update: my mom keeps sending me job postings even though I’m happily employed

Remember the letter-writer whose mom kept sending her job postings even though she was happily employed? Here’s the update.

First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to answer my question, and thank you to the AAM community for weighing in. Many of the comments were helpful and insightful, and I’m very appreciative. I should have made this clearer in my original letter, but I meant my question to be framed as a sort of work-life balance query, with how to get my helicopter mother to butt out of my professional life and keep family and work separate.

Some comments got caught up in wondering if I was contributing to my family’s household, and if that was the reason why my mom was sending me job listings (i.e., to get me out of the house faster). I would like to think I was pulling my weight — I pay for my family’s phone bill with a stipend from work and I did general chores like dishes, mowing the lawn, taking out garbage, taking care of the family pet, etc. — but my family dynamic is not one where my parents expected that of me. It was not a requirement for me that if I lived at home, I had to do XYZ around the house. Both of my parents made it clear that I always have a place in their home, no matter what happens, and they were genuinely happy to have me around. My mom is just a helicopter mom. She truly just wants to be involved in every aspect of my life and wants me to keep working at it all until she feels I’m doing things perfectly, so she really wasn’t trying to subtly kick me out of the house.

Anyway, the good news of all this is… I’ve moved out! I was going absolutely nutty living at home, whether I was wanted there or not, and as many of the comments suggested, I really just needed to put space between myself and my mom. How right they were. Some other comments suggested channeling her helicopter-ness into other aspects of my life, which is exactly what I did. I had an original plan to live at home for 6 months post-college in order to get a good cushion in my bank account so that I didn’t feel I was living paycheck-to-paycheck, and since I knew apartment hunting could take some time, I immediately contacted my friend from college who I was going to be living with. We began looking at apartments, and wow, that was the perfect area to channel my mom’s helicopter energy into. She got really into it. She stopped sending me job postings and began sending me apartment listings, which were actually useful.

Once my roommate and I chose a place, I then channeled my mom’s energy into furniture shopping. Then her energy went into packing and then helping with the actual process of moving. Now, I’m officially settled into my new place. My older sister recently got engaged, so my mom has shifted into wedding-mode and is no longer sending me links to anything anymore. I’m sure one day she’ll be back on me about something, but I now know that to keep her out of my work life, I just need to divert her attention elsewhere. I know mine wasn’t the typical type of question you got (i.e. not specifically work-related), but I’m seriously glad you answered it anyway. I’m much happier now and I’m able to focus on my professional career without the constant dread of getting continuous job posting emails. Thank you!!

{ 165 comments… read them below }

  1. Akcipitrokulo

    I love this update! Really made me laugh, ans happy things are working out for you!

    Just as long as you don’t have to keep escalating the distractions!

    1. Specialk9

      I also loved it. Wisdom is knowing how to manage the difficult ones in our life. Sometimes that’s limiting or cutting off who’s in our life; or like here, channeling someone’s annoying habits to the good.

  2. grace

    Congrats, OP! I just signed a lease to move out of my parents’ house too, and the freedom is crazy awesome. :-) Good luck with everything!

  3. Bend & Snap

    This is great!

    I’m 40, a mother, live across the country from my parents and am still dealing with a wannabe helicopter mom. May try some of these tactics.

  4. Detective Amy Santiago

    Great update!

    You’re probably in the clear for a while now, LW. After the wedding, she’ll start bugging your sister for grandbabies.

    1. Alli525

      And then, once Sis is pregnant, she can go nuts with baby showers and registries and and and… So I definitely agree that OP is probably pretty well in the clear.

    2. Turquoisecow

      My mother in law didn’t wait for the wedding. She not-so-subtly hinted the first time I met her. My sister in law’s two kids kept her busy for a bit, but now she’s started hinting (again, not very subtly) again.

      My actual mother hasn’t said a word about grandkids. My MiL is much more involved in her kids’ lives. Not quite to helicopter parent standards, but more than my mom.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        Ha! The first time I went to dinner at my in-laws’ house, when my husband and I were dating, my mother-in-law went on a big, long spiel about what a good grandmother she would be, and how she wouldn’t be the interfering kind (not a regular grandma — a COOL grandma!!), etc. She really has been a good MIL, and has never interfered, but she sure did let her preference for grandchildren be know, almost as soon as she even saw me. LOL.

  5. Myrin

    Yay OP, congratulations! I’m so happy for you!

    I’m also sitting here laughing like heck about the thought of you constantly “re-routing” your mum like she’s some kind of aquaeduct whose water needs to go somewhere. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone like that and I can imagine from your letters that this must be very stressful but as a completely uninvolved onlooker, I was absolutely delighted by that image.

    1. The OG Anonsie

      I’ve definitely known a good number of people like that, and I love the analogy you’ve got there. Like, listen, the water is gonna flow one way or the other, you can either point it at something useful or get flooded.

      1. AnotherAlison

        Ooh, yeah, that’s my dad. The energy doesn’t necessarily have to go to my sister and me in the form of butting in, but that will definitely happen if he isn’t kept busy. He’s been remodeling my sister’s master bath for 6 months.

        1. Diamond

          That’s my dad too! If he has nothing to do he will very aggressively ‘help’ you with no regard to what you actually want. He helped my sister move house and repainted her bathroom and managed to make her cry in the process with all his ridiculously stressy energy.

          1. turquoises

            oh my god is your dad my dad?? So Very Helpy. Like when he took over my packing for college… everything had to be packed in tupperware totes. Not boxes, not bags, nothing but tupperware totes would do. Labeled and cross-indexed. And of course he had to be the one to decide how to load them in the van…

            1. Anu

              Oh lord, this is totally my mom! When she was visiting me she reorganized my entire kitchen, bugged me to death until I hired a carpenter to put up some more shelves, hung up all my pots and pans, pulled out all my most used plates and bowls and mugs to a more easily accessible area, reorganized all my cabinets, put up rows of spice bottles, labeled and indexed by number. It stressed me out no end, but I have to admit the kitchen is a joy to use now.

