Can I have the career I want and my family too?
July 22, 2009 9:43 PM   Subscribe

How do I deal with enormous pressure from my parents? I apologize for the length, and thanks in advance for your advice.

My parents want me to get an MBA. I want to be a musician. 80-90% of my conversations with my parents are about this. They tell me horror stories about their friends' kids who tried to make it in the arts and failed. They tell me that if I'm really serious about a career as a singer, I'll get an MBA. They tell me that if I don't get an MBA, I will not find a good husband, and/or the men whom I'd want to marry won't respect me because I won't be earning enough. They tell me that they know better than I do what is right for me, and I will understand when I have children of my own.

I am 25, have been living on my own and supporting myself since graduating from college, and currently hold a decent job that I am not too excited about but that pays the bills (including the bills for my voice lessons). I perform a fair amount and have been writing and arranging songs, which I am getting ready to record. But I feel torn between what I love and find meaningful - making music - and what my parents think I should do. I worry that they're right and I will be miserable and alone if I don't go to business school. I also worry very seriously that if I completely dedicate myself to music and commit to it, I will destroy my family. My parents tell me how miserable they are because they worry about me and the choices I am making. When I make choices that they disagree with (e.g. I had a boyfriend that they disliked) they get very emotional and will call me and email me many times a day in tears and express at great length how deeply hurt and upset and worried they are and what it is that they want me to do instead. They also talk to my sister (who is also my roommate) about how upset they are, so I hear about it from her too (if she mentions that they called and were upset).

I want to have a positive relationship with my parents. Family is very important to me. But I am unhappy with things as they are. I wish that my parents would support me and want me to be happy, instead of putting so much stock in a diploma. I “know” that, but at the same time I fear that they’re actually right to push me in this direction. I feel indecisive, pulled in different directions. Lately I have been unable to commit to applying to business school and unable to really pursue my music either, which feels terrible. I feel like my parents are forcing me to choose between the music I love and the family I love.

My questions are:

1. Broadly speaking, what do I do about all of this?

2. I discussed this with a friend, and she strongly urged me to set a boundary with my parents. She told me to write them an email explaining that I love them and want them to be part of my life, but that I will not discuss the subject of my career with them in any form for the next x amount of time. Then, talk to them about everything else, but if they start to bring up business school, say “I’m sorry, I do not do this to hurt you, but as I explained, I will not talk about this subject, so I am hanging up now.” I am not sure if this would work or how to make it work, and I am afraid of hurting or upsetting my parents, so I welcome all and any advice pro or con this plan and any insights you may have as to how to establish and maintain healthy parent-child boundaries.

Seriously, thank you very much for your time and your advice. I will read and consider all of it carefully.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (58 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

They tell me that they know better than I do what is right for me, and I will understand when I have children of my own.

You need to point out to them that you are not a child.


I worry that they're right and I will be miserable and alone if I don't go to business school.

This is ludicrous. INSANE even. Do you know how many people in this world do not have an MBA? Do you know how many of them are NOT alone? The fact that you wrote this sentence at all leads me to believe that you are allowing your parents onslaught to actually brainwash you.

You need to absolutely tell them in no uncertain terms that your career is none of their business (or that you don't want any input about it from them). It's possible they are oblivious as to how much this is bothering you. Regardless, set boundaries and if they can't abide by those boundaries I suggest following advice I saw in a recent AskMe: Get up and walk out when they bring this stuff up. Tell them politely that you don't wish to discuss it with them and LEAVE. They'll get the hint.
posted by mbatch at 9:54 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Why an MBA? Why not a DD or a DDS? Yes, they're being a bit peculiar. I could understand if they suggested you maintain a music-related business career until your music career takes off. I could agree wtih them that a music career is more difficult and risky than a business-related career (fickle public, more competition), but why an MBA? Don't discuss with them any mpre.
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:54 PM on July 22, 2009

I worry that they're right and I will be miserable and alone if I don't go to business school.

Music is difficult and if you have worries about the likelihood of making a living as a musician, those may be rational worries. However, this is not a rational worry. As I'm sure you're aware, billions of people have not been to business school. Most of those people are not miserable and alone as a result. and as Delmoi said, an MBA is not that highly respected a degree anyway.

Your friend is right. You need to decide for yourself what career path(s) you're going to follow and what risks your comfortable with and stop discussing this with your parents, except maybe to let them know that your idea of success is different from theirs, if it is (e.g. are they assuming all husbands have MBAs? That only people with MBAs make good money?). You may also want to look at answers to this question for advice on boundary setting.

I do undestand that even apart from the pressure they're putting on you, you feel bad that they feel bad. There's no much you can do about that, though. Probably the most you can do is let them know what you ultimately want out of life, so that they know and understand that it may not be something that requires an MBA, even if what they would want out of life would (i.e. maybe they wouldn't be happy with the life you will live, but you would be).
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:55 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry your parents don't have respect for your artistic pursuits. You say you're afraid of hurting their feelings. It's too bad they don't have the same regard for you.

Your parents need to take a pill. Since you can't force that to happen, all you can do is tell them that you don't want to hear what they think about your choices. If you want advice, you can ask. But we both know you're not going to and that's totally fine. You don't owe them anything.
posted by sugarfish at 9:55 PM on July 22, 2009

I discussed this with a friend, and she strongly urged me to set a boundary with my parents. She told me to write them an email explaining that I love them and want them to be part of my life, but that I will not discuss the subject of my career with them in any form for the next x amount of time. Then, talk to them about everything else, but if they start to bring up business school, say “I’m sorry, I do not do this to hurt you, but as I explained, I will not talk about this subject, so I am hanging up now.”

Listen to your friend. She is right--this is EXACTLY what you should do. As far as "how to make it work," you do just what she said. Do not let your parents engage you in this topic. If they start, hang up the phone or (if it's in person) physically walk away, get in the car and leave. Yes it WILL make them hurt and angry--that's the point. They obviously don't care if you're hurt and angry--moreover, they're not treating you like the autonomous adult you are. They're behavior is inappropriate, creepy, and controlling.

I feel like my parents are forcing me to choose between the music I love and the family I love.

They may well be. It's not "music" you have to choose, but yourself. If it wasn't music, there would be something else they'd try to keep you from doing.
posted by Violet Hour at 9:57 PM on July 22, 2009 [22 favorites]

I work with a lot of musicians, singers, studio engineers, and music professionals. While they are passionate about their music and some of them have reached what they feel is a comfortable level of fame - they all still have day jobs. An MBA would help them a lot by providing them faster advancement; however, that's assuming that there is a job available for the MBA candidate upon graduation, something which is highly contingent upon economic growth.

