Helicopter Moms

Laurie Ruettimann Generations, Laurie Ruettimann

Last week, I received a message on Facebook from a mom in my neighborhood. She wanted career advice for her son. He is a millennial. She is a baby boomer.

You already know this is trouble.

  • The mom is a stereotypical helicopter mom. Very loving. Big heart. Fiercely protective of her adult son.
  • The son is a super human being with lots of potential. He doesn’t have a college degree.

Would you give this mom career advice for her son?

There are few times in life where you can make a real difference. I wanted to be honest. So I took a deep breath and said that the mom is personifying the stereotype of a helicopter parent. Yes, the job market is tough for people without a college degree; however, her efforts probably won’t improve her son’s success rate.

I suggested that she share her own stories from the turbulent job market of the 1970s. What lessons did she learn? What stories might be helpful? My parents taught me that no job is too small and no job pays too little. They taught me perseverance and resiliency. I suggested that a temp agency might be a good resource, too. The economy is changing and many administrative jobs are permanent-temporary jobs.

Those aren’t great answers, but this isn’t a great situation.

I also told her to  have her son reach out to me. The kid knows me, and honestly, I wasn’t comfortable talking to her about his life. He is an adult. Did he co-sign on this conversation?

Well, this mom lost her shit on me.

I won’t take you through the gory details. The suburbs are rough, yo, and maybe I am a self-righteous jerk. But I am also experienced in the art of parental freak-outs. My siblings are millennials, neither one has a college degree, and they turned out okay. Sometimes you give your kids everything–good genes, a college education, great opportunities–and things don’t work out. It is frustrating as hell and feels unfair.

But at some point, my dear helicopter parents, your children’s problems are no longer your problems. If you raise your kids properly–and teach them to be loving and empathetic–they might consider your feelings and not pull you into their drama in the first place.

Anyway, I am not worried about this young man, which is why I responded so honestly. But now I am worried about the mother. When your own identity is heavily invested in someone else’s outcome–and when you validate yourself through your children–you will never be happy.

After 26 years of raising kids, this mom deserves an opportunity to focus on her own life. I hope she gets that chance.