    2. sometimeswhy

      Having secured this as a useful tactic to use with their mother, if the sister is planning on having children, OP may wish to be ready to sacrifice herself to her mother’s ministrations for a while to give sis some peace. Or at least conspire with sister to assist in routing her toward nanathings that would be helpful and welcome.

  6. MashaKasha

    Made me laugh too. I know the feeling. I lived about a few hours away from my parents by train during college, and close to a day by train after college and until I was 29, then we all emigrated and suddenly found ourselves living a few minutes from each other by car! It was a rough transition, as my parents are also the kind that tend to get overinvolved in my, and later, my children’s lives; and I was already used to us being an independent family and not having to answer to anyone for how we run our house or parent the children. We moved several cities away, and they moved a few years later to a place in walking distance from our home to be closer to us! I was at the end of my rope. Then we got a puppy and that changed everything! Both of my parents made the dog their top priority, spent time with the dog, talked to and about the dog and everyone loved it, most of all the dog. The dog was a perfect distraction for all 9 years of his life. He passed away a couple of years ago, but now my one son’s cats are living with me for part of a year, and again are being a perfect distraction for my mom. She has a favorite cat (much better than when she had a favorite grandson), takes a lot of interest in the cats, and it all around takes a lot of pressure off everyone; except maybe the cats, but oh well, these cats are doing God’s work! OP, when you and your sister run out of distractions, I highly recommend pets!

    1. PB

      My mother has often threatened, er, offered to move near me “to help with the kids.” Kids I don’t have or even want to have. It hasn’t happened yet, fortunately. She’s too busy helicoptering over my brother, who lives closer.

      1. MashaKasha

        Moving to help with nonexistent kids is a whole new level of helicoptering! Yikes!

        I am an only child. With my kind of luck, if my parents had had anymore kids, I probably would’ve been the least favorite and they would’ve left me alone. But no. They are/were both great people, but OMG did they butt into my life.

        Oddly enough, both of my sons (early 20s) moved back in with me a couple of years ago. I love it. Hopefully we all know how to give each other space. They seem mildly embarrassed about living with their mom, but honestly I’m no longer married to their father, have been single for two years, and really appreciate their help around the house (moving heavy objects, opening jars, car maintenance and whatnot), and their occasional company. I tell them that, if their friends ever give them a hard time for living with a parent (it has happened), to just tell their friends that this is mainly being done for my benefit.

      2. AwkwardestTurtle

        Oh dear. I want to make a powerpoint called “Why my reproductive choices are none of your business” for basically every time I see my future MIL. We’re getting married in nine months and at Christmas she lectured me for still taking birth control because she “is ready for grandkids and has been for a while.” I’m now thankful that she’s way too nested in her current environment to move, because I could see her “offering” something similar. Stay strong, PB.

        1. I'll come up with a clever name later.

          The ink was still wet on our wedding certificate when my awful MIL said “So when are you going to have kids so I can quit my job and take care of them?”
          Obviously, her plans and mine were vastly different and I was able to get what I wanted (ie: her never babysitting my kids…ever!) but since that conversation I have been known as the awful, evil, manipulative woman that her son married. It’s ok. I am willing to step in front of the family and take the anger and guilt she tries to heap on my husband and children. There are a LOT of life decisions that my husband has made that he waits until the literal last second before springing it on her. We moved 1000 miles away from our home state once and she found on three days before we left. We’d been planning it for nearly a year.
          LW, I am happy that you were able to channel her into other directions. Smart thinking!!

          1. AKchic

            Oh boy… glad your husband is on the same page with you on his mother. My current husband is a total mama’s boy. And of course, Mommy Dearest has trained all of her sons to be her surrogate husbands (it is creepy) and treats any woman coming into the lives of any of her male relatives as interlopers who are stealing “her man” (even her nephews wives/girlfriends are treated the same way – it is “talked about” behind her back).
            Narcissistic parents who foster codependent relationships are the worst. It took me 7 years to get my husband to even recognize there was an issue.

            1. Minnie

              That is terrible, and I’m sorry you have to deal with a MIL like that.

              I have several grown kids and I cannot imagine treating my sons and their partners this way!

              Props to you for your patience!

            2. Samata

              This reminds me of my brother – somehow his co-dependent wife & MIL has turned him into the man of both houses. And he Does. Not. See. It.

              MIL also treats any female family members (sisters, mom, grandmother) as outsiders who don’t know him near as well as she does. It CREEPS ME THE F#@K OUT. And it makes me want to hit her often.

              1. AKchic

                Considering how many cousins he has that I *haven’t* met yet – it’s always possible. I swear, between the two of us, we’re related to about a quarter of the population in this state.

          2. Bananka

            She must have been awful in some other ways because never having her babysit the children or notifying of the 1000 mile move 3 days ahead seems cruel without context.

            1. I'll come up with a clever name later.

              Well, I don’t need a reason for not letting people watch my kids, regardless of relationship. But yes, there are a lot of reasons as to why we’ve essentially cut her and FIL out of our lives. About 10% of the reasons have to do with me and the remaining 90% are all my husband’s issues. That’s not how she spins it though.

            2. Jennifer Thneed

              Tell ya what — fill in the context. Take Clever Name’s word for it that this was a good and necessary thing to do, and then think about why that might be.

