My Mother and I have always had a strange relationship. Since I was the youngest, my Mother was kinda done raising kids when I came along. She had been on so many postings, that frankly, her anxiety, her self – centeredness got worse, and her ego got more and more inflated.
2 weeks into my job at Foreign Affairs, I called her to arrange to pick up something at her house. She somehow got it in her head that, that particular moment, was the best time to tell me that I was a terrible writer. Now, I know I am not a fabulous writer, and won’t be winning any literature prizes, but, seriously, report writing is a completely different skill set. As she went on in this lecture to tell me that in her opinion, this line of work was not a good fit for me, that I would fail at it, and I would then have to find something less academic to keep me occupied. I sat, silently attempting to get off the phone. I then quietly said “you have never worked outside of the home, who are you to judge my writing, and my skills in this career.” With that, I hung up, and began to feel guilty.
I know my Mother worked, but she never worked in the capacity that I was working in. When I was 16, and had declared to my Father that I wanted to work for the UN, she pulled me aside and said I would be an excellent hairdresser. I looked stunned, I only owned one brush, and rarely used it, and had never dyed, cut or did anything with my hair. She thought, in her head, that it would be better for me to become a MRS, and be a flower on my husband’s lapel, than it would be to carve out my own career.
Lately, I have been thinking back to that conversation. As I get older, I realized, my Mother felt she made the wrong decisions, but wanted me to make the same wrong one’s so that she could feel better about them. When I became a Mum and quit my job, she was more stunned than anyone. She thought I was better off hiring a nanny, and told me to hold onto my career. It was a complete flip. She didn’t understand that I wasn’t giving up anything, I was just moving to a new career. She still doesn’t get it, but now I realize, the more years I held onto Foreign Affairs, she felt like she had her identity back in a strange way.