Subscribe for 99¢

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn • We live in a community that is FULL of young families. There is a strong clash between working moms vs. 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? — A Bat Amongst Beasts and Birds

Answer • They all sound awful.

I wanted to write something funny, but I don't have any.

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

Answer • I'm not sure you can ever be certain except in hindsight.

But, one way to pre-empt 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.