              1. Else

                Yep. Nobody is “owed” access to someone else’s children, regardless of whether they are related

            3. Optimistic Prime

              As someone who also has a usually great but also sometimes naggy and stressy mother in law – take my word for it, it’s not cruel or awful. In fact, if anything I’d say it saves everyone stress and bother – otherwise, MIL will spend however many months she has trying to convince you not to move in a variety of increasingly invasive ways. We told my MIL that we were moving 2600 miles away probably about a month before it happened. We didn’t live close, but at least we lived on the same coast, and she didn’t really take it that well.

        2. Grapey

          My husband and I don’t want kids, and as nice as my MIL (genuinely) is, she always talks about how she can’t wait for her other son to find a nice girl and give her some grand kids. She’s accepted my husband’s decision at the cost of helicoptering her other son’s dating life, and I feel bad for him.

    2. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)

      “These cats are doing Gods work” – love this, and expect to use it often ;)

  7. Danger: Gumption Ahead

    Happy to hear it all worked out! If you need a future distraction, tell your mom you are thinking about getting a pet. Then you can get bombarded with animal pictures which is not the worst thing

      1. Frank Doyle

        OH MY GOODNESS WHAT A GOOD IDEA. I bought door hardware online a month ago and am still getting ads for it. I bought the hardware, dudes! I hopefully won’t need any for a few decades! Leave me alone!

        1. Alter_ego

          I need to do this too. I’m an electrical engineer, and I frequently have to look up specs, which means all my targeted ads are for like, commercial grade generators and lighting control panels and stuff.

        2. fposte

          It happened by accident once and I realized I could just make it keep happening on purpose by checking out florist pages with some frequency.

        3. Overeducated

          I at least appreciate seeing repeated ads for a thing I already bought because it means the ad targeting systems aren’t *that* smart yet. They haven’t made the leap to offering everything else I need to complete my home hardware needs in a way compatible with my current style. (It’s the ads I get for things I haven’t shopped for, but that I would actually potentially buy, that worry me.)

          1. Ama

            This is a good point. I always laugh at seeing my last several purchases being advertised back to me, but you’re right that it would be scarier if they knew I’d bought that (to name a recent purchase) shower curtain and were now showing me bath mats, curtain rings, etc.

          2. Breda

            Also, it’s taking the place of an ad for something I might actually spend money on! It’s irritating to be followed around by the thing I already bought, but at least it isn’t shoes I would LIKE to buy but really shouldn’t (what’s flashing to the right of this text box right now).

        4. ECHM

          A friend of mine said she and her dad once decided to have some fun by putting phrases like “albino buffalo” in email to confuse the advertising algorithms.

  8. bookartist

    I just don’t understand these people. I have a special bottle of whisky waiting for the day my kid moves out and I never have to think about (metaphorically) wiping their butt ever again!

    1. Else

      I have always assumed they don’t have anything else in their life, and can’t imagine how to find something. I expect there to be an even bigger and more intense flood of them in a few years, when the “attachment parenting” people’s children are old enough to want to leave the nest.

      1. MashaKasha

        Hmmm, I was an attachment parent, but maybe the term has changed over the years? I used the Dr. Sears book to raise mine. The gist of it was, you spend a LOT of time with your babies and toddlers (the upside of being out of a job and unable to find one was that I could do it at the time), you establish a bond, which makes them secure enough and helps them trust you enough to gradually become their own people and to explore the world on their own. In the meantime you have a good enough bond with them that you can tell when they need more of your time vs when they need space… No idea how today’s attachment parents do it.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot

          Same here. The name is misleading…I definitely have a ten who is pretty independent and I am as well.

        2. Emi.

          I know a woman who’s into attachment parenting and told me that the only scientifically and morally correct thing is for mothers to be “inseparable” from their children for the first 3-4 years, which gave me a literal panic attack (and I wasn’t even TTC). So yeah, it’s definitely gotten blown up into something much more dramatic than you’re describing.

        3. The Cosmic Avenger

          That’s exactly how we understood and implemented attachment parenting, MashaKasha. I suspect that helicopter parents may have glommed on to different terms by legitimate experts in order to excuse their behavior, and this one was probably the most fitting.

        4. Bloo

          Yeah, Dr. Sears was my bible and I’m not an currently an *attached* parent to my 22yo and my married 19yo. We have really good relationships but we’re not all up in each other’s grills.
          Lots of love, cuddles, laughter and even (gasp) co-sleeping but that all evolved into cutting more and more apron strings as they got older so they could hopefully adult themselves.
          My married 19 yo admitted that if she hadn’t got married (moved out on her own at 18 first) she’d have asked to come back home because adulting is harder than she thought.
          My son gets more guidance because he’s still at home and wants it but I totally treat him like an adult.
          I’m looking forward to relationships with autonomous adults. Doing things like getting together for dinner and cards because they *want* to.
          My parents were hands off so I am too.

        5. Else

          I don’t know how it was back in the day, but the people I’ve seen are mostly physically attached to the extent that they don’t allow their children to play with other children uninterrupted or on their own at all, well past babyhood. I have actually seen one continually demanding that the preschool aged kid let her feed him and refusing to allow him to play on his own without interference, and most of them seem to be doing way way more for their older kids than any typical kid needs. One child I know was raised like this was making such a huge obviously fake fuss and whine to have things done for her in a camp class that the other children flat out told her that if she kept acting like that she would never have any friends. They were six.

        6. Grapey

          Yes, but some insecure/narcissist parents take that bond and create a two way bond with their kids. Therefore the kids grow up ‘secure’, but with a sense of needing to be their parent’s emotional caretaker, causing a co-dependent situation.

        7. Optimistic Prime

          That’s the origin of the term, but I think modern attachment parenting advocates are usually talking about a more intensive type of situation. I’m a psychologist and my close friend (also a psychologist) studies attachment, so it drives me a little bit nuts.

