Parental Guidance - Friendship, Relationships, Education/jobs.

Updated on May 28, 2019
V.Y. asks from New York, NY
12 answers

I had an argument with my mom tonight. She made a comment like “you don’t have really many frineds” and also I get a sense that she believes I could have found a better husband (looks and personality wise). She told me that her friends’ two daughters have a bunch of friends and married well. What I told her was that I moved here after high school (18 yes age) with her and my dad and they put zero efforts in any guidance regarding my education, friendships, and romantic relationships. When it comes to my own little kids, I try to see what they are good in and sign them up for that, encourage and help to foster their friendships etc. I think it’s very important do do the same with teenagers and young adults. I also told her that her friend put a lot of effort into helping her daughters to make friends and meet good matches. Do you feel that it’s solely child's responsibility or do you feel that parents should help in any way? Thanks.

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W.W.

answers from Washington DC on

V.

You need to break your post up. It's like one long sentence and you are combining things.

1. Your mom says you don't have enough friends. YOU need to reply: it's quality over quantity for you.

2. Your husband - she doesn't think he's handsome enough or good enough? that is NOT HER decision. It was and IS YOUR decision. You are happy.

3. You were an adult. Why after you are legally an adult was it their responsibility to provide you with an education or set you up on dates? You were a legal adult. That's something you handle on your own.

4. Finding something your kids are good at - great! Sign them up for sports, singing, etc. that's YOUR call and your child's. IF they are interested and willing to participate throughout the season.

5. As to "finding or matching" friends? No. that's NOT your job. You can "GUIDE" them yes - but it's not your place to 'match' them up with people. I let my children decide who they are going to have for friends. They have to be able to find out the difference between the good, bad and indifferent people. If there is a friend I don't like or doesn't give me good vibes? I will state my opinion. Otherwise - their call - not mine.

You need to set boundaries with your mom. You have two totally different ways of raising children.

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S.S.

answers from Atlanta on

your post is filled with a lot of anger. You and your mom have some issues that need to be resolved.

You were an adult when you moved to the location, so you were expecting your mom and dad to set you with men on dates? Really? No. You were an adult.

As to your education? Well, they can tell you their experiences, but overall, as an adult, it's your choice. You need to decide what it is you want to do and be happy and successful at. Do you really want your parents to choose your career path too? I truly hope you are not dictating your children's career path and who they will marry.

I have 4 boys. I do NOT pick and choose their friends. They are THEIR friends. NOT MINE. If I do not like the person? I will state my reasons for not liking the person. The choice is theirs whether to keep the friendship or not.

You sound like a tiger mom. Taking all that you expected your mom to do for you and do it for your kids. Try backing off a little and giving your kids some autonomy. You might see them grow and flourish in ways you never expected!

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

I’m sorry that your mother values quantity over quality of friendships. I’m sorry she’s not content with who you are or what kind of parent she was. I’m very sorry that she compares you to someone else’s kids. That’s ridiculous. And I’m outraged that she criticizes your husband all the time and has such a shallow view of marriage suitability that she is judging looks and income. If you’re happy, she should be happy. She’s not. But that’s the problem – she’s an unhappy person.

I think you should not go to every fight you’re invited to. If she critiques you, just say, “I know your opinion, Mom. I don’t share it.” Then change the subject. If she ever criticizes your children, take them home. If she criticizes your husband in front of your children, take them home. Put your foot down and tell her you will not tolerate her treating them the way she treats you. Leave.

Where I think you might want to rethink your opinions, though, is with the idea that your parents were responsible in your late teens for arranging all your friendships. Perhaps you are from a culture where arranged marriages and supervised friendships are common, but that’s not likely to work well in the US in the 21st century. Young teens should be taking on more and more responsibility for their friendships, with parents just overseeing the kid’s choices to be sure there are no harmful relationships going on (illegal, hurtful, abusive, etc.). Kids should set up their own play dates (with parents involved for permission and driving, of course, but not for initiating them) and they should start to navigate the nuances of friendships, identifying who is a good friend, who is superficial, who is okay but just has radically different interests now. How in the world will kids learn to run their own lives if parents are still in charge of friendships at 17 and 18? So, blaming your parents just hurts you and makes you feel like a victim, and it encourages you to oversee your own children’s lives, which will not be good for them.

I think it’s nice that you sign your kids up for programs and expose them to many different kids. But I hope you’ll rethink the idea of signing them up for what they’re good at. Let them choose things that interest them – some will work out, some will not. It’s okay – and it’s beneficial – for kids to try things they don’t have a natural affinity for. Maybe they’ll develop skill, maybe not. Maybe they’ll meet friends or a teacher/coach who inspires them in other ways, who helps them challenge themselves, who helps them realize that they are worthy even if they don’t win all the time. That’s a vital skill for kids and essential to their emotional wellbeing. If we make sure our kids never have difficulties and never have any failures, we handicap them for life.

