conflicting feelings
September 9, 2008 2:25 AM   Subscribe

Conflicted over dad's requests. Your advice appreciated.

This is long, so please bear with me.

My father is asking me to move several hundred miles to help his failing business. He bought the business a year ago. When he discussed it in the past, I adamantly said I would NOT be willing to help him, I was very happy where I was, thank you very much.

Nobody thought the business was a good idea, long before he purchased it, given that no one in our family has any experience in it. This did not stop him. This was, in short, his dream which turned into a headache.

A year later, he is in debt up to his ears. I think it's likely he will be out of business at some point.

He continues to hope I will come help operate the business.

I feel very, very badly that I won't quit my job and come help him. His health and mental state have been deteriorating due to the stress of ownership. I will be coming to visit him soon, because I am concerned.

I have several conflicting feelings right now:

- On the one hand, something in me wants to "heed the call" and do as he requests, which is to move and join him. I come from an Asian American family, and it is the expected thing to help out the family, particularly with family businesses. I feel guilty that I'm not stepping into help him.

- On the other hand, I'm aggravated that I've already told him several times in the past, "no, I don't want to do this", and he continues to ask me to join him, convinced it will "all be very easy" and that it is better than my current situation. Indeed, I don't make a whole lot of money right now, but I'm very happy. But he has never managed to accept that I'll ever be "ok" without a high-income career or having my own business.

- We have had issues in the past where he felt the need to "control" my career. He did this because, I'm almost certain, he simply wants the best for me. On the other hand, I have found this agitating. I felt like I studied for many years in a field I had no interest in merely because he pressured me into it.

- To make things more complicated (sorry), I just wonder if these are rationalizations I'm using NOT to help him, and I'm just being selfish. Because, once again, I'm assuming most of my peers, especially my Asian peers, WOULD help their fathers out in such a situation.

- If I did step in help him, this would take not just a move, but I would need to be away from my husband (who refuses to join me.) It would also require me to be able to work with my father, who likes to make business decisions on the fly, and often (IMHO) very poor decisions at that. I cannot stand his style of doing business, and I think just getting along would be a test of patience.

What would you do? What is the most helpful thing I could possibly do? Am I being selfish? I'd appreciate your advice, thoughts, perspectives.
posted by uxo to Human Relations (39 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'd tell my dad to grow up and let me live my own life. My family is a lot more laissez-faire though. Having to leave a job you like AND your husband are pretty big clinchers, for me anyway.
posted by sunshinesky at 2:35 AM on September 9, 2008

Your father is old enough to deal with the consequences of his actions. Familial obligations only mean something if you let them mean something.

Stay with your husband, and build a build a better life for yourself. Don't get involved with a business that is going down the pan. It'll just drag you down with it.
posted by Solomon at 2:46 AM on September 9, 2008 [5 favorites]

I would not go into business with family, particularly family members who had problems with respecting my boundaries. I would express sympathy and suggest courses of action for a family in your father's circumstances, and every time that person said to me, "come and help me, I need you," I would say, "I know it's hard, I'm sorry you're in this position, maybe you should get an account, solicitor. I can't help you." I would keep saying "I can't help you" until they stopped asking. For the sake of your partner (and or your children), your loyalty is due to your partner now, not your parent.

You are not responsible for poor choices that other people make. You can not change people. Of course, you feel bad for your father (even I feel bad for him, and I don't know him), but that does not oblige you to give up your life, and risk your marriage for him.
posted by b33j at 2:47 AM on September 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

I definitely understand the compulsion to, as you said, heed the call. The compulsion to be supportive to someone you love, even if you disagree with his decisions, well I think it's a good thing. And that's without factoring in the specific pressure you feel from your cultural background and that of your peers.

However, from the way you've described it, it sounds like it would potentially wreak havoc on your life to do this. For one thing, you have your own life that sounds like it's working well for you. That's not exactly common; if you would be leaving a job you hate, it might be different. Second, if your husband isn't happy with the idea, going anyway could strain your relationship with him. The potential downsides to going seem much larger than the potential positive effects. You're probably not going to miraculously save your father's failing business.