      2. Lynca

        From my experience they don’t. My dad was overprotective but not what I would consider a helicopter; he had his own friendships/hobbies/etc.

        My mom is the complete opposite. She literally doesn’t know how to find other things to put her energy into now that we’re adults with seperate lives. Thankfully neither my sister or I am like this and don’t want to raise our kids thinking this is healthy.

      3. Jennifer Thneed

        That’s not what attachment parenting means. Perhaps you’re thinking of helicopter parenting?

        (Attachment parenting is about physical attachment. Hold your baby a lot during their first year – constantly if you can. This helps build a sturdy personality that is confident doing things on their own.)

        1. Else

          Maybe so. I only know the words that the people I know have used for what they are doing. Perhaps there are different interpretations of how to do this.

    2. MashaKasha

      I lived on my own for about a year before mine moved back in. It was good in a lot of ways. My house will never be as clean and organized again as it was during that year. Being alone in the house (or with a partner, during the time when I was had one) was mostly good. But my mom still lives nearby, so with my kids being gone, I was her only company, and mom was lonely after dad had passed away a year before. I am embarrassed to say that I was not good at the task of keeping mom company. It was really, really really exhausting. Then both kids called to meekly ask if they could possibly maybe move back in, and I was like OMG HOW SOON CAN YOU GET HERE?

    3. paul

      I plan on buying a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black when I no longer *literally* have to wipe their butts; metaphorically…I can’t look that far ahead.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        Tangent/tip: go for the Green Label. I like it as much or more than the Blue Label, but it doesn’t cost that much more than Black Label. They had discontinued it for a while, but brought it back last year.

    4. Bea

      My mom isn’t a helicopter mom. She never wanted me to move out because we hangout and she has anti-social tendencies, it’s easier to have a built in best friend.

      I see the flipside and feel uncomfortable when parents can’t wait to have kids out of the house. I’ve seen people kicked out at 18 because they’re “adults”.

      I don’t know why everyone can’t be like my parents. They aren’t meddlesome, we lived as roommates and I paid 1/3 of all the bills every year after I was fully employed. It was a blessing when dad was forced into early retirement but not without sitting through a few temporary layoffs and finally hitting the age he could draw his pension despite a huge penalty for doing so five years before it fully kicked in.

      Adult children can be a life saver. So you may want to not make them feel like their leaving is what you keep waiting to celebrate. Unless assistant living or a nursing home is more your style…

      1. JanetM

        My parents made it clear that I was welcome to live at home, rent-free, as long as I was a full-time student, but that once I was no longer a student, I had six months to move out. And I did.

        1. Artemesia

          We made that clear after seeing the young adult children of friends settle in and play video games endlessly. They had till August after graduation and then either they were in school, working and paying rent or on their own. Neither has ever required a day’s support from us after that deadline.

          And our daughter encouraged us to move nearby when we retired; it has been fabulous. We get to see the grandkids regularly; we can help out in emergencies; we get to see our daughter often. Neither they nor we would think of dropping in unannounced or being demanding so it works great.

      2. bookartist

        My child is developmentally disabled. Them leaving the home they grew up in for an independent living situation is the greatest goal we *can* have as a family.

        1. Tassie Tiger

          I agree every family has different goals, Bookartist. My mother has three children with intense disabilities (me being one of them), and it was hard for her when her friends’ kids all began to fly the nest, and people said to her, “You’re almost an empty nester!” She would smile as graciously as she could and reply, “I am on a different path.”

          I am 32 and still have never successfully filed my own taxes–it’s a huge deal for me that I make my own dentist appointments. We all have different goals and I send you warm wishes and positive energy for the new year as you and your family work together towards what looks and feels like success to you.

          1. MashaKasha

            “I am on a different path” is a great phrase that I feel I will be using often. Life is complicated enough without random people insisting that everyone be on the same path. Best wishes to you in the new year, as well.

      3. bookartist

        And I also don’t appreciate the dig at assisted living and nursing homes – why are you insulting elder folks who have medical needs that their children are not qualified to care for?

        1. MashaKasha

          Yeah, I am literally the parent that lives with both adult kids and enjoys it, but I do not want them to be taking 24/7 care of me when that time comes. That is a lot to ask. I’ve seen my dad’s siblings ruin their health and relationships with each other over taking care of my paralyzed Grandma. But they lived in a country where they did not have a choice.

        2. Grapey

          I agree with you FWIW but many elder folks expect their kids to take care of them, qualified or not. Assisted living is often used as a threat from a suffocated kid’s POV, even if it really would be the best thing for the parent.

      4. fposte

        I’m agreeing that this seems uninformed about assisted living and nursing homes. CCRCs are one of the best things going, IMHO, and they’re great for the people in them and a gift to their kids.

      5. Marillenbaum

        Sometimes, I think that if there had been any jobs in my field where my parents live, I might have moved back in–there’s a basement apartment, which provides at least some distance. As it is, I live two time zones away, but we call each other once a week and keep each other very much in the loop (at least half of all calls home involve “So what are you knitting?”)

        1. MashaKasha

          When my oldest son lived on the West Coast (my other son, my mom, and I are all in the northeast midwest, so to speak), we skyped with him for an hour every weekend. It was hard to fill an hour with exciting life updates, for sure! Iirc, our calls involved him rambling about how he hated life on the West Coast and working in a corporate environment, and ours were “here’s our new pet rats! here’s our new cats! mom has a new boyfriend!” that type of thing.

