Spinning the Illusion of Balance

Welcome to the "On Balance" guest blog. Every Tuesday, "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Writers need to use their full names. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.

By Katherine L. Farnham

It's Wednesday morning. My husband is on a plane to California. I'm driving to a distant meeting. I'm late because my dog threw up as we left. Meanwhile, I must rearrange my schedule for another meeting, apply to pre-K for next year and plan a long-overdue weekend party. My head reels with all I need to remember.

Then, my mother calls. Instead of sobbing about my insane life, I spin. I don't mention that I'm exhausted, or that juggling four faraway projects and motherhood is making me nuts. No, it's all "I've got some interesting new projects!" and "Everyone said yes to our invitation!" and "We think she has a good shot at getting in!"

I've always prided myself on coming from a family where you were honest about struggles rather than pretending life was just dandy. But the gulf between Mom's choices and mine has widened too far for honesty. I chose being a full-time consultant with two small children. Mom's choice was to work 10 evening hours a week and focus on her family and voluntarism. Luckily, Dad's income and her profession (nursing) permitted this balance, and she raised us to want the same. She disdained "those yuppies" who left their kids with Other People all day, climbed the corporate ladder and didn't volunteer for the PTA.

My choice means we have Things We Don't Discuss. Like day care (where my kids are thriving), or my frustrations at work, or my struggles to maintain balance when the slightest glitch can mean chaos. When I complain, Mom blames my working full-time, as if that's the only culprit. And maybe she's right. But I cannot admit that sometimes I wish I had her options or argue that countless working parents have a juggle far more challenging than ours. So, I spin instead.

I can still be honest with my peers, who face the same decisions, and who clearly have days when they fret over their own choices. But it saddens me that I can be so brutally honest about the down side of my lifestyle with friends I rarely see, or even with people I know only through a working parents' listserv, because I fear that my own family will use my choices to judge me as a parent and daughter. I miss being honest with my mom. But I also feel that if spin enables me to battle onward and upward without incurring her disapproval perhaps I can quietly prove that balancing my life is not only doable (on most days), but empowering.

Am I all alone in this? Do you censor or "spin" your real lives for friends and relatives who disapprove of your choices in life? What price do you pay -- and what benefits do you gain?

Katherine L. Farnham is an architectural historian and historic preservation consultant. She lives with her family in Chester Springs, Penn. She writes about family balance, modern culture, and preserving old houses on her blog, Spuddsoup.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  February 19, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Guest Blogs
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Comments

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I guess your mother doesn't read the Washpo either?

GeeWhiz, not telling your mom about how your life really is? Are you still in junior high?

I suspect that she knows alot more than you think she does. And what if she doesn't approve of all the choices you have made? Certainly my late parents did not approve of all my choices (except for Freida). This provided some difficult monents but we all managed to move past them. What my children have done or choose is not necessarily to my liking but you know what? It is their lives.

Posted by: Fred | February 19, 2008 7:47 AM

I can't relate. I have a very open and honest relationship with my mother. We can talk about almost anything. Not that we always agree. In fact, we disagree a lot. Both my parents were shocked when they learned that I would go back to work when my daugher turned 5 months old. Heck with baby #2, I need to return after 3 months old. But they have learned that working full time or part time has not hurt my daughter. My mother came down to visit me when my daughter was around 1 year old. She was shocked to see me up at 4:45 nursing my daughter and quickly pumping to relieve my breasts. Then off to unload the dishwasher and bread pork chops for the nights dinner. But she saw a happy, chubby, healthy baby. Over the years, they have come to realize there are more then one way to raise kids. They also learned how wonderful our day care providers were. She saw them as veteran moms who helped us raise our daughter. Not hs educated morons, who sat our kid in front of the TV. I also think my parents have some idea, although not a huge clue, about how difficult financially it is to make it now. And how things have really changed for the current generation. No longer are there steady jobs with guaranteed pensions. No longer are kids able to fully fund themselves through 4 years of college with out significant debt. But I do hear her when she says, people don't need two fancy cars (although working families gnerally need two reliable cars), kids don't need the fanciest clothes, eat out all the time. I know we benefit from some of the luxuries that my job provides: more clothes, toys, nicer vacations etc... But most of all we benefit from the financial stability that a two income family provides: no worries about paying the mortgage or bills, a rainy day fund, a college fund and a fully funded retirement fund. So if we also get to enjoy a couple of kids shows a year, a domestic vacation and a few foreign travels, a couple of extra toys for everyone, is that really a crime. I don't think so. I am lucky my mother is not so judgmental. And neither are most of my friends. Even the ones that feel VERY strongly about staying home, are more open to see there are pros and cons to each situation.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 19, 2008 7:55 AM

But Fred, not everyone has loving wonderful parents. While the writer implies she does, all my mother did was criticize. She was apparently unhappy with her choices (and partially cause they were all that was available) and she did all she could to ensure her daughters had all the opportunities for them that she did not have.

But every time she opened her mouth, she was critical of everything. So sometimes it was best not to say anything, rather than hear that all the time. I see that reaction in my sisters, and it's disheartening, as I know what it is doing to their kids. *sigh*.

Not all of us have loving wonderful sharing relationships with our parents. It's nice when one can, but many families are not like that.

My father has no interest in my life, and he does not share one iota of anything about his life. I have come to learn to deal with this - that is who he is, and that's the way my life is. I did not choose my father, and if that's the way he wants it, he's missing out on a bunch. I have other family, and a wonderful loving husband, who all know him and know what I have had to deal with in my life, so they to some extent, understand.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | February 19, 2008 7:58 AM

I don't censor the tales of my life, except to sometimes deliberately omit telling my mother or grandmother things I know might upset them or worry them. But that's not spin, it's because I care for them and don't want them to be stressed over stuff they can't control (no more can I). There are times, however (and the past month has been one of them), when I am running like a hamster on a treadmill from 5 a.m. - 10 p.m. and I am convinced I will never catch up. I think the stress shows, even over the phone, to them. All I can do is assure them -- and myself -- that I am doing what I can to take care of myself and that this is short-lived.

Posted by: wtf | February 19, 2008 7:59 AM

"Do you censor or "spin" your real lives for friends and relatives who disapprove of your choices in life?"

I set boundaries for my friends and relatives.

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 19, 2008 7:59 AM

yes, I forgot to mention, when my sister told my mom she was going back to work after her first was born, my mom criticized her to everyone she met, AND to my sister. It was very hurtful to my sister, who i guess could possibly live on one income, but for the most part needs it (I have no idea, it's not for me to judge how she lives her life).

My mom, who had full time live in help til I was 5 (I'm the youngest). It's nice for her to talk - but she didn't live with the same realities. And she wasn't going to change anything, so why criticize and be hurtful during a joyous time in my sister's life?

Posted by: atlmom1234 | February 19, 2008 8:02 AM

I feel your pain, Kathrine, but I have to be honest - quit trying to impress mommy. I can understand wanting to talk to someone about your real stresses and problems, but it will never be your mom as long as you mask everything.

I had to get on my mom a bit when I got pregnant with her first grandbaby (due in April) because she didn't agree with putting him in day care so soon (he'll be attending after my maternity leave ends). She firmly believed kids should be kept out of such situations until they're at least two, at which point I went ballistic on her a$$.

