my mom wants to come with me to a professional conference and isn’t taking no for an answer

A reader writes:

I have been in a job that I love for the past four years. It’s a government job that has the possibility to expire within the next four years. I’m scheduled to attend a conference that is not technically for my job but it is the same industry and it’s a fantastic networking opportunity. I paid for it out of my own pocket and I plan to attend with the full intention of making contacts that I can use in the future for future job opportunities. Also, in my free time, I plan on meeting up with my old college friends that I haven’t seen in a few years.

I feel that it is important to note that I am the youngest employee on staff, both now and when I was hired at age 19. I’ve been told at my annual reviews that I am highly valued/trusted, and my subsequent raises, bonuses, and promotions have reflected that. I’ve been told often that I am very mature for my age and people would have never guessed my real age because they assumed that I was older.

This brings me to my question to you. I’m writing in regards to my mother. She seems to have never come to grips with her empty nest (I’m the youngest and do not live at home). She often is very critical of me and my decisions, both personal and professional. She has told me on more than one occasion how to do my job even though she doesn’t fully get what I do. I told her about the upcoming conference and she insisted on coming with me because it’s such a long drive away and she wants to meet the people that could potentially be future employers.

I put my foot down and told her no. I often get the feeling of impostor syndrome, and since I am a young employee I often feel like I still have to prove my worth. So, having my mommy come with me to a big adult work conference was absolutely out of the question. She of course was hurt by it and now she’s mad at me for telling her no. She is saying that she wants to come as a mini vacation but it seems to me that she just wants to be my chaperone.

I have told her no, but since that conversation she’s made passive-agressive comments about how I don’t want her to come with me. Often times it doesn’t feel like she sees me as an adult but rather a stupid teenager. I’m not sure where to go from here, but I’m hoping you can offer me some guidance.

Good lord, stick with that no.

She can make all the passive-agressive comments she wants, but she still doesn’t get to come with you. Bringing your mom to a professional conference so that she can meet your potential future employers (!) is not a thing that is done, and your instincts about this are right on.

If she complains that you don’t want her to come with you, respond with this: “You’re right. I don’t want you to come with me because that would look incredibly weird and unprofessional.”

It sounds like she’s hoping that complaining that you don’t want her to come will make you feel guilty and get you to give in. By agreeing with her — “You’re right! I don’t!” — you’ll hopefully take some of the wind out of those sails.

And if she continues complaining about it or making other pointed remarks, say, “This isn’t something that’s up for discussion” and then immediately change the subject to your new cat/her basement remodel/some other topic of interest. If that doesn’t work, then say, “Well, it sounds like we should end this conversation. I’ll talk with you next week!” and then … end the conversation (meaning hang up or, if you’re in person, leave).

If you’re not used to setting that kind of boundary with your mom, it might feel hard or even rude at first, but it’s a necessity in order to move toward a healthy adult relationship with her. And really, while it might feel unkind, it’s actually in her best interests too — because if you don’t do that, the chances go way up that over time her behavior will cause you to eventually disconnect from her in bigger ways. Helping her learn better boundaries increases the chance that you can actually have an emotionally fulfilling relationship with each other in time. (To be realistic, not everyone gets to have one of those with their parents. But this will increase your chances of it.)

More broadly, as long as she remains highly critical of you and your decisions, you probably should be sharing less with her. She can’t criticize what she doesn’t hear about, so don’t give her fodder for the criticism. Or, share selectively with her — talking to her about low-stakes things that you don’t really care if she criticizes, like what you’re cooking or a laundry question you have. (Actually, maybe not a laundry question if that will reinforce her belief that you’re not self-sufficient … although there’s also sometimes benefit in letting in this kind of parent where they can be useful and where you’d actually appreciate their input.)

But by reacting so negatively when you share things with her, she’s forfeiting the right to hear important things about your life. Which sucks, because I’m sure you want to have an emotionally intimate relationship with your mom! For now, though, I’d parcel out information more carefully, until/unless she shows that she’ll handle it supportively and appropriately.

{ 392 comments… read them below }

  1. Hills to Die on*

    Oh my Good Lord in Heaven do NOT under any circumstances give in to this. She is being totally irrational. I would push back with the force of 1000 demons if my mom even thought about it. Let her pout the same way you would ignore a complete stranger who randomly asked to borrow your car. Because that’s how irrational this is.

    1. HS Teacher*

      This is the kind of mother that should be left out of work conversations, like Alison said. OP, I know it sounds harsh, but your mother is out of control. The less you tell her about what’s going on with you, the less chance she has to criticize it. You do not have to share things with her. Take it from the daughter of an overbearing, overly-critical mother. I only tell her things she needs to know!

    2. Steve*

      Unless you’re going to a nepotism conference, having a parent as a tag-along will be an instant dealbreaking red flag for anybody sane. Bringing a parent would not only negate the purpose of the conference, but cause you to be in a worse professional spot than if you never went to the conference at all.

      1. Len F*

        …and, if your aim is to network, there’s no point going to a nepotism conference anyway. They’re always giving the jobs to their relatives ;)

    3. OP*

      Just read through all the comments. Thank you to everyone for their kind words and support. I’m glad that I’m not crazy. I was worried I might be the only one that experiences things like this. Boundaries definitely need to be discussed. She’s tried pulling this act on me before. There’s a few other conversations below that I’ll also respond to. Thank you.

      1. Kris*

        Sending you supportive thoughts, OP. My mother ignores boundaries, too, and at times I’ve had to give her a hard “no.” I’m a lawyer, and early in my career my mom wanted to come to see me in court. While that might be okay with a boundary-respecting parent, I could not trust my mom to behave appropriately. I feared that she would treat this very serious case like a school play, with her as the central figure (the “star’s” mother), so I had to tell her no. She was pretty upset. More recently, I had to tell her she could not attend an event at my child’s high school that was clearly directed to parents, not grandparents. You are not alone, OP.

        1. AKchic*

          Ugh. I feel you here. I had both boundary-stomping mother *and* grandfather.

          My mom was off and on boundary-stomping. She’s narcisstic so it all depends on what will make her look good. My grandpa was “patriarch” and “overprotective father figure” who was “very much in control” and “family protector” to all of us “single gals” (yeah, cringe and eye roll at the generational thing).

          When I started having kids, my mom would frequently try to be “young, hip grandma” so she could be mistaken for Mom. This was partially fueled by my being a teen mom and some of her friends had late-life babies so some of her high school friends went to school with my kids.
          My grandpa wanted to be around all the time because these were his only grandsons and I was a single mother and obviously needed his protection from all of the vicious, nasty guys of the world who were going to take advantage of my youth and femininity. (again, feel free to cringe, gag and roll your eyes, we all did. He meant well, coming from his era, but man did he stomp over boundaries)

          Grandpa showing up at work to drop off 10 cartons of ice cream because “they were on sale at a good deal” was common. Showing up at my office because I didn’t answer my cell because he saw a meat sale and wanted to know if I was “running low” was common (yep, he bought the meat, so while he was there, how about he just give it to me now? Oh, no room in the office freezer for 40lbs of meat, well how about the house key and I’ll run it to your house real quick? Oh, the spare freezer is full of 35 gallons of ice cream?)
          Mom showing up to parent/teacher conferences to “help” when I didn’t ask (and didn’t live with her) – yep. It happened. Because my grandpa worried I would be in over my head.

          The both of them got quite the earful and it took forever to get healthy boundaries established between my mom and I. Mostly. There are still some issues, but they are livable. Grandpa’s reformation was short-lived because he got sick and became immobile prior to his passing. However, towards the end he was trying to get my grandma to slip me cash that I didn’t need. We pretended in his sight and then I’d put it back in her purse in the other room. The same $20 bill every day for 6 weeks.

          1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

            Your option to the ice cream drop off could be an impromptu office ice cream party and be a star for years. I used to get the “take this $20 just in case of an emergency” from my grandma for years. It wasn’t needed but she needed the control giving cash gave her.

            1. AKchic*

              At the time, I worked in remote catering. We had maybe 5 people in the office at any given time and no place to store any of the food, and only one person besides me who could have eaten the ice cream safely (the others were older and had dietary/health restrictions). If there had been *any* place for me to give that ice cream away right then and there, I would have.
              Before I’d moved, my previous neighbors were given a lot of ice cream. For some reason, my grandpa thought my 5, 3, and 1 year old would be eating 2 gallons of ice cream a night and supplied accordingly. It didn’t help that my uncle worked as a driver for an ice cream company and got ice cream for free.

          2. PurpleNovember*

            If you need a little extra support, there’s a Reddit forum that’s specifically for those of us who grew up in toxic households: : “This is a support group for people raised by a parent with toxic, self-absorbed or abusive personality traits, which may be exhibited by those who suffer from cluster B personality disorders.”

            It’s well-modded, and covers a wide range of topics.

          3. Regular Dynamo*

            That brings back flashbacks of when my 85-year-old grandfather showed up at my office on my birthday.

            Granddad bought cupcakes, but they had flipped over in the plastic container and icing was everywhere but the cupcakes. He opened the container and got the icing all over his hands. Aged 85 and from the backwoods to begin with, he began licking the icing off his fingers in front of a couple of coworkers.

            I was mortified. My boss, who saw it, thought it was hilarious and reminded me of it every now and then afterwards.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        I am very fortunate to have parents who respect boundaries and get that I’m an actual adult. My husband does not, and he had to work very hard to set boundaries with them. OP, it is hard but it is worth it.

      3. IntelligentAmoeba*

        Be aware of your mother trying to invite herself to the conference i.e. showing up uninvited to try and “help”. I would keep conference details as minimal as possible if you can such as where you’r stay and where you will be if possible.

        1. AsItIs*

          Agreed. No information that she can use to google. And it doesn’t matter if she’s not computer literate. Boundary stompers will find a way.

      4. Blueberry*

        You’re not the only one, OP. (A quick glance at AAM’s “family, spouses & significant others” will turn up many, many cases.) I’m cheering you on!

      5. Screenwriter Mom*

        Oh, you’re certainly not the only one! I can’t stress enough how damaging it would be–both because you’d look insane that your mommy came, and because you can’t trust your mom not to say something damaging! Your mom loves you, but she’s expressing it in a really inappropriate way, and you and only you can make sure that you keep sane boundaries. Don’t let her gaslight you.

        Can I tell you how I know? Two stories:

        1. Me at 22, a grad student, TA’ing a class. Mom decided to audit the course. It went like this:
        Me: [states important theory, writes it on the board, begins to explain it to the class]
        Mom: “No, you’re wrong!”
        Me: [turns to check what I’ve written, to be certain, then turns back calmly]: No, this is correct. [attempts to continue]
        Mom: [assertively, as though I’m 8 and she’s telling me I can’t have a cookie before dinner]: “NO–”
        At this point it takes all my youthful self-restraint not to yell “MOOOOoomm, shut UP!” but I just say “See me after class.” and continue. She then spends the rest of the day telling me how rude I am. I tell her she can’t continue to audit the class unless she keeps quiet. She grouses about this for years.

        2. Me at 42, having changed careers, becoming a successful TV writer-producer. I was producing my first TV show; I’d written it and was producing the pilot, in charge of 200 people. Like a fool, proudly invited my mother to come for the day. She
        (1) Changed her blouse in the parking lot and told me to stop being so ridiculous when I tried to make her stop. (I ended up reflexively reverting to what I did as a teen, that is, hiding behind another parked car, pretending I didn’t know her–and colleagues came across me crouching like a 13 year old and asked what on earth was I doing.)
        (2) She spoke to my line producer (my employee), while I was busy on the phone, and said to him “I don’t know how you put up with her, isn’t she awful?” (My line producer was completely bewildered and asked me what he was supposed to say back, since he wanted to be polite to his boss’s mother.)
        (3) Belittled me to my assistant and to the director I’d hired
        (4) When I told her she was never coming to any of my workplaces again, that she’d belittled me to my own staff, answered “Well how was I supposed to know everyone works for you?”

        She never came to any of my workplaces again.

        She fought the boundaries I set her for her entire, long-lived life (she was still arguing with me about the fact that my then-boyfriend’s parents took me and the b.f. on a vacation “and allowed us to have sex” when I was 21—FORTY YEARS LATER).
        You MUST place boundaries, and just be firm.
        I can tell you something reassuring: although she drove me nuts, to the point where I could barely talk to her for months on end, at the end of her life, in her 90s, she mellowed, and I, in my 60s, was much clearer about boundaries; she needed me and I took care of her, and we were as close as when I was a little girl. She passed away a few years ago and I miss her every day!
        So perhaps the best way to understand it is that by putting reasonable boundaries, you will be able to have a good relationship with her.

        1. JanetInSC*

          I don’t know how you managed, and then took care of her in her old age. You’re awesome. I wonder if moms are sometimes jealous of their successful daughters.

          1. AKchic*

            Yes. Very much so.
            My grandmother is jealous of my mother and I to a certain extent, while still holding her patriarchal/religious views of “men support family and women take care of home and *me*” (she didn’t want to go into assisted living, but even if we weren’t working, my mom and I couldn’t have physically cared for her).
            My mom is also jealous and competes with me over ridiculous things.
            Example: My house. I moved into a house in a neighborhood my mom covets 2 years ago. For a year she did almost nothing but discuss how she needed to move into the neighborhood (she lived one street over from the neighborhood proper), every house that came up for sale, she would schedule to look at. Um… y’don’t need a 5 bedroom house with a 3 car garage and den with wet bar when it’s just you and my stepdad (“but I’ll have guests!” but you don’t have guests now?), to say nothing of actually being able to afford such a place and your plans of moving across country in 5 years.

        2. Specialk9*

          You were 60 and she was still berating you for what you did as a grown adult in your early 20s. That’s ridiculous. I’m amazed at your forebearance.

          1. Artemesia*

            I can so relate to this. I could not stop my mother from doing this sort of thing without literally saying ‘I never want to hear another word about this again, EVER.’

          2. London Calling*

            In my late forties my mother was still complaining about the money she’d had to contribute to my university education when I was eighteen. Now partly I get that – she was a widow with two younger children and she was having to contribute a small portion of her hard earned, but she was congenitally incapable of letting it go. It was like a nervous tic.

          3. Screenwriter Mom*

            What can I say? She also had a hilarious sense of humor, was well-read, with strong articulate views on everything, witty, and widely educated. She was British and could still recite reams of poetry at length from memory. She was fascinating and very intelligent–she’d been in British Navy Intelligence and worked on the Enigma machine that broke the Nazi code (you may remember it from the movie “The Imitation Game”). She’d kept her oath to secrecy VERY seriously and never told us a DAMN thing about her work, even after the movie came out!!! She loved sweets and chocolates and pretty things–it was always fun to bring her back souvenirs from travel. She was, in short, a character, although not the most nurturing Mama. Our relationship was actually much much better when I no longer needed mothering, and best of all when I could actually mother her. I was much kinder to her than she’d ever been to me, and I honestly see our earlier relationship as problematic because she wanted ME to be the mother.