You stated from the beginning it was something you were not willing to do. It's not wrong to stick to that decision (although sometimes it may feel like it).
posted by knave at 2:48 AM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

If my parents were in trouble financially I would help them out the best I could but I wouldn't give up my life and my career to bail them out of a problem they've caused themselves.

If this business is going under, having an extra body needing a wage out of it isn't going to help. What exactly is it he think you can do? If he needs a helping hand with the business, why can't he hire someone? I suspect its that he can't afford to and expects to get free/cheap labor from you.
posted by missmagenta at 3:24 AM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

So you know nothing about it, not that it matters because he's just going to keep doing his own thing anyway...

Yeah. Find someone who does. If he chooses to disregard their knowledge and experience, that's his problem.

And just quietly - you knew it was a bad idea. Now that it seems that yes it was a bad idea - why would you feel the urge to get involved with it now? :) And I say that as a general thing... I don't even know your Dad.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 3:54 AM on September 9, 2008

If you've told him "No, I'm not going to do this" then don't do it.

I remind myself in situations like this that the players involved are grown-ass men (or women) and can take care of themselves. Even if they don't want to. That's what being a grown-up means.

(And sometimes in my mind, I change the emphasis so it's grown ass-man. It's often more appropriate.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:00 AM on September 9, 2008

It's not tenable to live your life under the constant threat of your parents' bad decisions upending your own successful choices. The difference you need to find here is between being supportive and being subservient - ditching your job and husband to help your dad's misguided entrepreneurship is definitely the latter.
posted by 0xFCAF at 4:02 AM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

You told him in the past you would not join him. He went ahead and did what he was going to do anyway. It is now his problem.

Stay where you are. Give him money if you are financially able, but stay where you are.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:27 AM on September 9, 2008

Your Dad's poor choices are not your problem.

Your problem is convincing yourself that your Dad's poor choices are not your problem. Work on that. Meanwhile, stick to your guns and stay put, even if it makes you feel guilty.

Nobody thought the business was a good idea, long before he purchased it, given that no one in our family has any experience in it. This did not stop him. This was, in short, his dream which turned into a headache

This is the key point. This is not The Family Business: this is something your Dad chose to get into after the rest of his family (i.e. you) had gained its independence. If he expects you to turn your whole life upside down and inside out just so he can pursue his dream of business success, that's totally unreasonable.

If he needs help, he can hire help. If the business needs help it can't afford to hire, it's not viable. And again, that's his issue, not yours.
posted by flabdablet at 4:29 AM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Agree with everything above. If the situation were different -- if you had some flash of insight and knew what his business should do, and if he were to admit his inability to manage the situation and was willing to let you take over, with him working for you, and if it didn't involve wrecking your existing personal life, then maybe such heroics would have a chance at being worthwhile. None of those conditions seem to be true. As it is, it sounds as if you're thinking you've got some obligation to join your dad on the deck of his sinking ship. I don't think any culture could see that as the right thing for a father to ask of his child.
posted by jon1270 at 4:49 AM on September 9, 2008

I also agree with everything above. As a grown adult, you're an independent person and although you're linked by all sorts of bonds, you're under no obligation to help, whether that's rational, moral, family or otherwise, and you're under no obligation to be or do anything simply because it makes your father feel better.

Your father is also a grown adult and chose to take this on - it's not something he's built up over many years as a family business ,which could be the only argument that might be valid. (On preview, what flabdablet said.) So it's up to him to take it on the chin.

You can obviously offer advice when you visit, but you're not his employee or servant, and he needs to understand that he's not in a position to tell you what to do.

