Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I’ve been in the professional world for a little over two years. I have a question about professional etiquette. I work in a fairly small town as a mid-level nonprofit marketer. We’re in the midst of a hiring process for a busy season where I will be given an assistant for roughly six months. Fortunately, we found the perfect candidate, and I’d love to work with her. But she is wary of a temporary position and hesitant to accept the job unless she knows she’ll have a chance for employment after her temp term ends. I, on the other hand, would like to leave this small town in the dust within the next year and move to a larger city, but I haven’t told my boss about that. My potential assistant would be the perfect replacement for me, but she doesn’t know I’m leaving, either. So here’s the question: Do I tell my boss I want to leave and give my assistant the chance to keep her job? Or do I keep it on the down-low in case my big-city dreams don’t pan out? — Looking to Move On

DEAR LOOKING: This is not an etiquette question. This is about protecting for the downside. (My own business card should read: Ask Amy: Protecting for the downside since 1981).

Do not telegraph your professional ambitions concerning leave-taking to your boss until you have locked something down. Nor should you mention this to your new assistant.

The reason to be so circumspect is because in business — as in life — things happen. These mysterious things that keep happening are the stuff of life — deaths, pregnancies, ankle sprains, job opportunities and missed opportunities. Work toward your goal, and once you have protected for your own downside (what if you can’t find a job elsewhere within the next year?) you can disclose your plans to everyone.

DEAR AMY: My mom had been my inspiration throughout my childhood, teenage years and my 20s. She was a very brave woman who worked extremely hard for her family. She sacrificed and gave up her own needs to ensure that her two kids had a chance for a better and easier life. My mom was very loving, fair and supportive. She was so much more than that. But because she was so selfless, she neglected herself. Her needs were always secondary to her family’s needs and after 40 years of fighting (we were immigrants to a new country, her marriage to my dad was difficult) she broke down and attempted suicide when I was a teenager. She recovered but within a decade she had become a different person. She has no good friends. She’s religious and she finds joy in gardening. I know that we all need to adapt to change that isn’t in our favor. Still, I miss the brave mom who was my hero for the first half of my life. Although we live in different countries we talk regularly, about the weather, my health and my happiness. I’m aware that she’s never going to change back to her former self. I know that it is my turn to accept her the way she is now. And I’ve been trying to do that. Yet, every once in a while I really miss the mom that I used to have. Any advice from your own experience? — Upset Daughter

DEAR DAUGHTER: My main piece of advice is to continue to appreciate your mother’s history, but to love her as she is.

Your mother sounds like a remarkable person. But life takes its toll. Illness steals the mobility and spirit of some of us. Depression, loss and heartache all eat away at our life force.

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One burden of being a loving adult child is to watch our parents change, struggle and grow old. Your job is to accept your own grief about these changes and to make sure that you are doing everything possible to make her life as good as it can be. See your mother in person as often as you can. Pay her back by living your life fully and with integrity. You’ll feel much better when you can be a hero to her.

DEAR AMY: Kudos to you for your response to “Ultrasensitive,” the person who took you to task for using the expression “for the love of God.” As I read the letter, I thought: “Oh no — Amy’s going to cave!” But you didn’t, and good for you! — Fan

DEAR FAN: Some answers just write themselves. I received a lot of support for that response. Thank you all.