*

          Well, the situation there was a bit more complex. I’m not saying that I thought it was a great way to handle it, but grandpa wasn’t angry because he chose law over theology. It was because he reneged on a commitment that Thomas had initiated, and that Grandpa had gone to some lengths to support.

  34. Bob from Accounting*

    This reminds of when I was struggling to get a job in Accounting, and my mom was telling me that I should go back to school and get a degree in Engineering. Or go to medical school.

    I’m glad now that I have a job in my chosen field, my parents have stopped doing that.

  35. Three Thousand*

    Wow, seems like there are a lot of overbearing parents out there. I feel a lot less alone after reading all this.

  36. Kristine*

    Hey OP – when I was in college, I had a friend who majored in International Business. Her parents were mortified. I’m not kidding. Business was okay, but International Business? Sounded communist to them!
    I remember being in the car with my friend and her dad before she was to depart for Sweden. You know – Stockholm and all that – and her father suddenly griped, “What’s Sweden going to do for you?” My friend told him she wasn’t going to listen to this anymore. And there I was, a theatre major! I eventually got a B.A. in English Lit and a Master’s in Library and Info Science – you know, economically just one rung below financial adviser or investment banker, right? ;)
    Some parents are never satisfied. Chances are, had you pursued your career, it would not be enough. That’s the real issue. Draw a line in the sand with one final conversation, then turn a deaf ear and do not respond to it ever again.

  37. Our great computers fill the hallowed halls*

    O_o Not even sure I should comment, but – reading all of the stuff everyone has said, I’m left wondering if I’m part of a “silent majority” or simply in the minority on this. I was admittedly something of a problem child growing up, and my parents and I had numerous disagreements on any number of topics. But we never had even a single disagreement or argument about college / job / career.

    *shrug* No claims of superiority or inferiority over this; I’m just a data point, reporting in.

  38. tula*

    Remember that every parent (usually) wants the best for their children, and no matter what age you get to be, if your parents are still alive and mentally intact, you will still be their ‘child’. The way most parents express themselves in not thinking you have the best career is to put down whatever job you have.
    True, its not the best way, to needle one’s kids about it, but that’s what they do. And depending on your earnings, and how old you are, your parents may also be concerned over your future social security payments, what you are saving, how you’ll survive when you are older and/or if your money will last through the years. Then again, some parents are just never happy with what their offspring are doing with their life. I know a cutting-edge doctor in her 50s, who also teaches at a major hospital, who says her mother is never satisfied. It appears that everyone has to be their own cheerleader in life as some parents will never give praise.

  39. Mehhh Therapy*

    This reminds me of why there is a ‘market’ for your degree hopeful for people(no offense) just like you. What I would recommend is not taking it more than an online none harmless rant and skip therapy. I was ‘complaining’ about this very thing shortly after my Bachelors in Business about a decade ago when I was considering a MBA/JD in addition and wound up with therapy for ‘normal problems’ of parental nagging about my career and now I don’t have a career. Unfortunately, my career at the time had ‘mental health coverage’. Not a nutter but therapy is life ruining and not to be taken lightly. Wish I hadn’t posed this type of question to my family doctor at the time which got me a therapy referral not before an over helpful extended relative just before felt that if I wanted to complain to her about it perhaps I needed therapy and should mention it to my family doctor.

  40. john*

    Good thread and many here have degrees just not epic jobs “in a worldly $$ prestige” sense, but most have succeeded.

    My issue is when adult children drop out, have dead end 10-12$ jobs, no plan, and just want to “wing it” imo they deserve the “pep” talks they receive at least up to a certain point.

  41. Jzangrillo*

    This is how I feel with my parents all of them. Regardless if I’m happy in a job that I’m in or not, they still feel the need to tell me I didn’t make a right choice. Let me just say this, I work for the post office as a mail carrier and I hate it with a burning passion, I want to get out bc I know I’m capable of more in life and I know that this job just isn’t me. My parents are so money crazed that all they can think about is a pention… Everyone has this warped mindset of working for the post office that it’s some great job, benefits are all the same as every where and 10times more expensive, u may not get your own route until 3 or 4 years down the road which means you technically are not considered full time even through u average out 60+hours a week and get 1 day off if u are lucky and that being said, u are stuck making a lousy 16 dollars an hour while full time employees make 24. It’s a messed up job and they treat u like crap. I explain this to my parents bc I’m looking to leave to get a better job and they want me to stay..But all they see is pention. Yeah that great and all but no job is worth your mental health especially when u are trying to support your own family. Bottom line is…Parents shouldn’t be involved at a certain point. They have their life and you have yours.

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