I reminded her that while she may feel that way and made that decision for herself, 1) us kids never cared (like I'd remember that time anyhow), 2) her and I's current job situations could not be more different during pregnancy (I have a high-paying career; she had some crappy job as a secretary she couldn't care less about and that was barely helping with the bills), 3) day cares have changed A LOT since the time I was a baby (I mean, for crying out loud, our son will have a curriculum to follow), and so on.

After my tirade, she came around. I don't think she meant to be snide or clueless about it, but, well, she was. If I had just danced around her opinion, it would never have been known WHY I disagreed with her.

And if that fails, just remind anyone who feels the need to question your decision that they can have an opinion when they're paying the bills.

Posted by: Corvette1975 | February 19, 2008 8:04 AM

corvette:
And if that fails, just remind anyone who feels the need to question your decision that they can have an opinion when they're paying the bills.

I tell that to people, but then they still have opinions. *sigh*

Posted by: atlmom1234 | February 19, 2008 8:06 AM

Well, Atlmom, loving or not, there were some thing that I did that my parents, particulaly my father, did not approve of.

I understand what you are saying, I have seen this in actions with some parents of friends. But Chitty and WTF pretty much said how I would respond to your concerns. At some point everyone needs to make peace within themselves of how their parents are.

At some point you have to say to your parents, this is my ship and I am the captain.

Posted by: Fred | February 19, 2008 8:08 AM

You're truly an "adult" when you no longer live your life to suit your parents.

I always had a very good, close relationship with my parents. (As 'close' as one can be with a father who's in Vietnam, or Korea, or off in the boondocks for three months, but you get the point.) But at some point in time, I had to go live my own life. That meant leaving the state, going where I wanted and taking the job I wanted. They could disapprove if they wanted, but it wasn't their life.

I'm trying to remember that with my own kids, BTW. Oldest DD told me over the weekend that she's now majoring in English with a minor in French. (She dropped the double-major in business.) And she plans to go straight to grad school somewhere in NYC, probably NYU. She wants to get into the publishing field. Am I happy with that? Frankly, no; I'm concerned about her employment/career prospects and really want her to study something more "employable". But I took a deep breath, remembered that it's her life, clarified that I'm NOT paying for grad school, and kept my mouth shut other than that.

(But you don't have to share everything with your parents. When I first took up skydiving while in college, I chose NOT to tell my mother until I had 25 jumps. She appreciated that!)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 19, 2008 8:22 AM

Thanks, atlmom. I like that line "You can have an opinion when you're paying the bills" and I'm sure I'll use it often.

We've always been fairly honest with my parents but kept a good bit of the truth about our lives from my MIL, who is incredibly judgmental. I worked full-time when I had toddlers because I got a great job offer I didn't want to turn down, and we never told her. Instead, unfortunately, it meant she frequently visited us and commented on how dirty the house was and concluded that I was lazy and spoiled. (And yes, I know, the fact that my husband won't stand up to her says more about my marriage than it does about "balancing issues." I'm aware of that.)

We've also never told her about my son's disability (asperger's syndrome) because she'd find a way to blame us (me) for that too. Unfortunately, as a result, she simply thinks our child is undisciplined and I'm a bad mom. In an ideal world, yes, we'd all be much more honest with each other. But there also those people who tend to use information against you so it's better to limit the information you share and the contact you have with them. I wish it were different but it's not.

Posted by: justlurking | February 19, 2008 8:23 AM

Wow I'm surprised at the comments so far. I assume that you are relatively happy with your choices and make them as an adult, but you just feel like you can't vent with your mother.

Me too! My mother was an intelligent and ambitious woman with a Masters, who chose to stay home with my sister and I and make us into her "life's work," returning only after my sister was in her teens to a pretty menial job (for reasons I have never fully understood).

She definitely believes that her sacrifice made us into the people we are today (which might be true, but that goes for neuroses too! *g*) and while she really has been supportive in many ways, there is a total wall that goes up around me working.

Maybe it's regret, maybe it's just the same beliefs that led her to that choice, but I can't call her up and complain about my day either. She really believes that I am making the wrong choice, hates my son's daycare, and is just waiting for me to realize my mistakes "before it's too late."

The saving grace for our relationship is that she recognizes that they are my mistakes to make. But I definitely don't go out of my way to give her ammunition.

Luckily my MIL gets it so I call her instead, or friends.

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | February 19, 2008 8:26 AM

You're truly an "adult" when you no longer live your life to suit your parents.

What Army Brat said! (don't want to be accused of plagerism!) (it's a joke, ok!)

Of course, I don't think I would ever take advice from a person who jumps out of a perfectly good airplane.

Posted by: Fred | February 19, 2008 8:45 AM

Fred - what a campaign it's become when Sens. Obama and Clinton are accusing each other of plagiarism to try to win votes. Yeah, definitely makes me regard politics as a high calling. :-)

BTW, I no longer jump out of airplanes; I just fly them. It's more fun. But there's a lesson there - don't hang around bars with Marine officers. When we were undergrads I had a friend who was a Marine Reserve Lieutenant, working on a second degree in Criminal Justice. The Army's Golden Knights came to campus for a demonstration jump, to recruit folks for ROTC. Afterwards, Kevin and I were in our favorite watering hole, and the discussion went like "you ain't got the guts to jump out of an airplane" "yeah? Well, I got more guts than you." "BS." "I'll give ya BS, buddy." More beer, more boasting, and the next Saturday we were at the local jump school, neither of us smart enough to back out. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 19, 2008 8:52 AM

Well, armybrat,

I did take one bit of advice my my drill sergeant. "There are only two things that fall from the skies, bird droppings and fools!"

Posted by: Fred | February 19, 2008 8:56 AM

Fred, you were definitely more sober than I was at the key point in time. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 19, 2008 9:01 AM

ArmyBrat

Are you related to Cliff Clavin?

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 19, 2008 9:09 AM

Chitty, nope, no relation to Cliff but he's one of my spiritual heroes. :-)

(Especially when I went on Jeopardy, where contestants are warned against "pulling a Clavin".)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 19, 2008 9:18 AM

"But there also those people who tend to use information against you so it's better to limit the information you share and the contact you have with them."

I am surprised at the early comments as well. Many of us don't have parents with whom sharing information about our lives and our kids is good. The best way for us to approach those relationships is to discuss the weather, sports, politics and how cute our kids look in their latest school photos. Any more details are nothing more than ammunition. Share what you're comfortable sharing and no more. For those of you with Donna Reed as a mom, enjoy. My story more closely resembles atlmom's.

Unlike family, you get to choose your friends. If you aren't comfortable sharing honestly with your friends, trade them in for a set with whom you can be yourself with all your imperfections, poor choices, good choices, whatever. A support system isn't a support system if you have to spin your life to gain its approval.

Posted by: mn.188 | February 19, 2008 9:36 AM

I do. My mom is similar. The minute I'm overwhelmed, she blames my working. Day care isn't off topic - she sees how much improvement my son has made since starting. It's tough. Sometimes I just want to be the kid and have my mom comfort me and tell me I'll get through this.