            She was also a fierce champion of me–she actually did admire my successes, and constantly said things along the line of “well of COURSE they hired you, you were obviously the most intelligent person they’d ever seen!” She was terribly sympathetic when our son turned out to have grievous mental health issues that spiraled into substance abuse. We could talk about anything and everything, and even if we argued all the time, we’d talk for hours on end.

            She was flawed, and could be silly and ditzy, and self-absorbed and stubborn, but she wasn’t mean, or cruel, just childish. Her teen years had been wrecked by WW2, and I think she was scarred by it. Towards the end, there was a moment where I truly forced an issue–she hated having people in the house, and I insisted on hiring a cleaning crew, flew up from L.A. to Berkeley (my home town) to supervise them while she complained miserably. But the next day–she was still mobile–she came downstairs and saw how sparkling clean everything was, and said “You know, I have to admire you. You decide to do something, and you DO it. You even had to fight me, but you DID it!” Aw, I miss her so much.

            1. London Calling*

              Her teen years had been wrecked by WW2, and I think she was scarred by it.

              I think that was the same with my mother. She was evacuated to Yorkshire, then she came back to London and was there when it was being bombed.

      6. Anonymeece*

        You’re not alone, OP! I have a boundary-pushing mother, as well, and I get how wearing it is to constantly say “no”. I like Alison’s suggestion of telling her you’re not discussing it, then leaving/hanging up if she continues. It takes a lot of effort to continue saying no, and you don’t have to deal with it. (I’m also the youngest, which I think has a lot to do with it, as you pointed out!).

        Good luck – it sounds like you’re in a great place already, professionally speaking, and you should absolutely not feel bad for not letting your mother win this one!

      7. Gaia*

        Oh yea, you aren’t alone here. My mother has firm boundaries but Grandfather? None. He once called my employer (not my boss, just the general number he found in the phone book) to complain I wasn’t making enough money. He thought I should be “at least half way to six figures by now!” I had two years of experience. In customer service. At a call center.

        Thankfully my boss (when she heard) just felt horror and pity for me.

      8. Flash Bristow*

        I’m really glad you’re finding the comments constructive, cos I don’t see them as piling in (OMG no!) but supporting you. My own mother is overbearing and controlling (that’s an understatement) and as she seems so *nice* to outsiders it can be hard to say no.

        Find that strength! Put her on what’s called an info diet – don’t tell her anything you don’t want her acting on and/or sharing with everyone you know.

        She really is pushing it but I’m so glad you have identified how inappropriate this is, and you’re able to take action.

        In case a support network would help, I’ve been hugely supported in issues with my own mother on a section of reddit which helps with pushy mothers and mother in laws. You’d be very welcome there and further techniques to handle this might help if you want.

        It’s at (I hope we are allowed to post links? It’s not anything I get money for mentioning!)

        Reddit is like the whole Internet – there are good and bad areas and all human life is here – but I find the support I’ve had in getting scripts to deal with my mother pushing boundaries… Well it’s incredible.

        I wish you all the best. You sound strong. Don’t waiver,

        1. Monika*

          I second JustNoMil! They have lots of good advice for dealing with JustNos.

          This site has come up over there too, I remember someone asking about a woman at work who was trying to mom him/her.

        2. Autumnheart*

          That sub has awesome popcorn fodder, if nothing else. (Sometimes too good, since there has been a crackdown on posters who seem to be trying their hand at their own screenplays, as opposed to people legitimately seeking support.) “Crazy mother wants to come to adult child’s work conference” would fit right in.

      9. crochetaway*

        Another good site with resources on dealing with boundary stomping relatives is DWIL Nation on babycenter. DWIL stands for Dealing With In Laws, but the people over there are awesome about helping you figure out situations and setting up boundaries with either your family or your in-laws family. Good luck OP!

      10. Vicky Austin*

        Years ago, I applied for a job that would require frequent travelling to places like Washington, DC and Arizona. (I live in New England and so do my parents). When I told my mom, she asked, “If they allow you to bring a guest to these conferences, and your husband can’t make it, can I come along?” I was speechless for a few seconds, then I reminded her that I hadn’t even been hired yet and was still in the application process. She finally shut up.
        I didn’t get the job, but I’m sure that if I had gotten it and had clearly explained to her why it would have been inappropriate for her to attend my conferences, that she would have understood and backed off. She’s nowhere as pushy and smothering as your mother— she just ocassionally makes faux pas like anyone else.

        1. PhyllisB*

          Vicky, that doesn’t sound so terrible to me. Of course, since you didn’t get the job, the point is moot, but it sounds like she was thinking she could spend a bit of time with you in off-hours and see a different part of the country. If my mother had asked that, or if I asked my children that I would not have taken it bad. However, if it was really a situation that this is NOT DONE I would have explained to mother and daughters would have explained to me, and no harm, no foul.

          1. Vicky Austin*

            Yeah, my mother is nowhere as boundary-challenged as OP’s mom. I was just appalled because she asked before I even was offered the job!

      11. selena81*

        i’m in my late 30s and whenever i (or my siblings) go out with my mother it tends to spiral into ‘i do not know that woman’. I’d love to be the kind of person that stands by their relatives even in their mental illness, but i’m not.

        She has no sense of boundaries or manners and will shout ‘hey look a disabled/colored person’ or start conversations with mortified strangers (the irony is that people will sometimes call her fat, and she get rightfully upset at that, but she appears to be mentally incapable of connecting that hurt feeling with her loudly critiquing other people)

        She is constantly buying candy in an attempt to control us. No matter how many times we tell her to buy more vegetables or some better clothes for herself. Her weird money-habits have at some time even prevented her from buying a simple alarmclock (making her sleepy all day as she had to sleep very light to get up on time): all so she could ‘sacrifice’ herself. Of course we’d be happy to buy these simple things for her, but she _wants_ to be a martyr so we have to constantly pry all those needs from her.

        But overall the thing i hate most is that she seems to want ME to be the adult, to be the one who takes responsibility (even when i was like 10 years old and looked ridiculous and filthy because she never corrected my 10-year-old fashion sense).
        There seems to be some ‘blindly going along with everything someone wants shows how much you love them’ going on. I tried telling her that whenever children are concerned a guiding hand is often more appreciated by junior, but that is not something she is open to hearing.

    4. Kitty*

      Not even an adult stranger, a toddler. Treat this like the the toddler whining it is and don’t reward bad behaviour!

    5. Nervous Accountant*

      I was having this issue w my mother but about health related things. Stopped telling her everything, she stops saying ridiculous things and we dont fight…about that anyway.

  2. LadyKelvin*

    Alison gives good advice, stick with that no! Also, stop giving her any information about your trip. She just might show up unannounced if you give her details about when, where, and where you are staying. Ask me how I know. My parents find out about my trips the week before I leave, and I’m over 30 and married.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Seconding. I’m on an assignment where I travel to the same location every week. My son (13) came with me over Memorial Day week, and we did some fun things. My parents thought that sounded so fun that they should come up here, too. I found this out on Facebook a week ago, via a wall conversation my dad had with someone else that didn’t involve me at all. This really threw me for a loop–like, why would they think this is a thing that can happen? My son visiting was a very special circumstance, and I knew I could take time to entertain him. I’m 40, and they’re known boundary violators.

    2. Logan*

      I am in a similar situation, although thankfully the result is more about endless criticisms than unannounced arrivals. The effect is the same, as my parent knows quite a bit about my work, but only ever after the fact.

    3. Goya de la Mancha*

      This made me laugh because my little brother tells my parents the night before…and usually only to ask for a ride to the airport!

      Our parents really aren’t that bad, they would never dream of imposing, but they will definitely bombard you with questions and worry.

    4. LibraryChick*

      When my boundry violating parents stated, “We have a right to see our child whenever we want to!” in response to my request that they stop coming by my work and hanging out for hours, I knew it was time to move far, far away. I was 26 at the time.

      1. LadyKelvin*

        I live about 4000 miles from my parents, I just happened to be travelling to a city I used to live in that was closer to them, so the flew down and “surprised” me. I don’t have to worry about them just dropping by anymore, although when we lived 5 hours from them they would just show up for the weekend.

    5. Specialk9*

      This whole column was like a beautiful distillation of why I love Ask A Manager so much. Happy sigh.

  3. justsomeone*

    Conferences aren’t vacations! I know of exactly one industry conference that is interesting to people outside of that industry. Your instinct is right – she wants to chaperone you. Alison’s advice is spot on – she’s being a sMother and you need to stick to your “No.”

    1. offtopic*

      “I know of exactly one industry conference that is interesting to people outside of that industry.”

      Consumer electronics?

      (Adult film?)

      1. Widget*

        I’d say Book Expo or the American Library Associations conference, personally. (Re: ALA – for $75, you can go to the exhibits hall and get pre-publication releases from all the major publishers. My wife joins me every time I go – we came home from the last conference with 122 books.)

        1. justsomeone*

          That’s true – and I’m laughing at myself for overlooking that one because I’m one of those people that wishes I could have attended ALA this weekend. (I went to the Locus awards instead though, since it’s local to me and I’m a book blogger.)

          So I amend myself to say “I know of two.” I am sure there are others, but only two come to mind.

          1. Drago Cucina*

            Just returned. We rented a mini-van to take a group to ALA. With over 5,100 vendors it’s overwhelming and amazing. Monday one major publisher told a member of our group that they were tired and the major display shelves had been gone over. He was instructed to take as much as he wanted. No one had touched the Spanish language books. Yes, he took it all and they cheered him. Yay for us! Yay for our patrons!

        2. CoveredInBees*

          You and your wife sound like my kind of people. I never knew this was an option. :-D

      2. justsomeone*

        Yeah, CES was what I was thinking of. Arguments could be made for other conferences, I’m sure, but I still imagine most people being disappointed to show up to an adult film industry conference to find it full of fully clothed people on a panel discussing consent, STDs, legislation and distribution channels, among other mundane aspects of their industry.

        1. JHunz*

          I’ll say from personal experience that Game Developers Conference is fantastic as any sort of developer or gamer, not just for people actually making games.

          1. Optimistic Prime*

            The Game Developers Conferences and the Electronic Entertainment Expo were the two I was thinking off.

        2. Wintermute*

          Even CES isn’t the most thrilling for 99% of it. There’s one or two really cool boths, increasingly major phone manufacturers aren’t releasing their flagships at CIS (Samsung hasn’t lately, Apple never did nor did Google, preferring fall releases) so you’re getting a look at Motorola’s latest budget model (their flagship released have increasingly tended towards later in the year too), and the rest of the place is smart-home-enabled driers, 80,000 dollar fridges from Samsung with sodastream dispensers built into the door, and the very latest in useless “internet of things” devices.

        1. justsomeone*

          I actually went to a chocolate convention once that was half public and half for industry folks. Pretty much a snoozefest except for the tasting portion, which was geared to the public.

        1. sam*

          I’ve been to that a few times because my dad has sometimes been an exhibitor, and it *is* fun, but also, in between the samples, you spend A LOT of time listening to people pitch their 27,000 uses for quinoa.

      3. Feline*

        IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) Expo? There’s a reason it’s closed to everyone outside the industry. It would be mobbed by people going for fun.

      4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        There’s always at least a few keen amateurs at every archaeology conference I’ve ever been to. Often they know more than us so called professionals.

      1. nnn*

        This gave me the mental image of people going to other industry conferences in industry-specific cosplay

        1. Grapey*

          Blue button up shirt with khakis, a hoodie, and a branded backpack or messenger bag: “Look, I’m a software developer!”

      2. justsomeone*

        Was originally, but now are absolutely not now. They are entertainment machines in their current iteration. :)

        1. Agent Veronica*

          Depends on the con. SDCC is a promotion machine, but many smaller cons remain interesting and individual.

      3. Moonbeam Malone*

        CTN Animation Expo seems to be going in that direction as well. To what extent so far I’m not entirely sure – I haven’t been since 2014. I still wouldn’t bring my mother with me, though!

    2. Minerva*

      Right!? I don’t get people who act like business/conference travel is the same as a vacation. Yeah you can get is a little site-seeing if you’re lucky.

      Not that mom is *really* going to consider this a vacation, she’s helicoptering like a Black Hawk. Stick to your guns LW. If you don’t I wouldn’t be surprised if AAM has a letter in a few months time that says “I’m a conference organizer for International Teapots Trade Show and you’ll never believe this one attendee who brought her MOTHER!”

      1. 2horseygirls*

        “she’s helicoptering like a Black Hawk”

        If I ever get back into higher ed, I am *SO* using this! :)

      2. OP*

        “helicoptering like a Black Hawk” Ha! That is the best. I’ll use that. This conference is definitely not a vacation. And, the schedule is so damn busy that there would be no time to hang out afterwards like she would like. I also used that excuse in my “no” to her.

        1. Specialk9*

          Ooh. I’m generally opposed to the over application to “Never JADE” folks to regular interactions… but that’s not your mom. You actually should strongly consider not getting into Justifying, Arguing, Defending, or Explaining with your mom. Check out “JADE” online.

          1. AsItIs*

            Exactly! Excuses open doors for bargaining. “I won’t have any time” will be countered with “that doesn’t matter. I just to be there.” She would then expect you find time because she’s “traveled all this way to be with you!” Waaaahh!

        2. Vicky Austin*

          As I told you in my reply to you above, my mom once requested that she accompany me on a work trip (before I even got the job, nonetheless!). However, I believe what she had in mind was that she would go off and do siteseeing while I was at the conference. Sometimes, she and my dad accompany each other on work trips and do just that.
          Judging by your mom’s comments about wanting to meet your future employers, however, indicates that siteseeing while you’re at the conference is NOT what she had in mind. What she wants is to crash your conference, and that’s totally inappropriate.

    3. Kathleen_A*

      I do sometimes go to a conference where people often bring family members, and a couple of my PR sistren (a female version of “brethren,” invented, AFAIK, by the late great Molly Ivins) from other states have actually sometimes brought their mothers. BUT:
      1. In the case of the sistren from other states, neither are in the early stages of their careers and nobody thinks they are bringing their moms because they themselves are so immature and helpless. What people think is that they are going to have a nice mother-daughter getaway *after* the conference is over, and also “How nice that Sharon gets to spend some time with her mom, who lives several hours away from her.”
      2. The mother and/or other family members don’t go to the conference at all. They amuse themselves while the conferee attends sessions, networks, etc. The conferee takes some vacation days after the conference, and most of the family fun-time occurs then.
      3. The mother in question never guilted her way into the trip.
      4. Nobody at all ever has had a mom who thought she needed to meet potential employers.

      So it can be done, but not, I strongly suspect, with this OP’s mother, and anyway, the OP doesn’t want her mom there, and really, why should she? So Alison’s script sounds great to me.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          Molly was talented, but probably not that talented. :-) I’m a real word nerd, so thanks for the info!