So here's the thing:
If you have a degree and can land a job, play music for fun and work a day job for a while. If you want to advance past a certain point - you'll eventually be looking at some level of education. What you can't do is not work and try to be a musician - income is now a necessity. You're now an adult - and that means you officially get to make crappy decisions when there are only crappy options. (Damned if you do / Damned if you don't)

But, as an FYI for your parents: no experience + BS/BA + MBA is a very tough sale for an employer. Generally speaking, unless that candidate is an ivy league graduate or at the top of their class its tough to find a niche for someone with no hands on experience - (The MBA just quantifies the potential employee expects to be paid more than the starting wage they are qualified for). For this reason: get some experience in a given field, then go get an MBA if its useful to you.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:03 PM on July 22, 2009

You would be absolutely shocked at how many women without MBAs manage to find husbands. Shocked!

My opinion: let them vent and just tune it out. Learn to develop that important adult skill of nodding in agreement while the conversation takes place, then doing whatever the hell you want when the conversation is over. They have a right to their opinion, but that you have the final say in the matter. However, just as they don't have the right to force you to get an MBA, you don't have the right to expect their enthusiastic support for choices they don't agree with. Each is equally unfair.

I really don't understand the notion that you can't pursue a music career (or whatever you dream of doing in life) first, and then go to school later if your first choice doesn't work out. Your ability to attend college doesn't expire after your 20s.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:06 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Every time they bring it up, hang up or walk out. Otherwise be cheerful and polite. They'll get the picture. You can warn them if they want but only one warning then you need to pull the trigger and get out of there. 70%-80% of your conversations are about this? You won't be missing much anyway.
posted by kathrineg at 10:07 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am afraid of hurting or upsetting my parents

There's the problem right there. They don't give you the same respect. Sorry, but at that point, a little "you know what? screw 'em" in your head is perfectly appropriate.

You are not causing hurt to your parents by being yourself. Your parents are mentally bullying you and the fact that you feel bad telling them to stop indicates you might be a little too used to it. Stand up.
posted by mediareport at 10:09 PM on July 22, 2009 [16 favorites]

You're 25 and you're supporting yourself. It's up to you now, not them. Follow the advice above and firmly set this topic as off-limits in your discussions.

You might want to consider pursuing something in the music business or arts management too. I don't know if business (even without the MBA) is something that interests you at all or if its entirely your parents' idea. If you have no desire to have anything to do with business, ignore this naturally, but if it really is an interest of yours, it might provide a nice combination of fields for you and provide you with more contacts and insights about the industry as you pursue your own singing.
posted by zachlipton at 10:11 PM on July 22, 2009

I am 25, have been living on my own and supporting myself since graduating from college, and currently hold a decent job that I am not too excited about but that pays the bills

Well, there you go. Now, you just need to let the folks know you are doing well for yourself, you're a grown-up and they need to respect your decisions. Easier said than done I know, but there is some good advice on this above.

I just wanted to throw in my own personal anecdote:
I work a "day job" in software, with a plan to eventually transition into professional writing and filmmaking. I have told my parents over and over again:

"Making movies and writing is what I want to with my life. I know it's challenging, but I think I have the talent and the determination to make a living at it in the next few years."

and variations on that theme. And it just doesn't process. It's not that they say, "well it's so competitive, you should have a backup plan" - it's more like they literally do not hear it, and go on with the conversation like I just told them I want to be a software engineer until I'm 70. It's weird, and I can't completely explain it except as a generational issue, or maybe a function of the blinkered and provincial city I grew up in.

Anyway, it's weird, but I try to accept it as something they really can't control and probably don't even realize they're doing. Hope that helps in some way.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:25 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Emotional blackmail. Do what YOU think is best for yourself. I can say that I have been happiest in my life pursuing what interested me rather than making decisions based on money or proper career choices. Whenever I took a job because it paid well or was a "good job" I was miserable.

I have an MBA. Your decision is NOT binary. I got my MBA at night from a top school while working full time. I have the same degree as a full time student and no one I have encountered thinks any less of it. You can do both. It will take a little longer to get the MBA at night, but so what.

As for getting married, I cannot for the life of me figure out what an MBA has to do with love. I did meet so great gals in B-school, but I did not marry any of them. I met my wife the old fashioned way. I was drunk at a party and a mutual friend introduced us and challenged us to a drinking contest. Respect for her did not come from what she was earning. She was a second year teacher at a private school on the south side of Chicago making at best $12,000 a year. Respect came from how hard she was working at pursuing her dream of helping others. And from her ability to chug flat beer from a two day old keg at that first meeting. I would respect someone less who was being a capitalist whore working a souless job for the money than someone chasing their dream and broke.

As the song says, "Listen to the music play..." (Franklin's Tower, Garcia/Hunter)
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:28 PM on July 22, 2009 [6 favorites]

You're really very lucky to have found a passion in life. Don't listen to your parents. If you're supporting yourself, they don't get an opinion anymore. Follow your dreams and you'll probably end up dating and marrying another musician. Most of the musicians I know are pretty happy people even if they don't have a lot of money. With time, your parents will get past this or they won't, but either way you'll have lived your own life on your own terms.
posted by bananafish at 10:34 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had a similar (but worse) situation with my folks. While the lack of support from them for what I want to do has been a constant pain and hindrance, the whole thing ended up helping me realize that parents aren't perfect, and mine especially were not anyone I wanted to be close to.

Also, I think as many guys would want to be with a musician as an MBA, if not more.

There's a lot of good suggestions in this thread; I hope it works out for you!
posted by jtron at 10:41 PM on July 22, 2009

Oh lordy.

Mr. padraigin's parents were horrified that he took an easy road out of college by switching to a soft major and then waited tables and lived on potatoes and the grapefruit from the tree at the house where he lived in the garage for a year while trying to make his band happen. In his late 20s, mind you, which is really where the parents were concerned.

That time he spent rocking in bars led to learning how to work a soundboard, which led to an internship at a recording studio and gigs doing sound for other bands, which led to a real job at the recording studio, which led to a job at a web startup that focused on audio, and then to another one that really turned into a thing, and now he's married (to me, and I'm no fool) and has great insurance and we own a house in California and he still gets to rock out with his friends on a regular basis PLUS he can afford guitar strings, AND guitars for that matter, and real food, and his parents think he's just the bee's knees and wasn't he clever to insist on doing it his way.

And also, incidentally, he's pretty happy.