Posted by: moiragrl | February 19, 2008 9:42 AM

No matter how old you are, you never outgrow wanting mom's approval. I'm glad so many of you have such perfect mothers. Mine is universally acclaimed a saint, and I love her very much, but out here in singlewomanland, I heavily censor what my mother hears. I don't tell her about the backbreaking, 60 hour weeks. I don't tell her that it can be incredibly lonely, and that not having someone to help out with anything is difficult. I don't need her to tell me that my career choices were wrong (in her opinion) and that my married, parttime-working sister made the good choice. I suspect that those loving, accepting mothers are thinking all those thoughts, but they don't voice them. Mine does, and its not pleasant.

Posted by: babsy1 | February 19, 2008 10:32 AM

I totally empathize with Atlmom, MN and justlurking, because I had the same kind of mother. Unlike Fred, I was always the "model" child -- talk about a stressful childhood! -- but then again my mother lived to snipe at me, so I tried as best I could simply to avoid her when I was at home (she kept a tight leash on me, figuratively speaking).

I married young (and happily!) and discovered thereafter the relief of simply avoiding my mother as much as possible. When I absolutely HAD to be around her I learned not to give her any "ammunition." But as Atlmom, MN and justlurking know so well, people like that will find something, anything, even the most innocent comment, to fix upon -- it's just how they are, and they're unlikely to change temperament after all those years.

I did find a certain solace in the poetic justice of my mother being left with partial speech aphasia following a stroke, which minimized her snarking ability for the rest of her life (but, boy, could you ever see the frustration in her eyes when she wanted to lash out, but was physically unable!).

After my mother's death (I'm so glad she died first) I had some rather, ahem, interesting conversations with my father, who I came to realize was also the brunt of her wrath, especially after I left home so my mother transferred her bile to him, poor guy, even though he was a model husband, father and hard-working provider. As I got to know him better in those later years, I came to respect him -- I wonder if he stayed with her partly to protect me from her -- and treasure him as both a parent and a friend. I know it's unwise to practice psychology without a license, but I'd hazard that my mother might've had borderline personality disorder; I don't know what treatments, if any, were available for it back then. But for me, getting away and "owning" my own life (as Atlmom noted, having a great husband helps!) and no longer being financially beholden to my parents undid the damage.

The crucial point to remember is that, if you have a judgmental parent like this and as long as you're a reasonably good kid, whatever you get blamed for it's really not your fault after all -- no matter what the parent tells you to the contrary.

Posted by: mehitabel | February 19, 2008 10:42 AM

"I reminded her that while she may feel that way and made that decision for herself, 1) us kids never cared (like I'd remember that time anyhow), 2) her and I's current job situations could not be more different during pregnancy (I have a high-paying career; she had some crappy job as a secretary she couldn't care less about and that was barely helping with the bills), 3) day cares have changed A LOT since the time I was a baby (I mean, for crying out loud, our son will have a curriculum to follow), and so on."

Wow.

First of all, your mother felt that it was good to not have children in daycare for the first two years of their lives. So you and your siblings remember what it was like before you were two and "didn't care??" You're missing her point. And if you actually told her that - that you "didn't care" that she changed her life for you and did what she felt was best for you - and if you referred to her job as "crappy" - and if you said all of those other things that you said in your post - that makes me glad I'm not your mom. :( I hope you're not that selfish and cruel in real life.

Second of all, you think a curriculum for an INFANT is the best situation for him? That makes me sad for you. I realize this is your first baby and you are making choices that are the best for your new family, but perhaps when you're your mom's age and have her experience, you might want to revisit this discussion, because you just might feel far differently about what's important. Babies need love, not curriculums. And if your child will get that in daycare, great - but why not use that when you're making your case to your mom instead of smacking her to the floor with your high and mightiness.


Posted by: fake99 | February 19, 2008 10:44 AM

No, fake99, you're missing MY point that it's my life and I'll live it like I want and as I feel needed.

She can have her opinions (some of which I do respect -- just not the ones brought up in discussion today), but she needed to learn to respect my decisions. I didn't say she had to agree with them, but she does have to respect them.

And, no, I don't care what she did when we were kids -- that was her call, and from I can see (for myself and other children), it really didn't matter one way or the other.

I know she did what she thought was best for us, and I'm simply doing the same.

Posted by: Corvette1975 | February 19, 2008 10:51 AM

And by the way, she referred to her job as 'crappy' -- I didn't make any of that up.

Posted by: Corvette1975 | February 19, 2008 10:53 AM

Like Catherine, I too have a tendency to censor what I say to my mother. If I get too wacky or intense she'll walk around in circles, look up at the cieling, and start talking to herself. It bothers me when she does that. However, my mere physical presence isn't always good enough to show her that I DID survived her upbringing and a gentle verbal reminder has very effective results when she perches herself atop the soapbox.

Posted by: DandyLion | February 19, 2008 10:54 AM

Katherine,

I can totally relate to what you wrote about spinning. Sometimes, I spin; sometimes I wish I had. Thanks for bringing up this topic; it really resonated with me.

I guess (contrary to some posters) I don't see what you said as a sign of immaturity or your own lack of comfort with your decision to work outside the home.

I don't think you're saying you need mom's approval to function. I read your essay as meaning you wish you could vent to your mom the way you do your girlfriends; you wish she'd get you, but you know she can't.

I often feel the same about my mom. She was an at-home mom who was vehemntly anti-working mom. As a child, I remember her bashing working moms as selfish women who just wanted fancy vacations and a big house.

I work full time, and I'm comfortable that that is the best decision for my family. But that doesn't mean it doesn't bother me that my mom can't ever get me the way my friends who work outside the home get me.

If I complain about anything, I know she's thinking: "Well, if you didn't work, you wouldn't be so stressed, or behind or overwhelmed." Maybe she isn't thinking this, but I suspect she is. So often I spin; sometimes I don't and what hangs in the air makes me wish I did.

Posted by: gchen | February 19, 2008 11:03 AM

I'm with MN, mehitabel, and a bunch of the second-wave responses. I'm really, really lucky that I do have a mom who I can (and do) share just about everything with. But her own relationship with her mom was extremely difficult -- one of those "left home at 17 and never went back" things. My mom finally explained to me that a lot of it went back to this same kind of judgmentalism: that she was only accepted and loved if she fit into the preconceived mold. I saw that dynamic in action at my great-grandparents, and boy, is it oppressive; one day there and my mom would stop eating and I would have already gained 3 pounds. And yet, my grandmother loved her daughter tremendously, and didn't know any other way.

When you have that kind of situation, you have to set some sort of reasonable boundaries. But that doesn't mean that you have to tell your mom where to get off -- or that all of her own choices were wrong. All you have to do is put limits on what you let her get involved in -- which really means limits on yourself, in what you share with her. And isn't that exactly what the author did?

I also think the "stop trying to impress your mommy" comments are pretty cold and unnecessary. I strongly suspect everyone here who is lucky enough to still have a mom wants her to love us and be proud of us. Heck, I'm about to turn 42, and I'll freely admit that when my mom or my dad tells me that they're proud of me for something or other, it still makes me tear up. Yes, you live your own life, not theirs (and, umm, isn't that exactly what today's author did? which is why mom isn't quite so understanding?). And if you don't have that unfailing support from your parents, then you find it somewhere else. But jeez, none of that means that you can't be sad you don't have that kind of relationship with your mom.