I also hope you will give your kids some down time, some days with no scheduled activities, so they can be comfortable in their own skin, learn creativity, and not always have their brains and bodies on overload. It’s great to play soccer or do gymnastics, but it’s also okay to sit in the grass and blow the fluff off dandelions and watch ants build their colonies. It’s okay – and it’s beneficial – to lie on your back and watch the clouds roll by. I hope your kids take hikes and catch frogs and salamanders, rather than just be in dance or karate or whatever. My son didn’t have a daily activity until high school, when he discovered the track team. Before that, he had 2 scheduled things a week (usually a sport and religious school), and maybe an organized play date on a third day. Other than that, he found friends in the neighborhood, collected and painted rocks, built stick forts, rode his bike, and so on. When we went on vacation, he always found a new friend to play with and talk to, and he is now a confident and social adult. Kids like that do much better on their own in college and in the work force, studies show. So resist the urge to overcompensate for what your parents didn’t do for you by overdoing it with your own children.

Otherwise, find your own path. Your mother may not realize that thoughtful introverts are just as important to this world as life-of-the-party extroverts. Don’t be like her.

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S.T.

answers from Washington DC on

i'm not sure that i think this approach (whose job is it to foster friendships and romances) makes any sense at all. in a healthy family dynamic, good friendships and romances are a natural outgrowth of living with examples of both surrounding everyone.

my parents were much like yours- very hands off. i told my father at one point that i wished he'd helped me just a little with the college process. i didn't even know the difference between community college and university, let alone how to apply or look for loans. his response was that he didn't want to influence me either way.

so yeah, there were a lot of years of partying and bad boys and bad decisions. it would have been great to have had a more involved family. on the other hand, i own my lousy decisions. and during those rough years, while i made a lot of seedy friends and had way too many bad romances, i also had some great friends and important experiences. would a strong supportive family have helped me sidestep a lot of angst? you bet. but ultimately it's on me.

in your situation i'd tell mom to butt out, thank you very much. what does 'marrying well' mean, anyway? i married a poor carpenter, who worked his way up, with no college degree, to VP of construction in a big property management company. we've been married and in love for almost 40 years. would he have been a bad pick?

i also have lots of acquaintances and a very, very few close friends. that's my choice. i'm becoming increasingly solitary with age and prefer my own company or that of someone who delights me. i'd not take kindly to my parent sticking his nose into my interpersonal dynamics to that degree.

i don't know why your mother thinks she has anything useful to offer you with that sort of nasty criticism.

i don't know why you think it was your parents job to oversee that for you as an adult.

khairete
S.

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S.S.

answers from Chicago on

I think that eventually we are solely responsible for our life choices, but that the foundations can be laid in their childhood. I lack confidence and could probably blame my parents, but am also 61 now and I, not my mother made my choices fairly soon after age seventeen. If you are happy then frankly your mom needs to butt out and appreciate what choices you did make and how you are living with them. Frankly, what a terrible thing to compare you to someone else's daughters! In fact I hurt for you just hearing this! It sounds like you are doing wonderfully for your children. But as children grow up they may have the same parents and one child may start a business and another one in the same family may stumble along, survive and not necessarily get a picture on the cover of People magazine but may be doing just fine. As we mature, we often see how our own choices have contributed to where our lives are today. But we can also acknowledge that sometimes we didn't know any better with or without our parents. We have abilities to change things-unlike when we were children and our parents were the only ones who could take us out of school or move or keep us from playing outside after school. We can get therapy and get educated or move ourselves. And we really don't have to blame people when we realize we can keep moving if we want. I am pretty sure I disappointed my own mother, who put me in a school with children of wealthy families-probably hoping I'd marry someone rich but- (I had to work my way through highschool to stay in there) I ended up marrying and getting divorced and remarrying. When I remarried I married my love of my life who I have now been married to for 24 years. He would never had been considered anyone socially up there and we raised my children best we could and am very proud of them both in their unique ways. Like you I put them into things they seemed to excel in, followed them from play practices to baseball games to music recitals. And then the day came when my one son joined the service and the other one stayed and moved out and moved in again and I found each one of them is my hero. My older son, who was in the service went on his own to get a Master's Degree and my younger son, who is also my hero survives every day has bipolar 1 depressive disorder and is struggling after ten years to finish college. I simply cannot imagine mothers like yours or mine was who could judge who you married, or what life you are living when all they had to do was to simply love us and celebrate you being alive and enjoying your children.

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

That's quite the little spat between you and your mom.
You and she could play the blame game for years without resolving anything and you are hung up on trying to prove that you are right and she is wrong.
There is no right answer here.