All of this is to say, that pursing what you love can lead you into more things that you will also love. You won't necessarily find total financial security, but you will find something that resonates and sustains you.
posted by padraigin at 10:47 PM on July 22, 2009 [10 favorites]

they know better than I do what is right for me
Nope. You see, they have this idea of what their child should be. When this child (i.e. you) tries to deviate from this, they try to guilt you into doing what they want. It doesn't mean they're bad people or that they don't love you, it's just that they're a bit narrow minded.

Now, will an MBA get you further in life - financially - than music? Chances are, yes. My personal opinion is that you should try music first - if it works out, then great! But if it doesn't, you can always get a degree and a 9-5 job. However, this is my own personal opinion and really shouldn't mean much to you - do what makes you happy, not what makes others happy.

Finally, the husband thing: would you really want to marry a man that can't respect you if you don't earn enough?
posted by wsp at 10:50 PM on July 22, 2009

I relate to this. My father has always pressured me very strongly to pursue whatever careers he happens to consider lucrative at the time - most prominently law, but also a wide variety of options that I am hugely unqualified for and totally disinterested in: nutrition, fashion, marketing, nursing, teaching, etc.

The standard metafilter advice "set boundaries, stick with them, and remain calm" applies here. One thing I've found helpful, though, when dealing with my father: Pretending that he's not my father. Really try to internalize this. When your parents begin to apply career pressure to you, say it to yourself over and over again, as though it were a mantra. This works because we, whether we want to or not, care deeply about the opinions of our parents. This is a very natural and human response, but sometimes you have to turn it off in order to live your life. It is hard to accept, even as adults, that our parents are just flawed and ordinary human beings. Even if you don't realize it, you are probably elevating their opinions (in fact, I can tell from your post that you are - much of their position is ridiculous, and shouldn't be given any credence.) By pretending that they are unrelated to you, you disengage the part of you that is inclined to take them seriously merely because they are your parents. Taking this stance allows you to view them as they are: two flawed human beings who love you, but are treating you unfairly.
posted by mellifluous at 10:53 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Are they offering to pay for the MBA? How about for some other MA? Don't pass that up, if so. Find a program you would find enriching and take that money and run.

Do consider furthering your education, but from me to you? MBAs are such garbage. Soulsuck.

Now, if you don't want to do anything but work a day job and try to get a music career, well, that's fine too. I can't imagine you're being confrontational enough with them. Shout a bit. "Hey! Stop telling me what to do, it's fucking disrepectful how you're telling me my business and it's pissing me off!"
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:59 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Devils advocate: Do you have positive feedback about your musical talent and ability to make a career out of music from extrnal sources? Not just friends?

I don't know about any of the MBA or relationship stuff here, and what you've said makes the whole MBA thing sound pretty nuts, but it did occur to me while reading your question that your family may be the only people who would be honest with you about your limitations.

I'm actually not saying this is so, but put yourself through the exercise of asking yourself this question. It can't hurt.
posted by lottie at 10:59 PM on July 22, 2009

OMG. I can totally empathize - my parents are the same! I got my degree mainly to shut them up and they're only starting to acknowledge that. (And it turns out that it's no easier to get a job with a degree - not when most places emphasise experience anyhoo.) My sister (who moved from science to illustration) and I have faced this grief all our lives - my sister just got married this week and on the way to the wedding we were arguing over whether she wasted 7 years of her life pursuing her biochem Ph.D.! Argh!!

I can understand your hesitation in writing that boundary-setting email - if your parents are anything like mine, they'll likely not get what you write, and just read what they want to read. (I wrote an email to my family two years ago saying I was unhappy in university and needed help; the first response from my parents was "Why are you calling us bad parents?") At some point you just need to put the phone away from your ear, let them ramble aimlessly, and do whatever you want.

You'll find love without an MBA. You'll do fine in music without an MBA. Don't let your parents demonize you. Also, if you want to chat with someone that has gone through much of the same, drop me a line through MefiMail.
posted by divabat at 11:01 PM on July 22, 2009

I think you are going to have to upset your parents. They'll probably get over it.

Even if they don't, it's them or you, baby.
posted by amtho at 11:04 PM on July 22, 2009

I have a friend whose biggest regret in life is turning down the chance to study at a famous art institute in order to please her parents, who demanded that she go to the state university and major in biology.

She's now working in the arts, not the sciences, and her parents are still unhappy with her. But she's living the life she wants, just as her parents got the chance to live the lives they wanted.

Do what you love. Consider the fact that you spend most of your waking hours working and earning your living -- so what you're doing better damn well be something you're happy doing.
posted by OolooKitty at 11:20 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Went through a similar thing (over choice of partners, not careers) with my parents. I found that the best way to handle things was to not engage with them when they'd talk about the touchy issue and give them (and myself) some space afterwards. My thinking was that I was happy to share my life with them if they were going to be supportive, but if they were going to be negative and second-guess my ability to make good choices, then they didn't get to be a part of that.

After a few months, they started (begrudgingly) supporting the choices they didn't agree with. They realized that it was better to be a part of things, even if they didn't 100% agree, then to not be included. I think this was much more effective than any "tell them off" email or speech. YMMV.
posted by moojoose at 11:58 PM on July 22, 2009

This being, I'm not surprised that the consensus so far seems to be that going for the music career, and telling your parents to mind their own business is the right way to go. But much may depend on cultural considerations, too. Particularly if you are not in an American or European setting, or your family structure is more central to your life than most American and European persons are (i.e. you are of Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Korean, Japanese or Middle Eastern ancestry). If your culture demands you defer to your parents, doing your own thing in the face of parental opposition is far more alienating.

So, I think you've got to give some weight to that, if being from such a culture is part of your life. In some cultures, going against parental advice, particularly for a woman, still carries such shaping pressure, that to do it means that you not only impact your immediate familial relationships, but also effectively choose to marry outside your culture (if indeed, you marry at all), and to leave your religion (effectively, if not ceremonially). In such situations, being unwilling to accede to parental pressure, marks you not only as a bad daughter, but a willful, ungracious woman, unlikely to make a good wife, and unfit to be a respected member of the larger society. By Western and European standards, women in such circumstances should bravely reject such pressures, and follow their own desires, but actually doing so is still, often, to take the road less traveled, and to balance always the freedom gained against a life of being more or less ostracized from family and the culture in which those women were raised.