Posted by: laura33 | February 19, 2008 11:06 AM

Well, my mom is no longer around for me to "try and impress." But when she was alive I made different choices than she did when we were kids. I knew that at times it was best to spin a bit and other times I could be more honest. In reality, it was the difference between a pleasant conversation and a much more difficult one and to be honest why shouldn't I choose the more pleasant route sometimes.

I think this is a great blog post. Many of us are making different choices from their parents. Now that I have lost my mom (suddenly and without warning and while my kids were very young) I realize how important my relationship was with her. Daughters and Mothers have a very complicated relationship that of course varies based on the people. I don't believe it's about trying to impress but instead trying to make sense of your own choices and understand your mother's. Now that I no longer have the opportunity to spin or discuss, I think that those of you that do may not realize what you lose when it's gone. Even when you are spinning, you are still connecting in some way and that is important and a great loss when it's gone. It's the act of conversation itself, not the actual words that I miss.

Posted by: soleil2000 | February 19, 2008 11:24 AM

A relationship between parent and adult child goes both ways.

Yes, a daughter should make the choices that work for her, which might or might not please her parents. It seems like Katherine is doing this.

But a mother also has a part to play if she wants to remain close to her children, which is to let them make the choices that work for them without judging or excessive pressure. I'd say if you really have a concern about what your adult children are doing, ask and try to understand the person's motivation. Treat them with the same respect that you give your adult friends.

Katherine's mother is not doing this. She's the one who ought to change her behavior. Unless and until that happens, I think Katherine is smart to limit her sharing and keep arguments and conflict to a minimum. She just wishes it didn't have to be that way, that she could share without provoking the argument.

Posted by: ssolnick | February 19, 2008 11:25 AM

Laura, MN et alia - I'm now wondering how much of this is gender related.

Maybe because I'm not female I just never expected to vent to or share with my mother in the way that some of you seem to do or want to do. It just never struck me that that's what I would or should do, and that may be a big part of it; I don't know. But I'm reading some of the responses and going "wow, I can't relate to that at all."

FWIW, my relationship with my mother has never been perfect. On numerous occasions, my mother will still criticize something, or let me know of her disapproval. She's made it clear that she's very proud of me in general (and yes, that does mean a lot to me). But on occasions like when we told her that DW as pregnant with our fourth child, or when DW became a SAHM for a few years after that fourth child was born, Mom made her disapproval clear. (Mom worked outside the home her entire life and wasn't happy with DW & my decisions there.)

It didn't thrill me to hear that, but it didn't really bother me because it's not Mom's life, it's mine.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 19, 2008 11:30 AM

ssolnick


"Even when you are spinning, you are still connecting in some way and that is important and a great loss when it's gone"

I would have much more preferred honesty with my parents than the unhealthy "spinning". It was their loss, far more than mine. I won't continue a friendship that isn't based on mutual support.

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 19, 2008 11:30 AM

I really liked this post. I usually don't feel I relate to most of the posts, but this one hit home. I hide and spin things from both my mom and mother-in-law daily. My mom I can't tell too much about money because for some reason she thinks we're going to be destitute. I still can't figure out why she thinks that.

My mother-in-law I generally tell NOTHING bad to about work, my kids, or any juggling that has to occur. She just can't handle it. She will bring up the most minor thing that "went wrong" for the rest of eternity. It drives me nuts when I still have to hear about the fact that daycare lost my daughter's socks 9 months ago ONE TIME. I have too many other things to worry about to focus on the socks for more than 5 seconds. She also considers my working outside the home some huge burden on me and that her son somehow is less of a man because of it. I just don't want to hear it anymore so I always tell her things are great.

I see nothing wrong with omitting certain details or spinning the juggling act in order to make my life easier and more balanced. Why should I subject myself to someone else's issues or baggage when what they worry about doesn't bother me? I'm happy, my family is happy and we all seem to get along fine. That's what matters.

Posted by: kbj | February 19, 2008 11:31 AM

"I hope you're not that selfish and cruel in real life."

Wow.

fake, Talk about judgmental. Corvette communicated to us honestly about the manner in which she stood up to judgmental snark from her own mother -- one whom she knows better than us -- in contrast to the blog author who "spins". While Corvette's words wouldn't have been mine, you've used her words as a means for bashing her over: (i) her personality and character (selfish and cruel, LOL?) and then, the knock-out punch (ii) that her values are lacking because she's placing her infant in paid childcare.

Ah, irony.

The world is certainly a better place when we bash the values, motivations and character of those with whom we disagree; isn't it? Not.

Posted by: mn.188 | February 19, 2008 11:32 AM

I had a pretty good relationship with my mom (now deceased). But I can totally relate to self-censoring in conversations with parents et al.

When I would occasionally mention how busy I was (still am), her response was to feel sorry for me because I "had" to work. Now, my husband is clergy, and we don't live an opulent lifestyle, but I work for other reasons besides the paycheck. She, on the other hand, did not work from before I was born until I was well into high school (a part-time bookkeeping job). She was always home when we got home from school... but things were much different 40+ years ago. I think she had a hard time understanding that.

The bottom line was that she wasn't trying to be judgmental, but it sure came across that way. Now that she's gone, though, I miss talking to her. Dads just aren't the same. (At least mine isn't.)

Posted by: lorenw507 | February 19, 2008 11:35 AM

I used to tell my Mom everything when I got overwhelmed. Then one day, when all had been going fine for a long time, my Mom told me that she couldn't handle hearing about all of my problems. Not that she didn't care but that knowing about my problems made her worry and impacted her own health and life.

I have to admit that I was pretty hurt about that at first because I felt like she was rejecting me but it was a good wake-up call. I don't lie or spin or anything but if the topic doesn't come up... I don't bring up the topic myself. It things really start hitting the fan... then yes... I might talk to my mom to get my head on straight but is my last resort.

I don't think I have a super warm and caring relationship with my mother but I am lucky in that my Mom tries to be as supportive as possible of my choices even if she thinks they are wrong. She has said it is my life and I need to make my own decisions. She can't make them for me and won't. Do I know that she doesn't agree with me? Yes... and that is ok. Then again... my Mom tends to voice her dissenting opinion once - maybe twice if she thinks what I am doing is really wrong and after that... I don't tend to hear about it again.

I don't think there is anything wrong with getting your support from many people out there. Family, friends, spouses, co-workers all have different opinions and different takes on any given situation and I don't think any one person should be burdened with hearing about all of your problems.

Posted by: Billie_R | February 19, 2008 11:37 AM

Maybe because I'm not female I just never expected to vent to or share with my mother in the way that some of you seem to do or want to do. It just never struck me that that's what I would or should do, and that may be a big part of it; I don't know. But I'm reading some of the responses and going "wow, I can't relate to that at all."

ArmyBrat, My reaction is identical to yours -- I can't relate to the importance of having any approval from mom at all. I never shared with my mother, don't now, and don't miss it. It's not a gender thing; it's a "how good was your relationship with X parent" thing. In my opinion.

It's also, in my opinion, not a gender thing. DH and other friends of his struggle with lacking the approval of their dads -- either because dad is dead/gone or because he does not approve. At the risk of being repetitive, if a parent wasn't a great parent, you learn early on to get the support you need from others. The older you get, for several of us, the only person whose approval really matters is that of the man in the mirror.

