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Super critical parents (feel free to vent about family stuff here)

A week or so ago I went on a trip with my mom and some family. She has been asking me to go on this trip with her for over a year - offered to pay for everything (which she didn’t end up doing) - kept hounding me to go with her. I kept telling her I just couldn’t go given how up in the air everything was in my life at the time in terms of my possible move to NYC. I just had no idea when I would move, and where I would be at the time of the vacation (and thus whether to get tix out of Chicago or NYC), if I was in my position - if I would have vacation time, etc. It was too much for me to try to manage that on top of 3 national conference trips/presentations and a half cross-country move. I didn’t have the emotional bandwidth to add that onto everything. She kept persisting and I relented.

It was not really a fun trip. My plane was super delayed so I missed seeing my cousin and her kids (never met the kids, haven’t seen my cousin since we were kids ourselves), and the weather was bad pretty much the whole time. On top of it, my mom criticized everything about me pretty much the whole time.

All of my decisions about this move are wrong (like when I move, how much work I have done on the move thus far, my decisions about housing, my decisions about what to move). My thoughts about my career are wrong (she asked what I will do after my fellowship and I said I was giving myself time to figure that out - she said I am too old to not know. But I have a 3 year fellowship - so there’s time - and I honestly never thought I’d have the life I have right now/am about to get - so many more doors are open to me than I thought possible. I can’t even wrap my mind around what that will mean for my future - so why make decisions now?). My decisions about what to eat at mealtimes were wrong. Also, the way I eat at home is wrong (even though she has no idea how I eat at home - she told people I eat out all the time, which is wrong and bizarre). She also went off on a rant about how people in academia don’t live in the “real world” and know nothing about the “real world” (why is my world any less real than hers?). This latter vent was based on her memory of one of the speakers who spoke at my UNDERGRAD GRADUATION years ago. I barely remember graduating.


I typically see her only once a year. It keeps things more distant between us. I tell her little about my life so as to not invite her commentary. She pushed and guilted me into accepting her friend request on facebook - so that means she has more access to info about me (and my friends) than she had previously. My postings were also criticized on this trip.

I’m curious - for those of you who have super critical parents, how do you cope with it? I always inevitably find myself in a funk after a visit with her - and get really down on myself and super insecure. My poor postdoc mentor took the brunt of that - but luckily she is a good egg and likes me a lot, so we’re good.

I’m not looking for advice. Given that I have just basically spent a week being told all of my decisions are wrong — advice will likely make me feel like the way I handle things in this area is wrong (I’m not alone in that - that’s partly why in psychology training we are taught not to give advice). But I’d love commiseration, love to hear about how you all cope with similar dynamics, and any familial/parental venting you wish to share.

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