Mother Doesn’t Always Know Best

My Mother and I have always had a strange relationship. Since I was the youngest, my Mother was kinda done raising kids when I came along. She had been on so many postings, that frankly, her anxiety, her self Рcenteredness got worse, and her ego got more and more inflated.

2 weeks into my job at Foreign Affairs, I called her to arrange to pick up something at her house. She somehow got it in her head that, that particular moment, was the best time to tell me that I was a terrible writer. Now, I know I am not a fabulous writer, and won’t be winning any literature prizes, but, seriously, report writing is a completely different skill set. As she went on in this lecture to tell me that in her opinion, this line of work was not a good fit for me, that I would fail at it, and I would then have to find something less academic to keep me occupied. I sat, silently attempting to get off the phone. I then quietly said “you have never worked outside of the home, who are you to judge my writing, and my skills in this career.” With that, I hung up, and began to feel guilty.

I know my Mother worked, but she never worked in the capacity that I was working in. When I was 16, and had declared to my Father that I wanted to work for the UN, she pulled me aside and said I would be an excellent hairdresser. I looked stunned, I only owned one brush, and rarely used it, and had never dyed, cut or did anything with my hair. She thought, in her head, that it would be better for me to become a MRS, and be a flower on my husband’s lapel, than it would be to carve out my own career.

Lately, I have been thinking back to that conversation. As I get older, I realized, my Mother felt she made the wrong decisions, but wanted me to make the same wrong one’s so that she could feel better about them. When I became a Mum and quit my job, she was more stunned than anyone. She thought I was better off hiring a nanny, and told me to hold onto my career. It was a complete flip. She didn’t understand that I wasn’t giving up anything, I was just moving to a new career. She still doesn’t get it, but now I realize, the more years I held onto Foreign Affairs, she felt like she had her identity back in a strange way.


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6 thoughts on “Mother Doesn’t Always Know Best”

  1. Isn’t it funny how a lot of advice from the older generation seems to be very much down to their own agenda and gets presented as absolute fact? I think you’ve hit the nail on the head that some people need to justify their own mistakes; after all misery loves company. My aunt (like a mother to me, adopted me) told me when I started teacher training that I shouldn’t be a science teacher. When I left teaching looking for a change of pace she was like “why are you leaving teaching what’s wrong with it?” then when I returned to teaching again she told me she didn’t understand why I wanted to be a science teacher, wouldn’t I be happier teaching primary school or nursery nursing? My sister failed her GCSEs, so she trained as a hairdresser, btw, and failed the exams, and now she works on those counters in department stores where they sell hair products – she can’t work on the cosmetics counters because that would require make-up skills that she won’t learn and she’ll never be a manager because she doesn’t have the ability to cash up a till. I have the ability for hairdressing but I’d hate talking inane rubbish to people all day. I’m very glad I didn’t listen to my aunt about teaching because even though it’s not my ideal job, and I do want to move onto bigger things, it’s a very good stepping stone to get my finances in order (well, when I get back to it after my pregnancy – am waiting for my criminal records check to come back, then it’s back on the horse). But then, my aunt also told me not to get married then started dictating how she wanted the wedding to be! Parent figures give us such strange and contradictory advice sometimes!

    1. My Mother is such a complicated creature, sounds like your Aunt is too! My parents were each other’s loves of their lives, but they married so young, that my Mother never got a chance to have a career of her own. She was pretty envious when I began mine, but she has always been hard on me academically. She once told me that it is better to keep up with my looks, land a talented man, and have babies, because, I wasn’t really meant to have a career. My Father was the one who told me not to fall in love young, learn to pay my own bills and be my own person.

      Hairdressing is really hard, there is no way I would be able to pass that exam! It is highly technical, and yes, you would have to talk to everyone. Not my cup of tea. I am sure that teaching is very rewarding. Funny, I think as parents, we should sit back and let our kids decide their futures and teach them to just be happy, because in the end, it is better to be happy than full of regrets.

  2. A terrible writer…?? I’ll be careful of how I say this. If you are married and holding a career with children, you are Superwoman. Being your mum’s youngest probably has made her aware of a secret desire to be MORE than what she is, and she can’t ask you to come down where she is or figure out how to come up where you are, at this point. At the most, you are accomplished and capable. Congratulations!

    1. My Mother has always labeled. I never lived within the label she put on me, I always thought it was a reflection of what she wanted her life to be, not really mine. She has always been incredibly brave, not everyone could have moved and given birth abroad. She has her faults, but I can’t blame her for anything.

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