      1. Epiphyta*

        I’m at a technical conference right now with a dedicated family track: among other goodies, they provide a three-day Go Boston card that gets me into lots of museums, so I’ve been eating breakfast with the spouse and running off with friends for the day.

    4. President Porpoise*

      I brought my husband and baby along for conferences a couple of times. They didn’t attend any portion – they hung out with my parents, who lived in the same city. I brought them delicious gummy bears, and that was the extent of their involvement. Was that weird for me to do? Genuinely asking.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        No – at least not in my circles. It might be elsewhere. But around here, bringing one or more family members is quite common, and nobody thinks anything about it unless the families intrude into the conference. I mean, the woman who brought her fiance and sat on his lap in the hotel lobby? She was talked about. The guy whose wife came to every workshop even though she knows nothing about the industry? They both were definitely talked about. But people who bring their families and hang out with them outside of the conference are not a problem.

      2. GG Two shoes*

        No, in my experience it’s pretty normal. What’s not normal is a family member INSISTING on attending conference events that are geared towards recruiting/networking.

      3. GlitsyGus*

        I don’t think so. Like you said, this was so they could basically sleep in your hotel room and visit your parents while you were doing work things and you wanted them there, they didn’t invite themselves along. As long as your company doesn’t frown on that kind of thing and you didn’t scrimp out on any work-necessary networking type things there isn’t anything wrong there.

      4. Gingerblue*

        That’s totally normal in my circles (academic conferences), especially when there’s a breastfeeding infant to consider or a particularly fun destination city for kids/spouse to enjoy. Parents would be another matter!

      5. SQL Coder Cat*

        Family coming along to a conference is totally normal. I’m in education IT, and one of the major conferences for the industry is always held in wonderful places- Orlando, San Diego, etc. There’s a one day conference held by one of the major related vendors that is always scheduled two days before the major conference, leaving one day free for everyone to explore the city. Almost everyone I know brings their spouse/SO so they can have that day together exploring.

        Now if my spouse tried to attend the conference… that would not go over well at all.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          I am actually not crazy about it either. I mean, I love him and he’s fun to vacation with, but he isn’t very good at entertaining himself away from home, so I would find it really distracting to have him with me in a place where he didn’t have other people besides me to rely on. And to be fair, he really doesn’t want to come either because, as he says, “You’re working while you’re there.” If he wanted to come near the end of the conference so we could do fun stuff after, that would be fine. But to have him there while I’m doing my conference-going thing? Nope.

        2. Jules the Third*

          Let’s be specific: Family coming with you to the city where the conference is happening = Not Weird
          Family not in the industry coming with you to the actual conference = Weird.

      6. Kj*

        Nope! My dad took my mom and I to the city where the conferences were held most years. The cities tended to be great vacation spots. Mom and I shopped, wandered and explored, Dad went to the conference. We stayed in little B&Bs that were cheaper than the conference hotel and let us all have a great time. Dad would join us for a day at either end to explore the city.

      7. CarrotCake*

        Ive tagged along with my husband. Before kids and with one. I’ve been to the conference area twice, to pick up something or other. At most once a trip I meet up with the group for dinner, but only for international travel.

        It’s not uncommon for a spouse to use the free hotel room and work paid for flight (of their spouse) to piggy back into a cheaper way to get a foreign vacation.

        There is a high number non American born coworkers so these often become trips Back Home.

        I very much love getting to explore on my own and my husband doesn’t really like to be away so it’s always been overwhelmingly positive for us.

      8. Brett*

        This has been an extremely huge issue in my industry lately. At a recent high level conference (one of the big five in the industry) an entire session (out of about 20) was cancelled because the conference refused to provide childcare for the single-parent session organizer who had to bring their children.
        Only one of the big five conferences provides childcare (and they provide very excellent childcare at that). The other four conferences are notoriously unfriendly to children and family members, and a lot of people are now pointing to this as a factor in those conferences being unrepresentative of the diversity in the industry.

        1. Specialk9*

          I’m pretty shocked that anyone would expect a conference to get babysitters for them. Is this an industry with very very low wages? Why would anyone expect not to pay for their own childcare otherwise?

          1. Ophelia*

            Honestly, it’s probably because it’s *added* childcare – they’re still paying daycare back at home (you still pay if you skip a day), and if they’re a single parent, they then have to schlep their kids and also pay for childcare at the location (which, in a city like NYC, would run about $200/day assuming a 10-hour day) OR pay someone to stay overnight with their kids. I don’t know the answer here, but it’s not chump change, and I can see how it would be a significant barrier to attendance for a lot of people.

        2. Safetykats*

          Presumably everyone has childcare in their normal working like, arranged but them personally, not provided by their employer. I don’t see how showing up at a conference with your baby and asking where you drop her off is any more reasonable than showing up at the office with your baby and asking the same. Also – and obviously – it’s ridiculous that this wasn’t worked out in advance. As an attendee, I would have been pissed off at the waste of my time.

          1. MsSolo*

            I wonder if it’s the fact that if you’re a single parent staying overnight there’s a much higher chance your normal childcare won’t cover that, so you’ve brought them with you, but the local childcare / hotel babysitting service isn’t set up for an entire conference’s worth of kids, meaning only a small handful of people can actually secure childcare near the site.

        3. Dancing In The Dark*

          Expecting your work conferences to provide childcare sounds incredibly entitled to me, not unrepresentative of diversity.

      9. Falling Diphthong*

        1) No.
        2) Like you, when I did this with tiny children it was in a city where we had relatives eager to see said tiny children. If I was on my own, staying home where we could arrange play dates with their friends was probably more relaxing than exploring a new city while their dad technically occupied the same hotel room as us for a few hours each night.

        (Travel with the oldest alone worked fine at some ages–she was a thoughtful and interested 1 year old–but the younger learned to crawl and was immediately like “time to defy death.” I remember a family trip to the Grand Canyon where the other 3 of us were working through a flu my husband had picked up on the flight out, and so whoever had the most energy would go and watch him while he literally ran around in circles so he wouldn’t fall into the adjacent canyon, or at least someone would notice if he did.)

      10. Mad Baggins*

        I worked at a medical conference and some doctor brought his wife and child to his presentation. She was taking pictures and video until the baby started crying and then she had to go wait outside. It was endearing and weird at the same time.

      11. Erin*

        Ha, my husband and i actually go to 1-2 conferences/year together because we are in the same industry.

        We don’t share hotel rooms and basically never see each other, though we try to book the same flights if possible.

        Our employers are sometimes-competitors and it’s be weird for me to take calls/meetings from a shared hotel room. We both wind&some clients all week long and are on totally different schedules, and our companies often stay at different hotels.

      12. The Other Katie*

        I go along to conferences with my partner sometimes, but usually it’s because I want to see the city the conference is in. I entertain myself, except for the odd dinner or fancy party, and I’m definitely not there to monitor him!

        1. not really a lurker anymore*

          The one conference I attend is in Vegas. My spouse and I usually fly out on Friday, drink and goof off, then he goes to the drink fest, er, sorry, meet and greet on Sunday night. then we shove him into a taxi on Monday morning and he goes home and I go to conference stuff.

      13. blackcat*

        Nope! Though it does depend on the field.

        I went to a small, international conference two years ago. In addition to the conference-y stuff, there was a “social programme” of local touristy stuff where they had booked a few busses to take us to locations in the afternoon after a morning of business stuff. The organizers specifically allowed us to pay extra to bring guests with us. I had my mom there (this conference was in a country she had always wanted to visit, where our ancestors are from), one dude brought his dad, there were a half dozens spouses, and a sister.

        So it was not at all weird! When I was busy my mom either explored on her own or hung out at the restaurant/bar/lobby area of the hotel, which was large and full of not-conference people. She made friends with a couple other folks. One day, she decided to head to the university hosting the conference and hung out at the on campus pub and was that random 60-something American woman chatting up random college students.

        We also traveled both before and after the conference, so we made a larger vacation out of it.

      14. Vicky Austin*

        My mom and dad used to accompany each other on business trips and did something similar. If it was my mom’s business trip, my dad would go siteseeing by himself during my mom’s conferences and meetings; and my mom did the same thing when it was my dad’s business trip. Then they would have dinner and go out on the town together once the meetings had ended for the day. They would also either arrive at the location a day or two before the conference or stay a few days after it ended, so that they could have a few days of vacation together.

    5. FortyTwo*

      One of my papers was accepted to an academic conference in Europe. My in-laws have no experience with academia, so not only did they assume my husband and son were coming with me, they asked if they could come along, too! My husband had to explain that I was the only one going, and I wasn’t going to have any time for sight-seeing.

  4. Detective Amy Santiago*

    What if you suggest that you two plan another get away for after your business trip?

    1. seller of teapots*

      As someone with a mother with co-dependency issues, this is actually still rewarding her bad behavior and catering to her boundary-trampling ways. I think Alison’s advice is the way to go.

      1. Antilles*

        Not only does it reward the bad behavior, it might be completely misunderstood as implying “I wish you could, but you can’t attend THIS particular conference so let’s make up for it”. When in reality, the actual message to send is “Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. You’re not attending any of my conferences and you’re certainly not meet-and-greeting future employers.”

    2. Emily S.*

      Maybe. But only if LW genuinely wants to take a trip with Mom. It sounds like that might not be a particularly fun getaway.

    3. Hermione*

      It feels a bit like that would be rewarding the mother’s boundary-stomping, though. If that’s something OP wants to do, I think maybe it should be set up as a separate conversation (and preferably after the trip and the argument about the trip is behind them).

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Nahh, if OP does this, then for every next business trip she takes after that, mom will assume she can tag along, because she did that one time.

      1. tangerineRose*

        True. Also, I picture the mom being completely annoying while the OP has to work. Where some friends/relatives would go do their own thing during the conference, I think the mom would be “Oh, you have to do work thing now? I thought we could have a late breakfast (or some other non-work thing) together”. If OP had to stay late to mingle, the mom would probably come looking for her.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I recall a letter where OP was running a conference in a city near her mom and sister, and her mom figured she and sis would come stay at the hotel and do things with OP all day, because really, how busy could this conference keep her?

      2. Autumnheart*

        Not to mention Mom will assume she gets to come along on every vacation, too. And the honeymoon, and every search for a new car, new apartment or house, medical facilities for giving birth to the grandchildren… D: D: D: *theme from “Psycho”*

    5. loslothluin*

      That’s just going to make it worse by reinforcing negative behavior with a positive.

    6. LilyP*

      I think another “replacement” trip might be too obviously a redirection. But I do think you should figure out how to initiate positive interactions and spend time with your mother if (and only if!) you want to cultivate a relationship with her. You can temper any feelings of rejection she might have over you pulling back in certain areas like your job (whether those feelings are reasonable or not) by being in proactive in other areas, like calling her regularly, inviting her to the movies or dinner, or maybe planning an actual vacation together (if that’s a thing you would actually enjoy). Bonus points if it’s something that establishes you as an adult, like taking her out to dinner or hosting a dinner party for your family or something.

      1. Specialk9*

        I feel like this is still taking responsibility for manipulative mom’s feelings. It’s not OP’s job to process Mom’s feelings for her. Beyond this specific nutty request to the broader situation: feeling rejected when the response to constant belittling and degrading is distance – that’s a consequence of the mom’s behavior. Boundaries are needed, and they need to be heavily fortified, because this one will stomp hard to try to break them.

    7. Bea*

      I feel like this would be better suited for dealing with a kid who doesn’t understand they can’t go on work trips. “Sorry, adults only but we’ll go to the beach next week!”

      For manipulative mom’s they need to be stopped abruptly or you’ll be dealing with a lot of pushback.

      A mother who constantly criticises you is no mother you take special trips with unless you like being miserable.

    8. OP*

      I agree with many of the other comments. If I offered her that consolation she would just use it as a reward and continue her behavior.

  5. But you don't have an accent...*

    You may want to put your mom on an information diet. This could be in a variety of forms, but one of them could be telling her after the event, like “Oh how was your week mom? Oh that’s awesome. I went to this really good conference last weekend that really helped me out!” “But why didn’t you invite me?!” “Oh, it was for work. Nothing you would be interested in” or whatever.

    It can be hard to get parents to view you as an adult. But one of the things that has helped me is picking and choosing the information that they get to know.

    1. Celeste*

      Yes, this is exactly the way forward. Tell her anything, so long as it’s in the past. Clearly she thinks she has some say in how your future will go, and the way to train her out of that is in only letting her know about your past. She cannot have veto power over what you will do with your life, or how you do it. I’m sure it’s more about her desire to feel needed and important; you sound very competent to me.

      1. I'm A Little TeaPot*

        Not necessarily anything in the past. Depending on the parents, you might need to permanently, and severely, limit even low-states information.

    2. uranus wars*

      This is excellent advice. I moved to this tactic not long ago with my mom, who sees me as a 10 year old trapped in a 40 year old body…since I employed the after-speak. Mom almost never my questions my actions after the fact but will ALWAYS questions my thoughts and actively tells I am wrong for wanting to do something.

      Now with my non-boundary respecting father I had to take a more hard core approach that I talk about below. But our relationship did not suffer from it.

    3. Allotropic*

      Completely agree. I made the mistake of being a bit too frank about some struggles at work to my mom, and it’s led her to think that my co-workers are incompetent, without having any experience in the field. When I tried to explain that it’s not an issue of incompetence but rather that’s just the nature of scientific research, she insists that I’m too protective of my colleagues and too naive to recognize incompetence.

      So now all we talk about are grocery prices and gym classes.

    4. Anonymoose*

      X 100

      I’m not sure if it’s common but when I was about the OP’s age (24ish) I had to do the same thing with my mother (I’m female). It seemed that anything I did my mother absolutely had to either argue against it persuasively or put her personal stamp of approval despite me not seeking her opinion on literally anything at the time. So I did exactly as you said. After a brief ‘come to Jesus’ with her in which I iterated my mighty adulthood, I then told her it was best that we take some time apart for a while. I did this for six months – and it was the best six months ever for our relationship. Afterward (I ended the break right around the holidays) whenever something in my life came up she no longer bulldozed me. Our relationship has been wonderful since. Oh, I should mention that I lived out of state at the time, so the six months distance was a total blackout since it wasn’t like I could run into her otherwise, so your mileage may vary.

      I wonder if this is just one of those things that parents do to young women (do men go through this too??).

      1. Jan*

        Oh, men get it too all right. Gender may sometimes play a role, but it’s mainly just lack of boundaries on the parent’s part.

      2. Specialk9*

        My husband and his brother both got it hard. My husband fought (figuratively) like a trapped raccoon in his teen years, and after they both emerged alive but bruised, they have had a very amicable relationship of respect for boundaries. I don’t have to fight any boundary battles.

        His brother responded to that teenaged turmoil by not putting up any boundaries anywhere, and his wife has to deal with a mom who lets herself into their house while they’re at work and fixes their house to her liking, including tidying up any adult stuff left out.