Posted by: mn.188 | February 19, 2008 11:39 AM

Chitty, I agree -- sadly. My greatest sorrow WRT my parents is that my mother's chronic nastiness drove a wedge between me and my father as well, although he was a decent guy who didn't deserve it. Early in my marriage DH and I moved as far away from them as reasonably possible, then I kept in touch with my dad by long-distance phone calls. My parents didn't have an extension phone, so my mother couldn't listen in and spoil our chats; of course, I was obliged to talk to her for a couple minutes so she couldn't attack me for not speaking with her at all (but there's no winning with people like that, because they refuse to change).

Posted by: mehitabel | February 19, 2008 11:39 AM

Just wanted to clarify, my relationship with either of my parents is far from perfect. I also stated that I disagree with my mother a lot of the time. One of the biggest being child rearing. But over the course of our 36 year relationship, we have come to an agreement to agree to disagree. We also have come to share our inner most thoughts (except for the teenage years, we have always been good with this). Don't get me wrong, my mother is highly opinionated and out spoken. But she knows how to phrase things to me and knows when to back off. Also she has come to respect my judgement on most things. I also don't bother to tell her the 10 million things that I think she should be doing differently or that I would do differently. But I am less agressive and out spoken as she is. One good thing we have come to agree on is to be able to tell each other when to back off. I know some people and their words are purely acidic. I am sorry if you have a parent like that. But it has been a long road and a constant journey to establish and maintain a good relationship with my mother. My father on the other hand, doesn't ever directly tell me anything he thinks is wrong about my life or my brothers. But I guess he tells my mother these things. My last conversation with my mom about my dad was how he thought all three of his grown kids were doing every thing wrong. Hmm, I thought at our age he was divorced, had only a HS degree, was dating a 20 year old and lived in an apartment above some one else's garage. Huge success.:) To a certain degree, you have to ignore your parents. They are going to think their way and we will think our way. And truthfully, no one knows what it is to walk in each other's shoes. I respect my parents for doing the best job they knew how and now they need to at least shut up. I am grateful that they both seemed to figure that out when it counts. I can also say with all my inlaws faults, they NEVER openly critize us. Of course they are text book examples of dsyfunctional parents-so I know they are smart enough not to open that book. Lstly, there is nothing more complicated than the relationship between a mother and a daughter. I do think it is gender specific. I do think mother's and daughter's strive to have a loving and open and sharing relationship. That can bring a lot of strain and heartache. But I also believe it can bring one of the most precious relationships in the world. I won't even be able to comprehend what it would be like when my mother dies. She is truly one of my greatest friends.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 19, 2008 11:54 AM

I also think that one of the greatest joys of family and close friends is when you feel you can tell them ANYTHING and they laugh, cry, and generally accept you for who you are. Sounds like Katherine once had this with her mom and doesn't now. That's gotta be really hard and not easy to fix up.

I wish for her sake that she could just sit down and have a frank talk with her mom about her choices and how she wishes she didn't have to censor herself. Maybe writing about this will make her feel like she can. But it just goes to show how touchy our personal decisions about how we parent can be. Sometimes moms, daughters, sisters, cousins make VERY different choices about working v. staying home. We ALL feel judged, no matter our decisions or economic realities or marital/parental arrangements.

Posted by: leslie4 | February 19, 2008 11:56 AM

Thank you, MN.

And either as a supplemental fact to my original post or just to watch fake99's head explode, my mom and I have a fantastic relationship. We really do care about each other's opinions and thoughts, and I'm sure that's why our blowouts can be legendary. But it's BECAUSE we're honest and push back on each other (because, trust me, I've gotten out of line with my judgments once or twice and she let me know) that we are so respectful of what the other one thinks and feels.

In all honestly, she's an incredibly intelligent woman and she (I like to think) raised an incredibly intelligent woman. And honestly, my mom would feel she failed raising me if I didn't stand up for myself when needed.

Posted by: Corvette1975 | February 19, 2008 11:57 AM

Leslie, you are so-o-o-o naive. You can't change people like Katherine's and my mothers, least of all by sitting them down to have a talk with them. They will only change if THEY want to change.

Posted by: mehitabel | February 19, 2008 11:58 AM

Oh in our premarital courses, the priest told us the best thing you can do for your marriage and your family is IGNORE your parent's advice. It isn't their family or their struggles. They had their own life and now you have your own. Respect them, honor them, but do as you see fit. For someone who never married or had children, he was right on the money (about that). I would give the same advice to my children. I hope I can learn to butt out of their lives as much as my own parents did. It is a wonderful gift to give your adult children.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 19, 2008 11:59 AM

We ALL feel judged, no matter our decisions or economic realities or marital/parental arrangements.

Posted by: leslie4 | February 19, 2008 11:56 AM

No, we don't ALL feel judged. Certainly, you do. Why do you feel the need to legitimize your experience by making it universal? Little in life is universal, other than the usual suspects - death and taxes.

Posted by: mn.188 | February 19, 2008 12:34 PM

I would never presume to judge my parent's or my inlaw's choices, so it seems weird that they would openly judge mine. They have no idea what's really going on in my life. I don't really know what happens inside my -closest- friend's marriage, so you can bet my parents and inlaws don't have enough information to decide whether I've made "correct" choices. And if they did openly judge (and they don't), it would only happen once, which, I suspect, is why they don't. My father's approach has worked very well: if you're not in imminent danger, he'll keep his opinion to himself unless asked. The information is generally one way, child to parent, which works well for us. I completely trust them with the information and know it won't be coming back as a weapon later. They have very high shock thresholds, fortunately, since generation differences are at play. We keep information to my inlaws very brief and shallow, very much censored, since it's just too much for them to know just how much "trouble" we get ourselves into. I REALLY hope I have a relationship with my daughter like my mom and I and not like SIL and MIL. It's probably like a relationship between any 2 people: if the chemistry is there, it has a much better chance of working.

Posted by: atb2 | February 19, 2008 12:41 PM

"Chronic nastiness," wow, that's a great discriptor for my mother. "Toxic" was the term I used. "Evil" is the word my sisters and my dad used to describe my mother. So because I did not have much respect for her as a person, I really didn't care what she had to say about my choices; my dad was good enough to offer advice and not criticize. There's a real liberty in feeling like you don't have to answer to anyone.

I share Chitty's philosophy on this, but it's only been since I've grown older and learned not to care what others think. I rely on the counsel of a very small select circle of people I trust, but at the end of the day, I make my own decisions and live with the consequences.

FWIW, I think Katherine is correct to only offer perspectives of her life that will avoid conflict with her mother. It's an unfortunate position, but it is what it is. She cannot change her mother. The only thing she can control is the information she shares with her mother, so why add more stress to her life by arguing with her mother. She can instead vent with her girlfriends, or here on this blog : )

Posted by: pepperjade | February 19, 2008 12:44 PM

Okay, you're right, MN.

Sorry -- it's just 99% of us who feel judged, and me 100% of the time!

But you did catch me legitimately. I was wrong to say it's universal. Some women (and men and children) do not feel judged. Thankfully. Or they can brush off others judgments more easily than some of us. It is an important point -- I guess along the lines of "you can't judge me if I don't let you."