Background note: I sort of know what you're in. Sort of. I'm having a similar time with my older brother (I'm late 30s, he's late 40s). He's made some poor choices about jobs and investments and is in a really dire financial and family position, and wants me to help him out both financially and work-wise, but because of my own time and financial commitments, I simply can't. I've had to explain to him that at this stage in life, my own family comes before him and his. I'm not prepared to risk my own income or savings, or strain my own relationship, because of his rash decisions, and neither should you. If you're happy with your life and it's not living up to his expectations, that's your Dad's problem and not yours.
posted by dowcrag at 5:43 AM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't get involved in the business. Even though I'm not of Asian descent, I'm pretty sympathetic towards dropping everything and going to help out your family. But all the specifics of your situation point towards staying where you are. As I see it, the key issue is:

"It would also require me to be able to work with my father, who likes to make business decisions on the fly, and often (IMHO) very poor decisions at that. I cannot stand his style of doing business, and I think just getting along would be a test of patience."

If doing this would put you and your husband (and maybe even your father) out while doing little to improve the business, then it's a non-starter. The only time to consider making such a sacrifice is when you believe you can help something - your family, the business - thrive.
posted by BigSky at 5:50 AM on September 9, 2008

I'm not Asian, so I can't comment on the family pressure aspect of things, but I think, like others, that it's a bad idea. There's the old maxim about throwing good money after bad, and the same can be true of any other resource including your time and goodwill. It's clear that this business is failing, and throwing your life away on it isn't going to help the situation, it's just going to ruin your life as well as your father's (and also your husband's from the sound of it).

Is there some specific skill your father thinks you'd bring to the situation? Or does he just see you as free labour? If the former, is there any way you can help with that on a remote or temporary basis? If your skills is accounting, perhaps he could send you a copy of his (presumably computerized) books and you could review them for him and offer some ideas. If your skill is hiring great people, perhaps you could set up some questionnaires or interview templates, or guidelines for what he should be looking for in employees, etc, or come down and do a round of interviews during your vacation time. Of course, not knowing your father, those things might just get his hopes up and make him twice as upset when you go back to your real life, so use that idea with caution.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:06 AM on September 9, 2008

No one else in the family is helping him?
posted by elle.jeezy at 6:39 AM on September 9, 2008

Your husband is the deal breaker. All the other reasons are just gravy. I don't understand the asian culture entirely (my only experience is simply living in Vancouver) but doesn't your married partner outrank family?

So, to answer your questions, I'd tell your dad "Sorry, but Mr. uxo won't allow it. I cannot live without my husband." Yes, I know it's horribly sexist and goes against everything I believe in as a woman, but sometimes you need to use all those years where women have been been repressed to your advantage. I'm also assuming a hetero marriage and that you're female, obviously.

And no, you're not being selfish. All are valid reasons to refuse -- you need to lead your life, and carry out your dreams, not those of your father's.
posted by cgg at 7:20 AM on September 9, 2008

- If I did step in help him, this would take not just a move, but I would need to be away from my husband (who refuses to join me.)

This trumps all else.

You need to tell your father it just isn't possible for you to move.

Because? It isn't.
posted by konolia at 7:21 AM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with everyone above. As usual, Your Time Machine Sucks puts it very well.

As far as Asian culture goes, when your parents left Asia and moved to North America/Europe/Australia/notAsia, they tacitly gave you permission to be Not 100% Asian yourself. You have one foot in another culture by virtue of their decision to leave Asia, and your host culture doesn't expect the Dutiful Daughter to sacrifice everything for a dumb move on your dad's part.

So be sympathetic and lend an ear when Dad calls, but don't lend him money or give any material assistance to his doofus plans. Stand your ground or you'll get pulled into a miserable morass. If anything, it's better for Dad if you don't get dragged down with him, since you'll be better able to help him after he fails.
posted by Quietgal at 7:34 AM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I come from an Asian American family, if it's at all relevant.

Like what jacquilynne said, don't move, but could you help him out in some small way? Say, could you tell him: "Dad, I'll drive/fly out there and help you out for one week so that you can get things together. No more, no less"?