      3. Anon for this thread*

        Men get it too. My early 20’s was spent trying to slough off my dad’s criticism when I noticed that my grandma does it to him just as much, and he seemed to cool it down for me in comparison.

        Sadly, I had to be rude (by my own standards) to get him to back off, but it worked. When my husband and I bought a house he told us to take our shoes off in our own house, and I yelled at him in no uncertain terms that he was a jerk. He actually seemed to respect that and our relationship has been much better since then.

      4. Paige*

        Dudes definitely get it, too.

        I put up some pretty severe boundaries with my mom, including limits on what I’ll talk about. I’ve been doing that since I was a teenager, actually. It’s much easier to talk about things I’ve already done/decided than my day-to-day life, so it’s a rarity that I’ll bring up anything that isn’t a fait accompli because she’s proven time and again that she can’t handle it unless we’re talking about something low stakes like gardening or how cute our pets are being. It’s also gotten better since I got married, because I guess that made me seem more like a conventional adult, or at the very least, attached me to someone she does see as an adult? My brother has tried to set some boundaries, but he’s had a much harder time enforcing them because he’s not good at limiting the information he shares with her. I keep telling him, it sucks that you can’t share everything with her because ideally you would be able to, but you just can’t, not if you want to keep her from butting in.

        And it does suck, because my mom is a smart person with good ideas a lot of the time and I would love to be able to share more with her, but I just can’t because she will never see me as more than a child.

      5. Admin2*

        Yes, often with the extra veneer that it’s their “responsibility as a man” to keep momma happy, put momma first, and take care of momma before anyone else forever.

  6. L*

    When the child becomes the parent and the parent becomes the child . . . . which sounds a lot like what’s happening here. Mom is behaving like a toddler, and you, OP, are behaving like a rational adult. Keep up the good work!
    And, do heed Alison’s suggestions about setting boundaries. They are good ones, and both you and your mother will benefit.
    Best of luck with this!

    1. Anonymoose*

      It is about the age when you finally realize that your parents are just…people, and totally fallible people at that. It can be a rough adjustment for all parties.

  7. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

    I totally agree with Allison’s advice to start sharing less with your mom from now on. It sucks to not be able to openly share important things about your life with your family, and it actually hurts a little (at least in my experience), but your peace of mind, self-esteem, and general well being is worth the trade off.

  8. London Calling*

    Good grief. My late mother’s interest in my working life was limited to saying ‘That’s nice, dear, where is it?’ whenever I told her I had a new job: and I always felt slightly hurt that she wasn’t more interested. It looks like I didn’t know how lucky I was.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, my parents had zero interest in my worklife. I am appreciating more and more how that was a good thing.

        1. London Calling*

          Did snort a bit when I was made redundant in 2003 and she was wailing down the phone that I’d never get another job (definitely a glass half-empty person, my mother). I said yup, I will and she said I know you’ll do your best, you are so good at what you do – and I sat there holding the phone and thinking, you don’t KNOW what I do!

  9. I Didn’t Kill Kenny*

    Wow. Just wow.

    Listen to everything Alison said. Tell mom no way, no how is she coming. Repeat as necessary.

    Meet your potential bosses??? I can’t even….

      1. Vicky Austin*

        I wonder if the real Beverly Goldberg has ever “surprised” the real Adam Goldberg by showing up at his studio unannounced with homemade baked goods.

    1. Former Employee*

      I’ve never watched that show. And not Everybody Loves Raymond. I can’t understand why people want to watch shows about characters trapped with manipulative, overbearing relatives. I avoid these shows.

  10. Glomarization, Esq.*

    Yeah, time to quit talking with Mom about your professional life.

    There’s not anything you can do to physically prevent her from showing up to the conference for her “mini-vacation,” so I hope you have some contingency plans in case you see her there.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      That’s my fear for the OP. I would go with a mix of bribes (I’ll go hang out with you later) and threats (leave immediately or you will not hear from me until Christmas 2021), followed by giving her So Much Hell when the conference is over that she never thinks of it again.

      1. Observer*

        But keep that VERY discreet. You don’t want people to start thinking that you’re an invitation to drama.

        1. Rosemary7391*

          Quite… I think it might be better to just leave, which is rubbish when you’re out of pocket and missing opportunities – but with a parent in tow you’re not only missing opportunities, you’re damaging your reputation.

        2. Middle School Teacher*

          Oh, of course. I’m not thinking “fire in a crowded theatre”. I’m thinking “Mom, if you follow me in, I will have security escort you out.”

    2. Hey Nonnie*

      Yeah, I’m somewhat concerned that Mom will show up on her own, and I REALLY hope the OP only said “a conference” and not the name or location of that conference.

    3. OP*

      I doubt she would show up to this conference. It’s in a city that is a 10 hour drive from her home (8 hours for me). When she said she wanted to come she used that as one of her selling points. She would help me drive, keep me company, etc. However, this is a rotating conference and is in different cities every year. So, if by some chance it is in a city closer to us next year, I could see her just showing up. Not sure what my reaction would be then but hopefully I never have to find out. She does however have a habit of just showing up at my office randomly. It’ll be, “oh I was just in the neighborhood” or, “I just came down to do some shopping.” She then will just hang out until I can wrap up what I’m doing. It usually gives her the opportunity to criticize my outfit or my attitude or some unrelated thing that I have no control over.

      I’ve tried setting her straight in the past but it’s usually been a case-by-case basis. We’ve never had the full blown boundaries conversation.

        1. AsItIs*

          The OP will also have to set boundaries for any serious relationship, any wedding, any vacation, any children… It’s a miserable life when someone else pushes for control of it, criticizes it. :(

      1. Specialk9*

        How did she get into your office? At my office, we have a book with photos of personae non grata, and each front desk staff has to initial each one every day. You might tell your receptionist that your mom is not allowed in. If there’s no receptionist, how does she get in? (Are there offices without keycards?)

      2. Kitty*

        Wow, she just sits there criticising your whole you’re trying to work? I would definitely push back on that, because it could also tarnish your reputation at work.

        Is there any security at your work, or can she just wander in off the street whenever she feels like it? If she has to have someone let her in, I’d refuse to let her in and make her wait outside until you’re done, turn off your phone ringer if necessary. She has to clear it with you first if she’s going to visit.

      3. Safetykats*

        OP – we may have the same mom. Please, please take Alison’s advice. Practice, over and over, saying “I’m sorry you feel that way, but this is how it is. Maybe we can talk later, when you’re feeling differently about this.” AND THEN WALK AWAY.

        That last part is the most important. Hang up, walk away, do not continue to have any kind of conversation. Do not, as others have suggested, offer a bribe or consolation prize.

        I spent a really difficult 6 months doing this. By month three, my mom wasn’t speaking to me. By month four, my dad was distraught (because she was spending all her time and energy speaking to him.) At the end of six months, she called like nothing had happened, to say she had an extra jasmine plant she had rescued from somewhere or other, and ask if I thought it would look nice on my porch. Twenty years later, we are still good friends.

        My sister is one of those people who thinks you can negotiate endlessly on any subject, and as a result she and my mom still haven’t established effective boundaries. You don’t need to talk to your mom about boundaries – you just need to draw them and politely enforce them. When she steps across, even a little bit, step away. Your mom is smart; she will get the point.

      4. Artemesia*

        Time to make work off limits. You need to tell her that she is damaging your career; people’s mommies don’t show up at the office. It will have to be that straight for her to get it.

      5. Autumnheart*

        RED flag. It’s time to stop letting your mother into your office, post-haste. Having your mother sit in your cube criticizing your clothing or your attitude is just as insane as her showing up at a work conference. It is inappropriate in the extreme for her to be there AT ALL, EVER.

        Next time she drops by, tell her you’re sorry but she can’t hang out today. Tell her your manager said that social visits needed to stop, that you invariably have a meeting, whatever you need to say, but put your foot down on that today and forever.

      6. Observer*

        If your mother shows up to the office before you are ready to leave do NOT wrap things up for her benefit. This is not advice I would normally give, but your mother is a serious boundary crosser and you need to act accordingly.

        Finish up whatever it is you were planning to finish. And if she tries to get into criticisms of whatever, just tell her that you’re busy and then ignore her. If there is somewhere else she can sit, tell her she can wait for you wherever it is.

  11. sometimeswhy*

    Seconding eeeeeeeeeeeeverything Alison said and adding: if you’re in need of more boundary-setting-with-Mom advice or words to reinforce that excellent gut instinct of yours: Captain Awkward has written a lot on the topic of boundaries, boundaries with family, and boundaries with family who control some aspect of your life that you can’t change just yet and she tags pretty extensively.

    1. HumbleOnion*

      I immediately thought about Captain Awkward too. The OP was raised by this woman, and probably has a skewed sense of what an appropriate boundary even is. Captain Awkward is the perfect antidote for that!

    2. Kitty*


      Captain Awkward literally changed my life. I wouldn’t have the strong boundaries I do now without her (and also my therapist, but wouldn’t have even started down that path if not for the Captain).

  12. Emily S.*

    Goodness gracious. Hell no, stick to your guns.

    And as Alison said – time to back off on the sharing with your Mom. She does not need to know that much about your life (professional or personal).

  13. Captain S*

    Yikes, I’m sorry you have to deal with this. Is there any chance she could show up and surprise you at the conference? If so, you might need to go a step further and lie and say it’s cancelled or something.

    1. justsomeone*

      Oh, no. Then Mom will be suspicious when OP goes, and if OP says “I’m still going on vacation then” sMother will invite herself along…. I can see this lie going very badly.

      1. FCJ*

        Yeah, I would just not let her in on ANY of the planning from here on out. “When are you leaving for the conference?” “Oh, I haven’t decided yet. SUBJECT CHANGE.” “Where are you staying?” “I found a good deal on a room. SUBJECT CHANGE.” Vagueness is the LW’s friend here.

        1. OhNo*

          Exactly. If you’re really worried about it, make sure you don’t share hotel names, or even approximate price ranges. Don’t share what airline you’re using, or what route you’re taking to drive there, or anything. You’d be amazed what kind of details a pretend-concerned parent can get out of a phone call with customer service folks who just want to help.

          As someone with a similarly boundary-crossing parent, I find that “I haven’t decided yet” is the best phrase ever when it comes to deflecting questions. That often deflects my parent into advice-giving mode, and saves me from having to give any kind of definitive answer about my plans.

  14. Ktelzbeth*

    I occasionally go to conferences with my mother, but that is because we are in the same medical specialty. We’re not in the same subspecialty, though, so we split off to sessions that interest us and then meet up for some meals and share a room (!). It works because she recognizes that I am a professional adult with my own practice.

    Your mother has no reason to go to your conference and does not appear to recognize you as a professional adult. Stay strong and continue to put your foot down.

    1. Jamey*

      Yeah, I’ve gone to a couple conferences with my dad, but really only because: a) we’re in the same professional field, and b) I’m a speaker and so he has wanted to come see me talk about our field. And even then, we talked about boundaries and stuff at the actual conference.

      I rarely even bring my husband to conferences. Toting along someone who is not in the field gives me anxiety. Will he be upset if I go out to dinner with industry people to network instead of hanging out with him, etc? (He is very understanding about stuff like that but it still gives me anxiety.)

    2. Breda*

      Yeah, I’m even feeling a little awkward about agreeing that my mother can come with me to an open house for an apartment I might want to buy, and she’s a real estate agent! She is genuinely providing expert insight for something I’ve never done before, and yet I’m still worried about the “brought my mommy” impression it might give.

      OP, absolutely hold firm; your instincts are good here.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Eh, I think parent input is appropriate in your personal business, as long as it’s your idea and not them pushing their way in. I’ve bought a car with my dad in tow (this was before Mr. Shackelford learned how to Sit Down and Not Say Anything during the negotiation process).

        1. Breda*

          Yeah, I was ultimately like, “This is not crossing a line, it WILL be helpful, and as long as I act like an independent adult and speak for myself, it won’t create a bad impression.” But there was a moment where I hesitated!

        2. PhyllisB*

          Rusty, I had to teach my husband the same lesson. He thinks negotiating is beneath him, so I used to leave him at home when buying vehicles. Now he has learned to let me handle things, he gets to tag along.

      2. Antilles*

        That’s a completely different scenario. In fact, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten was to always bring an uninterested third party (parent, relative, or friend) with you when making a huge purchase like a house/apartment/car/boat. Purely based on the motivations and desires involved:
        You are there to buy a [house / car / boat / etc]. Everything you see will be subtly shaded by that mindset, desire, and your need for it. On the flip side, your mother doesn’t have any of that emotional attachment.
        So it’s far more likely that she’s going to pick up on subtle issues or raise problems or call out concerns that you’d miss, because she’s looking at the problems in a clearer field of view.

        1. nonymous*

          If I did this, I swear that my mom would be conspiring with the sales person to find the most expensive option. Not that she would deliberately advocate a lopsided deal, but she would definitely support the upsell and generally finds it difficult to push back on people who project confidence or authority.

          1. Antilles*

            True, it does require your third party to have enough cynicism/experience to recognize issues and enough bluntness to be willing to call people out.

    3. OP*

      Thank you. Your last line really touched on the thing that I think is at the core of the issue. I don’t believe she recognizes me as a professional adult. I know she’s proud of me and everything that I’ve accomplished but at the same time, she often treats me like a child. Like in one instance of her dropping in on me at work (as mentioned in an above comment) she wanted to speak to my supervisor. This of course had me leery and I was about to say Hell no but, my supervisor has the ears of a fruit bat and came out to speak with her. This visit was about a week or so before an upcoming funeral for a family member. She then literally asked him permission for me to have bereavement leave for the funeral. (At this time I had already requested and received bereavement leave and she knew this.) My supervisor was caught a little off guard and played it off fine but I was mortified. It seriously felt like I was 15 again and sitting in the principal’s office.

      I later reamed her out for this, which is one of the case-by-case instances that I referred to earlier. But, it brings me back to my original point, it doesn’t feel like she sees me as a professional adult.

      1. Specialk9*

        You seem a bit hesitant to name what’s going on here. This behavior is not your feeling, it’s a fact. People who respect other people 1) don’t drop by their place of work, 2) they don’t demand to speak to their manager, and 3) they don’t presume to speak for that person. Every step of that is a gasp-worthy transgression. Your mother treats you with deep disrespect, and undermines you publicly.

        It’s worth thinking about her motivation (and it’s not coming from a place of love, it’s coming from a need in her) — whether she did this behavior to punish you for something (having tried to set a boundary maybe?) or to try to force you to accept her dominance over your life, or to act out jealousy.
        This is deeply disturbing behavior.

        It also sounds a lot like the narcissistic mothers of two of my good friends – when they were codependent and worshipful, things were great, but all steps towards independence and healthy boundaries were punished with a variety of tantrums, guilt, fights, and public shaming. I don’t remember the books that helped them, hopefully others will post some reading.