I have to reiterate my main point -- it is a glorious feeling when you don't feel judged for life's everyday decisions and mistakes, for just being yourself. (Judgment does have a legit role when someone has done wrong -- but that's a different discussion.)

Posted by: leslie4 | February 19, 2008 12:44 PM

"Corvette communicated to us honestly about the manner in which she stood up to judgmental snark from her own mother -- one whom she knows better than us -- in contrast to the blog author who "spins". While Corvette's words wouldn't have been mine, you've used her words as a means for bashing her over: (i) her personality and character (selfish and cruel, LOL?) and then, the knock-out punch (ii) that her values are lacking because she's placing her infant in paid childcare. "

I'm not questioning her values in regards to placing her infant in paid childcare. I said that if she has a daycare that will provide her baby with love, then great. I did question her reasons for feeling that her daycare is better than the ones that existed when she was a child, because loving care is far more important for a baby than curriculums.

I also saw that her mother was not the one doling out the judgmental snark, that Corvette was. Her mother, who raised at least two children to adulthood, said that she feels it's better for very young children to not be in daycare, and Corvette, who is not yet a parent and has no experience under her belt to back up what will be best for her children, responded with a tirade of criticism of her mother's own choices (that her job was crap, that it did no good for her to stay home with her and her siblings). THAT is judgmental snark. There's a way to say "hey mom, I know you did the best for us, but I am choosing something different for my children and think it will be the best for my family" without going off on ranting tirade and telling your mother that what she did wasn't worth a darn.

"And, no, I don't care what she did when we were kids -- that was her call, and from I can see (for myself and other children), it really didn't matter one way or the other."

So because you can't remember it, it didn't matter? I guess we shouldn't do anything with our children until they're at least 3, and probably closer to 4 or 5 since that's when they start regularly remembering things that happened to them at that age. We should stop reading to them, playing with them, taking them to the zoo, going to playdates, going to the park - because they won't remember it and it won't matter anyway. Kind of a strange comment coming from someone who thinks that curriculums for infants are important. (and yes, that was snark so no need to point it out.)

Posted by: fake99 | February 19, 2008 12:47 PM

Fake99, it will never matter to me what you think, so either let it go or write a book about it.

My mom and I have made our peace and moved on -- quickly, I may add.

Posted by: Corvette1975 | February 19, 2008 12:54 PM

fake99

"I did question her reasons for feeling that her daycare is better than the ones that existed when she was a child, because loving care is far more important for a baby than curriculums. "

Cliff Clavin of the blog is now joined by the blog's Carla Tortelli..

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 19, 2008 12:59 PM

"I wish I had her options or argue that countless working parents have a juggle far more challenging than ours."

You did have the options. You chose to have children and to continue working.

Posted by: martinajess | February 19, 2008 1:03 PM

"You can have an opinion when you're paying the bills"

Can I use this on my MIL? She is the judgemental one, not my own mother.....

Posted by: tsm | February 19, 2008 1:09 PM

"Cliff Clavin of the blog is now joined by the blog's Carla Tortelli..

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 19, 2008 12:59 PM "

Thank you, Rebecca! :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 19, 2008 1:10 PM

I think that there is a lesson to be learned from today's post- and it's not for the younger generation, but the older generation: If you want to be included in your adult childrens' lives (and included can mean many things- even just getting regular non-censored news updates!), keep your negative opinions to yourself.

Posted by: acornacorn | February 19, 2008 1:12 PM

"you've used her words as a means for bashing her over: (i) her personality and character (selfish and cruel, LOL?) and then, the knock-out punch (ii) that her values are lacking because she's placing her infant in paid childcare. "

uh. Fake, honey? You seem inordinately worked up and in search of a target. My comment above not only still stands, but is borne out anew by your follow up. Corvette's not losing any sleep over it, but if you seek to convert the topic from spin to how awful Corvette is, consider why this ax is so essential for you to grind.

chitty - my hat's off to you for the Cheers reference, LOL. Maybe Katherine hired a paid "judger" to bring home her point.

Posted by: mn.188 | February 19, 2008 1:13 PM

"But there also those people who tend to use information against you so it's better to limit the information you share and the contact you have with them. I wish it were different but it's not."

Posted by: justlurking | February 19, 2008 08:23 AM


Like Justlurking, so many people with challenging relationships with their parents have said it so much better than I will. But I have to respond because this post really touched me.

I definitely don't bring up my struggles with my dad and step mom, who disagree with my decision to work full time outside the home. They judge me as a selfish career woman who cares more about money than her kids, and they judge my husband as less of a man because he "can't support his family."

If I have a problem -- any problem -- they blame it on the fact that I work. My son is sick? It's because I work and he's in daycare. It can't possibly be because kids get sick. Every single little tiny problem is like this. Then they try to give me "advice" on how I can quit my job and stay at home so I can be a "good" mom.

We all know that the decision about work is all very complicated (whether it's a stay at home parent, work full time, part time, or as a previous blogger wrote, patchwork). But my dad and step mom don't respect me enough (or respect my boundaries) to understand that it's complicated, and that it's my decision (along with my husband). They offer all sorts of (usually terrible) advice on how I can make the decision they made when they raised kids (and, for what it's worth, this is made more complicated by the fact that my parents are divorced and my mom worked outside the home).

I do keep a lot of things from my dad and step mom. If I didn't, EVERY conversation would turn into a discussion about why I should change my life and be a SAHM. I'm not joking. Every single time. It's not, as some of the other posters have suggested, that I'm "afraid" of mommy and daddy or that I need their approval. I'm just too tired to argue all the time. It's draining and unpleasant. One of the early posters suggested standing up for your decisions. That's great, but it doesn't always work. I have stood up to them, and they just see it as an opening to argue with me. They don't listen and they never will.

I am very sad that I don't have a closer relationship with my dad and step mom, because I would like to include them more in my life. But in order for that to happen, they need to respect the person I *am*, not the person they *want* me to be.

BTW, as a side note... This issue is actually much more about them than it is about me. One of the major factors in my parent's divorce was that my mom wanted to work outside the home (she thought they needed the money, he thought high levels of debt was a perfectly fine way to live). It gets very complicated from here, but both my dad and step mom have some unresolved issues related to my mom's choices that take out on me. No amount of rational discussion between me and them will fix this, so it's just easier to make my own choices and put up a barrier so that my husband and I can live in peace.

Posted by: sandiego_mama | February 19, 2008 1:17 PM

I'm of two minds about this. As a child, there are choices that I have made that are very different than those my parents would have made for me - some of which I have shared with them, some not. As a parent, I know how my parents must have felt. I now understand that my parents are not mere spectators at the spectacle that is my life who are indifferent to the choices and outcomes. I now know that while my life is my life, I am not the only person impacted by the choices I make with my life. I can enrich the life of my family or deeply wound them by the choices I make. My mother and father love me more than anyone ever has or will, how could they not be invested and have an opinion on the direction of my life?

So, while I share the children's desire for self-determination, I understand that in their heart of hearts, MOST, mother's only want the best for their children and grandchildren. Maybe some of these mother's feel as if their working daughters don't value what they did as SAHMs? Its not a one way street, and parents are people too - as wonderful and imperfect as the rest of us.