I think it's a horrible idea to move, but it seems that what your dad wishes is some sort of mental support. Maybe a week of working together with someone who is also shouldering the burden is what he needs to relieve some stress, or even get his head clear so that he can sell the company.

And in this case, you should make your dates firm -- don't extend your return ticket, stand by your word of 'one week' or whatnot..
posted by suedehead at 7:36 AM on September 9, 2008

Is the business really viable? Don't even consider this if it's really likely to fail, regardless of your involvement, and it sounds like that's the case.

Is there a middle road that would help you meet your perceived obligation, like giving him money, co-signing a loan, etc.?

Can you say to him, simply, I would love to help you, but my goals are to continue what I'm doing. Here's why my current job and home situation are best for me.
posted by theora55 at 7:50 AM on September 9, 2008

I'm not Asian, but I'm the son/grandson/great-grandson of immigrants, and I think certain patterns are common in all immigrant familes. So I maybe have at least a rough sense of what you're going through.

I think there's a common thing where smart, ambitious people from elsewhere in the world really want their children to have access to everything that America promises. So they make huge sacrifices to bring their family to America--but somewhere in the back of their mind, they think that America is going to be just like their home country, only with better jobs/safer streets/more freedom/whatever.

And when you arrive, you discover that it doesn't quite work like that. In order to get full access to the American dreams, your kids are going to have to become American. (Or maybe your grandkids or great-grandkids; the process can take several generations.) And this means they are going to have to give up certain aspects of your culture--maybe even the aspects that you thought were the most important ones. And because you are now separated from them by a cultural divide, you might not fully understand what they've gained in exchange.

It sounds like this is going on here. You, Uxo, have American attitudes about self-reliance and independent thought; your father still holds Asian attitudes about family obligations. You know that he won't fully understand your response to his request, and you feel guilty about it.

So I guess what I would tell you is: your father (or whichever of your ancestors first came to America) wanted you to become an American, and to take advantage of everything America has to offer. By pursuing your own life, and refusing to get sucked into your father's failed business venture, you are actually honoring the wish that brought your family across the ocean. This does not mean you are abandoning your Asian values. It just means you've integrated them with your American values, and taken the best that each culture has to offer.

Your father may not see that now; maybe he never will. But I suspect that if you could fast-forward 10 years and see two alternate futures -- one future where you trusted your Dad's judgment and got mired in his failed business, and a second where you trusted your own judgment and made a happy and fulfilling life for yourself-- you would find that your Dad is actually much happier in the world where his daughter is a happy, successful person.
posted by yankeefog at 7:58 AM on September 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Trust me on this: You do not want to go work for a failing or dying business, no matter whose it is.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:09 AM on September 9, 2008

The answer is no.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:50 AM on September 9, 2008

It sounds to me like the business is going to fail irrespective of whether you step in to help or not. I say because it doesn't sound like you have enough business management experience to turn the company around; and it doesn't sound like your dad would give you enough control to turn the business around even if you did know how to. The question is does it fail sooner rather than later; and does it fail with you on board as well as your dad?

I would say the main thing you gain from getting on board with the company is, after the company does fail, nobody cannot blame you for not helping.

This comes at the price of moving away from your husband, child etc; the stress of running a failing business; your lost wages if the failing company can't pay what you are currently earning; and of your savings which you invest; and any social stigma attached to having a failed business.

Obviously only you can balance these different issues. However, if it were me, I would tell my dad that the boat is sinking and, though it's heartbreaking to see the toil bailing it out is taking on him, if I join him bailing it out the only result will be that we'll both end up exhausted in the water after the boat sinks.
posted by Mike1024 at 10:47 AM on September 9, 2008

I think you can help your father and satisfy your feeling of obligation without taking a position in his business. Perhaps you could suggest that every great business has a board of directors or a similar cadre of advisors. Tell him that you would be willing to sit on his board of directors and sort through his business challenges--but put strict limits on it. For instance, a meeting once a quarter.
posted by mutrux at 11:10 AM on September 9, 2008

Another voice chiming in to say, follow your instincts & don't do this and no, you are not being a horrible, selfish child by refusing to climb aboard this sinking ship. I can understand feeling guilty and obligated, but you voiced your objections well before he moved forward, you don't want to do this, and you have built an entire life that you can't just abandon because your father made a poor decision. Not wanting to do this is reason enough to refuse, but having to move away from your husband is a deal breaker and most people would agree.