      2. Jennifer*

        My mom can’t see me as an adult, either. I have a critical, professional role but she cannot grasp that age does not equal seniority. She met my secretary who is quite a bit older than me and it was so cringeworthy she will never again set foot in my office.

      3. AsItIs*

        I think I gave out a little gasp when I read this. None of this is normal. None of this is healthy. You MUST ban her from the office.

      4. TootsNYC*

        I might lie and say your supervisor has spoken to you about your mom coming in, and that you need her to stop.

        Though that doesn’t solve the deeper issue.

        I would say, conspire w/ the receptionist, and everyone else, to simply deny her access to your office. If she comes by, you go out there to meet her, and then you say, “Mom, I’m working, you’ll need to leave,” and escort her to the elevator and push the button, and wait with her until she gets on. Don’t be friendly and loving; be stern and a little absent.

        If there isn’t a reception function, then the moment she shows up in your office, do this. Stand up, interrupt her without waiting for her to finish, and say, “Mom, I’m working, you’ll need to leave,” and escort her out.

        If you can’t have the deeper conversation about her respecting you, and respecting your work and your workplace, then just be really rigid in enforcing those boundaries.

    4. MissDissplaced*

      Yeah, it’s a little different if a parent works in the same field. But there shoud still be some boundaries! Such as conducting your own business during the day, etc.
      And I feel the same way about bringing spouses to industry conferences because you’re generally there to work, not vacation. Though there could be some exceptions to this depending on the conference or event.

  15. Gotham Bus Company*

    Did your Mom also try to sit in on your job interviews and answer questions for you??

  16. Beth*

    Emotional blackmail. Don’t EVER fall for it. I did throughout my childhood, teenage years, and well into early adulthood before I was able to stop it once and for all. Just don’t let this happen. No joke. Good luck at the conference and have fun.

    1. Goya de la Mancha*

      I’ve learned that pretending/showing that you don’t feel any guilt can go a long way in getting them to stop the guilt trips. Even if my insides are eating themselves up with guilt, I just shrug and say “sorry, no can do”. They eventually stop bugging about that situation and it seems like the trips come less frequently.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        You have to get that lesson in early though – like about now, OP!
        Hubby nearly left it too late. He’s in his 40’s, and MIL has been known to escalate when he doesn’t accept the initial guilt trip – and she is still guilting him about something that happened when he was a TODDLER – this woman holds a GRUDGE! Trips can be made so much worse when it’s also coming from a doctor in an A&E (ER) department after MIL has “fallen, or in some way injured herself”, but “unfeeling son has moved to a different town twice as far away and didn’t care enough to visit me this week / didn’t turn up within 10 minutes of my call / amend according to mood…”
        She has improved slightly since the info diet – unfortunately, she’ll try and get information out of me instead, and because I’m not familiar with what hubby has told her, she can tell when I’m being too evasive and presses further until she gets the answer she wants (usually a fib, because we never visit her individually, and by this point hubby is there to back me up)

        1. Nopetastic*

          Can confirm. My mom still tries to guilt me over an incident that happened when I was a toddler, and lets me know how much it made her cry. Then she looks at me for a reaction and an explanation (uh, mom… I don’t even remember it.) It comes up at least twice a year. I’m 49 years old now. Apparently I ran up to a strange woman in a department store, crying and begging her to take me home with her. (lol)

          She also brings up the time my dad didn’t change an ice pack on her after surgery 25 years ago. My dad passed away 5 years ago, and she still brings it up. Gotta love her.

    2. Shhh...*

      I’d cut all contacts until the end of the conference. The best strategy is to disengage.

  17. Magenta Sky*

    Alison’s advice on the passive/aggressive stuff is dead on. The fastest way to shut that down is to agree with everything she accuses you of. “You don’t want me to come along.” “You’re right. I don’t.” “You don’t love me!” “When you act like this, no I don’t.” Shuts it down faster than a slap in the face.

    Your checklist is this:

    1. Decide if you, or your mother, will run your life. It really is that simple.

    2. Set boundaries. *You* get to decide where those boundaries lie. Without *any* input from your mother, or anyone else.

    3. Enforce those boundaries, even when it’s unpleasant. It’s OK to be rude to your mother when she’s being rude to you. Especially when what she wants will damage your professional standing.

    You’re an adult. Make your own mistakes, not your mother’s.

    1. Anon for now*

      Yeah. You do not want to soften the message at all or it sounds like she will keep pushing. No you don’t want her there. No you don’t value her professional advice. No bending.

    2. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      I have hung up on my mother (on the phone) numerous times because she was boundary stomping and wouldn’t stop after warnings. I’ve also walked out of the room/house in lieu of hanging up the phone. Does she like it? Absolutely not. Does she keep doing what got her hung up on? eh, some, but it’s a lot better.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        If she’s pig-headed enough, it might be necessary to cut off all contact – and make it stick – for a while. Some people require a very sharp slap to realize they’re not going to get what they want, and often it’s enough of a shock to actually get them to change.

        And if that doesn’t do it, then perhaps it’s for the best that it not be “for a while.” Not common, but common enough that it’s not hard to find a support group for those estranged from family.

        But never underestimate the power that potential grandchildren give you. “If you want to ever meet your grandchildren, you *must* convince me that you’ll act appropriately – by *my* definition.” In most states, grandparents have *zero* rights if the parents so choose.

        1. Specialk9*

          Sometimes estrangement is the healthiest way to untwist from a lifetime’s contortions to another person’s unreasonable demands. Sometimes it just hurts too much to keep in contact with someone whose version of love only sucks in and never blows out.

      2. Kitty*

        Same. I once walked out of a birthday lunch for me to get away from her belittling and manipulation. That shocked her.

        And agree with Magenta Sky below that a period of no contact might be necessary too. After my leaving restaurants or hanging up the phone, she would be nicer again for a while, but as soon as she realised she still wasn’t going to get what she wanted, she’d start tantrums and manipulation again. When I just got so sick of this cycle and took a two week break from any contact with her, I think this was the point where she really started to get it that I wasn’t going to back down.

    3. SusanIvanova*

      “You don’t love me!”
      My parental DNA contributor tried that on my teen brothers (I was already in college and so didn’t count for looking good in divorce court). The older one is an utter softy and caved to the emotional manipulation, but the younger one just told him “that’s right, I don’t” and never looked back.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      “You don’t love me.”

      I don’t love the way you are behaving right now that is for sure.
      If you loved me you would respect my NO and we would not be having this childish conversation.
      If you loved me you would work at learning what norms are in my field of work. Then you would understand that by showing up at this conference you would be damaging my reputation. [Skip this if she thinks damaging your rep is a good thing.]
      I don’t love you if you don’t get your way? Mom, relationships based on emotional manipulation are not real relationships. I want better for us. I hope I never hear you stoop to this level again.
      Mom, you do realize that your reaction here tells me that I need to share less and less information about my life and job with you, right?
      Mom, if you are going to go into melt down every time I share a part of my life with you then I will have to change what I am doing.

      I am sorry, OP. You appear to be the only adult in this relationship. Look at you go, though, OP. You are absolutely rocking this job. Remind yourself that you want a mother but you don’t need a mother. You are good on your own two feet. She should be so proud of you. Using the want vs need approach may help you to think more clearly about how you wish to frame your message to your mother. You want to have a nice mother-daughter relationship with her. Which is a good thing, really, OP. Lots of parents would give away a bizillion dollars if that meant their kid would tell them that. What you want is good. Hang on to that thought.

    5. bearing*

      It’s wonderfully empowering to find that, when pressed, you quite truly don’t give a damn.

      (My favorite: [weepy, a couple of weeks before my wedding] “I just feel like, with your fiancé’s family you feel like you’ve finally found a GOOD and LOVING family and not a DYSFUNCTIONAL one like us”

      Me: “Yes, it does feel that way, now that you mention it”)

      1. Specialk9*

        A certain kind of person knows with crystal clarity what they’re doing… But don’t care who they hurt because they get what they want.

        That bitter truth is harder to deal with than if they were actually as out of control as they act.

        1. Khlovia*

          Yep. The bitterest thing is realizing you have wasted decades of your life struggling to earn a better relationship with your mother, assuming that she shared that goal, a good relationship with her daughter, only to realize that for her it was all a game, and her goal was entirely different: service and entertainment. She was fine with the relationship just as it was.

      2. London Calling*

        It’s wonderfully empowering to find that, when pressed, you quite truly don’t give a damn.

        Grandmother – “don’t think I’m coming to your wedding!”

        Me – “OK, your choice.” She didn’t pull anything like that again, with me anyway. The liberation is actually frightening.

  18. Rusty Shackelford*

    Oh, yikes, no. You’re doing great; keep pushing back. Let her be as passive/aggressive as she wants. Like Alison said, own your “no.” “Yes, Mom, you’re absolutely right, I don’t want you to go, because it would be completely inappropriate and would make me look like a weirdo. Thanks for understanding.”

    And I hope, for your sake, that none of the conference events are open to non-registrants.

  19. FCJ*

    I am a longtime fan of Team Don’t Tell Mom Stuff. I have a pretty good relationship with my mom, and her sense of boundaries is just fine (with me, anyway–I get the impression she’s a little more of a pain with my sister), and there are still topics that I just don’t bring up around her because I’d rather not deal with the uncomfortable “Oh..” or sotto voce disapproval.

  20. Hannah*

    Stick to your guns, OP! You are in the right here, and your mother is being incredibly inappropriate. It would actually make you look really bad to have your mom come with you to a professional event.

    Also, as someone who also has a manipulative/boundary-pushing/disconnected-with-reality mother, I heartily second Alison’s advice to be careful what you share with her. For me, that means I share practically nothing about my personal life with my mother. What she doesn’t know can’t hurt me.

    It sucks if you have a mother that you have to be on guard like this about, but it is better than trying to constantly mend those busted-through boundaries.

    Your instincts are right on this one, and you are not doing anything wrong by refusing to take your mother to work. She is the one being ridiculous.

  21. seller of teapots*

    I have been here, and here’s an important thing to remember: when you set a boundary with someone who has a tendency to trample boundaries/has co-dependency issues, they will often flail about and act very badly at the setting of the boundary. THIS IS WHEN IT’S MOST IMPORTANT TO STICK TO YOUR GUNS. Like dealing with a toddler, if you give in to the temper-tantrum, you teach them that their bad behavior is a way to get what they want. This might be uncomfortable for a little while–her passive-aggressive comments might become straight-out aggressive. Calmly and firmly stick to your guns; each time you do so you drastically reduce the chance that this happens again.

    Mother of toddler & daughter of someone with boundary issues

    1. seller of teapots*

      Also! As Alison suggested, try to limit your explanation of why you’re making the decisions you are. the more information you give her, the more you engage with her on this issue, the more fodder she has to turn it into A Thing. Just have “You’re right, I don’t want you to go.” and “This isn’t up for discussion.” on repeat.

    2. Kitty*

      Yes, this! I think Captain Awkward once said something like “boundaries are useless if you don’t enforce them”. And it’s been so helpful to me life to remember that.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        The enforcement *creates* the boundary. Like a fence, right? The border between 2 things already exists and the fence lets you point to that border if someone forgets.

  22. SoCalHR*

    OH Alison and her wise advice for ALL relationships…

    “And really, while it might feel unkind, it’s actually in her best interests too — because if you don’t do that, the chances go way up that over time her behavior will cause you to eventually disconnect from her in bigger ways. Helping her learn better boundaries increases the chance that you can actually have an emotionally fulfilling relationship with each other in time.”

    Piggybacking on the other thread today, THIS is why you have to have difficult conversations and not anonymous notes sometimes (employers, significant others, family, etc) because if you don’t you probably will subconsciously distance yourself physically or emotionally from the person. Essentially, you are communicating that you value the relationship enough to address the small, tough stuff before it becomes large, tough stuff. And sometimes it helps to specifically say this as part of your message.

    1. seller of teapots*

      Yes! I have a checklist if something bothers me:
      1. Does this person actually matter? Do I care about this relationship? If no, let go of it. If yes proceed to question 2
      2. Can I honestly let go of this issue on my own? Is yes, great! You’ve moved on. If no, proceed to question 3
      3. How can I express my frustration/hurt feelings/needs in a way that is respectful to all involved?

      I don’t always remember to do this (i.e. when I snap at my husband or hold onto resentments at my mom) but when I do–it’s never failed me.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      This is very true.
      There are enough times in life where we have to speak up or lose the relationship entirely. In other words, our hand gets forced. Try to talk it out or take a walk away.

      You know the funny/odd thing is that many times people do change what they are doing if they are confronted. Not always, for sure. But if you can burn through the rough stuff a better relationship is around the corner.

      1. Specialk9*

        One of my best friends grew up with a narcissistic mother and grandmother. She was well on her way to sliding into that.

        I finally had one last go and laid my cards on the table about why she had been a bad friend to me for years and why I was thinking of walking away from her. She was shocked, and actually listened, and *changed*. (It helped that her new husband called her on her nonsense too, and was helping her see the patterns with her mom.)

        She is so profoundly different from that person now. She was willing to hear and be honest and self reflective, and make hard choices to be unselfish. And she did! Lots of people won’t, but it’s possible.

  23. Gnarlington*

    Every time I have a conference/work tri, my mom “jokes” about going with me. More so during the beginning of my job, but she still does it. “No one’s going to see me; I’ll just stay in your room and see the city!”

    OP, like Alison said, it might seem rude, but shutting her down with a serious face/tone/whatever is exactly the right approach. I had the same sort of anxieties about it too because I’m the youngest at my organization and typically the youngest professional at any conference or work trip I go on (from the day I was hired till now years later). I don’t want to infantilize myself more by bringing my mommy too. LOL

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It’s a shame, you know. because some parents would actually do this successfully.

      My husband went to a training far away. It happened to be the town my aunt lived in. I rode down with him, he dropped me at my aunt’s and then checked in. No one was the wiser. As the training wore on, he felt freer to mention that his wife was staying with a relative near by. No one cared because no one saw me anywhere. My aunt and I knew to keep our distance and he would come find us when he had free time.

      1. Anon for this thread*

        Same, my mom would be the type to actually enjoy a city during the day and not butt in to my professional life if I took her along…but she’s scared of flying! I’d probably enjoy a trip with her tbh.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Ditto here. She can’t travel now because of her husband’s health, AND I don’t have to travel for work. But if I did, and she could, it would work so well. She’s so respectful and I actually enjoy her company — having dinner with her *would* be winding down from my day at work.

          Ahh, I miss my mom. It’s past time to schedule a visit to her…

  24. Higher Ed Database dork*

    Another mention for Captain Awkward – tons of good advice and scripts. I grew up with an overbearing mother. She often talked over me to teachers, potential employers, restaurant staff, etc – you name it. Even if people continued to direct questions at me, she’d talk over me and wouldn’t let me have my voice (even such inane things as asking about my dogs!). It was difficult setting boundaries with her as I grew up, but so necessary. I still have to curtail her sometimes, and I’m 34.