Parents steer more through elementary school, a little less through middle and then high school.
Some kids you just can't tell them anything - and then they go around trying to blame you for their lives and choices and that's just so whiny.
To this day (and my sister is in her 50's now) my sister blames everything in her life on our mom - and my sisters main motivation for her life choices was to spite everyone around her.
I really think she's an undiagnosed oppositional defiant disorder person.
If sis hasn't grown up by now it's apparent that growing up is just not going to happen.

You are proud of your family (kids and husband) aren't you? and don't regret making the choices that you did? - so own that and let your mom know that you are happy - and it's kind of irrelevant if she's happy or not about that.
Your parents did the best they could with what they had - as will you - and that's going to mean different things to different people.
If mom's trying to pick a fight you tell her "I'm sorry you feel that way mom but I'm not going to argue about it with you" and change the subject or hang up the phone if she persists in chewing an old bone.

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J.B.

answers from Boston on

I'm wondering if this is a cultural thing, given that you reference moving here with your parents as a young adult? What you describe is not the norm from my perspective. Even for those of us who spent our childhood in the same place (I lived in the same house from age 10 until I went to college), it is considered age-appropriate for teenagers to establish growing independence from their parents gradually and really establish much greater independence by the time they reach adulthood. Young adults who go away to college or join the work force will make their own choices for friendships, careers, what they study, and whom they love.

My oldest children are both age 21. One of them goes to school in another country (Canada), chose her school, chose her major, found a job, found an apartment, found a group of friends, and found a boyfriend. I would not have expected to help in any of that other than providing input if asked. I expect that after she graduates from college, she will determine for herself where she will work, live, how she will spend her time, and with whom she will spend her time. My other oldest child works full time in his career (he skipped college) and while he lives at home, I hardly ever see him. He chose his career, his girlfriend, his friends, his car, etc.

Honestly it sounds like your mother is critical and that you are looking to deflect blame on her for something. If you like your life and are satisfied with your choices, try to ignore your mother's unkind words and tell her that you're not interested in hearing it. If you aren't satisfied with your choices and feel like there may be some truth in her observations (again, it's not right of her to make them as that's rude and intrusive but since she's said the words and you're thinking about them you might as well consider how they're making you feel), then figure out what kernel of truth there is and what you can do about it to be satisfied with what you have and where you are.

Overall, be prepared to step back as your kids get older so that they can become independent. Let them make their own choices and learn from their mistakes. Don't smother them or continue to treat them as children when they should be establishing themselves as adults who are capable of making their own choices. What you think might be helpful, they might resent.

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T.S.

answers from San Francisco on

At 18 you should already have some skills re making friends and figuring out what you want in life. Many of us had crappy, univolved parents so that's not really an excuse. But if you feel damaged by your upbringing and unable to get past it you can always seek counseling. Nothing wrong with that, in fact it's smart. Self care is ALWAYS a good investment.

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

Sounds like your mom has some issues of her own if she's comparing you to her friends' daughters. Maybe she doesn't feel she parented well.

Our generation had less parental involvement. I think it's ok for kids to experience failure - mine have been signed up for stuff that they weren't good at. They sucked, and they tried something new. No harm in that. They've had some friendships they wanted - that I knew wouldn't work out. Their feelings were hurt, but so be it. They learned from it. Teachers appreciate some 'hands off' parenting - trust me, they tell me they do.

I 'encouraged' friendships I felt were good matches. I didn't say no to ones I didn't. I just didn't 'encourage' them. I put my foot down a few times (strong boundaries and limits) later on if certain friendships meant violating our rules for conduct (drugs, etc.). I like B's description of how she steered them through the years. That's true of us here too.

My kids have picked jobs/volunteering on their own - that interested them, without my help. Now they're picking courses that will prepare them for colleges, and we're narrowing that down. My position is just knowing who they are and offering 'guidance' if asked. I am doing behind the scenes reading (just so I'm familiar) but they don't want my interference. I took a course at the high school on being a career 'coach' for them so I'm here, and know how to help. I'm not running the show though. They need to know how to do this for themselves.

I think if you've never had your mom's support, then that's a whole other issue. She shouldn't be comparing you - period. If you're still getting into arguments at this point, now that you're a mom, then maybe a session for you (with therapist) would be great.

Don't engage - just tell her that's her issue, she can deal with.

ETA: I read through the responses and found them helpful. Hope you did too.

