Her final career move concerns mom

November 08, 1993|By Lucia Herndon | Lucia Herndon,Knight-Ridder News Service

The woman had just accepted a new job out of town. It will mean the usual big changes: selling a house, buying a new house, settling the children in a new child-care situation, and the hundreds of little things that can make moving a hassle.

But there was one thing she didn't count on. Her mother.

"My mother raised me to accomplish things," she said. "She pushed me to achieve in school and is proud that I have a career." Her mother would better understand the move if it were the husband's job that made it necessary, said the woman, but her mother is really upset because it's "her" career choice.

Mom apparently never realized that her successful daughter might seek further success in a different area code.

Her mother's attitude has made this woman question her own decision. In her desire for new challenges, is she selfishly overlooking other concerns? Is it fair to move her children away from their grandparents? Is she being considerate to her husband, who is quitting his job to go with her? Should her desire for her own career come before anything else? What responsibility does she have toward her aging parents?

It is hard for the mother of a successful woman to get the news that her daughter is moving away, said Vivian Seltzer, professor of human development at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Work. While proud of her daughter, she's probably also struggling with fear.

"She's probably insecure about what is going to happen to her when her daughter leaves," Dr. Seltzer said.

Such a conflict is common to women who raised children in the 1950s and '60s, Dr. Seltzer said. "Her job was to raise a child. And that she has done. And the reward for raising a daughter to adulthood for many women is to enjoy the company of that daughter and the grandchildren. She sees the daughter as taking her reward away."

In some ways, the mother may see her daughter's decision to leave as a defection, a rejection. It is the daughter's task, Dr. Seltzer said, to diminish those feelings.

Hardly seems fair. Not only does the daughter have to contend with all the details of moving, now she has to tend to her mother's emotional needs as well?

Perhaps not fair, Dr. Seltzer said, but necessary if the women are to continue to have a close relationship.

"The daughter is the one who is going on to a new situation, new friends, new challenges," Dr. Seltzer said. "The mother, who has spent a lot of time thinking about and doing for her daughter" is the one left adrift.

"The giving should go in the direction of the one who is hurt."

There are several things the daughter can do to enable her mother to better accept the move.

* Reassure her mother that this "rejection" is not total. "She should tell her mother how much she means to her," Dr. Seltzer said. She should reassure her that moving away does not diminish her love and affection for her.

* Schedule visits. As soon as she is settled into a routine, the daughter and her family should schedule a time to visit or arrange for the mother to visit them. "Knowing that she still has the opportunity to see her daughter's family will lessen the pain," Dr. Seltzer said.

* Help the mother plan new activities. "The daughter can investigate classes, workshops or volunteer activities that will interest her mother," Dr. Seltzer said. They can sketch out a typical week, filling in parts of the day so she can see there is not an abstract emptiness.

* Make time for the mother before she moves. "If it's possible, the daughter should try to spend a weekend with her mother, just the two of them," Dr. Seltzer said. This would be a time for the daughter to assure her mother of how important she is.

There is no getting around the fact that the mother is suffering a loss, Dr. Seltzer said. "But it is not a total loss. The more the mother is encouraged and supported and complimented on her new enterprises, the more she will accept the change.

"She may never look at it as a perfect solution, but it can be an excellent one."

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