As for how you can help him, the suggestions to spend a week helping him get his ducks in a row or finding other resources that would be helpful are excellent ones. This may be something your Dad will bring up every time you speak, and in that case, I'd have a firm, rote response ready, such as, "I'm sorry things are so difficult now, but it's just not possible." whenever he does mention it. if you're willing to entertain the topic longer, you could say that you're willing to listen or brainstorm, but that can also become an emotional minefield. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 11:20 AM on September 9, 2008

This is bad news. Don't do it. It will only drag you down and make your relationship with your father and with your husband worse.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:26 AM on September 9, 2008

You're running out to "help" him is the worst thing you could do -- both for him, and yourself. The most helpful thing you could do would be to look up some resources to help him help himself -- and then stay out of it.

If he needs financial help, direct him to credit counselling or a financial adviser. If he needs business help, research business associations in his field in his area and send him the links or phone numbers. If he's looking for actual labour but can't afford it, suggest that he find out about offering co-op/apprenticeship/volunteer opportunities.

It is really, really inappropriate that your dad is making this request of you, but I understand your guilt and conflicted feelings over this -- particularly if you feel there's addictional cultural pressures. However, it sounds like you're aware of the dysfunctional aspects of your relationship with your dad (the going to school thing) and have made good progress in detaching yourself from that kind of thing. GOOD. You need to keep making that progress, and don't undo what you've accomplished in becoming an independent adult.

It's not as if you're turning him down purely out of selfishness. You know that you would be happy to help out a family member in business if the circumstances were different: if you could remain with your husband, and if the business was something you wanted to do in the first place. But you made your position clear to him from the start, that this business was NOT a good idea, and your position about the business has not changed -- and neither should your actions. You didn't want to get involved in it then; you certainly don't want to get involved in it now.

By all means do NOT go into business with him. Do NOT leave your husband behind. I understand wanting to support your dad, and maybe there are some ways to do so by empowering him (cheesy, I know) to help himself rather than having to rely on guilt-tripping family members into fixing his mistakes. You deserve not to have your life hijacked by your dad's business decisions, and he deserves to learn how to manage his business like an adult.
posted by peggynature at 12:45 PM on September 9, 2008

YOUR not you're.
posted by peggynature at 12:45 PM on September 9, 2008

Tell him you'll try to help him figure out a way to close out the business before it kills him. If he's willing to move on, then great, do what you can to help him close up shop.

If he wants to hang in there, tell him to be sure to let you know when he's ready to get out, because you'll be there to help him then.
posted by jasper411 at 12:58 PM on September 9, 2008

Haven't read all the responses but wanted to pipe in to say that I understand your sense of obligation but I left my life behind to join a successful business that my parents run and it was pure hell because in their eyes, I'm still a) 12, b) somehow irresponsible though I've been asked to join this business.
The problem with family businesses is that whatever dynamic is present in the family carries over to the business, whether that dynamic is good or bad.
Don't do it ... especially if the business is failing.
You will feel guilty for a bit and you can feel free to express that with those around you who are supportive but take my word for it, the guilt is worth it.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 1:31 PM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you for your amazingly kind and supportive responses, everyone.

It helps just hearing your down-to-earth advice. Whenever I talk to my father, I feel like I keep getting "sucked" into bizarroland where you can just wave a wand, and "poof", the problems will disappear. I feel like a hundred arms have just yanked me back into the real world, and for that, I am grateful to you guys.