You know that the odds of financial success in the music business are formidably against you, and that your parents are not foolish for suggesting you should have a more certain plan for your financial future (and possibly, for the eventuality of caring for them in their dotage) than pursuing a career in that field. They also may want prospective husbands from a traditional culture to see, that by accepting pragmatic advice, you are willing and able to defer self-gratification, accept family responsibility, and as such, be a traditionally "good" daughter and potentially, therefore, a good wife for a man of their culture. If you acquiesce to their suggestions/pressure, you may be "giving up" a music career to pursue an MBA, or other education, but you may be gaining a lot of family harmony, including some personal honor for doing what your parents feel is good for you. If you don't acquiesce to their thinking, you may be forcing a whole range of related choices, in their eyes and those of others in their culture.

You'd like a middle way, so that you can have your music career, and not disappoint/estrange your parents, and possibly your culture. Unfortunately, I think this is going to be tough, simply because in the music business, being a successful singer/songwriter, as you seem to want to be, is as much about being an attractive, interesting young person, as it is about being a good musician. The music business, worldwide, favors youth and good looks, nearly as much as it does musicianship, and if you take time away from pursuing your music to do an MBA to keep your parents happy, you'll be stacking the chips of time/youth against yourself in a game where so many other "chips" possible are already piled high against you. But conversely, if you pursue your music career full out, the clock keeps ticking, too, and it is less likely you'll be seeing grad school and a successful independent career anytime soon, after spending a lot of time and money on trying to make it in show business. And trust me, as a former recording studio engineer in Nashville, partner and engineer in numerous radio and TV stations, and ex-husband of a professional union musician and music educator, the amount of money and time you are going to invest in trying to establish yourself as a professional musician is likely to make the cost of an MBA look cheap.

So, I'm going to suggest you remain a shower singer and a writer of songs, and that you give your parent's suggestions some serious consideration as the loving, if not totally selfless hopes for you, that they probably are. Acknowledge, to yourself, that being the "good" daughter comes with some sure rewards of parental pride that are nearly immediate, and try to see, positively, where this might take you. The life they imagine for you may be more attractive than you now think, simply for being unconsidered fairly by you, so give them their due, as your parents, and make an effort to think it through, at least from a neutral point of view. And let them know that you are doing this, fairly, by conversation and consultation.

Whatever then comes, as your decision, at least you'll have come to it with the best advice, from the people that know you and your background best. And that has got to be better than asking advice of random Internet strangers.
posted by paulsc at 1:29 AM on July 23, 2009 [5 favorites]

It took me a long time to finally realize that my life was mine, not my parents'. Looking back, I spent too many years trying to please them and avoiding their criticism. It's very difficult to tell Mom and Dad "This is my life, these are my choices, and only I have to live with the consequences. So please let's talk about something else.", but I strongly suggest you practice doing something along those lines. There are many different avenues available in the music business; it's possible to make a better-than-decent living without being the next Madonna or Britney. For example, you can write songs for other artists and sing back-up in the studio. (I'm not saying you won't become a star in your own right, I'm just saying explore all the opportunities.) There's no law that says you have to have a certain college degree by a certain age. If you get disillusioned with the music industry after five years or so, you can always then go back to school and get your MBA.

Best of luck to you!
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:52 AM on July 23, 2009

Yours is pretty much my background and I come from an extremely "whatever your parents say is LAW" culture.

I decided to do my own thing after twenty or so years of living their dream. Let me tell you, it was the just about the most painful time in my life. They temporarily disowned me. There was a lot of drama, a lot of tears, and a death threat. (Yeah, go figure.)

But it was also one of the most formative experiences of my life. I don't think I'd feel like I was an adult today if I hadn't gone and done my own thing. And yes, there was a lot of pain (because I knew it hurt them, and I felt incredibly guilty), but at the same time, it was the first time in my life I also felt alive. It sounds corny, but really, I don't think I ever felt alive once being under their thumb, until I finally started making my own decisions in life.

Even to this day one of my parents has issues with it (ten years later), but seriously, life would have had no meaning for me otherwise. EVEN IF you're making a mistake now, you seriously need to pursue the freedom to MAKE THAT MISTAKE. The alternative is you going to business school feeling A) perpetually resentful (and even hateful) towards your parents and B) constantly asking yourself, "what if I had just pursued my music career without all this BS?"

If you decide not to go to Business School, it will also help to realize that they are not going to like this one bit. You cannot expect them to change their iron grip on you over night. You are no longer under their control, and they are going to HATE THIS. Expect a lot of drama, a lot of "you're ruining your life and KILLING US" accusations. You may get disowned. There is going to be bad blood for quite possibly a long time. Is it worth it?

My own personal answer is an unqualified yes. I cannot, for the life of me, see how choosing my career should be dictated by other people. And moreover, if it's just school they're concerned about, YOU CAN ALWAYS GO BACK IF YOU CHOOSE.

This is going to be a hard decision, I know. I'm sorry you have to go through this because I know how it feels. If your parents are anything like mine, it's not even worth discussing in detail your reasons. They just won't get it, and it will just give them an opportunity to argue. Based on my experiences, I think the advice by some people above is quite useful. Whenever they bring it up, tell them you don't want to argue about it. If they persist, try to stay calm and say you're going to leave the room/hang up the phone until they stop.

I feel for you, anonymous. Feel free to email me if you want to talk about it!
posted by thisperon at 3:09 AM on July 23, 2009 [9 favorites]

When someone uses your love to manipulate you, you can use theirs to get them to stop and think about the consequences.
You say to them, "Mom and Dad, when you say things like this, you hurt me." Give them a specific example.

They will yesbut you in return. Let them finish.

Then you say, "Now that you know this hurts me, if it happens again, we will both know you are doing it on purpose."
This speech, plus meaningful eye contact on the next offense, cured a friend's parents of a twenty-year family "joke".

You don't need to be a Good Daughter to be a good daughter.
posted by Sallyfur at 3:55 AM on July 23, 2009 [14 favorites]

I think there's a lot of good advice in here. I also wanted to point out that if you don't want an MBA, you don't know what you'd do with it, and you don't have anything to bring to the table, it will be difficult for you to even get into a decent program. It's not like you just sign up and show up.

Perhaps some of the difficulty your parents are giving you is that from their perspective it might look like you're stuck. Although from the sounds of it, you are making practical and positive steps towards your dream. But do they know this? Do they know why you are at a mediocre job? Do they know that you have concrete plans to record? Have they come out to see you at a gig?

I sorta faced this kind of thing with my parents and I think a lot of it is was actually because I didn't really tell them what was going on with my life and what my plans were. They just had to base it on their worst assumptions and I didn't really appease that by just saying, "Don't worry about it! Let me live my life!" You want to be close to your family, so open up your life to them.

