I had an important moment with my mother the other day and it’s been washing over me all weekend. She made a passing comment during a phone conversation Friday and I don’t think she could have realized how much it meant to me.

First, some context. I grew up in a very critical environment and it had a great impact on who I became and am. When it got to the point where it was debilitating, I was smart enough to realize I had to do some inner work. As a result, some years ago I released the need for approval from family and learned to repel the criticism most of the time. It was and is an exhilarating feeling and it is the reason I have healthy, appreciative and loving relationships with family now.

That said, I have always seen my parents as people who understand so much about me, yet in some ways don’t understand me at all. I’ve made peace with that paradox, too. But every so often, the people who raised me throw me a curve. In this case, it was Mom.

We were talking about my life’s work, how harried I’m feeling these days despite liking my job at the senior center and loving life coaching. I was telling her how mixed I am about leaving the senior center when my stint there ends, since it is a short-term gig. I conjectured about the possibility of somehow staying.

“But if you stayed at the senior center, would you be able to make a go of your coaching?” Mom asked. “Wouldn’t it take too much of your time?”

Pow. In a flash, Mom hit on the issue that was gnawing at my gut. In fact, wasn’t I somewhere, deep down inside, feeling a long-term job at the senior center would be a copout? And at what point did my mother, who like most parents favors financial security over “follow your bliss” when it comes to employment, begin to comprehend how much life coaching means to me? I had no idea she understood. None.

There are so many lessons here, not the least of which is this: Don’t underestimate people.