Dear Carolyn: Four years ago, I left my teaching career to care for my son, who needed a great deal of medical care. He has been doing very well and no longer requires my constant attention. I would like to go back to my old career.
My family, both immediate and extended, are not openly supportive of this. Over the years, they have become increasingly reliant on me to take the lead on everything relating to my children. My husband and parents, with good intentions, essentially tell me that I am more valuable outside of my profession.
Every holiday, I listen to aunts and cousins tell me how lucky I am that I don’t “have” to work.
All of this translates into me feeling unsupported. I know I can’t be professionally successful without support.
How do I begin to take steps away from this primary caregiving role? I never intended for this to be a permanent situation.
– Trying to find balance
You remind your husband that you never intended this arrangement to be permanent, and kindly tell him you’re applying to teach next fall – because you won’t stay in a role that doesn’t fit just because people have gotten comfortable with you in it.
You mentally tell everyone else with an opinion about your value to stuff that opinion someplace dark and remote.
And you notify yourself that you can in fact be professionally successful without your family’s support.
Support is a lovely thing to have – and to give, so don’t get me started on people who think they have a right to withhold it because they prefer to have you waiting on them instead of doing work that fulfills you. But support is not necessary.
The list of necessities for your professional success is short: You need to be qualified, apply, be hired and do your job well.
Good for you for giving your son what he needed, and congratulations on doing your full-time-caretaking job so well that people embraced you in it completely. Resuming your old career won’t strand or displace anyone; you’re just taking that same unselfishness, warmth and competence where your heart says you need to go, as you’re entitled to do.
Discomforted by friend
Dear Carolyn: I am in a relatively new relationship. Her good friend is in love with her. My girlfriend has repeatedly but kindly rejected her advances and pronouncements of undying love. The last time this woman (who at the time did not know about me) saw my girlfriend, she removed her dress and attempted to seduce her.
I trust my girlfriend. However, I am uncomfortable with their friendship. I expressed my discomfort and explained that, while I didn’t want to dictate her friendships, I needed to be honest and say this girl makes me uncomfortable. I am wondering what you would recommend going forward.
I’d recommend fighting the impulse to see all past lovers and rivals as unsuitable friends.
Preserving a valued friendship can be incentive enough for even bold and persistent admirers to set their longings aside. She didn’t know about you, and now does; give her time to process that and show some respect for your place.
If she doggedly refuses, then you act. Decide what your limits are and tell your girlfriend you’re drawing that line.