But the thing about how you won't find a husband without an MBA because you won't be earning enough? Nip that in the bud straight away using the advice above from wiser mefites and banish that doubt from your head. What a load of crap.
posted by like_neon at 4:25 AM on July 23, 2009

I've had to deal with this pressure throughout my twenties from my mother too. Actually, it's probably been one of the single biggest stresses in my adult life. Not just around career either, but relationships too. I thought for a long time setting boundaries might mean not being having a relationship with my mother, but actually its made it better. You can set boundaries with them though and still love them and have a relationship with them. Just don't expect them to HEAR you, but yes, send an email or even do some family therapy where you tell them what's going on and then afterwards follow through. If it's brought up, tell them with all due respect for their opinions, you are doing what you need to do for yourself, and don't wish to discuss it. Period. That's it. Repeat if necessary, then leave. She stopped talking it about it as much eventually. We get along fine otherwise.

Also a good book to read here about emotional blackmail. It doesn't mean your parents are awful people (I don't know them) but it will help you start thinking about their behavior in a different way.
posted by Rocket26 at 4:31 AM on July 23, 2009

And yes, I went to grad school because my mother kept pressuring me. And guess what? I hated it and dropped out. I'm still alive!
posted by Rocket26 at 4:34 AM on July 23, 2009

OP, I am about to dump on your parents, I'm sorry I know you love them, but here goes. (I will also get to the practical advice, bear with me. Diatribe starts here:)

WTF is WRONG with parents like these. I see these threads on here all the time. I cannot even imagine what it must have been like for you in high school if they are feeding you this shit when you are 25 and supporting yourself. If you have gotten where you've gotten despite this bullshit (which is what it is) that is evidence enough for me that you have a good solid sense of yourself and a lot of backbone, so keep doing that, anyway.

So this is for your mom and dad-- STFU. (Sorry, losing it here). I got a degree in art, MADE A LIVING AS AN ARTIST until, all on my own (incredible-- adults can think for themselves!), I decided I needed a more secure income source to help with the expenses of my growing family. I was able to do this in part because my husband A WORKING MUSICIAN WITH A STEADY INCOME was there to provide the stability. (hit irony button here). Then my son, a gifted pianist, announced he wanted to go to music school at great expense, so we said great, do it, we trust you (hello, OP's parents? Trust?). He's working as a musician now, seems to be doing great, poor as a church mouse but thriving. Maybe he'll end up famous, maybe he'll end up one of the gazillion working musicians who provide all that background music we all live with, or doing something else in the music industry, maybe he'll end up running a MacDonald's. Who knows. Who cares? It's his life, he still comes over for Sunday dinners occasionally with great stories and big hug.

(Full disclaimer-- I am a 53-year-old crazy woman with pink hair, and I have it on good authority that the "straight" moms do NOT know how to deal with me.)

I promised practical advice. You can't change your parents, probably. They are worried about you clearly, so the motivation is admirable. So you have to say, I'll think about it. You may have to go so far as to read the literature or talk to some MBA director somewhere. You do the homework, and then tell your folks, I'm sorry this is not for me. If they keep at it, you say, I looked into it, and I don't think this is right for me. If in 10 years you go for your MBA after all, or if your music career is a hideous bust, your mother gets to say I Told You So, at which point you laugh and give her a hug, but don't concede the point. Conversely, when you get famous, or even when you just have a decent income off music, you get to tell her ITYS.

Anyway, what pretty much everyone else said. It's your life. They really cannot MAKE you do anything, and you cannot MAKE them stop worrying or even stop talking about it. So you just have to live your life and love your folks with a grimace smile.
posted by nax at 5:16 AM on July 23, 2009 [5 favorites]

Full time artist here, mother of someone planning to go to music school. With ironic timing last night I listened to a musician friend of mine (in his 50s) talk about his career. He makes a living from a bunch of things put together - teaching, playing, writing (music), doing sound, a couple side jobs. I have other musician friends who make their living doing sound or teaching. Some are financially secure, some not but they are doing what they loving and surviving while doing so. I've urged my daughter to be open to a variety of ways of working in music beyond performing - teaching, teching, etc and she's thinking about programs where she'll learn about making a living in music. This, btw, was entirely foreign to my art school experience and to most other artists of my generation where learning about the business side of one's craft was considered beneath the academic programs.

Last year when I gave a career planning talk to a bunch of art students where I went to school the career councilor urged me to tell them to find partners who weren't artists for their financial security. Mind you, the career counseling is his day gig - he's a dancer and a choreographer. My point is that working in the arts is doable but not necessarily predictable and not necessarily a reliable living. That said, I can't imagine going back to doing anything else (having spent 10 years running a software business).

My parents were decidedly not enthused when I transferred to the School of Art at my university. I was lucky in that they expressed their dismay and eventually stopped. (it took quite a few years). I think you do have to tell your parent that you're not going to do the MBA, that you have thought about your fallback options if music doesn't work out as a career and that you're done talking about it until they can be supportive and stop going on about something that's hurtful, not supportive and not going to happen. And realize you will need to find your support and validation elsewhere and that the hurt from their displeasure won't go away easily - you have to decide if it's worth it to you.
posted by leslies at 6:09 AM on July 23, 2009

You should set boundaries with your parents, unless you are ok with them nagging you to death. My parents are the same way. Sometimes I have to reset the boundaries, but it has helped tremendously overall.

As far as being musician, I can only tell you what I know. My sister and her husband are both musicians, the husband specifically part of a fairly successful group. Both have day jobs. My sister is a teacher, and her husband has a really sweet job at a funeral home (seriously, he makes a ton of $$$ for what he does). It's not because they love their day jobs so much, either. It's because they want to have a decent retirement, and be able to live debt-free (as much as possible). What makes it more interesting, is that her husband is the product of two musicians that live the 'hippie', "stereotype" musician lifestyle. He was homeschooled, and brought up with the "follow your dreams" mentality. He also knows that being poor sucks, that musicians don't always have steady paychecks, and that it's good to have a backup plan.

One of my other sisters is the type that fuels your parents' fears. She has an art degree, is 38, has almost nothing to her name, and lives in my parents' basement with her 4 dogs. That, however, is another story...

It's good to have a backup plan anyway. Sounds silly, but what if you lose your voice permanently, or can't play anymore for some reason. Not to say that a MBA will solve all of your problems (and it was mentioned that the lack of experience would be problematic-I totally agree), but maybe having a fallback degree isn't such a bad idea.