Sometimes, they just don't do the best job of conveying how much they hope for us. Sometimes they hurt your feelings, sometimes you hurt theirs. What are you going to do? Forgive repeatedly and move on the best you can.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | February 19, 2008 1:19 PM

moxiemom1

"I understand that in their heart of hearts, MOST, mother's only want the best for their children and grandchildren."

And fathers? It's a lot more complicated than wanting the best for their children...

Under your theory, this world would be a LOT better than it is currently.

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 19, 2008 1:35 PM

Interesting timing on this subject, because just yesterday I was talking to an old girlfriend who moved a few hours away to be closer to family.

I went back to work part-time shortly after my oldest daughter was born. Fortunately, I was in a field that allowed me to take her with me to work (I also had my own office). When my baby was 9 months old, the organization laid off all employees, and I decided to make lemonade out of lemons and stay home for a while (not pursue other employment). Getting pregnant 6 months later cinched the deal, and I have been home with my girls now for 4 years. (I have thinking of going back to work soon though.)

My friend had a successful career in engineering pre-kids, and has juggled career and family for over 4 years now.

In recent months she has lamented how busy she is and how she is working too much. She also said she wanted to work fewer hours (they could afford it). Each time I call her, she sounds as harried and busy as ever, with no plans to change her situation.

It occurs to me that maybe she is thinking that I value staying home more than working outside the home. Perhaps she is telling me what she thinks I want to hear. Is she "spinning" her life as harried because she thinks I will not judge her? Maybe she enjoys the busy working mom lifestyle but worries about what I would think?

So, is there such a thing as spinning the illusion of imbalance?

Posted by: ravennajen | February 19, 2008 1:37 PM

The irony, and there always is an irony on the OB, is that the author is an architectural historian and historic preservation consultant.

She should know the value of honesty and integrity...

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 19, 2008 1:40 PM

I'm lucky in that if my parents have complaints about my life, they keep them mostly to themselves. They see that my DD is healthy and happy, and that I have a good career for which they are very proud of me. Yes I'm stressed a lot, and I make a lot of mistakes, but they love me and know I'm doing my best.

They also know that if they were to consistently adopt the approach of making negative remarks, I would lessen my contact with them. So perhaps that's part of why they are not more critical, though knowing them they honestly don't have major criticisms.

My life is very different from my mom's. But, there are parts of my life that I know she envies, and that's why I believe I have her support for the most part.

Posted by: hockeyfan1 | February 19, 2008 1:51 PM

No amount of rational discussion between me and them will fix this, so it's just easier to make my own choices and put up a barrier so that my husband and I can live in peace.
Posted by: sandiego_mama | February 19, 2008 01:17 PM

Hurrah for SanDiego_Mama for recognizing this! For the rest of you: some battles can't be won. You can both stay in your separate trenches and wait out the seige, or you can continually shoot at each other, but there's no actual progress being made either way.

In some cases, with some people, rational discussion works, and it should be used. To claim it works with everyone in every case is to be incredibly naive.

Posted by: newslinks1 | February 19, 2008 2:13 PM

"You did have the options. You chose to have children and to continue working."

Posted by: martinajess | February 19, 2008 01:03 PM

For some people the "options" are to continue working or not have enough money to put food on the table.

Posted by: dennis5 | February 19, 2008 2:43 PM

We're a proper southern family, so plenty of stuff gets shoved into the closet and never revealed by anyone, or only within small confines which instantly get passed along the gossip grapevine.

I don't have an issue with it because I learned to accept that you can't choose your family and thus you have to choose how you deal with them.

We love and support, and withhold.

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | February 19, 2008 2:48 PM

"My mother and father love me more than anyone ever has or will, how could they not be invested and have an opinion on the direction of my life?

So, while I share the children's desire for self-determination, I understand that in their heart of hearts, MOST, mother's only want the best for their children and grandchildren."

Wow, moxiemom, that first comment is a blockbuster. Please know it is not a universal experience. Many of us are loved by our spouses and friends far more than we are by our parents. Not that I'm bitter or anything, LOL.

Second, accepting your view of the world as fact, that most moms want what's best for their children and grandchildren, isn't the critical judgment here how one measures "best"? Perhaps some parents' measure best as "not divorced" while others measure best as "having 4 kids just like I did" and still others measure best as "there's a SAH parent in the household". The problem, it seems to me, is that some parents are measuring "best" applying an entirely different set of values than the values applied by the liver of that life. My parents view of "best" does not even qualify as "good enough" for DH and me.

(Other parents, of course, don't give a hoot about their grandchildren even if they loved their kids, or, in the alternative, adore their grandchildren but have no time for their kids. That's a topic for another day.)

"So, is there such a thing as spinning the illusion of imbalance?

Posted by: ravennajen | February 19, 2008 01:37 PM"

Yes. If it keeps a relationship on an even keel, and if the relationship is valuable in the long run, bending over backwards to emphasize the warts is well worth it.

Posted by: mn.188 | February 19, 2008 3:31 PM

Hmmmmm. I'm not getting all the angst about keeping things from your mother.

My Mom is a little schizophrenic on this front, LOL. She was very frank about telling us that our lives were private and we were under no obligation to share everything with our grandparents. She always shared the good news, but they didn't hear about bad grades, discipline problems, etc. She deemed it none of their business. Both sets of grandparents were prone to interfering and it was her way of holding them at arms length and protecting us from their judgments when we made a mistake. My dad's older brother went to his parents with every problem and my cousins and aunt paid for it with lectures, advice, and interference from grandparents.

Of course, now that my mom is the grandma, wants to know everything, but I am taking a page from her book on this one. She doesn't need to know everything. This is my private marriage and family. She is part of that family, but not in as intimate a way as my husband and daughter. So, I guess I do censor what I share, but I don't look at this as a reflection of a bad relationship with my mom or a need to please her. This is just part of growing up and starting your own family, separate from the family with which you grew up. I'd feel a little odd still courting my mother's approval at age 43, LOL.

Posted by: vegasmom89109 | February 19, 2008 3:36 PM

A bit off topic, but I wonder how people resolve differences of opinion between spouses on whether one parent should stay home with the children?

We have this problem. I'd rather stay home with our 2 kids; my husband insists that I work. It's not about money. He makes enough. He claims it wouldn't be fair for him to be the sole earner. I "settled" on working part-time. Still, I'd rather spend more time/focus on the kids. I wouldn't feel comfortable just quitting against my husband's desire either. Not sure how to resolve this. It's tricky because the whole family seems to suffer - more stress, less time, more clutter, less healthy meals, etc.

Does anybody have any thoughts on this?

Posted by: Sparkling | February 19, 2008 3:42 PM

I had to chuckle about EmeraldEAD's comment -- my dad has 3 siblings and the M.O. is that someone was ALWAYS on the outs/taking turn in the doghouse. Add the whole passive-aggressive gossip chain of telling everyone ELSE someone did wrong and you land squarely in the camp of self-editing/spinning. This may be why I fall in with mn, sandiego_mama and choose to stay on neutral ground when conversing with my dad. It's not worth my sanity to lay all of the cards on the table so to speak.

Posted by: tntkate | February 19, 2008 3:42 PM

"Do you censor or "spin" your real lives for friends and relatives who disapprove of your choices in life? What price do you pay -- and what benefits do you gain?"

