Careers are like relationships, so ask your mom for advice

“I don’t know if I want to be with Zeus,” I say.

“If you don’t want to, then don’t,” my mother replies.

But it’s more complicated than that, and I tell her why. I tell her that I really do what to be with him – a lot – but I don’t know how. I tell her that I’ve been sabotaging the relationship, and I don’t know how to stop. I confess everything, and feel the weight dissipate.

“You do look for problems,” she says. “You push things too far. You test people too much. That’s not good. So now you need to figure out if you’re going to mature and grow up or not.”

I’m silent because normally my mother tells me how great I am, how I can do no wrong, and how all men suck. It is the Gen Y parenting creed. But tonight, I am not so lucky.

“Why do you think you’re picking fights?” my mother presses. “You must be doing it for a reason – a lack of confidence in yourself, or in him?”

I concede that I don’t feel like my life is together enough to be in a relationship. And that I’m worried Zeus will sell his company, get rich and dump me. Or we’ll get married, live happily and divorce at the age of 40. Or that he won’t remember to suggest we eat something when I’m moody. Because I get cranky when I’m hungry.

These are the things I worry about. I am a woman. And this is what we do.

Women need constant reassurance, and the only way we know how to get it is to fight, and push buttons, and push past the buttons all the way to the brink of breaking up, so we can see – will he be there then?

My mother argues men can deal with this at first, but it adds up and is like a brick falling from the sky each time. It builds and it is cumulative and eventually they have a wall, and they think I don’t need this. I don’t need to be unhappy, nothing I do ever works or helps, and I can’t make her happy. This isn’t the way I want to live, men think.
And there’s a limit to what a man can take, my mother says.

“And you – ” she continues, “you need to live for today and for you. You can’t know the future. And nothing about your past relationships is pertinent for today. You have to resist the urge to fight. Resist the urge to be angry in an instant over nothing, resist pushing to the breaking point constantly.”

Careers are like this. Maybe you have an idea, or you really want something, or all of your dreams are suddenly within reach. But you make up excuses of why you can’t get there. You prove every hypothesis on why it won’t work. You extrapolate the worst. You don’t call people when you should. You think less of yourself than you used to. You ask others to comfort your decisions. You trip over your own accomplishments just to see – are you on the right path?

Lucky for you, careers are often just as forgiving and patient as men in the beginning, but you have to grow up for continued success. You have to mature before the wall seems insurmountable.

“It is work,” my mother concludes. “It’s a lot of work. But if it’s truly in your heart, you have to do that. You have to work to make it happen.”

Motherly advice.