I can relate to you somewhat, because my parents aren't really supportive of my life plans. I am currently in grad school, and plan on following with veterinary school. Every so often they ask me, "When do you plan on being done with school?" "Why don't you get a real job?" and my personal favorite (highlighted by another sister's wedding this past weekend), "When are you going to get married?" My dad, though he means well, has even had the gall to suggest that I follow a more "traditionally female" career path.

How do I handle it? Nod, smile, walk away. Or just have a sudden emergency while on the phone and have to hang up. "Gotta go, the dogs are setting fire to the garage!" I don't visit them a ton, either. Helps quite a bit. Like so many others have stated, find your support system elsewhere. Your parents love you, but you can't really change them.
posted by bolognius maximus at 6:45 AM on July 23, 2009

Oh for fuck's sake, your parents have some REALLY weird ideas about what success is.

I'm getting a PhD in neurobiology and we have the capacity to earn a LOT.

A lot of people earn way the fuck more than most MBAs.
posted by kldickson at 6:53 AM on July 23, 2009

It's tough to make it as a full-time musician, but people seem to have fun trying. Many of the musicians I know have day jobs in systems admin, programming and web design. Is there a degree program, leading to a good day job, that is more suited to you than an MBA?

Make an appointment to sit down with your parents, and listen to their concerns and recommendations, so they know that you've rally heard them and have given their wishes consideration. Meet with a career counselor, and get some facts about possible degrees and careers. You could even visit some grad schools, just to get an idea of what's out there. The key messages to your parents: I appreciate your love and concern. I'm listening. I know you want the best for me. I respect you. I have my own goals.

Then do what will lead you to your own goals. Many, many people get their MBAs or other degrees later in life. Being a musician does not disqualify you from getting a law degree later, or vice versa. I certainly know MBAs and lawyers who really hate their jobs, or who dropped that career to do something else.
posted by theora55 at 6:59 AM on July 23, 2009

From the way you've written about your parents, it seems that they may be first generation immigrants. If not, I apologize for presuming.

In this case, as hard as it may be, you might need to cut contact with your folks for a while. That will allow you to go on with your life as you choose, and it might show them that you are serious about your commitment to the arts and allow them to fully process their feelings about you.

The worst thing you can do is bow to parental pressure. I know they think they have your best interests at heart, but this is your life to live, not theirs. You need to do what will make you happy.
posted by reenum at 7:15 AM on July 23, 2009

There's been a lot of really good advice in here already, but I'm just going to chime in with this - I'm in business school right now. A lot of my classmates will go on to get an MBA. Most of us agree that there is nothing to be gained from an MBA other than a piece of paper to look fancy in our office, if we eventually become a top-level corporate executive.

Do you want to be a corporate executive? I don't think I'd want to. It's not my personality. It would make me miserable. So this whole business of "if you don't get an MBA you fail at life"? No, not really.

They tell me that if I don't get an MBA, I will not find a good husband, and/or the men whom I'd want to marry won't respect me because I won't be earning enough.

I haven't met a single guy, even the ones who do have MBAs or who plan on getting MBAs, who think like this. Guys who do think like this deserve to be dumped.
posted by Phire at 7:40 AM on July 23, 2009

I love my dad, respect his opinion, and think he is a very wise person. We talk often. However, I've realized that we cannot talk about my career ambitions or job choices. He thinks he knows what's best for me and, as my dad, who believes in my potential and loves me, can't fathom my making different choices. It turns into big ugly shouting matches. So. We don't talk about my career. I wanted to add my little anecdote in order to say that it's entirely possible to have awesome, loving parents with whom you just can't talk about some subject (religion, career, whatever).

I think you need, as others have mentioned, to tell your parents this isn't up for discussion anymore. Multiple e-mails a day is insane: forward your parents' e-mails to a separate folder and don't read them, or just delete them outright. Your sister can tell you if there's something important, not MBA-related that they needed to tell you. And speaking of your sister, tell her you don't need to know when your parents talk to her about your getting an MBA. Follow some of the excellent advice above for changing the subject or ending the conversation when talking to your parents in person.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:03 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree with everyone that your parents are way out of line. But try to see if you can make this work to your advantage somehow. Is there a graduate degree that you would not mind having that they would pay for? If so, take to money and get that degree. If your parents aren't willing to foot the bill, and still are being the way they described, they are grossly out of line. So ignore my advice below if you can't get the degree you want and your parents won't pay for it.

I went to law school (I wanted to go,paid for it myself with loans, and graduated with honors) and I found that I had a lot of free time outside of school and homework to do other things. I usually worked in my free time for money, but if your parents will foot the bill (including your living expenses), why not take the opportunity to get another degree AND work on your music in your free time?

This really is the best of both worlds--for you. I have a couple female friends who are working musicians and even though they have both achieved some degree of "success", they both admit that it is a tough business...especially the one who is now in her mid-40's. Long hours, lots of travel, pretty low pay. She has expressed that she wishes she had an education to fall back on.

When you graduate, make a decision as to whether you want to pursue your music career further or get a job using your new degree or both! If you ever decide that you don't like the performing music business, you already have the degree (one that you want, not an MBA) to fall back on.

All that said, I agree that your parents are being awful. And don't expect them to stop trying to control your life if you take this path...they will (I sadly speak from experience here). You eventually will get to the point of putting your foot down --- I just thought I would give you an alternative way that might be in your personal self-interest (and get your parents temporarily off your back).

And, yes, I am suggesting using your parents to achieve your own goals. It may sound harsh, but they are asking (in fact begging) for it.
posted by murrey at 8:17 AM on July 23, 2009

On Children
by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
posted by catchingsignals at 8:30 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

I, like many second generation Asian folks, had pushy parents who wanted us to make career choices that their generation couldn't make, or were told would guarantee success. "Go to university! Get a degree!" - all that stuff.

You and I know that in the 21st century, financial stability etc. are no more pre-meditated on getting a degree than not getting a degree. There are a lot more university graduates out there than there were in their generation.

They're giving you advice, but advice that's based on anecdotal evidence from the 1950s or 1970s. This is the 21st Century. Times change.

Tell your parents that - and at the same time, take steps to show them that you are financially stable on some level - because THAT is what worries them. It won't shut them up, but it will comfort them a little.

And to be honest, my parents kept telling me how miserable they'd be if I didn't become a doctor etc. -- but at some stage, you have to stop living your parent's dreams and start living YOURS. Even if they dont' work.

My cousin listened to his parents, and flunked out on some science degree and spent years in thankless menial IT jobs instead of doing something he wanted to do. Don't be him.
posted by almostwitty at 9:07 AM on July 23, 2009

Whatever then comes, as your decision, at least you'll have come to it with the best advice, from the people that know you and your background best. And that has got to be better than asking advice of random Internet strangers.