    It’s good that you don’t live with her, that is a huge benefit to being able to shut her down if she pesters you about this. If you tries to guilt you or make passive aggressive comments, I’d go with the “agreeing” script – just say “Yep! Don’t want you there!” /end conversation. She can have hurt feelings. She can be mad. It’s totally okay. It helped me to repeat that – her feelings are not mine to manage. You sound like a competent, capable person. Best of luck at your conference and with your mom!

  25. WP*

    Is this an event that is closed to the general public? Do you have to be in the industry or have membership in industry organizations in order to sign up? If so, perhaps your mom wouldn’t be able to go, even if she wanted to.

    1. OP*

      Yes, this event is closed to the general public. Members/Delegates only. I used this as part of the reason that she can’t join me.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Which is helpful, but it could end up hurting you in the long run. The reason she can’t go with you to a conference needs to be because that’s not how people do things, and not “oh, I guess under other circumstances you could go, but you’re not a member or delegate.”

        1. Adaline B.*

          If OP doesn’t share details of future conferences at all, she gets out of this issue unscathed AND eliminates this problem in the future too.

          My mom is similar to OPs mom. “That’s now how people do things” isn’t a valid argument to her. She’s always the exception. The lies I’ve told…oh the lies I’ve told.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Eh, I think ALL conferences just became member or delegate only. Even if they aren’t.

      2. Artemesia*

        I would strongly encourage you not to have ‘reasons she can’t join you.’ Reasons suggest if the reasons can be overcome then she is good to go. Your reason is ‘I do not want you there at my professional events.’ Period. Don’t Justify Argue Defend Explain (JADE). This comes from a position of weakness. You need no reasons. And she has no arguments that can overcome your position that you do not want her there. Someone so boundary challenged will only ultimately respond to firmness.

        I have known many women over the years and a few men whose parents meddled in their careers and lives. It never works out well and sometimes it destroys lives. You have hat the good sense to live on your own. Now start keeping things private since your mother uses your sharing against you.

      3. Observer*

        I’m a believer in dong what works.

        Going forward, though, it will be a lot easier for you is you do put your mother on an information diet. And don’t let her jabs about not wanting her along to get to you. It’s fine for you not to want her to come. ESPECIALLY since her reasons are soooo out of line.

  26. MsMaryMary*

    Would it ever be okay to take your mom on a business trip?

    A few months ago I had a business trip that involved a 8 hour drive there, a full day of meetings, and an eight hour drive back home. My mom offered to come with me to keep me company on the drive. I was staying in a resort-type town, so she would have had things to keep her occupied during the day even without a car. It wasn’t the kind of meeting where I would socialize with the client afterwards. But I turned Mom down, thinking it’s not professional to bring my mommy on a business trip.

    But would it really have been odd? A couple of friends say they wouldn’t think it was weird. That people bring spouses or friends on business trips, especially to fun locations.

    If it matters, I’m a good 10-15 years older than OP.

    1. MsMaryMary*

      Oh, and my mom and I have a great relationship. I think she was just a little worried about me driving for 8 hours alone. And it was the beginning of spring, so the chance to leave home and go visit the beach probably seemed like a great idea too!

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I have a great relationship with my mom and I wouldn’t think anything of doing this.

      2. schnauzerfan*

        I used to take Mom with me whenever our state conference was within shouting distance of my brother or my niece. I’d have her company on the drive and she’d get to spend some quality grandma time. Then I’d have dinner with the family before we headed home. Worked great. But she would have been horrified at the thought of spending time at my conference.

        1. PhyllisB*

          I took my mother and the kids with me when I had to do an out of town conference years ago. It was to a city with lots to do and she knew the area so could take the kiddos for fun things while I conferenced. Then in the evening we went to dinner or did some other fun things together. It worked out great. (Of course I cleared it with TPTB beforehand, and made sure their meals and such were on separate receipts.)

    2. London Calling*

      All well and good if spouses and/or parents are along for the ride to and are going to entertain themselves with fun stuff while the conference is on. LW’s mother wants to gatecrash the conference and network with potential employers for her daughter, apparently oblivious to the embarrassment she’s going to cause.

    3. seller of teapots*

      I don’t think it would be weird in that situation. If your mom has a healthy sense of boundaries and you get along well and you’d actually like her there and she’s able to entertain herself during the day, I don’t see this being odd.

      I think an exception might be if you’re really young for your industry, and you don’t want to reinforce that in people’s eyes.

      1. Hey Nonnie*

        If you go to the conference, and Mom goes to the beach, how would anyone at the conference know unless you told them? Even then, I don’t know of anyone who would think it weird if they shared a car and a hotel room. The Mom is not AT the conference, and that’s the key difference.

    4. Keyboard Cowboy*

      I don’t know, I’d probably do that, but not tell anyone. If she’s just hanging out in the room or going out on the town, I don’t see a reason not to; but once you’re skipping networking happy hour or telling people your mom is upstairs and you need to run, then it’s a no-go.

    5. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I’ve brought my partner on business trips. While I’m figuratively stabbing my eyes out in boredom at meetings, he’s off seeing the local sights and eating at the fun tourist-trap restaurants.

    6. Rusty Shackelford*

      I wouldn’t have thought this was weird if she just wanted to enjoy the city. It’s not that different from people bringing spouses. But going with you just so you’d have company in the car… that does make it sound a bit immature.

    7. Kat Em*

      I wouldn’t think twice about somebody driving up and sharing a room with a parent, if the parent wanted to wander the city and do tourist things during the conference itself. If the parent started showing up to networking events though, that would seem weird to me unless the parent were in a relevant industry.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      It depends on your age and your mom. 22 year old, or mom who is going to accidentally on purpose run into her child’s boss to talk about child’s future: no. 32 year old, or mom who is going to go make use of the free hotel room to go rock climbing (or quietly sit in the garden and read, then have a nap, then paint for a while): fine.

      It’s not so much where the accompanying relative entertains themselves as that a) they entertain themselves; b) they do it where they won’t be routinely interacting with their child’s colleagues.

    9. Kate*

      I take my mother when my husband can’t come along(they take turns watching the kids). A caveat though she always has a plan for her days wherever we are going whether it is sightseeing, restaurants, shows, shopping, etc. She comes with the knowledge that she may not eat with me the entire trip, and that the trip for me is work and she is just getting a free hotel in the city not a companion. The only issue we have had was in Atlanta a few years ago she met up with some wild old friends and didn’t come back to the hotel until morning and I was close to calling the FBI. To which her and my husband thought was hilarious, and to this day she still calls it payback for my dating years. But she has never butted in and has never introduced herself to my co-workers, even going so far as to pretend she didn’t know me waiting at the elevators, when we returned at the same time.

      1. Twin working mom*

        Last year I had a work conference while I was nursing 5 month old twins. After discussing many different options my husband and I felt it would be easiest for us to bring the twins, my husband and my mom along on the trip so that I could nurse them during breaks, lunch and in the evenings instead of trying to stock up on a lot of milk ahead of time and pumping (and storing/transporting) a lot during the meeting. And then my husband would also have a hand in managing infant twins who are in a new place and off their usual schedule (and an extra adult to help navigate an airport was huge too!) But my husband, mom and girls all stayed in the suite or did their own thing during the day and did not attend any meetings or work meals. When our meetings were all done in the evenings, we did take the girls down to the pool area where there was a great little kid pool and we did see and talk with some other conference attenders that happened to be there too. But it was on our obvious downtime and everyone liked seeing the babies.

        1. Turquoisecow*

          My sister in law had to go to a conference for her new job, but was nursing her daughter, who flat out refused all bottles, even with breast milk. She brought along her mom, and mom and daughter stayed in the hotel room at the hotel where the conference was taking place. Periodically, she ran upstairs to nurse, but otherwise her mom and kid were separate from the Work part of the day.

          (I don’t know if there was any kind of evening networking dinner or such, but her mom was definitely not at the main part of the conference.)

          To be honest, I thought the bringing your mom along thing was a little weird, but that’s more because my MIL frequently takes on things to help my SIL with (like babysitting and laundry and whatnot) that I would not ask my mother for (although I don’t have kids!), but outside of that context it seems acceptable.

          1. Artemesia*

            My daughter recently had a conference and a nursing baby too — her husband still had some paternity leave so he came along and I kept the other child, but if he had not been able to go, I could have gone and the older child stayed at home in her regular school and daycare with Dad home. No one would blink at this. It is the intrusive parent or the person who can’t participate in networking because they have to be with husband or boyfriend or mother after hours.

    10. Specialk9*

      Sure! If your mom doesn’t actively undermine or belittle you, and you can trust her to behave and not be a thing, sure. Maybe don’t bring her to the actual conference though. It’s just mixing streams.

    11. theletter*

      If you can trust your mom to spend the day sipping virgin Mai-Tai’s and reading the latest Donna Tartt novel on the beach, and she’d be ok with having dinner on her own at the off-chance that you did need to work late or socialize with a client, then yeah.

      I think the difference is the fact that it’s a resort town with stuff to do, and your mom doesn’t want to attend the meeting with you. It sounds to me like she just wanted to split the drive and enjoy the town, but you know your mom best.

      Perhaps if you go again and she still wants you join you, you could say that now that you’ve gotten the lay of the land, you could take her along.

    12. JSPA*

      If she’s sharing your room, it’s sort of strange. In her own room nearby, and you meet outside of the conference for meals and post-conference sightseeing? Not odd at all.

      She could live there; she could be at a conference of her own; your colleagues don’t need to know the details.

      This only works if it’s clear that work comes first, and that, if you’re more beat than expected, or a professional connection suggests getting in a couple of hours of work after dinner, she’s on her own.

      On the other hand, sharing a room with mom at a conference is strange, but not “never ever do it” strange. If there’s some pressing reason to see her RIGHT THEN (you’ll be moving to another continent soon, or she will; her expected lifespan is short, or yours is; you and she live a long day’s travel from each other, but only a half day from the conference in the middle, and you only otherwise see her once a year), I’d go for it. Or if you really need someone to drive with you for safety, and you can’t swing the price of another room in a safe location in the same city. There are worse things in life than being seen as someone who is open to unusual solutions. For that matter, someone can be a bit strange (indeed, quite quirky) without being in any way unprofessional, unkind, or hard-to-deal-with.

  27. RES ADMIN*

    As I told my mother–the Queen of Guilt Trips:
    You want me to do this Thing.
    I do not want to do this Thing. It will make me unhappy to do this Thing.
    You are deliberately making me unhappy because I will not do this Thing.
    Since I am going to be unhappy either way, I choose to be unhappy doing what I want–which is not to do this Thing.

    Once she picked her jaw up off the floor, she knocked off the guilt trips. Mostly. And, generally, a Look will stop her before she gets too far. It’s worked for over 20 years now anyway. And I have a much better relationship with my mom now too.

    1. Aleta*

      Ooof, this could backfire strongly depending upon the flavor of boundary-crushing – my mom would respond “well then, if you’re going to be unhappy either way, you should do the Thing so at least *I’m* happy!”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        “Or YOU could make me happy by settling down here and respecting my NO.”

  28. Barney Stinson*

    Everything that AAM said and then some.

    That being said, maybe you’d like to schedule a trip with her that is not work-related, at a different time. She’d love it. I have four grown children and if any one of them wanted to go somewhere with me for fun I’d die of happiness.

    Don’t ask for advice on anything about adulting, at least not from her. Share as little as possible about work, but share as much as you can about non-consequential stuff.

  29. Lexi*

    No, tell her no and quit confiding to her about your job. When I started my career my Dad was nearing retirement and worked downtown in the area I worked in and took me to lunch 1-2 times a week. While it was a wonderful gesture, and at the time I was appreciative on so many levels especially my poor barely making my rent self that was getting a great lunch (that would be years later before I could afford those restaurants on my own), as well as getting a take home dinner and usually extra cash. My 21 year old self was happy for it however my 24 year old self trying to move up in the company was not. I soon realized my weekly and bi-weekly lunches were noticed by my co-workers and bosses and I was horrified when I learned they thought I had a sugar daddy. I was a humiliated at their comments when they learned my daddy took me to lunch so often, and that my ideas and plans were assumed to be my fathers and not mine. So do yourself a favor don’t bring your mother.

    1. Tobias Funke*

      Sounds like sexism by your coworkers rather than bad boundaries by your dad tho

    2. Namast'ay in Bed*

      It’s gross that they saw you getting lunch with an older gentleman and assumed that he was your sugar daddy and not your father??? That weirdness is on them.

      Also, even if he was, why the heck should that matter?? How does that translate into your work and ideas not being your own?

      Grabbing lunch with your dad once a week-ish sounds perfectly lovely, especially if you were just scraping by. I hope you are no longer with that company, it sounds like it was full of terrible people.

    3. strawberries and raspberries*

      WHAT?! Your coworkers were ridiculous. It’s totally normal to have lunch with your dad. The OP shouldn’t bring her mother to the conference, but for very different reasons than this.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t see your dad as being in the wrong here. And neither were you.

      I do see your cohorts as being a real sad lot, though. [insert other comments here] I’d have kept the dad and ditched the cohorts.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah this is disturbing. What gross co-workers, with creepy minds and so little couth that they actually said those things out loud, even once (and worse, more than once). Your office was full of bees, rather than you making a poor choice.

    5. WeevilWobble*

      Getting lunch with your parent is pretty normal. Your co-workers were 100% in the wrong there. I’m sorry they made you feel that way.

      1. Autumnheart*

        Or taking after your mother?! They automatically went straight to “sugar daddy”? What is wrong with those people?

  30. Falling Diphthong*

    She wants to meet the people that could potentially be future employers.

    Oh hells no. OP my daughter is about your age, and I don’t go to her job interviews. Or conferences. There is maybe a world where one of us would stay in the hotel room of the other one’s conference and fully entertain ourselves outside the conference (a la “Hey it’s a free hotel room in San Francisco”), but even that works much better for an event where networking outside of 9-5 isn’t a thing.

    And it would be much less weird for her to come to my thing (“Yes, child thought she’d see the city while I convene”) rather than my coming to her thing (“I’m Serious Professional, and this is my mom.”)

  31. Turquoisecow*

    If you’re 100% sure that she’ll be ok on her own for 100% of the day, then go ahead. If she’s not going to be meeting any of your clients/coworkers, no one needs to even know she’s there!

    I’ve gone on business trips with my husband. He was off in multiple meetings all day, and even had dinner without me twice. I was honestly a little lonely for part of it, but I found things to do and had dinner at the hotel without a problem, and unless he mentioned me to the people he was eating with (which he probably didn’t, they were probably discussing work the whole time), nobody knew I was there. If your mom is okay being alone for a day (and you know the answer to this – some people say they’re okay but really aren’t!) then go for it.