      6. HRM

        Is it bad I’m a little jealous of some of the people commenting? Having helicopter parents does seem awful in some ways but I was told I had 2 weeks to move out after high school graduation and it was EXTREMELY stressful for me. I’m 26 now, live independently, have completed a bachelors degree, currently in my last semester for my MBA and work as an HR manager – my parents definitely use this to defend their “parenting style.” I think it’s likely I would’ve done all of these things anyway – I already knew I wanted to go into HR and was mulling over the idea of an MBA before I had even started undergrad. Not having their support made it much, much more difficult financially and emotionally for me to get where I am. I have a lot of debt not only from school loans but from credit cards because I simply could not afford to live on minimum wage (which was $7.15 when I started working!) and pay for an apartment, car, cell phone, health insurance, etc. on my own. I often paid all my bills and then had to put groceries, medical expenses, furniture, etc. on my credit cards. I don’t know.. I wouldn’t do it to my kids (if I had any.)

        1. Else

          Aaugh, your parents were really rough. I do not think they deserve any credit for your success – they didn’t give you the normal launching pad at all, and it’s massively impressive that you were able to do what you did. You’re impressive – they’re the opposite. Apologies if I cause offense.

      7. Optimistic Prime

        I mean…I don’t think a parent saying that they will celebrate the day their children transition to independent adult life is somehow bad or a sign that they don’t love their kids. I don’t have children, but my intent observations have led me to believe that raising kids is a *lot* of work. I think it’s pretty normal for parents to be celebratory when the intense every day period of child-rearing has ended and they can look forward to a more relaxed, adult-to-adult way of interacting with their kids.

    5. I'll come up with a clever name later.

      Attachment parenting and helicopter parenting are different. I think of all the parenting styles attachment parenting might be the easiest segue into helicopter parenting, but it’s not like it’s the gateway style for helicopter parenting. I know several “free range” parents who have severe helicopter issues. One woman used to tell me I was too overprotective for not letting my then 2 year old play, unsupervised, in her backyard. She’s the same woman who hand picked the man her daughter married, chose all the classes her daughter would take in college, and monitors every homework assignment that her kids have ever done- sometimes redoing it herself if she didn’t think they did their best.

      1. Specialk9

        A TWO YEAR OLD unsupervised, in someone else’s yard. She’s a loon. My two year old can happily putter around with his toys, books, and coloring while I do my stuff. But by himself in someone else’s yard? She would be permanently on the Untrustworthy neighbor list.

  9. The Expendable Redshirt

    “We began looking at apartments, and wow, that was the perfect area to channel my mom’s helicopter energy into. She got really into it. She stopped sending me job postings and began sending me apartment listings, which were actually useful.”

    Those sentences made me chuckle. I’m glad that the OP was able to work things out. It sounds like using cat-type distraction methods work well when dealing with OPs Mom. If I’m trying to distract my cat, I’ll divert her attention with something else that is appealing (treats/a crinkle ball/mint). If excessive helicopter parenting happens in the future, I think that the OP can find another useful project for OPmom to research.

  10. Sketchee

    What a great idea to tell your mom how she can be helpful. Giving her desire to have a place in your life an outlet that works for you.

    Love such a positive update and will remember this idea when I’m feeling that someone’s helpful energy is misplaced

  11. Hey Karma, Over here.

    I think your story is great and thanks for the update. As for it not fitting the typical Allison work question, well, not exactly true. In work you will meet eager people all the time who may want to: tell you how to do your job their way; try to do your assigned work; or over involve themselves in your day to day in a different way. What you learned is that to successful navigate work relationships (handle people) you need to find out what they want. But you don’t have to give it to them. You can give them something else and life will go on.

  12. Sara

    I love this update. I always divert my mom’s crazy energy back into my brothers OR into theoretical travel plans. But I’m sure with your sister getting married, you’ll be off her radar for a while!

  13. broadcastlady

    Fun update! Congrats on your own place. My Mom and I are very close, but we always do better when we live in different towns(only child).

  14. Goya de la Mancha

    Such a great update! Congrats on moving out and “adulting”! I found my relationship with my mother only improved once I moved into my own place after school – hopefully you have a similar experience!

  15. strawberries and raspberries

    I’m so glad that you found a good solution. I have to say, I was so crestfallen by all the displaced rage towards you in the original comments from all these people who think it’s some huge moral failure to live with your parents for any amount of time after age 18. It’s pretty sensible to build up income by living at home after graduation and then setting yourself up to get a better place to live.

    (It’s also a lot of cognitive dissonance for people to make noise about how they want to work to support their family, but then have the nerve to put down anyone who takes any help from “Mommy and Daddy.” In other words, only your descendants are deserving of help? Got it.)

    1. Akcipitrokulo

      I think it varies hugely! When my dad’s cousin moved out of home in his twenties to live by himself, reactions ranged from wondering why he’d fallen out with his parents to criticising him for “risin’ above himsel'” and thinking he was too good for his parents!

      (West Scotland, few years back).

      1. The OG Anonsie

        I left home after graduating high school and it was practically a damn scandal. Oh, so you’re better than everyone else and don’t need anyone else, huh? Dumb kid, charging into stuff headfirst, not thinking about the long term.

        1. mooocow

          When I left home at 17 to move across the country, my Mum got so much flak! People told her I must hate her or else I wouldn’t have left, they told her she was a bad mother for letting me go – it culminated years later when two therapists tried to convince me I had Big Issues ™ with my mother because I left home so early and she let me go – when really, I was always Mummy’s girl! I still think she was and is an excellent mother, and even after 8 years of therapy (with therapists who were not the two from above!) no mythical Big Issues with Mum turned up.

          I was just yearning to get away from my rural home village and move to the big city (and my then-boyfriend – ah, teenage love!), and my Mum understood me and let me go, because she was an adventurer in her younger years, too. And because she doesn’t believe in helicopter-parenting, but in raising kids to become independent adults.