"They tell me that if I don't get an MBA, I will not find a good husband, and/or the men whom I'd want to marry won't respect me because I won't be earning enough."

This is absolutely, patently untrue. Therefore, your parents do not know best. Your parents are human beings, and are not all-knowing. Every generation, we learn new things about life, and about the world. All the other comments supporting you to go the other way do so for a reason - because we've been through this. We've been where you are, we've made the choice you're about to make, and lived to see if it was the right choice.

I cannot tell you how much paulsc's advice disturbs me. And the fact that you would say I worry that they're right and I will be miserable and alone if I don't go to business school when it is so contrary to reality worries me as to how much you've already internalized your parents' views. I can only hope you can trust the contrary life experiences in this thread, from all the people who chose the other path and found happiness through it.

You have a decent job, and are supporting yourself. You are 25, and I assume you must know by now that it's unlikely you can make a great living from music - and that the music industry is not a meritocracy. You must know you will have to do it for love and love only. If you want to do some other studying or work to enhance your financial security while still doing what you love, go for it. But don't give up what you love. The world is full of people who live life without a passion - you are lucky enough to have found one. Please don't give it up.

Then you say, "Now that you know this hurts me, if it happens again, we will both know you are doing it on purpose."

I would be all for this, but unfortunately your parents could easily turn it around and say Well, you pursue music knowing that it hurts us, and if you do it, we know you're doing it on purpose. You are clearly not! It is not your fault that they are hurt by you not doing what they want - you cannot be responsible for pain people cause themselves with their unreasonable and unjustified expectations. You are an adult, and you are your own person. Stand up for yourself as others suggested - it'll be very hard for a while, but if they truly love you, they will come around. All the best!
posted by catchingsignals at 9:25 AM on July 23, 2009 [4 favorites]

So much good advice in here. one more point: musicians are far sexier than businesspeople, and respect in a relationship has to be mutual. Who are you more likely to respect, someone who cares how much money you make, or someone who values your persistence and passion in following your dream?

It sounds like you have a solid head on your shoulders and are capable of keeping yourself financially afloat while pursuing a career in music, and that's commendable. Listen to your friend and to the wise folks up above telling you that your parents may be motivated by caring, but that doesn't mean you can't kindly tell them to shut up and let you live your life.
posted by dizziest at 9:28 AM on July 23, 2009

Even if you wanted to get an MBA, isn't twenty-five a little on the young side? I know nothing of business or business school but most of the MBA students I've known have been in their thirties or forties--usually working in a field they enjoy (or are at least invested in and enthusiastic about), and earning the degree to advance in that field. Getting an MBA just out of the blue, like your parents apparently think you should, seems weird. Like someone else said, you don't just sign up and show up and bam, MBA. Like others have also mentioned: you can always go back. So don't worry about that.

If you decide more formal education is what you need, that option will always be there. Maybe eventually you'll find a program that combines business and music--entertainment marketing or something along those lines. (My alma mater offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in that sort of thing.) If you've been working in the "music world" for several years I'd think that by the time you'd feel ready for that sort of program you'd have accumulated the background to succeed in the program. (Man, that's the least elegant sentence ever. Sorry.)

You sound like you have pretty realistic plans and are working hard. I'm not worried about you. I liked how one person put it: you don't have to be a Good Daughter to be a good daughter.

Best of luck!
posted by Neofelis at 10:02 AM on July 23, 2009

To be honest, I think a good amount of guys would be intimidated by a woman who has an MBA (unless they have a graduate degree themselves). I agree with the other people who say that a musician would be typically more attractive than an MBA holder. Besides these days, an MBA doesn't guarantee you a job -- not only would you need the MBA but you'd also need internships and networking. It's probably a lot of work for someone who doesn't want to do business.

Your parents getting too emotional about situations like this should set off some flags. Usually being too emotional comes with not thinking straight. Sure, there's wisdom in them being concerned about artists not making a good amount of money. To satisfy them in that respect, it might be good to have a nice backup plan or side gig.

You're old enough to make decisions for yourself. It's nice to want to keep family relations in good condition but it's not worth sacrificing what you love to do.
posted by NeoLeo at 11:46 AM on July 23, 2009

I am 25, have been living on my own and supporting myself since graduating from college

What your parents think is irrelevant. Let them know that you have heard and appreciate their advice, and that they can now keep it to themselves while you do whatever you please, as is your right as an adult. You can't have a positive relationship with them as long as you allow them to continue seeing you as a child.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:10 PM on July 23, 2009

...and to echo Neofelis, I checked out the local MBA program a few years ago and it was full of 30-somethings. Do what you want at 25 -- you'll have plenty of time to change it later.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:11 PM on July 23, 2009

Hello, younger version of me!

Well, not exactly me, but pretty damn close -- only for me and my parents it was 'going to law school' versus 'be a web developer' rather than an MBA versus a music career. Several members of my family are lawyers, and three of my four grandparents have post-graduate degrees. The thought that I would leave college -- an Ivy League school, mind you -- and not go on to grad school was sheer heresy. The creepy parental tactics and behaviors I read in your comment -- the guilt-tripping, the denigration and the 'you're nothing if you don't do what we say', the 'you're not really a person, just an extension of ourselves and our dreams' --- all of that sounds so horribly familiar that I feel a touch of that old pit-of-stomach sourness that marked my teens and early twenties.

I get that sour feeling so much less now. You know why? Because the despite emotional blackmail and a new permanent label as the family black sheep, I stuck to my guns and built my own perfectly good career as a web geek, just like I wanted to. I look back sometimes on what my life would have been like if I had chosen Door #1 and I think a good part of my soul would have been dead by now. Breaking away was so hard, but I feel so lucky now -- and happy.

Other commenters posting here may focus on things for you to say or attitudes for you to hold, but frankly, having lived this myself, I think they're worthless with respect to actually effecting any real change. You already know you're right, and your folks are crazy; emphasizing that divide merely within your mind is not really going to help matters. And talking to your folks is a waste of time and energy; you can't reason someone out of crazy. The only way out of this mess if for you to change what you DO. Not what you should say, or how to calmly present a position, or even how to argue. Because I think you and I know that this just won't work.

So here it is: the only thing that works is training your folks like you would train a dog. I know that probably sounds ludicrous to you, and probably completely against any way you've ever dealt with them or with the idea of family in general, but it is really the only way to save yourself.