    1. Turquoisecow*

      Ugh, this was supposed to be a reply to MsMaryMary, not OP!!

      OP, don’t bring your mom. It doesn’t sound like she’s going to be okay being alone if she wants to meet your potential employers!!

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      If she’s not going to be meeting any of your clients/coworkers, no one needs to even know she’s there!

      Except that it is, in fact, her intent to meet clients/coworkers/potential employers.

  32. TootsNYC*

    I’ve often said this:

    Live your boundaries.

    Don’t talk about them.

    You don’t have to get her to agree with you. It’s fine if she doesn’t; her disagreement doesn’t change reality. (There are people who think the earth is flat, and yet…the earth just keep on going ’round and ’round.)

    Don’t make the argument with her. Don’t even discuss it. By trying to persuade her, and by arguing, you are only telling her that her opinion on this topic matters. It doesn’t. So don’t engage.

    I remember the drop-in daycare center I used to use (my kid was one of the core regulars).
    Some kids would be scared, “Mommy, stay a little!” Some moms would–and their kids would REALLY cry the second time she tried to leave, and they’d cry for a long time when she left. Think about it–the mom had just AGREED WITH them that this was a scary place.
    Other moms would say, “You silly goose! I’m not going to stay, you don’t need me, this is a fun place!” and they’d walk out the door. They got over their fear or discomfort very rapidly.

    So, don’t agree with her. If you keep explaining, you’re just saying an explanation is needed.

    You don’t need her approval for ANYthing.

    So, if it’s easier to just never tell her stuff like this, don’t tell her. But if you do want to share, just never respond when she starts this. If you can’t quite change the subject on your own, ease the moment by suddenly having to go pee (even if you just came out), or leave for the day. Or hang up (“gotta go, mom” >click<).

    I would say don't even tell her you're not going to discuss it with her anymore. Just…don't discuss it.

    Don't talk about your boundaries. Live them.

    1. TootsNYC*

      So, don’t agree with her. If you keep explaining, you’re just saying an explanation is needed.

      was supposed to be:

      don’t argue with her.

      Just drop the rope. Give up on making her change her mind, on making her agree with you.

      Just go on the trip without her.

      And avoid every conversation about it.

      (next time she brings it up, sigh. Once, big. Then have a big, big pause. And then say, “Anyway, let’s change the subject.”)

  33. loslothluin*

    Just keep saying “no.” In fact, the word “no” is a full sentence. She can’t force you to take her at all. Honestly, it just makes her look crazier the longer she keeps up with this.

    1. TootsNYC*

      My vote: stop saying no.

      Just stop talking about the trip. And go on it without her.

      1. loslothluin*

        I get the impression that, regardless of OP talking about it, mom is still going to try and browbeat her way into going with OP. Most people don’t really know what to do when you simply say “no” and nothing else as it doesn’t give them the opportunity to argue with anything you said.

        1. TootsNYC*

          It doesn’t matter what Mom tries. She can’t come if the OP stonewalls her. My point is: Don’t try to change mom.

          Just go on the trip without her.

          How’s she going to go on the trip if our OP leaves without her? Doesn’t tell her the hotel? =

          1. loslothluin*

            I wouldn’t put it past the mom to show up at OP’s house the day she’s leaving.

            Yes, change mom. She needs to learn to respect boundaries and will never learn from just being stonewalled.

            1. TootsNYC*

              The best way to change Mom is to live your boundaries instead of talking about them.
              Eventually Mom will get used to it.

              Trying to argue with her won’t change Mom.

              Presenting her with a done deal is far more powerful than continuing the conversation.

    2. JM in England*

      Try the old chestnut “Just which part of ‘No’ don’t you understand???” :-)

      1. loslothluin*

        Right? Or, as my mom used to say, “the word “no” does not mean keep arguing until I change my mind.”

  34. uranus wars*

    If you’re not used to setting that kind of boundary with your mom, it might feel hard or even rude at first, but it’s a necessity in order to move toward a healthy adult relationship with her.

    As someone who has been in an unhealthy relationship with a parent for too many years this advice is spot on. Say you are done talking and STOP talking. They will be taken aback but they will stop. And in my case mine still talks with me…but if we venture into that territory I shut it down and it works. The fear of doing it was actually worse than the doing.

    Good luck, OP!

    1. 2horseygirls*

      The book Boundaries by Henry Cloud was life changing for myself and a few friends.

      This quote was posted in a group, and I share it with permission from the OP in that group.

      “I do not need to sacrifice my wellbeing because of the expectations of others.”

      OP, I am 47, and so far, I still get the critical passive-aggressive comments. The difference is, since listening to the audiobook and going through a couple rough experiences, I just let it roll off my back (ok, stumble down to the waist, hang on by a thread off my sweater, then eventually roll off ;) ).

      I cannot control my mother’s internal storyline. Whatever she has decided about me, she has decided it. I know I am a good person, hard worker, and kind to others, so expending energy to try and convince her of that, or earn her approval or acknowledgement that I might have some clue of what I am doing, is a complete waste, and I would rather spend that emotional and mental energy on other things.

      You are rocking it in your job and field, so tell Mom about work stuff after the fact (it also prevents her from worrying about all the ‘what ifs’). This is what a recent conversation about my daughter looked like with my mom:
      “Things are good. Your 18yo granddaughter did her first solo road trip to X and back last week……I know, right? …… no, she checked in every two hours, and she did great!” So now the precedent is set that GD can successfully navigate a five-hour road trip by herself, so when it comes up again, the worry is not there.

      1. uranus wars*

        Thank you for the book recommendation! It really is a hard place to get to with a parent, but once I was able to get the courage to stand my ground many other relationships around me improved as well.

      2. Tinlizi*

        It was such an epiphany when I realized that just because someone was related to me didn’t mean they could treat me badly. I picked up this lesson from the weirdest place: Atlas Shrugged. I was so excited to realize this amazing thing that I missed the main point about golden capitalist gods.

        After almost dating a guy who loved the book and didn’t miss the point, I made a rule about never mentioning it on a dating profile again.

        1. Specialk9*

          Ha yeah, I learned about Atlas Shrugged I’m a dating profile the hard way too. Baaaaad sign!

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I read that boundaries book years ago and boy, did it open my eyes. I had no clue how many ways I was letting certain people walk all over me. OP, most libraries probably have this book, it’s a great investment of you time. They even have examples in the book, so it’s really easy to keep reading along.

  35. lb*

    I brought my mom on a business trip to London recently, but I would never have brought it up with her unless I was 100% sure she wouldn’t intrude. I got a room with two beds and she shared my room, but she is very self-sufficient and entertained herself completely and out of the hotel otherwise. I brought her to the official social event, to which she purchased a ticket and where there were lots of other spouses/families/etc. And on the last night she came to dinner with me and a couple of my colleagues. Otherwise we only saw each other in the room at nights and in the mornings, and then we moved hotels and had a little vacation with my sister after my meeting. It worked out great for us but only because my mom has zero interest in interrupting my work and she’s very independent.

    Unless you are 1000% confident any potential family member/friend/partner/etc would also behave like my mom, don’t even think about inviting them; especially if you’re new-ish to the workforce and trying to prove yourself. It’s absolutely inappropriate for your mom to tag along with an express desire to meet your networking contacts and you would not be taken as seriously as you would be alone.

  36. I'd Rather not Say*

    I agree with everything that’s been said about setting healthy boundaries. It might also help if you and your siblings can think of some ideas to encourage your mom to develop some of her own interests. Maybe have other things to focus on will reduce some of her meddling.

  37. Student*

    To emphasize a point that AAM touched on briefly: “…this is not a thing that is done.”

    Meaning, having your mother attend a conference with you will actively and significantly harm your career and reputation. It’s undermining to you. It looks juvenile and reinforces all the worst possible “millennial” stereotypes that are out there. It will get you labeled and remembered as “that woman who brought her mommy to network for her”. And that’s not even considering what your mother might actually do or say, beyond following you around like a puppy.

    It sounds like you get this – but I wanted to reinforce that your instincts on how harmful this would be to you are very correct.

    I have overbearing, bizarre, horrible parents. I have successfully kept them away from my professional life. But I’ll never, ever forget some of the more humiliating things they’ve said or done to me in public in situations where there was less at stake than you’ll have here. And the people who witnessed those events, and who’ve remained in my social circles, didn’t forget my parents’ bizarre actions or words, either.

  38. Nita*

    Wow. This is really, really not done. Good luck sticking to that “no,” and definitely agree with everyone who recommends an information diet from now on. As for specifics… it’s a free country, she can fly wherever she wants, but be very clear that: she cannot stay in the hotel where you’re staying because it’s probably company-paid and will also torpedo any chances of being seen as a professional for years to come; she cannot come to conference events; and you’re not planning to spend evenings hanging out with mommy because the whole point of the conference is networking with other attendees. In other words, she’s totally welcome to knock around the destination all day making puppy eyes at the conference center building.

  39. Tinlizi*

    My parents had (have?) this bad habit of treating decisions I telł them as my asking for advice. I started saying, “I’m telling you, not asking you.” Or when they kept asking/insisting after I said no, I just repeated “No means no” in after-school special voice.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      We have the same parents. I once told my mom I was planning to do something around my house that year, and, five minutes later, found myself in a heated discussion, with mom arguing that I should NOT do The Thing, and me explaining why I needed to do The Thing… I stopped myself mid-sentence and said, Wait a minute. What are we doing here? I didn’t tell you to ask your permission, I told you I was doing it. Mom was not happy. And yes I was in my late 40s at the time, it never ends.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I had a similar experience with a birthday gift suggestion.

        Wife asked me what her mother could give me. I don’t want or need much that costs less than several thousand dollars, so, whatever she wants to give will be fine, her taste is good. After a minute, I said, Oh I know, she can give me a lemon tree. My wife has lunch with her mother every week and they often go to the nursery together because we’re all gardening fiends.

        I’ve wanted a lemon tree for so many years. I grew up in Southern California, dammit! My uncle used to tell stories about picking oranges off the trees when he first moved to LA from NYC. When my wife and I first moved into this house, we tried to plant a lemon tree – in really just the worst spot – and it died. Every time I mentioned getting one after that, no, we already killed one. So I made that birthday-present suggestion and I found myself in an argument about how we can’t have a lemon tree, where would we put it, we already killed one, etc etc etc. And I also stopped myself mid-sentence and said, Wait a minute, you asked me what I want for my birthday. I answered your question. You don’t have to pass it along to your mom, but that WAS my answer. Why are we arguing about what I want as a birthday present?

        It worked. We stopped arguing AND when I got home from work the next day, there was a lemon tree in a 3-gallon pot next to the kitchen sink. Which is now happy and healthy in a half-barrel, and has lots of green lemons on it. I’m waiting eagerly to harvest my first one – a lemon from my own yard.

  40. Observer*

    Agreeing with Alison 100%

    Stick with your “NO”. Do not argue or discuss. If you really must respond, keep it short without arguments or discussion. Don’t try to make her understand, or to explain anything. If she makes comments about the fact that you don’t “want” her to come, you can ignore or agree with her. Because it’s true. No one is forbidding her, but you really do NOT want her to come and make you look like an idiot. But, you should not tell her the last part because that gives her an opening to argue. Don’t do it.

    And, stop discussing your work with her. If she’s telling you how to do your job when she does not really understand what you do, then that’s a good sign that she’s not someone who you can discuss things with.

    Also, on a personal level – get some distance between your. In the long term, your mother will benefit from this as much as you will – even though she would adamantly disagree with me.

  41. Tara R.*

    My dad can be hyper-critical about my life, LOVES to give advice, and gets very offended if I reject it. I’ve finally found a strategy that works decently. I selectively encourage him by asking him for help at things that are low-stakes and he’s really good at– cooking, vehicles, any kind of handy-man stuff around the house. If I have to get an electrician in, I ask for his opinion on whether I’m being fed a load of BS.

    I don’t respond to advice or criticism on my relationships, career, or schooling AT ALL. It gets a “Oh, interesting, I’ll think about that” and a subject change. Every. Single. Time. At the same time, I reinforce how helpful he is with (acceptable topic) advice and how that recipe he gave me helped make my dinner party a success and he saved me $XXX on house repairs and how I’m so glad to have him there to help.

    Progress is SLOW and there will be an extinction burst the first few times you refuse to engage. I’ve realized over the last few years that I prefer some temporary discomfort and hurt feelings to constantly feeling on the defensive about my life choices. I think where we’re at now is a compromise between his emotional needs (feeling like he’s a helpful resource guiding me through my life) and my emotional needs (not to be berated about my career decisions).

  42. Bingo*

    My parents were once like this. Despite moving away from home at 17, I was well into my 20’s (!!!) when I realized that I was an adult who could make their own decisions and if my parents were disappointed in a decision, that was their problem and not mine.

    I started telling them about things I had done after the fact. They quickly realized that I was the gatekeeper to knowledge about me and if they wanted me to keep them in the loop, they needed to stop imposing.

    Take a firm stance, and it may be uncomfortable and it may take some time, but you’ll get there with your mom. Your future self will thank you.

  43. Robin Sparkles*

    I just want to thank Alison for her amazing advice as usual. I love this: If you’re not used to setting that kind of boundary with your mom, it might feel hard or even rude at first, but it’s a necessity in order to move toward a healthy adult relationship with her. And really, while it might feel unkind, it’s actually in her best interests too — because if you don’t do that, the chances go way up that over time her behavior will cause you to eventually disconnect from her in bigger ways. Helping her learn better boundaries increases the chance that you can actually have an emotionally fulfilling relationship with each other in time.
    So beautifully put and such a good thing to remember for boundary stompers in other aspects of our lives.

  44. bunniferous*

    I am 59 and I do NOT tell my mother much. She earned that honestly.

    No absolutely is a complete sentence. It is okay to be a wee bit harsh-just a wee bit-because eventually you WILL train her to have some respect for boundaries.But it is a long process.

    Enjoy your conference!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yep it may work into a life long habit, OP, if she doesn’t get it. Take it one step at a time and see what is needed in the situation. You may decide, “no, not ever” and that is okay too.

  45. Esken*

    It feels bad to set boundaries with parents when you aren’t used to it yet. That’s because your mother is pushing a “guilt button” that she installed in you as a child.
    When you feel the guilt, say to yourself “I don’t feel guilty because I’m wrong, I feel guilty because my mom is pushing that darn guilt button. I am right to make choices for myself.”.

  46. Raina*

    Please don’t fall for the “I want a mini-vacation” line – she is just saying whatever it takes to get you to allow her to accompany you. This is a firm NO and a great step to further establishing your independence.

    “You’re right, I don’t want you to go. It is inappropriate for you to come. This is a work networking opportunity for me and my mom shouldn’t be following me around on it. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.”

    Non-negotiable. Good luck!!

    1. MissDissplaced*

      Right. The mini-vacation thing might be ok for some moms / instances, but not this particular mom!