    2. The OG Anonsie

      It always ruffles me when I see the living-at-home outrage around the internet, largely because it’s essentially a lot of people refusing to believe that there are any different cultural expectations for what’s normal and desirable when it comes to the family unit. All the stuff about the elongation of adolescence this, millennial that.

      A lot of us are from culture groups, be it regional or community based or ethnic or whatever, where living at home through your 20’s (usually without paying into anything) is the normal thing to do and always has been. You’re supposed to leave the nest fully established, so the goal is for you to keep advancing your job and get that house down payment and a car paid off before you leave home. Going out into the world with your entry level job or sharing a place with roommates is often considered a dumb waste of money, and the idea of somehow needing to do that in order to establish a baseline of responsible adulthood is a really foreign concept.

      The idea for those folks is to look at the long game: you stay home and put together some plush savings and use that to build a financially stable future. Yeah you’re at home a couple years, so what? Don’t you love your family? Why is it bad to be around them? I know quite a few people whose parents were god damn heartbroken when one of their kids “rushed” to get out of the family home in their early 20’s, not because they’re helicopter parents but because they were trying to remove themselves from the family earlier than is the norm for their group. And that stung the parents, you know, why do they want to get away from us? Doing it to prove something to the world about you being truly responsible and self-sufficient is gonna seem pretty silly sat up against long term financial security and a loving family unit.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        Yeah, agreed. I knew a lot of people when I was in college who were of the opinion that American parents were absolutely bananas, or maybe even deliberately negligent, to shove their kids out of the house at 18 years old. And to be honest, looking at my fellow students, I kind of agreed. A lot of us weren’t at all ready to be responsible for even maintaining a dorm room, let alone an apartment with rent and utilities bills.

      2. Archie Goodwin

        Agreed as well. I know people who give me funny looks because I still live with my folks. Thing is, it a.) allows me to save up a nice nest egg (especially living outside of DC, one of the most expensive markets in the country), and b.) allows me to keep an eye on them both as they age – I’m an only child, and they really have no support network outside of me, other than for one another.

        There’s nothing wrong with it unless you WANT there to be something wrong with it, in the abstract.

        1. The OG Anonsie

          There’s nothing wrong with it unless you WANT there to be something wrong with it, in the abstract.

          Yeah that’s the thing that always bugs me about this discussion. There are situations where it’s a bad idea, there’s personal preference, there are individual circumstances, but the base concept of an extended family unit living together isn’t inherently problematic or a sign that the adult children have some kind of deficit.

      3. Aurion

        Yup, agreed. Maybe living under the same roof isn’t possible if the parent and child have wildly different ideas of what appropriate boundaries look like (which happens!), but it can work, and it can work very well, provided ground rules are set. I resent the idea of multi-generation households have to be written off as immaturity or insanity right off the bat.

      4. Project Manager

        >>Why is it bad to be around them?

        Because they are controlling. I did stay at home for a few years after college to save money, but living with them meant choosing between endless fighting* or giving up a great deal of liberty. The money was worth it, but moving out was awesome.

        *There is a line from The Blue Castle, something like (this is from memory, so pardon errors), “Valancy was not repentant, only sorry she had offended her mother. Mrs. Frederick was one of those women who can make their anger felt all through a house. Walls and doors were no protection from it.”

        (Another line I understand very well: “They talked of the things they had always talked of. Valancy did not wonder what would happen if she tried to talk of something else. She knew. Therefore she never tried it.”)

        1. The OG Anonsie

          I’m describing the attitude here– there are a lot of families where staying in the home is really detrimental for any number of reasons. But the cultural standard is that you default to being with them, so pushing hard to make an exit (under the opposite cultural standard) can be seen as an indictment on your family’s character or ability to provide.

      5. Artemesia

        There is a downside to both cultural norms. I know mama’s boys in Italy who lived with parents till their 30s; they expect their wives to be servants just like mom was. The ones I know are giant babymen. And in some cultures the infantalizing and the abuse of the eventual wife who is expected to submit to her MIL are pretty awful.

        The downside of a deeply in debt college grad struggling on her own is obvious too. It is very hard for young people today to be able to afford what was taken for granted 50 years ago.

        Both approaches have their benefits and drawbacks, but when the parent is a helicopter parent then the drawbacks of staying at the family home can be dire in developing independence and competence. I have seen both men and women damaged by it.

        1. paul

          I feel like it all comes down to expectations and boundary settings, after seeing several different cohabbing situations between some former clients, some friends, some family.

          Don’t allow your 25 year old to live at home rent free and play video games all day while not working/barely working, not going to school, and not helping around the house…but it’s not an automatic black mark to be living at home either.

        2. MashaKasha

          I’m at the point where my sons help me around the house more than I help them. Now that I have back problems (a very new development), I expect them to take over a lot of heavy work and weight-lifting around the house. It’s a definite “who rescued whom” situation. I agree that this is very individual for every family. I would not have moved back in with my parents in my 20s if you paid me. I had some pretty awful roommates, but sharing my parents’ tiny apartment with them would have been a lot worse.

      6. Sigh

        I come from an ethnic group where this set up is the norm. My home was violent and abusive so I fled the nest at 16 and have never been able to live down the “shame” of deviating from these cultural norms. The thing is, I didn’t WANT to run out, people, I HAD to do so. Sure, I’ve done okay for myself, but when literally everyone else I grew up with is buying houses with fifty percent down and has fully funded retirement plans and have been able to travel and eat more than beans for years at a time because they were expected to be at home until they were significantly older than 18-22 (much less 16)…it stings a little.

        Everyone I know who has done what we were “supposed” to do has also functioned fully as adults in the home- nothing immature about it. In several cases my peers lived at home until they married, at which point the parents signed the house over to them and switched living quarters.

