Commencement: It’s just the Beginning

It seems like this woman is trying to make her daughter out to be a an entitled, takes-it-all-for-granted lazypants, unprepared for the real world.  But…I just don’t buy it.  Check it out:

Dear Amy: My daughter recently graduated from college.

My husband and I paid for all of her expenses, though she held a part-time job.

We opened a bank account for her when she was a child. We added about $10,000 to this account when she started college.

Our daughter has spent all of her savings and paychecks throughout these four years on clothes and going out with friends.

I have berated her countless times on her spending habits.

Right before she graduated, she said she’d found an apartment to live in with her two friends.

I told her NOT to sign a lease because she couldn’t afford it.

She moved home and now has a full-time job ($14 an hour) and another side job while she looks for work in her field.

Her friends took the apartment and she goes there on weekends.

She assured me that she was not on the lease.

Of course, now I find out that she is. I am livid.

I told her she needs to either get someone to sublet the apartment or go ahead and move into it, but she will not be able to keep our car or have us pay any of her expenses.

She found a bus that can get her close to work but I am worried for her safety when she gets out of work at 10 p.m. and is waiting for a bus in a dangerous neighborhood.

She wants to buy our car, but with her track record I know she will not keep up with payments.

I think she needs to see what real life is all about but if something happened to her as she waited for a bus I would never forgive myself.

Any suggestions?

—Distressed Mom

Arrgh!  “She needs to see what real life is all about”??  She has a job!  (Two jobs!) She wants to move out!  It’s the mom who keeps paying her bills and forbidding her to leave the nest.  This letter is written like a list of the daughter’s shortcomings.  But lets review:

Exhibit A: She held a part-time job, earning spending money for herself while she was in college.  The mother doesn’t say anything about her ever asking her parents to send cash, as some kids do.

As it happens, the mother doesn’t like the way her daughter spent this money, or the savings in her bank account.  And yet…the parents were covering all of her expenses, so she didn’t have any obligations.  What did the mom want?  For her daughter not to spend another cent on top of her covered expenses, out of gratitude or something?  She was earning money, and had no bills.  Of course she bought clothes and went out with friends.  Who wouldn’t?  What, exactly, was she supposed to do with her earnings?  And were these expectations made clear to her (so at least she’d know, even though I still maintain that it was her money to spend as she wanted).

Exhibit B: She graduated in four years, and is has a full-time job and a part-time job while looking for more specialized work.  How is she not experiencing the “real world,” or pulling her own weight?  It certainly doesn’t sound like she’s rolling in dough.  But as a young single woman with roommates?  ‘Sprobably enough to get by, sitting on milk crates and eating cereal.  She’s well on her way, or she could be, under different circumstances.

Exhibit C: Although she’s on the apartment lease with her roommates (and presumably has been paying rent all this time), she’s living at home.  She lied about this, and no, that’s not a good thing.  But while factors such as her access to a car, and the payment of other expenses by her parents, probably played a part in this decision, I also wouldn’t rule out her mother’s “forbidding” her to move out as a motivating factor.

I suspect she stayed home because it was easier than moving out.  Not easier than getting a job.  Not easier than finding a place to live.  Not easier than paying bills.  She’s already doing all that.  It was easier than pissing her mother off.

Exhibit D: Mom doesn’t want to sell her the car because “with her track record,” she won’t make the payments.  What track record?  According to the mom, she’s never had bills to pay at all.  The only example is the rent on the apartment she’s surreptitiously leasing–and, apparently, she’s managed to pay that rent all along.

I just don’t get it.  These parents need to stop paying her bills, and encourage her to move out.  Not because she needs a kick in the pants to become self-sufficient, but because she already is.  All she’s lacking is the backbone to stand up to her mom about it.

Compare this with the story of this mom, whose newly graduated daughter really is struggling to get her feet under her:

Dear Amy: We sent our daughter to the expensive private college of her dreams. We paid for school, so she has no loans to repay. Graduation was two months ago. Now that she is home, she will not make a serious attempt to look for work or an internship.

I forced her to volunteer for something, but it was very short term. I would be fine if she found an unpaid internship because I know the job market is not great for certain fields.

Her father seems to agree that she should be doing more, but he claims I am too hard on her (because I have pressed her to refresh her resume, make contacts, look for something to do and not sleep until noon, 2 p.m. or 4 p.m. every day). He also said we will have to wait until she is motivated.

With free room and board, Internet and a big-screen TV, she might never be motivated.

I made her go to a job workshop and a job club. They offered good suggestions and contacts, but she didn’t follow up.

Today she lied about submitting a resume, so I told her point blank that if she is not making a serious effort to find a job in her field starting now, I will find her a job at McDonald’s or in local retail.

I will also have to review her efforts and documentation each day, as if she were in kindergarten.

Hm.  These moms seem to have in common that they’ve paved the way for their kids, covered every expense and provided every opportunity along the way–and now they think that gratitude, serendipitous motivation, or the magical transformation caused by a hood and a mortarboard will somehow turn their kids into independent, self-sufficient money-making machines. And, even worse, when somehow that does happen, they can’t let go!

They complain about their kids not acting like adults, while they continue to treat them like infants.  Don’t they see the connection?

Also, maybe I’m reading too much into this, at least in the first mom’s letter, but I get a sense that, along with the hovering, there’s a lot of pressure on their kids to get not just any job, but the right job.  The mom in the second letter says she’s going to push her daughter into retail or fast food, basically, she implies, as a punishment.  No wonder her daughter is depressed, discouraged, and lying about her job prospects: she hasn’t found her dream job 2 months out of college, and is afraid of disappointing her mother.  Meanwhile, the daughter in the first letter has two jobs, and is looking for more, but still her mom is not satisfied.

It’s not clear to me what these parents want to see their kids accomplish the summer after they get out of school, but I sort of suspect that nothing will be good enough.  They’re afraid to see their kids fail, but they also don’t seem capable of letting them succeed on their own terms.  How sad.

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3 responses to “Commencement: It’s just the Beginning

  1. What’s so wrong with a full-time job that pays $14 an hour?!?! I earned considerably less at my first job, in my field. Maybe she’s in a high-earning field (or expects to be so, or lives in a big city, etc.), but that’s nothing to scoff at, at least from my perspective. For an average-sized city, $29,120 a year should be plenty to live off of, especially if you’re renting an apartment with friends. Which is why she’s clearly able to make the rent!

    Both of these moms need to let go (and the second one needs to talk to her daughter about being evaluated for depression…)

  2. Sarah–I totally agree with you: it seems very likely that the second young woman is suffering from depression. I think this came up in Amy’s original answer to this woman, or if not there, it was certainly mentioned in some responses from readers in the following weeks.

    The first mom totally confuses me! I do not understand what she *wants* her daughter to do, or why she’s making it so hard for her to do anything at all.

  3. Pingback: High school graduate doesn’t make the grade | A Little Help, Please?

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