I think I will be visiting him just to give him mental support, as suedehead and others have suggested. And take a more supportive but not subservient role, as Oxfcaf has advised and many of you have detailed (i.e., an advisory role, not as an employee.)

I am ready to help him if he does lose the business with whatever I can spare. THAT, I am able to do.
posted by uxo at 2:43 PM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: No one else in the family is helping him?

Elle: my siblings are helping in the case he declares bankruptcy. His business is located a couple of hours away from my mom (who continues to work at her old job, because this is the only income they are getting right now.) My other sibling came and helped him for a few months, but being young, inexperienced and in school--he was pretty much shellshocked the entire time he was there.

We're basically going to try and make sure he isn't alone for any extended period of time, by calling or visiting him on rotation.

I don't know what to say other than my father has always been very stubborn and somewhat nuts. He's very charismatic in his own way, but he has a history of talking of people into things (quite impressively), and then not quite knowing how to run the endeavor he's persuaded them into.
posted by uxo at 3:08 PM on September 9, 2008

Can you talk to him about looking at his situation - checking the books, the market, his client relationships, etc. Effectively being a consultant and trying to advise him from your home? Or from a short visit?

And give him hard, honest advice.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:13 PM on September 9, 2008

I think you're doing the right thing standing firm---it is not at all selfish to want to have your own life at this point, especially as you forewarned this is something you wouldn't get involved with.

To ease your guilt, find other ways to help that don't involve picking up and moving to work for the business. Can you connect him with someone that would give him better business advice? Maybe send little things so that he knows you care about him, even if you are not willing to do what he has asked.

Best of luck, it sounds like a tough situation.
posted by lacedback at 7:17 PM on September 9, 2008

I wrote and long email, and then deleted it all, except for this:

.....So I'll end by telling you what I wish someone would tell me as the daughter of an immigrant father who is a good man with a silver tongue and a penchant for awful, get-rich-quick business deals that always fail, and an intelligent mother who seems to be somehow caught up, blind eyed , unable or unwilling to find the words to stop him or protect herself or their finances.

You are a good daughter. Not going along with his ill conceived business plan doesn't mean you aren't a good daughter. It doesn't mean that you don't hear his desperation or see how his blindness led him into this or fail to understand that he is sinking. It doesn't mean you don't at some level feel the pull he feels to be the breadwinner and save face, or understand his logic about why he saw the details of this wrong headed idea and thought - I'll do it. It doesn't mean you aren't grateful for all your parents have sacrificed for you or recognize that it's a debt that feels like it must be paid. In fact, the fact that you are struggling with this means you care, and is proof you are a good daughter.

But you can't stop this from crashing. You don't have the power to stop this from happening considering the current factors. it's out of your control. It's interesting that your father thinks that you can (help him) save this - that it's in your control. Because you can see clearly that it's not - particularly because you never would have made the decisions that led to this current predicament. And when signs that this turning south appeared, you would have made different choices to get yourself out of it. Even now, you have ideas about how to get out of this mess - like selling the business -that he won't consider. So even if you go, give up your life, and work for free for 24-7, you can't save this in the long term. Because the problem is not the business, or the one time decision to get involved in it. The problem is his choices, and his poor judgment on a daily basis...that's the real problem, and for a hundred good and bad reasons to do with culture, and masculinity, and ego and the world that we live in, right now that shows no signs of changing.

In such a reality as you are facing, being a good daughter doesn't mean you go. It means that you will not think less of him when the business does crash, regardless of how much debt he rolls your mother and himself into. It means you and your siblings will try to to emotionally support each other, him and your mother, now as he hangs on, and if and when he hits bottom. You will not say I told you so, or pity him while it's happening. You will accept him as he is now - a good, flawed man digging himself into a frightening, dark hole - and then too, when he might feel the weight of failure and embarrassment. (My mother often says people don't set out to fail, no matter how many bad decisions they make along the way.)