        In healthy situations, long term planning, respect for culture, and respect for family are all “mature” values. Emphasis on healthy situation, though.

        1. Erin

          I had to leave home at 19, not the same as 16. my cousins eased into adulthood, not leaving home until 25. I was shoved into at 19 with the death of a parent. I had to learn to live without things like cable tv, new cars, tvs, yearly vacations to Las Vegas and health insurance. Now, I’m 31 I paid cash for my first home at 26 and I have a decent car and job and health insurance. But I still don’t have a tv or cable, by choice.

      7. Optimistic Prime

        It’s also ahistorical. Even in Western cultures it was pretty common for young adults to live at home until they got married or had a stable savings to buy their own homes well into the 20th century. In fact, at certain times in history it was considered improper for young people (especially young women) to move out of the home until they were married. This idea that prior to this generation, young people hit the road the minute they turned 18 and immediately got their own places and jobs is simply fantasy.

        It’s just that the average age of marriage has risen as jobs require more education, having a middle-class lifestyle has become harder without a college degree, and the economy has become harder on young people.

        This interesting study of the average age of leaving home in the United States found that it actually rose from 1880 until about 1940-1950, when the median age of leaving home was somewhere between 22 and 24 – and remember, this was at a time when virtually no one went to college and lots of people didn’t even finish high school. So these young people were living at home well beyond the end of their formal education and their entry into the work world. The median age of leaving home declined sharply in 1940 because of the beginning of the U.S.’s entry into World War II. And that decline only lasted until about 1960-1970 – the age of leaving home began to rise again around that time as more people started to go to college and women had more freedom to choose not to get married if they wanted. Even at the lowest, though, the median age of leaving home was around 20-21 for young white people.

    3. JennyAnn

      My folks asked me to move back when they saw me struggling (I made poor decisions in going to college and ended up with soooo much student loan debt that I was less paycheck to paycheck and more steadily draining what had once been substantial savings). One of the first things we did was start going to counseling to relearn how to live with each other as adults. I pay all my own bills (with a little extra each month going to those loans) and rent (recommended by the counselor), help with cleaning and groceries and cooking, and serve as a live in house sitter when they travel (they travel a lot). It’s not the situation any of us thought we’d be in ten years ago, but we’ve made it work. And it’s letting me get out of from under debt without ending up on the street, which was not an impossibility.

      1. Artemesia

        Having a house sitter is gold. If you can live as an adult with parents that can be a great solution to the challenges of this economy and student debt. I am not sure I could have handled it, but the disastrous first marriage was not a better solution to staying at home.

      2. Marillenbaum

        Going to counseling to figure out living together as adults is SUCH a good idea! I think often, some of the strain in adult children returning home is that people go in with assumptions about how things will work, or without getting clarity about how it will work, and so people revert to preexisting relationship patterns that no longer serve the people involved (if they ever did). Sounds like you all made some really good choices.

    4. fposte

      I don’t think there was that much, though; there were a small number that elicited a lot of discussion, and even with some of them I don’t think they were saying what you’re indicating but merely stating with vigor the difficulty of negotiating independent adulthood if your parents are covering some of your costs.

  16. Mockingjay

    Great update, OP!

    Now, may I please borrow your mom? I have closets to clean out and organize. ;-)

  17. AnonThisTimeBcMyMomReadsThis

    This is such a nice update. I can’t believe I didn’t think of the distraction trick, because it’s something I’ve used with my mom several times. We’ve never gotten along better than the winter we were planning my wedding — you’d think it would have been a problem, but no, it meant she wasn’t bugging me about all the other things!

  18. Best wishes to OP

    Your mom would make a great volunteer for some lucky organization. Maybe steer her in that direction after the wedding!

  19. Not So NewReader

    OP, I had to chuckle. Brilliantly played and you both land in a good spot. Well done. Thanks for the follow-up.

  20. Porygon-Z

    Sometimes distance and time are all you need. My mom used to constantly try to manage my life, and also call me and panic when she didn’t hear from me within two hours (she once was on the verge of calling the police because she texted me right when a movie was beginning at the theater, and I didn’t contact her until after the movie). But over time she chilled out so much. Hopefully over time you’ll find the same thing happens to you, since it sounds like your mom is well meaning with her excessive helping.

    1. Almost Violet Miller

      This reminds me of my friend Skyla’s mom. Skyla lived for all of her 20s abroad so she would only talk to her parents every other week or so. They’d see each other a few times a year and they were close – but not at all involved in each other’s daily lives.
      Skyla moved back to the country and her parents’ house a couple of months ago. I invited her to a party at a research institute (think philosophers and social scientists) where we’d have some wine, meet new people, mostly researchers new in town, and maybe dance.
      Even though it sounded like the safest setup, I had to explain to Skyla’s mom that we are not going to do drugs, noone will kidnap us, and the only overdose that can happen is of Sartre or Bourdieu.
      She says she has 10+ years of parenting to do in a short time but she’s getting better. Actually she’s a really cool mom but needs to get used to the situation.
      Well done, OP, btw!

  21. theletter

    Another great energy funnel is “How should I be investing my 401k?”. That one has endless returns.

  22. hbc

    OP, I love that you found a way to redirect your mom that worked, but sometimes having an over-involved parent can skew your perception of what boundaries are okay to set for yourself. You don’t *have* to choose between picking your career solo and picking your furniture and living space solo.

    If you truly want help on that and other stuff, then mazel tov, and don’t change a thing. (Honestly, it would probably have been an impossible battle to fight while you were still living there.) Just know that you have the right to shut down interference even without doing the emotional labor of finding her another project.

  23. Countess Boochie Flagrante

    My favorite energy funnel for my mother (who is less helicopter-y and more just obsessively helpful) — “Hey Mom, since I’m splitting from my roommates and they own most of the furniture, here’s a list of XYZ that my apartment needs.”

