DEAR HARRIETTE: My mom had a big job at a top retail company for years. She traveled internationally and was, by all accounts, a big shot. She was fired from her job the other day, and now I am worried about her. She has worked so hard on her career and is so identified with her job. I don't know what she's going to do.
My mom was the principal breadwinner, even though my dad works. I think she and my dad have enough money, at least for now. But it's not the money; it's her. She seems so sad. What can I do to help her feel better? I'm a college student, and she always tries to be there for me when I'm sad. -- Worried, New York
DEAR WORRIED: What makes your mom smile? Think about her favorite foods and favorite activities. While you are at home this summer, invite her to do fun things with you. This may be a chance to spend quality time with your mother that you wouldn't otherwise have because she would have been so busy. Ask your mom to take a break with you and just have fun. Ideas include a day at the spa, a walk in Central Park, going to the movies, hanging out at home or cooking for the family. Pamper her.
You can also trust that your mother will find her way. Anyone who gets fired stings for a bit afterward. But your mother didn't achieve her level of success without being tough and strategic. She will appreciate your tender loving care right now. And she will be back on her feet soon.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I don't have trouble with dating or settling down, but I'm a career-driven woman who won't let anyone put a ring on it.
A good friend alerted me that I may be "selling myself short" by not considering people as lifelong partners. He said I would be lonely by being "picky." I'm afraid that he may be right. I've definitely heard this before, especially from my mother. But I was raised to keep focused on my career; the husband and family will come later.
Now two of my exes, who were absolutely crazy about me, have proposed to their girlfriends, and one of them is expecting a baby. I thought, what if that were me? Am I focusing too hard on success? Will I be that woman who turns 35 and is still looking for the perfect mate?
I'm a 30-year-old woman who has it going on: I have good credit, a nice house and a high-paying job. What more could a woman ask for? It would be nice to have a family, but my career is my priority. -- Successful But Lonely, Miami
DEAR SUCCESSFUL BUT LONELY: You have conflicting views that are making it difficult for you to think clearly about your future. You say you have no trouble settling down, but the rest of your letter suggests that you do.
Clearly, you have been focused on your career. Do you envision yourself creating space for a partner to share your life? What compromises might you be willing to make to welcome someone into your world in that way?
I recommend that you write a list of the qualities you are looking for in a life partner. What appeals to you in a partner? What type of person would you like to share your life, as you share his? Be specific about your desires.
Also, consider your apprehension. Be clear about who you think you are and what you find important in your life as it relates to a family.
None of this means that you should "settle" for someone who doesn't appeal to you. It does mean that you need to get your priorities straight so that you know what you want in a partner and so that you become the partner that person would welcome.