In short, as a good daughter, you will do what you can (respect him) - and not do what you can't (obey him) -, realizing that the in the distance between those two poles lies the heavy guilt, resentment and helplessness that you wish you didn't feel towards someone you love, but bear and accept because you do love them.

I think you're a good daughter, Uxo. Good luck, and I hope this helps some.
posted by anitanita at 9:18 PM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for your words, guys. I pretty much burst into tears when I read your answer, anitanita. It hit me pretty hard.

He seems to be falling into a deep depression, and his body seems to be falling apart.

I'm going to be visiting him in 2 weeks (despite him telling me not to.) Right now I'm just gonna try and remember accepting him without blame. I think he has realized that no miracle is going to occur, and he's like a broken record right now, going on about how he's "ruined his life" for good.

Anyways, thanks everybody. I appreciate your replies.
posted by uxo at 12:34 PM on September 10, 2008

It sounds like you did everything in your power to keep from being dragged into this business. Your father is shameless - you told him that you wouldn't help, and he's counting on your shame to make you help.

Bottom line - you can't fix his business just by coming to help. Is there some reason why you would be more qualified to succeed in this business where he had not?

Get him to talk to a bankruptcy lawyer. If it's not that bad yet, get him to talk to a consultant about improving the business. If he won't do either of those, he probably needs to talk to a doctor about depression.

No matter what, he has not ruined his life for good. He has children who love him. Most famous businessmen fail at several ventures before they succeed, and they kept dusting themselves off until they won.

If you need to shift some of the pressure, enlist your husband. Say that you won't sacrifice your marriage to move out there and help your father - it is true that your husband refuses to move, right? If your father subscribes to traditional gender roles, he might believe that your husband has said no, and that's the end of the discussion, even if that's not the way it works in your marriage.
posted by LightStruk at 12:47 PM on September 10, 2008

Best of luck on your trip Uxo. I think there are many sons and daughters just like us who could repeat some variation of this sad little tale, dotted all over the face of the planet. I find it kind of comforting, actually to know I'm not the only one who lives with some version of parents who cajole us into business, science, law, or medical careers, or who do so many wrong things for so many right reasons. My father is from South America by the way, and I imagine if I ever told him he's much like a man from somewhere in Asia, he'd look at me as if I'd lost my mind.

Just so you know, my mom finally declared bankruptcy for herself and my dad in my junior year of college. He was 61, her 58, I think. It felt devastating for many reasons, not the least of which because my mother ended up working way into her 60s to support them. Also, while I knew we were in bad shape financially, I decided to believe my father when he batted away my questions or asked if there was any issue with paying for tuition. I ended up finding great support at my campus both in therapy and in finding a job -your siblings' advisors might be that support in finding funding, talking with professors to explain their performance lately, etc. Encourage your siblings to reach out for support on campus- even just telling their advisor that they are going through some personal family transition is a good idea. Because if they aren't feeling affected about this sort of emotional roller coaster ride they are on, they aren't paying attention. Heath services at the university where I work has a counselor who specifically deals with first generation (college) students and students with immigrant parents. It can't hurt for you to talk with a therapist for a short period of time either - I know there can be stigma attached to doing so for some people, and you might not know how they can help, but it helps to have an impartial sounding board and not feel that you have to be strong all the time.

All in all the experience aged all of us -my father and my mother, my brother and I. It's hard to see your parents look like they've aged 10 years in 6 months and grow frail almost before your eyes. I'd like to say we had a good, open, cleansing discussion about it as a family, but we didn't, and it still turned out okay in the sense that we all got through the 7 years of bankruptcy, and still talk to each other today. One amazing thing that did happen is that my mother taught herself all about finances and the stock market when she was 60, and hounded my brother and I to learn financial planning so we would never feel the vulnerability that bankruptcy in old age can bring. I thank them for that. Today my father is 76 with health issues galore, and my mother 73, which is amazing to me because I honestly thought the experience would kill them.

So that's my data point. Sending all sorts of good thoughts your way.
posted by anitanita at 8:54 PM on September 10, 2008

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