Dear Mom: How I’m Feeling (Please Read)

Hi mom. How are you?

Me, I’m not so good. I want to talk with you about how I’ve felt for a long time now, but I keep putting off saying what’s really on my mind. Mostly because I don’t want to hurt your feelings, and I know I’d probably shut down again if I tried and keep how I’m really feeling bottled up – once again – so this is why you’re reading it instead of having me tell you myself.

When I was younger, you used to tell me I could do anything; I could be anybody I wanted to be. I don’t know exactly when you switched or why, but now you tell me just to do anything, just be anybody, and while the words are the same, the meaning has changed. Pretty soon I wonder if you’ll tell me I’ll never amount to anything; I’ll never be anybody. And what you really mean with those words is I’ll never be anyone of value in your eyes.

Living up to your expectations is hard. I know you only had the best in mind for me, and I really hope you still do. The pressure I’m feeling though and the stress that comes with it to make my next few moves and not mess up is actually having the opposite effect. See I’m starting to feel paralyzed; unable to move forward and actually do anything because I’m afraid of making what in your opinion is just another bad choice or mistake.

Don’t be mad. Oh please don’t be mad, just hear me out. This isn’t easy mom. You know one of the greatest things a parent can do is teach their kids to make decisions on their own. It must be hard when you think you know better; when you wouldn’t make the choices I’ve made. Saying, “I warned you”, or, “I told you this would happen didn’t I?” might seem the helpful thing to do or say, but all it’s really doing is adding pressure and shutting me down. That’s not what you want and it’s not healthy for me either.

Sure I regret some of the choices I’ve made. Those choices were mine though mom, and the regret is mine too. But here’s the thing; I made the choices, I have the regrets and I am the one who hopefully learns the lessons from the choices. What I’ve learned is to put more thought into the big choices. The small choices with small consequences don’t matter near as much as the big ones, and with the bigger decisions I know I need to think them through more, do some research about what job to get, what schooling I need to train for it etc.

You want the best for me, but comparing me to other people isn’t helping – and honestly, it’s not fair. I’m my own person just as they are. We’re different mom. It’s not about, “just getting a job”, but more about getting THE job that’s right for me, one that’s going to bring me some happiness, one that I’ll do well in and feel good about doing. I’ve got responsibilities I know and believe me I want to stand up on my own, pay my own bills, be my own woman and not just survive but rather thrive. I don’t need you to remind me of my responsibilities; sorry mom but you remind me of that way too often; sometimes with words, sometimes with that look.

Okay so that’s how I’m feeling. But now I have to move on and tell you more than that. Now I want to tell you what you can do that I’d appreciate; what I’d really find helpful. Are you willing to listen to this and think about it. Please say you’ll think about what I’m saying here; maybe even for a few days before we talk?

First of all mom, please stop asking me what I’m going to do with my life. I don’t know what the next 30 years is going to look like; I don’t even know what the next 5 years is going to look like. Does anybody? Really? I’m looking ahead believe me, but I’m concentrating on the next year or two at best. My self-esteem is shaky; sometimes it’s okay but there’s more times it’s not. I doubt myself more than I’d like to admit, but I do. Still, I have to figure things out. If I can make a few good decisions; decisions that turn out well, I can build on that and make more of them, and it would be nice to have your support and recognition when I do.

Give me a little space mom. If I’m ever going to ‘make it’ on my own, I need permission to fail without those, “I told you so” looks. You were the one who said, “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again.” See I was listening and I do remember. If I don’t succeed the first or second time, it doesn’t mean I never will, I just haven’t yet.

I’m smart mom; smart in some things and not so smart in others. This makes me normal. And mom, I value you and what you’ve done for me – what you keep doing for me – really I do. That’s why you’re reading this mom. You matter to me and I want you to be proud of me.

The Worst 4 Letter Word In Your Vocabulary

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve noted a number of people I’ve been having conversations with have unwittingly put themselves down and in more than a few instances unintentionally put down many other people with the use of single word.

Yes whether in the community theatre group I’m with at the moment or at work, the word is possibly one of the worst four letter works you can use. The odd thing about this particular 4 letter word is that you can use it in any social situation and you won’t raise a ruckus with anyone for slang, swearing, vulgarity or causing embarrassment. Yet, as I say, by using the word in the wrong context, you can insult yourself and others and let your opinion slip out unintended but there for all to see.

Okay so enough of the cryptic beginning; what’s the word? The word my dear readers is, ‘just’. “Just? That’s it? What’s the big deal?”

Here are a few actual comments I’ve heard uttered recently.

“I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”

“I’m just looking for a general labour job.”

“I’m just looking for a job until I find out what I really want to do.”

“I’m just living in Oshawa until January.”

“I’m not really qualified to do anything so I’m just looking for a job in retail.”

Ouch! Each one of these statements is real and in each case the person gave no indication whatsoever that they insulted both themselves and others; offending in order: moms, those in general labour jobs, all those living in Oshawa and all those working in retail.

Please do yourself a favour and stop using the word ‘just’ in a similar context to the examples above. IF you’re only interested in my point to this blog feel free to stop reading here. If on the other hand you want to read on you’ll gain more insight into how this betrays your lack of self-esteem, self-image and can hurt your employment opportunities.

Okay all you moms out there, yes you. Are you a proud mom? Are you good at running the household, budgeting meals, housing and recreation costs on what you bring in? Are you the kind of mother that puts her kids as a first priority, raises them as best you can with the skills, education and good sense you have? In short, are you a good mom? Then why would you say, “I’m just a mom.” This short sentence composed of four words the longest of which is only 4 letters is a put-down to all moms everywhere and expresses the view that you yourself see motherhood as something of little value. More to the point it says you view the people who are mothers around the globe as in some lowly occupation of little social standing. I doubt that is your intent.