  47. Beth*

    For bizarre demands like this, I really recommend cultivating a good side-eye. “Huh? It’s a work conference, why would you think you’re coming along?” combined with a really good look can help set the tone for the conversation: your request is not normal, I am not going to treat it as normal, and I will judge you for continuing to press.

    Alternatively, treating it as a joke can have a similar effect. “Haha, mom, you’re so funny! Imagine if someone actually brought their parent to a professional conference–that would be so weird, super unprofessional!”

    Of course, these might not work–you might end up having no choice but to go for the direct confrontation, shut her down, and deal with the resulting wailing/yelling/guilt-tripping/etc. But especially if you struggle with conflict, these kinds of less-direct shut-downs do work at least some of the time and may be worth a shot.

  48. Stinky Socks*

    I just can’t wrap my head around this. As a mother, it is a source of pride and joy to me that my adult children can and have successfully launched out into the world. They are skillfully doing all the activities we lump under “adulting.” It means I’ve done my job well! Yay! Now I get to enjoy their company as friends, not semi-extensions of myself who partly exist to prop me up.

    1. Indie*

      I mentioned to my mother recently how my partner’s mum is having a current woe-fest aimed at his head, entitled “you doooon’t need me any moooore” *sob*.
      I nearly broke her brain:”But that’s the goal!” she spluttered “Theyre not supposed to need you as adults! That means you did ok!”

      1. Stinky Socks*

        Exactly. We’re raising future adults here, not house-breaking puppies. I *expect* to remain the most important person in a dog’s life. My kids, not so much. And that’s okay.

      2. nym*

        My father’s take: you’re not raising children, you’re raising adults. If you’re raising children you’re doing it wrong.

    2. Red Reader*

      Right? My mom recently retired from a 35 year career in the same field I work in, and even before she retired, she’d have looked at me like I was off my rocker if I had ASKED her to go to a conference with me.

    3. Thankful for AAM*

      You have kids to raise independent functioning adults. Not to fill holes in your own life.

  49. Retail4life*

    I just scanned the comments so excuse me if this is a repeat.

    I went through something similar to this with my parents when I was in my early 20s. The one thing I did that drastically changed my life for the better – therapy! Find a therapist who specializes in relationships and who you connect with and go regularly. They will help validate you and give perspective (just like you got here). They will also give you strategies to establish and enforce boundaries and help you think through the relationship you want. I can’t say enough about how fantastic and helpful therapy can be in this situation.

    1. Specialk9*

      YES!!! I can’t believe it hasn’t been said yet! OP, you really need the voice of sanity that a good therapist can provide. There are a lot of messages that you grew up with that likely aren’t serving you well, and therapy is awesome for helping us build a life based on positive decisions rather than broken programming.

  50. MF*

    If you bend now and allow her to come with, she will take that to mean that if she berates and pesters you enough, she can turn your “no” into a “yes.” That’s why it’s absolutely imperative that you do not give in.

    In the future, I wouldn’t tell her about any career events (conferences, interviews, parties) until AFTER they have occurred.

  51. Bea*

    I’m so relieved you 1. Said no and 2. Don’t live with her so she can’t really screw things up for you.

    My mom and I do a lot of stuff together but she wouldn’t dream of criticising me let alone tagging along to work events. I’m sorry yours has boundary issues, keep taking care of yourself and building a life she can’t be apart of.

  52. Argh!*

    I had an over-bonded mother, too, and yes absolutely you must set a boundary and stick to it. Whatever works for you, just do it and don’t feel guilty for a second. If you’re lucky, she’ll figure it out. If you’re not lucky, it will be a lifelong struggle (as it was for me).

    I had to move far, far away from home, and only moved closer to help my brothers help her as she got older. Even then, I didn’t tell her more about my life than she needed to know.

  53. Swirls*

    If spending time with you is her goal, maybe redirect her and plan something for the two of you. She wants a vacation, plan a weekend to get away together where you can actually spend time and focus on each other? Best of luck, this sounds frustrating.

      1. AsItIs*

        And to add, it’s not about spending time with the OP. It’s about the mother refusing to cut the cord! Not normal. Not healthy.

    1. London Calling*

      Nope nope nope. That just teaches her that if she pesters enough, OP will give in sooner or later.

    2. Observer*

      Mom’s goal is to control her child. She is trying a number of things, including trying to run her work life. OP needs to not cede ANY control.

  54. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)*

    Confession: I’m a mom, I love my daughter AND I love to travel. I’m afraid this could be me, but from the “oooh I’ve always wanted to go there, I’ll come along” perspective. It’s actually better for me that my daughter isn’t allowed to tell me where she is going or has been to usually. All I hear is “I was out of town and had great/lousy food/weather”. I don’t even know if a plane was involved. The less said the better.

    1. Indie*

      I doubt you’d do this much performance pouting and punishment on hearing the word no.

    2. Bea*

      Wanting to travel and have experiences with your daughter is totally awesome! You don’t seem like you would go “work is sending you to BFE?! I should go AND MEET YOUR FUTURE BOSSES!”

      Even if you go “you’re going to BFE, are you going to have downtime or be busy working? I would love to tag along and leave you to your business while I see the sights and take luxurious naps in the hotel.” that’s totally decent and chill IMO.

      I was invited to ride to a conference awhile back. We have mutual friends in the area. Friend networked and did her thing, we met up when she was free. I snoozed and explored the city with my local friends. Perfect setup.

      My mom tagging along is always welcome unless it’s a romantic getaway or something.

  55. Nana*

    And I had just the opposite…flew to the other coast for a 4-day conference and invited nearby Mom to stay with me and do her own thing. Turned out the conference was poorly staffed; she ended up being an unpaid helper! Along with my boss’ mother…and the two women enjoyed each other’s company…and we all lived happily ever after.
    Your results may vary.

    1. Observer*

      I’m glad that it worked for you. But it’s really not useful for the OP. Your mother sounds like a great person – and a reasonably healthy one. What works in that context simply is not relevant when dealing with someone like the OP’s mother, who is clearly NOT a reasonable person.

  56. Blue Eagle*

    Sorry to hear your Mom is like this. I actually invited my Mom to come with me to a work-related conference because I knew she would do absolutely nothing to embarrass me, would take in the sights of the city while I was in the seminars and we could have fun together during me off-time.
    I miss my Mom.

  57. Daria Grace*

    You definitely need to stop her coming. If she were to come it’s possible (though unlikely) she would manage to meet your future employers without too badly embarrassing you or herself. But even if things somehow go so well, then she’d be likely to think she’s friends with these people and can contact them once you’re interviewing with them or employed by them. That could go very very badly

  58. Mmmmmk*

    I’ll be honest that I didn’t take time to read all the comments so forgive me if this is repetitive. I did want to suggest that in addition to holding firm on important boundaries (and possibly sharing less about your professional life to avoid these situations), that you also consider if there’s another way to address the root of the problem. You mentioned she’s an empty nester, and I think that’s a critical detail. Can you encourage her (or, even better, help facilitate) to find something that will redirect her attention? Or, can you find another tolerable way to spend time with her to help satisfy her need to be part of your life? Some combination of a hobby/passion and time with you on your own terms seems like it would mitigate the less desirable suggestions since there’s clearly a strong need on her part to be involved.

  59. Indie*

    So she’s giving you a test and all you have to do to pass is let her know you’re okay with her being mad at you. Anything is okay as long as you remain the boss of you!

    “I don’t want my mother at work, no!”
    “I’m not sure this is the path to closeness.”
    “I’ll let you know when I’m free. It’s not your place to make arrangements for when I’m not”
    “When I come visit, it’s for pleasant conversation. If you don’t have any of that I’ll go home and try again another day”
    “I know you’re expecting this pouting to work on me but honestly it’s not”
    “If you decide to be hostile about my choices , I can’t really prevent you.”
    “Again? I’m going”.

    Repeat. Ad infinitum.

  60. Nic*

    In my own experience – I have found giving my mother things to do (i.e. stuff I don’t care if she criticises or meddles with) is almost as important as having clear boundaries in other areas. Bonus points if they are things she can genuinely help with!

  61. Teka*

    Hoping there’s no way this mom can somehow buy her own ticket to the conference and just show up…

  62. StellaBella*

    Dear Letter Writer,
    Can you PLEASE print this off, and with all the comments, show it to your mom – and have a conversation in person about being an adult? Or email her the link and say, ‘If you want to talk about my being an adult we can, after you have read this.’ Or something. I am sorry but as most comments reflect, this is ridiculous and she needs more distracting hobbies or something to cope with the empty nest you mentioned.

    1. StellaBella*

      Oh and after reading a few more comments – having your mom interfere like this could derail your career. Then you may have to move back home. So she can have a child at home again, to fulfil her role as a mother/caretaker – which she has not learned to grow out of. Sorry – just a thought and a bit far fetched but in your mom’s head – perhaps this is why she’d be so ridiculous to say she wants to come meet future employers.

          1. Khlovia*

            Either sabotage or (if she really is so stupid as to believe she could successfully network for her daughter) “Everything my child ever accomplishes in life is due entirely to me! And is therefore MY accomplishment, not hers!”

    2. Kitty*

      In my experience with a mother like this, no amount of explanation from me or others will change her mind. And she would be suuuuuuper hurt that I had made her look bad to all these strangers, and make it into a huge thing about how she is the victim.

      Sorry, I know you mean well, but I think you’re still coming at it from a perspective of assuming she is a reasonable person who can be swayed by logical arguments, which it really doesn’t seem like she is.

      1. StellaBella*

        Yeah, good points. I am just in general tired of people in the world trying to gaslight/bully/own/push around/treat badly other people, and I think that came thru in my comments.

  63. Bibliovore*

    A big No. No is a complete sentence. You do not have to explain. You do not have to defend. She doesn’t go to the office with you. That would be unprofessional. She does not go to your conference. Period. I have a spouse who is in the same business as me. Even we do not attend the same conferences if he or I does not have business to do.

  64. Emma*

    You’re in a much better position OP than the new hire at my office who I ran in to today and told me that “being an adult isn’t fun.” Ummm…agreed, but I’m 34 so I’ve been adulting for a while now and now you just seem really young and immature to me!

  65. Stephanie*

    Oh holy crap. I don’t blame you for putting your foot down, I would too. Allison’s advice is spot on.

    Hell, half my family doesn’t even know where I work, even though they know the general location. I’ve brought Mom and Grandma on a tour, because my work doesn’t care, but largely, my work is separate from my home life, and that’s okay.

  66. Kitty*

    Alison nailed it with this advice!

    I feel like we have the same mother, down to trying to tell me how to do my job, in an industry she has never worked in, when she’s been out of the labour force entirely for almost a decade. *eyeroll*

    Mine is also a boundary pushing helicopter mother, and I followed the exact path Alison advises, and I can tell you eventually it did get better. It was really bloody hard at first, since she had basically raised me not to be assertive with her, and also she escalated her behaviour when her usual pushiness stopped working on me. So be prepared for that possibility.

    But eventually she saw that I was serious about these boundaries, and that pushing back on them or making passive aggressive comments achieved nothing and only led to less contact with me. She’s calmed down a lot now and acts a lot more respectfully.

    If you just keep holding that line, she can complain all she wants, but she can’t change your mind. If you haven’t already told her where/when the conference is, my advice would be DO NOT give her this information. Just in case she decides to go around your boundary and show up anyway. If she does already know the time and place where it is, it might be worth thinking up a plan for how you’ll handle it if she shows up against your wishes. Mahbe you could even tell one or two trusted work friends, who could help you run interference.

    Good luck, I hope the conference goes well and you network the hell out of it! :-)

  67. Khlovia*

    OP, above you said “Boundaries need to be discussed.”

    NO. They need to be NOT discussed. They need to be ESTABLISHED. Unilaterally, authoritarianly, totalitarianly. By you. You are the BOUNDARIES ESTABLISHER. Say it with me: “I am the Establisher of Boundaries! And nobody is going to any conferences with me! Furthermore, nobody is going to invade my work-space ever again!”

    Seriously, next time she is “just in the neighborhood” of your office, she is to find a nice cafe, text you its name and address, and maybe you’ll see her there on your lunch break and maybe you won’t because you already have other plans for lunch. And otherwise, all the security guys have her picture and know to escort her off the property.

  68. ENFP in Texas*

    “she wants to meet the people that could potentially be future employers.”

    No. Just… no. Doing this will only ensure that the people she meets will NOT be your future employers, because they’re not going to hire you after this.

    Stick to your guns. This is work-related, and she is not welcome to attend.

  69. Database Developer Dude*

    London Calling, why did your grandmother say she wasn’t coming to your wedding?

    1. London Calling*

      Because my grandmother simply didn’t like me – something I realised when I was about eight years old and had confirmed when I overheard her and my mother arguing when I was about eighteen and mum said ‘You’ve never liked LC, have you?’ and she didn’t bother to deny it. No idea why – perhaps it was because I wasn’t a boy or just one of those chemical dislikes you have. Grandmother was a bully – she liked to play favourites, pick on the grandchildren who weren’t favourites while forgetting that one day they’d grow up. I think my grandfather wasn’t the man she wanted to marry but she did anyway, and I was his favourite – he’d take me out a lot and spoil me a bit, so that probably didn’t help. Her – what I can only describe as contempt – for him was extended to me.

      What she didn’t realise, of course, was that I’d worked all this out pretty early on and decided I was never going to get love or affection from her, and decided that I had stopped needing or wanting it around the age of twelve – at that point she ceased to have any power to hurt. Saying she wasn’t coming to the wedding was her exerting the power that she no longer had but thought she did. I think my aunt and I were the only ones who didn’t run around after her hoping for her approval – she very much thought of herself as the matriarch to whom everyone deferred – and she’d decided that my fiance was ‘not really one of us’ as if she was Queen Victoria.

      The odd thing was that when I was sick as a child she was the one who looked after me. She taught me to tell the time when I admitted that I didn’t know how and could be oddly kind if she felt like it – like when my marriage broke down. Humans are strange, no?

  70. nym*

    I legit brought my mom (and dad) to the office once – I work in a science institution that has a public museum onsite, and they wanted to check it out. That is one of the only cases where mom and dad showing up at work is okay.

    OP, from your comments in the thread it sounds like you plan to heed the advice of the commentariat re: boundary setting – good on you! It’s gonna be tough, but stick with it.

  71. Molly Frances*

    I’m trying to imagine going to a conference, meeting a bright 23-year-old professional, and then the professional’s mother who is just there randomly, because she doesn’t work in the industry but her adult child is there. I would think that she was a complete and total lunatic with no life of her own, and I would get away as soon as possible. I agree that you should set boundaries, OP, and I don’t know if failing that, it would help to explain that no one at the conference would actually *want* to talk to her, let alone have her hanging around, and the organizers may even ask her to leave if it’s only open to industry professionals. They may not even allow her to register for the conference if it’s closed to the public.

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