    She bombarded me with (helpful) links, sent me a list of things she and Dad were looking to get rid of when they downsized to pick and choose from, and then brought a trailer full of furniture and on top of it took me to Ikea.

    Now that I’m looking again, she’s already building her list of housewarming gifts based on the stuff I declined before on the grounds of “holy crap you guys stop spending money on me!”

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      Oh, and Dad, who is a marvelous fixer of things, helped me do stuff like hang mirrors & pictures, install a curved shower curtain rod, put up my printer, and arrange my electronics for maximum cord efficiency.

      I also discovered that putting together four figures’ worth of Ikea furniture makes a great family bonding activity, and is MUCH easier than doing it oneself. Some things need six hands!

  24. Competent Commenter

    Oh my gosh OP, you have handled this so well! And I actually found myself a little sympathetic with your mom—I don’t agree with the helicopter parenting aspect at all, but the way you describe channeling her energy makes me think of my own huge energy level and need to have places to direct it. For myself, I have my own life and my own projects into which I can pour that energy. Sounds like she’s had a harder time with that. You’ve shifted your dynamic with her to something that is not only healthy for you, but is probably really, really emotionally helpful for her. That is so compassionate and practical and wonderful. You rock!!!

  25. bohtie

    This tactic reminded me of how my mom finally shut up about babies (I’m the oldest, but I’m also gay, so it’s gonna be a while) when my younger brother got his wife pregnant. I was like, “Thanks for taking one for the team, brah”

    (Seriously though, congrats OP!)

    1. Optimistic Prime

      I benefit from the fact that my mother has all but given up on me, assuming that I’m no longer planning on having children ever because I’m too old. I’m 31.

  26. Lana Kane

    Great update! Aside from the fact that things have turned out so well for you, I love that you had the wisdom to recognize that working with her energy instead of fighting and resenting it would benefit both of you. That’s a great lesson for work and life in general.

  27. Sigh

    I’m probably going to be an outlier here, but…If your mom’s anxiety or need to control or something else is so high that you’re having to specifically navigate around it, that rings to me of a pretty severe problem. I’m glad you’ve found a way to deal with it and manage it, but I want to state clearly here that the fact that this problem even exists and you’ve had to navigate it isn’t okay. Good job on coping, but I’m sorry you have to cope with this.

  28. Erin

    I get the feeling your mom is compelled to nuture something. And doesn’t have an appropriate outlet to do that. May I suggest if she starts up sending you job listings again reply with available puppy ads from adopt a pet or with ads from Home Depot about spring gardening.

  29. Collingswood

    Yay! So glad to hear redirecting energy worked!! It’s sort of the only way my mom and I can have a good relationship. Otherwise, she drives me crazy, even though I believe her heart is is the right place.

  30. GirlwithaPearl

    This kind of helicopter mothering is often the systemic result of a generation(s) of smart, accomplished, educated women who get pushed out of careers (for various reasons ranging from to our appalling lack of good policies to support working moms, to the more insidious cultural coercion around the proper role of women) and there fore need to channel their energy into parenting in a way that might feel fulfilling short term but is ultimately harmful.

    imagine if your mother put this energy into volunteering or running for office!

  31. AsIsIt

    Okay I might be a lone dissenter here but you really haven’t done anything but deflect. There will be a time there’s not a fool’s errand to send her one, and there might be a time when you’re the one getting married and you really want to choose everything yourself but you’re scrambling around for something ‘minor’ for her to do.

    You want her to stop running your life so stop her from running your life. Tell her to back off and that you’re an adult and can do these things for yourself. You are not doing yourself any favors if you think you have her managed.

    1. AsIsIt

      To add, think about having to do this for the next 30-40 years! Pull the plug, cut the cord, say enough.

    2. MashaKasha

      Hahahahahaha haha ha If I had a dollar for each time I tried that with my parents throughout my adult life, I’d be able to afford a mansion with a guest house on a 5 acre lot where we could all live peacefully. With some parents, it just does not work. They are not wired like that. You cannot change a grown person, much less one who gave birth to you. I do agree, though, that OP would need to continue asserting herself, and saying things to the effect of “it would be best for everyone if each of us ran their own life”. Otherwise the parents will assume that OP has finally come to see things their way, and will double down on running her life. I am 50. My children are in their 20s. The only reason why my parents aren’t running my, and my children’s, lives right now is that dad is gone, and mom is 80 and has no energy to do that anymore. (plus we use the cats to deflect.) And she still occasionally tries, and needs to be told no.

      1. Sigh

        You can’t change anyone else, but you can change your level of contact, the information the other person receives from you and from social media, your response to inappropriate requests, and your address, telephone number, and email.

    3. Sigh

      You’re not alone, I dissented above too. :) This need to have such a level of control isn’t indicative of a healthy relationship and perhaps not of a healthy person. Mom needs to deal with her own control issues and work them out, and treating her like a child you’re distracting from a bowl of candy is effective coping now, but is not a sustainable long term plan. Unless you and your sibling decide to work all your life milestones and needs around her issues…which I’ve seen done, but don’t recommend.

      Good job coping with the here and now, but I really encourage you to keep working on this.

  32. Umvue

    Oh my god, I love this letter writer because all of a sudden I understand my in-laws. They’ve figured out how to self-channel that helicopter energy, at this point (as we speak my FIL is at my house doing a remodeling project). But this update letter was genuinely, immediately useful to me personally.

  33. GreenDoor

    I think the young OP just grew up a bit right before our eyes! I remember that feeling of complete freedom when I got my first place. Great update, OP. Congrats on getting your first apartment – and on getting mom out of your hair!

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