Ask Amy

Ask Amy: Getting a Ph.D. was easy, compared to dealing with mom

Chicago Tribune

DEAR AMY: I am a 27-year-old recent Ph.D. graduate who has moved back into my parents’ home (hopefully temporarily) and looking for my first job.

With today’s economy and the glut of Ph.D. holders in my field, it hasn’t been an easy process. To compound this, my mother has been constantly bothering me about career prospects over the last two months since I’ve moved home.

My mother is impatient for me to get my adult life started, especially as many of our family friends’ children (some even younger than me) have been working for years, started their own families, even bought their first house, and she’s worried that I’m falling behind. I’m becoming increasingly frustrated over my unemployment status, and my mother’s nagging is making it worse.

Do you have any suggestions on how to cope with both the unemployment and my mother’s pestering?

Frustrated

DEAR FRUSTRATED: The best way to cope with unemployment is to stay very busy, nurture yourself and your friendships and to approach a job search as if it is your full-time job.

Because you face pressure from family – and for lots of other reasons – it might be best for you to get a part-time job while you are looking for a professional job. Working part time in almost any field is better than being unemployed while you wait for the perfect job to come along.

Volunteering is also a great way to stay busy and mentally and socially stimulated during your job search. Realistically, it may not be possible for you to stop your mother’s nagging. Remember this, though – nagging is sometimes a reaction from someone who feels she is not being listened to. If you could respond to your mother, just once, by saying, ”Mom, let’s sit down and you tell me everything that’s on your mind.” After she unloads, even if you’ve heard it all before, answer her questions and then ask her to do you a favor and lighten up, because her anxiety about you is coming across as pressure, and pressure makes everything worse. You and your mother might want to read, ”I’m Still Your Mother: How to Get Along with Your Grown-Up Children for the Rest of Your Life” by Jane Adams (2001, iUniverse).

DEAR AMY: I need your opinion on a holiday issue. My 42-year-old son, who lives out of state, insists that on holidays I should be the one to call him because I’m the parent.

I say that he should call me first, out of respect. What do you think?

Karen

DEAR KAREN: I think you two need to work on your relationship. This is a petty standoff that reflects the views of two people who are keeping score when they could be communicating. Generally, I believe that once offspring get to be in their 40s, there is no longer a need to baby them by lavishing primary attention upon them.

You should not make your own choices based on proving something or keeping score. If you act like a mature adult and call your son without regard to the balance of power, it might inspire him to be more grown up.

DEAR AMY: “Recovering” had to return to work and deal with curious people about a scar on her face after she had received skin cancer surgery.

I recently went through this, and, like Recovering, I am a very private person who has to work with many people.

I learned that the vast majority of people just wanted to know that I was OK.

I told key people the truth so that they could spread accurate information. With others, if I had time, I would also share the truth and offer advice on regular screenings.

With people that I barely knew or when I didn’t care to share the truth, I just said a quick, “I’m truly fine now, so don’t worry. How was your weekend?”

Kudos to you, Amy, for plugging regular cancer screenings.

Survivor

DEAR SURVIVOR: Your take on why people inquire about visible injuries, bandages or scars is wise and understanding. Of course, people are definitely curious, and sometimes people are flat-out nosy, but most people also want to be responsive and compassionate. This is also a case of ”damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” Many people would feel offended if they had a visible scar and others didn’t ask what had happened and how they were doing.

Email Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribpub.com.

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