This is sort of why they manoeuvered their children into marrying people that made their own lives easier. As an example, Anthony's not only regarded as a figure of sympathy because he validates all their favorite stereotypes, he's regarded as a great catch because his lack of ambition can be used to ensure that Gordon doesn't make any decisions that the Pattersons don't like no matter how much they'd benefit him.
Similarly, Deanna is better than Rhetta or Martha because she not only makes sure that Mike doesn't get any funny ideas about how he doesn't owe his parents a living, she makes sure that he keeps to the career choice that allows Elly to live vicariously through him.
All this, of course, would change in the post-Train Man era; without John around to reinforce her apathy and inertia, the Elly who'd allowed her conscience free reign would actively question why this should have been. Not only would she realize that she'd set a fairly poor example as a parent, she'd admit at long last that she not only doesn't get a gold star for doing what society expects of her, her children don't owe her the money spent on raising them.
She'd also question the presence of Connie Poirier in her life; a person whose thoughts were clear would probably quickly tire of an envious sycophant trying to convince her to not break certain self-limiting habits because she needs company whining about what might have been.