Pleasing Your Parents

No matter how old you get, there's always the part of you that remains a little kid, seeking Mom and Dad's approval. So what do you do when they don't approve? Do you have to resort to defending your actions and decisions? Or can you just be a grown-up and walk away?

You quit your job -- or you get fired. You decide to have another baby. You decide not to have another baby. You want to go back to work. You want to go back to school. You make these decisions, and then you realize that you have to tell your parents.

Successful, thriving women the world over can quake with fear at the thought of relaying news to Mom and Dad. Sure, they're thrilled when you have that first baby, but when you go for number six, are they going to congratulate you -- or tell you that you're nuts? And they encouraged your career, but if it means moving across the country, will they be happy -- or incredulous that you're abandoning them?

They reared you, nurtured you, and turned you out into the world. So how much do you still owe them, and how can you improve your relationship with them?

Remember how much they love you

Your parents love you, just they way you love your kids. And just as you know what's best for your kids, your parents know what's best for you -- or so they think. For so many years, they did know what was best for you, and they don't really know any other role. Can you imagine that your 12-year-old will one day make responsible decisions on her own, without any sage advice from you? It's hard for your parents to get there, too.

Help them out. Tell them, "I know you love me, and I know you think you know what's best for me, but I made this decision because I think it's best for me. I love you, and I need to make my own decisions."

You will probably be terrified to say this to your parents, but you will find that it's surprisingly easy and empowering once you actually do it.

Let them help sometimes

You know how awesome it is when your teenager asks you for help with something? You think to yourself, "I am the coolest mom! My kid loves me!" Don't you want your parents to feel like that, too? Find something they can help you with, even something small. For example, ask your mom to help you plan the menu for your holiday meal or what time the kids should go to bed during vacation. She'll be thrilled to have the chance to offer her advice, and you'll keep her nose out of the rest of your business.

On the flip side, if you don't want your parents' advice, don't ask for it. If you want to share a problem with them, fine, but make it clear when you aren't looking for a solution. Just like your husband, your parents can't read your mind. They only know what you're thinking if you tell them.

Learn when to let go

If you know that your parents will react poorly or offer unsolicited, unwanted advice on a particular topic, go in prepared. You can try to preface your discussion with something like, "I know we disagree on this, and here's what I'm doing." Just remember that the discussion may still be difficult.

You can make it a little bit easier on yourself by planning a reward for afterwards (chocolate, dinner with a friend, or a manicure, for example), or even by sipping a glass of wine during the big talk. Remind yourself that your parents love you and they're doing what they think is best. Smile and nod, and then let it go and do what you want.

You're a grown-up, and you can make your own decisions.


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