One that I can relate to personally is Suz. I didn't have a lot of guidance, and I personally experienced "lot of years of partying and bad boys and bad decisions" too. I like to think I learned from it, but I'm about ten years behind where my siblings and some of my good friends are in life. If you were to compare (but what's the point?), it looks like i haven't done as well. The thing is, don't compare. That was my journey. I wasn't ready or prepared to settled down and focus. Some people call it being 'lost' but for me, that's where I was. Sure I could have had more family involvement (my siblings had it) but it didn't work out that way. I could resent my family and for a while I did. Self pity doesn't get you very far. It's pointless. But so does comparing.

Seems to me you and your mom have some unfinished business. Sounds like you need to move on, forgive/whatever. If you can't, then I'd just avoid these conversations/arguments, and just take a break. As I said, don't engage.

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C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

Hm....here are my thoughts on the matter...1. You don't have to engage with her when she is being critical of you. I have found with my mom it's better to just say, well, I'm sorry you feel that way. Or well, I have a different opinion than you. Then leave...walk away...change the subject, etc. My mom will be bothered by something and will totally try to push my buttons. It's not even worth it to argue bc then she acts like the victim. When she brings up her friend's daughter's friends and how awesome they are don't engage. 2. Don't blame her and how she raised you for what friends you have now...that is just faulty thinking. I'm sure she was not the greatest parent, but whatever...try to let it go. Since you became an adult you are in charge of your own life, your own friends, what you choose to do for work and for hobbies, etc. Don't even go down the path of blaming your parents now. It's just not helpful. Instead if you feel like something in your life is not how you wish it to be, then start working towards making a positive change. 3. My kids are getting older...one is in high school. Luckily, he has pretty nice friends, but really I don't have much to do with who he "clicks" with and who he doesn't in life. At this point I could state my opinion if I found a friend to be undesirable but I doubt it would do much of anything since I can't control who he talks to at school. I don't really believe I have all THAT much control over my kids. You just do your best to raise them and at some point you hope for the best...you hope they make good choices...you hope they make nice friends.

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C.C.

answers from New York on

When you write that "her friend put a lot of effort into helping her daughters to make friends and meet good matches", what sort of "effort" are you referring to?

I am not sure if you mean that you are from a culture where a parents might actually arrange dates for a young adult.

My guess, in terms of helping a young adult over age 18 to meet "good matches", is that you are saying that your mother's friend spent money on her young adult children. For example by buying memberships to various social groups where a young adult would be surrounded by "good" (meaning "wealthy" in this context) matches. Since you are writing from New York City, maybe you are referring to the many groups like that which exist in NYC - "Young Members of the [anything - Opera, Museum, etc]" - social/philanthropic/charity groups that attract wealthy young adults. That can become the adult version of "signing a child up for things they are interested in", if the parents guide the young adult to the groups that truly fit the young adult's interests (like if the young adult loves opera and the parents buy the young adult a membership in a group for young adults who love opera).

Certain "resources" are required for parents to make social arrangements for young adult children - especially financial resources (money to spend) and knowledge resources (knowing about the best ways to make arrangements for the young adult - for example, knowing how to become a member of the fancy groups and knowing which groups exist). On a much different level than signing a child up for a town baseball team. It sounds like your mother's friend might have been aware of some "options" for young adults that your parents maybe were not aware of (also, maybe your mother's friend had more money to spend on this stuff).

I understand your point that your mother's friend's children might have been exposed to many "high class" people as a result of your mother's friend's efforts. But obviously it is not nice (and not helpful to your life now) for you to blame your mom, and, it is not nice for your mom to compare you to your mother's friend's children!

As for your own adult friendships *now*, if you are happy with the number of friends you have now then there is no problem! However if you wish that you could meet more adult friends, New York City is full of ways to do that. For example there are many ways that you can do volunteer work in the city, you will not spend any money to be there and you will be surrounded by the other adult volunteers who can become friends to you.

The really sad part of your question is that your mother criticizes your husband's looks and personality! As others say below, you need to make it clear to your mother that you will not allow that - do not allow yourself and your husband and children to be around her when she is saying mean things about your husband's looks and personality. Tell her very clearly that you will not be able to continue to spend time with her when she talks about that stuff - you can just leave the room or the situation (and bring your children and husband with you when you leave, of course).

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M.6.

answers from New York on

Leave it to the millennials to blame everyone but themselves for whatever is wrong or goes wrong with their life. Take some personal responsibility for God's sake. My guess is that you would be blaming your mother no matter what. Had she put more effort into your adult life, you'd be complaining that she was a buttinsky and blame her for meddling into your affairs.

It sounds like you are the one who is unhappy with her life and seeking to validate your unhappiness by picking out things your mom says and also guessing at what she is thinking (you get a sense she thinks you could have a better husband?). Perhaps therapy and some healthy discussion regarding YOUR role in your own life is in order.

Buck up buttercup - in just a few years, your own kids will be writing on the internet all the ways you failed as a parent, too.

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