There is spin, and there is spin. As I read this article, I wondered if the "spin" was somehow less about avoiding her mother's disapproval, and somehow more about avoiding reality. The first paragraph irked me a little, because it was less obviously about balancing the true challenges of raising children and working, and more about keeping up with the Joneses. I am so tired about hearing the latest sob story of these overachieving, stressed, professional parents who lament about pre-k applications and overblown social events, as they try to balance travel, work, and nanny schedules. Frankly, we all have choices, even the rich and successful. So I have a hard time finding sympathy for those people who make their choices and then whine about them. If you want a high power job, elaborate weekend parties, and daycare as competitive as Harvard, then go for it. But please, spare the rest of us your whining. It sounds really lame.

Perhaps the writer doesn't share these laments with her mother because our mothers tend to be able to weed out the real from the ridiculous. I know my mother would laugh at me if I came to her with such concerns. It strikes me as that the auther's "friends" share in these whinefests less to give each other support, and more to compete about who has a more stressful, successful, ambitious life. Puhleez!!!

Posted by: emily111 | February 19, 2008 3:49 PM

mn - you are correct that the definition of "best" is highly subjective. What I was trying to say was that in general (I know this is not true for everyone) while the outcome of a certain comment or action of a parent may be hurtful, the intent is not always as such.

If we want our parents to accept us as we are then we, as adults, need to make an effort to accept them as they are as well. If we expect that they are the only ones giving then we are still acting as children. My parents are very disappointed in my choice not to practice any religion. I know this hurts them as well. So we both make an effort to be respectful of the other's feelings. I don't rub it in her face, she doesn't bring it up all the time. When we are with them, we go to church with them because it is important to them. If they are visiting us, we allow them to take the kids to church if they like. They don't send the kids books about Jesus.

I guess what I'm trying to say is once, you become an adult, you have responsibilities in the relationship as well.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | February 19, 2008 3:51 PM

Emily, LOL! My mother was the one who was the nagging status-seeker "in my best interests" (she thought) -- while I was comparatively impervious to such things and have always preferred a simpler life.

Moxie, I'm glad for your sake that you can't imagine how bad it can be for some of us, because I would never wish the strain and aggravation on you.

Posted by: mehitabel | February 19, 2008 4:09 PM

Sparkling, since I'm an engineer, DW convinced me very logically and rationally. :-)

First, she convinced me how much she hated her job at the time. (And believe me, I already knew that.)

Then, to show that she should stay home rather than find another job, she did the finances. She worked up how much it was costing her to work, in day care, commuting expenses (gas, car insurance, wear-and-tear on the car, etc.), and other work expenses (a work wardrobe, lunches/snacks at work, etc.). She showed me what the impact on my take home would be (smaller tax withholding). And in the end she showed me that she was working for a take home pay of about $3.50 per hour or so.

There was no way I could refute that - $3.50 per hour for a job she hated? So I agreed. I really didn't want her to be a SAHM at first - my mother worked the whole time I was growing up (except when dad was out of the country), and that was what I considered "normal". I worried that DW would stagnate at home with the kids; and yes, I worried about the pressure it put on me to be the sole breadwinner.

She was a SAHM for four or five years before returning to work, and was much happier. And yes, there were times when I came home extremely frustrated with my job, and told her how unfair it was that I couldn't quit. But I got over it - it wasn't that I couldn't quit; it was that I couldn't quit without having another job lined up. And it really did free me up in my career to take on new opportunities, and travel much more.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 19, 2008 4:16 PM

yeah, when I was pregnant with no. one - my MIL spent the whole time convincing me how staying home with the kid(s) was so awesome and great etc...
Well, while pregnant, my DH and I discussed me staying home. I didn't think it was her business, so I didn't say anything.
Then when her darling daughter was pregnant and made no bones about going back to work - all was well with the world with working moms. Her daughter was the best and brightest....and her decisions were the best.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | February 19, 2008 4:21 PM

I thought Katherine wrote an honest and interesting guest blog. In my experience some people are just unable to process the fact that there are other acceptable choices in life besides their own. Sometimes these people turn out to be your parents, and sometimes it's just not worth trying to convert them. The sad truth is that not everybody can depend on their parents emotionally during adulthood. It's hard to give up on the desire for approval and comfort from our parents, it's almost hardwired into us to crave it. But recognizing and letting go of this desire is sometimes this is the only reasonable self-protective measure you can take. If spinning is helping to prevent that hurt from coming up over and over again, then spin away Katherine. Just don't forget to be grateful to your mom for what she has done right, because strangely enough, in spite of not sounding like much of one herself, she managed to raise a real adult.

Posted by: pinkoleander | February 19, 2008 4:22 PM

"Am I all alone in this? Do you censor or "spin" your real lives for friends and relatives who disapprove of your choices in life? What price do you pay -- and what benefits do you gain?"

Wow, I can really relate to this guest post. I spin a little but I'm actually more of an omitter. Just like I know there are certain people with whom I should never discuss politics or religion I have learned that there are certain people in my life (primarily family members) where other topics are completely off limits.

It's easy to articulate the benefits I gain - my sanity. But I'm not always sure of the price that I pay. Certainly a degree of closeness is sacrificed by self-censoring.

Posted by: cm9887 | February 19, 2008 4:31 PM

"You did have the options. You chose to have children and to continue working."

Posted by: martinajess | February 19, 2008 01:03 PM

For some people the "options" are to continue working or not have enough money to put food on the table."

And "some people" don't consider that before they make the choice to have children. You make your bed, spin it however you want, but don't whine about it.

Posted by: martinajess | February 19, 2008 6:44 PM

I can't believe that some of you office moms are waking up at 4:45am to pump milk and prepare the evening meal. Does that sound insane to anyone else? What is wrong with taking a few years off to care for your family?? I understand some families can not afford it and I completely respect that.

But in my circle (families in the $100K per person bracket) I see moms carrying this schedule and I get dizzy thinking about it.

I feel like smart educated women have been sold a bill of goods: you have to work in an office to be fulfilled and taking a few years off is for the less ambitious.

No matter your profession, take a few years to raise your kids. Its as rewarding as managing a $40 million project. Just in a different way. And at the end of your life, you will have BOTH accomplishments under your belt.

Posted by: MesAmi | February 19, 2008 9:09 PM


"You did have the options. You chose to have children and to continue working."

Posted by: martinajess | February 19, 2008 01:03 PM

For some people the "options" are to continue working or not have enough money to put food on the table."

And "some people" don't consider that before they make the choice to have children. You make your bed, spin it however you want, but don't whine about it.

Posted by: martinajess | February 19, 2008 06:44 PM

You know, I agree it would be nice if people in general did a lot less whining but it isn't just the people with children. And I get a little tired of what seems to be the attitude that you shouldn't have children if you don't make so much money that you can support a whole family on one income. It seems elitist. Only the rich should have kids? Get real.

Posted by: rockvillemom | February 19, 2008 9:33 PM

I can't believe so many grown adults still crave parental approval for everything they do so badly they'll lie to get it. Has it occurred to you that, if you're lying to get approval, you're not really getting approval? Not that I defend parents still trying to control what their adult children choose to do with their lives, but you're a grown up. Why can't you face the life you're living?

Posted by: Terrils | February 20, 2008 1:46 PM

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