As for the retail example above, when you say, “I’m not really qualified to do anything so I’ll just get a job in retail”, you’re betraying to anyone listening that you have a low opinion of those in this profession. It’s like your saying, “Working in retail doesn’t really require any specific skills; anyone could do it”. Your personal opinion may and probably will offend a large number of people who would gladly educate you on the required skills to work successfully in retail. Oh and by the way, the employers who hire people to work in retail positions are doing their very best to make sure that they avoid hiring people who are not going to invest themselves in the work and see it as some kind of ‘pay for doing precious little’ job.

Now I grant that in our various societies around the globe there are certain professions that have more prestige than others. In some cultures its Doctors, Bankers, Architects and Professors. In some countries you might find it’s the patriarchs; the mothers who are esteemed and held in high regard. General Labourers might not be on your personal list of valued professions, but without them consider how the life you lead would be impacted. Once again, there are many highly skilled and valued people toiling quite successfully who are general labour positions.

Look I know you probably don’t mean to put anybody down let alone yourself. Watch your language and listen to yourself for subtle words like, ‘just’ that creep into your everyday vocabulary.

Here’s an interesting thing to drive home this point. When we meet someone for the first time or the first few times, we instinctively start to gather all kinds of information on them in order to figure out who they are and how to interact with them. Our eyes take in their body language and appearance, our noses pick up on body odour or fragrances. Our ears pick up on tone of voice, language skills and words. Our brains process all this information and do it amazingly quickly. All of this information comes together and we have what we generally call an impression of someone. As we gather more information, our first impression is strengthened or adjusted.

Phrases that start, “I’m just a…” suggest to our brains many things; possibly that the speaker has low self-esteem and views themselves as being of less value. This gives an advantage to the listener in dominating the speaker and possibly in ways which can be harmful and controlling.

Something to think about. Just saying.

Hey Mom, Want To Help The Kids Find Work?

How are you doing mom? Well I hope. So you’d like to see your son or daughter get a job and as a result feel better about themselves. The worry and concern you have for their well-being must be hard at times I imagine. You know  you’d feel so much better and be so proud of them if they could just catch a break and be hired.

Well what is the current situation? Let’s look at a few – just between you and me. We’ll start with young teens looking for their first job, move to adult children in your home without work, then look at adult children living outside your home. 3 situations all with their unique challenges.

So to your teenager. Presumably they are in school so the first thing you and I know is that finishing school and graduating is the most important thing they can do right now in order to help them get a decent job in the future. So can they actually handle both school and a part-time job? If their organized, can prioritize their work, plan ahead and their getting good marks and have the time to work, then work is a good idea. On the other hand, if they are struggling as it is, have to study a lot just to pass and can’t do more than one thing at a time, maybe a job isn’t a good idea and you should turn down the pressure to get a job right now.

Either way, start giving your son or daughter genuine but positive support. When they do something good, name the skill. If they put away their clean clothes they are tidy, if they plan their homework around favourite t.v. shows, they are good at time management, planning and organization. If they are always home at curfew, they are respectful, responsible and dependable. You see mom, naming the skills for them helps them when they look for jobs and read what employers want in the job ads. When they get to the interview and the interviewer asks them to name their strengths and give examples, they’ll be better prepared to answer the questions in part because of you!

Okay so let’s look at that adult child of yours living in the basement. Now mom, ask yourself if maybe you haven’t unintentionally made it too comfortable. Why would they move out if you’re doing the laundry, buying the groceries, doing the cooking and…oh no….you’re not still making their bed I hope? This is called enabling. You’re encouraging the very behaviour you don’t want by continuing to do it. Give them a deadline to start paying rent, insist they make their own bed, do their own laundry and contribute to the groceries. Get them out shoveling snow, cutting the grass, dusting the furniture. You’ve started late but you’ve got to get them doing things on their own now so they can do things when living on their own.

Now that son or daughter is going to need a resume and be shown how to really job search. They also need to see the financial benefits of work, its value and depending on how long they’ve been getting a free ride in the basement, they may need to unlearn some poor habits. Sleeping in until 11:00 a.m. and partying 4 nights a week isn’t on in the real world. Don’t make the mistake of doing things for them and perhaps given them bad advice. Get them down to a job assistance agency and insist they sign up. Be encouraging but be firm. You’ve done your part.

As for the adult children who are without work but living outside your home on their own, well you can help them too. When you are talking to them on the phone, try not to let your words and the tone of your voice sound overly dramatic. “Oh dear! How EVER are you surviving? Oh, you poor thing! I just feel so bad for you.” Yes, no more of that. All you’re doing is reinforcing their growing belief that they are really in a bad way. If they are wanting to please you mom and care about your opinion of them, you’re just adding to their stress. So ask every now and then but sound positive. “How’s it going? You’ll find work I’m sure that will a good fit. Someone is going to be lucky to hire you.”

Mom we all have skills and strengths, and you’ve certainly got your share. We all have limitations too. You may be well-meaning, but sometimes you’re out of your league in the advice or suggestions you give. You can help best by getting these kids of yours in front of other people; people who make their living helping the unemployed find jobs.

Find your local employment office and get the contact information. Be subtle but share it with them. Give them the chance to act on that information on their own. If they do, great – relax. If they don’t, don’t be surprised. You’ll have to raise the stakes a little.

Remember mom, if you’re cooking their favourite meals and spoiling them, they may see you as not only mom, but cook, cleaner, maid and chauffeur. If you want them to get working, be a landlord first and foremost. Life outside the home has to start looking more attractive than life in it.