Dear Carolyn: We live in a community that is FULL of young families. There is a strong clash between working moms and stay-at-home moms, with groups that socialize together on each side but a lot of disdain and defensiveness between the two. I stayed at home with my son for the first three years of his life, and then a few months ago I returned to working part-time; I'm in an office three days a week.
My social life has changed radically, with the moms in both groups wanting nothing to do with me. I have no interest in judging anyone else's choices or holding mine out as superior — I just want to be able to hang out with the moms and kids I like without feeling that I am distrusted by both the working and the at-home moms. How do I get there? Do I need to wear a banner proclaiming that I respect all lifestyles?
— A Bat Amongst Beasts and Birds
A Bat Amongst Beasts and Birds: They all sound awful.
I wanted to write something funny, but I don’t have anything.
Does anyone live there who doesn’t have (young) kids, and who could use a friend? Or who also doesn’t want any part of this aggressively petty, self-important, narrow-minded s---show?
I mean, sure, call up the actual people you actually like in a saucy attempt to be a normal friend. But if any of them resist you as not tribally approved, then consider yourself backhandedly blessed and seek your companionship elsewhere. It’ll take time, a lot of it lonely, but I suspect it’ll pay off — and being with fools is lonelier still.
Who knows, you may inspire some fellow bats.
Dear Carolyn: I recently turned down a management opportunity at my company. I had several reasons, but the chief one was that I have no desire to be a manager. The boss accepted my decision but suggested that I be careful not to stay in a role simply because it was comfortable.
I'm confident I made the right decision — for me at this time, anyway — but how do you tell the difference between making a decision based on self-knowledge vs. fear or inertia?
— Not a Manager
Not a Manager: I’m not sure you can ever be certain except in hindsight.
But, one way to preempt regrets is to look at your life in whole vs. just one piece of it, like your job. Then, ask a few tough questions, and don’t lie to yourself with your answers:
“Am I challenging myself in a meaningful way, or am I coasting through life?”
“If I am coasting, do I have a good reason to?” Say, you’re raising small children; recovering from an illness; grieving a loss; serving as someone’s caregiver; soaring way ahead of the rest of us on the idea that life doesn’t have to be a series of arbitrary self-imposed challenges; or just coasting without apology after a perfectly respectful amount of hard work, thank you very much.
What things matter to you?
You also don’t need to jump through any hoops to justify not wanting to be a manager. Your boss gave you good advice for being his or her employee, but that doesn’t make it good life advice for you.