They call you up several times a day? Do not answer the phone. Limit their calls, limit their access to you. You do not have to answer them. (Before I had a cell or caller ID, I sometimes used to just unplug my phone from the wall for days at a time. Wonderfully liberating.) You do not owe them your time and mental/emotional energy, just so they can beat you down. They get one call every few days. Now, you do not need to tell them any of this "I'm limiting your access" stuff -- it would only create needless drama -- you just need to do it.

When you do talk to them, talk about other things going on in your life, talk about the news, talk about the freakin' weather. When they inevitably start in on the same old shitspiel, you stop them before they get their motors too revved up. You say, 'I am not going to discuss this with you. You know how I stand on that issue.' Then, the second later when they break in with the 'yes but', or the 'I say this because I love you', you say, oh, I gotta go someone is calling me. Or oh, my boss needs me, gotta go. And you HANG UP THE PHONE.

I am going to guess that you have never hung up on your parents in your life. You have to learn how to do this. And then do not answer when your phone rings two minutes later and it is them, angry and bewildered that you have denied them the cathartic release of a nice tirade.

The ultimate point of limiting access here is twofold. The first is that when they realize that you are not going to jump up and engage with their lunacy whenever they want or whenever they need to Talk About What You Are Going To Do With Your Life (Oh God Why Won't You Listen To Us), then perhaps they will choose their words a bit better and be a smidge nicer. This may or may not work, but after a few months -- yes, months, parents are stubborn -- they will at least pretend to be polite to you, instead of needy-angry-whiny-guilt-trippy. The other is that dealing with people like this is pure mental torture. You need to pull together all your reserves and your guts and your fortitude and your desire -- and listening to all that negativity and drama (nevermind trying to actually engage with it, which is worse) will just chip you away until there's nothing left. You need your space to breathe -- and to create. As your own comment says, your craft has already been suffering from all this drama. This is not a coincidence. Your environment shapes you, and as an artist, you shape your world.

In short, you need to interact with them less and less until they can learn to control themselves. I know you love them and don't want to hurt them, but right now they are hurting YOU. If you ever want to be your own person and teach them this fact, then nothing you SAY will do jack shit. It is only what you DO that matters with people like this. And what you DO is refusing to engage, refusing to be their property, refusing to be part of their mental drama, refusing to play a role and act the script that they have handed you, walking away, moving on.

It is hard, but I promise you that if you can be strong that the end result is so worth it. I think back to the road I didn't take, and in my heart I know it would have led me into a very bad place full of resentment and sadness. Good luck to you.

(When I was in college, my parents would even call me while I was trying to do my work at night at the student newspaper, to berate me about why I just had to be a lawyer and was such an idiot if I was not, destined to be some "back-office schmoe" forever, talent squandered. I eventually started putting their calls on speakerphone so that my friends and co-workers in the office -- who knew the whole story -- could hear the rants. I would repeat over and over simply, robotically, eventually sarcastically 'yes, but I do not want to be a lawyer', over and over -- the point being that the simplest most honest answer I could give to them was as weightless as if I had said nothing at all. The rants kept coming. My friends would crowd around the speakerphone watching and listening with their hands covering their open mouths so their screams of laughter and shock would not be heard over the phone. It felt so good to have the insanity surrounding me be independently confirmed by third parties.)
posted by Asparagirl at 2:01 PM on July 23, 2009 [7 favorites]

follow-up from the OP
A HUGE thank you for all of your intelligent and insightful feedback! This is seriously extremely helpful. It's given me a lot to think about and courage to set some boundaries and not have this conversation with my parents anymore.

I don't mean to discourage further posts though and am grateful for any further perspectives anyone wants to share. Thanks again!
posted by jessamyn at 4:40 PM on July 23, 2009

Asparagirl, what an awesome attitude. Having been through all the crap (and I can almost guarantee our parents are in the same range of crazy) I wish I could have read your post ten years ago instead of wasting 2-3 years trying to "convince" my mom and dad I wasn't crazy.

And yeah, it was over law school. "Because if you don't go to law school, you know, you'll starve and destroy your life, and no, programming isn't a viable alternative."

posted by thisperon at 5:26 PM on July 23, 2009

Been through this.

I went with my parents' advice for several years, but the strain of going against what I really love and wanted to do backfired on me, and I was a serious basket case for a long while afterwards. I had a friend who broke with her parents early on, and from all appearances, she loves life and is very successful at what she does and now ALSO gets along splendidly with her parents (we were both into the arts). I'm going after what I like now, but my biggest regret are the many years and great opportunities (and I had a few) that I lost while doing what somebody else wanted, on the pretense that it was all "for my own good", so please don't make that regret yours as well.

Getting an MBA might be a good idea. The programs I know of aren't that long (15 months, maybe), so you won't be investing too many years of your life into this. I don't know much about being a musician, so this might be completely off base, but you could get the MBA to provide better financial security for yourself (if that's what you want out of the MBA), so as to better devote your energies to music-making in the future without worrying about bills and so on (that stuff is not fun, especially as you get older). I don't entirely think it's bad advice. But it's not going to lead you to everything you ever wanted or that your parents are promising. I found it a little coercive, actually. My dad used the same logic on me, and it wore out; after awhile I just stopped trusting them entirely, because I started to honestly believe they were more concerned with their own agenda than with my happiness. Of course, it wasn't true, but what I'm trying to show here is a little bit of one path you might end up on if you listen to your parents, without doing some work of setting boundaries now. It really might not be what you want.

Everybody has good practical advice here, especially on boundaries. I've followed some of them, and they've worked. You need to be your own self and do whatever you feel is best for you at this time. Make your own mistakes and learn from them. Give your parents as practical a plan as you can think of now if you don't go for the MBA; they might be terrified for your future and completely overreacting. There are so many ways to live in this world. You will upset your parents badly, I can pretty much guarantee that, so you need to be strong enough for that (your friend sounds like a good friend; she might be a good support). But, you know, there's a good chance they just want you to be happy. It might be difficult to do it your way, but there are happy endings.
posted by elisynn at 8:13 PM on July 23, 2009

I haven't read all the responses here but my 2 cents.
From your post, what I concluded was, all your parents want is, to have you a stable career and life. During my childhood days, my father always told me, have any decent skillset / education and always maintain some hobby. The skillset / education will earn you food, pay your bills and the hobby will teach you to "live" you life. In my eyes, there is no better way to "live" your life (with music).
Just one, may I say, request, do what you think best for youself but don't hurt your parents. As a father of just 1 year old, I know how my thinking style has changed in last year and half.
posted by zaxour at 12:47 AM on July 24, 2009

OP, if you're still reading this, I had a thought this morning that might be relevant to your situation. I was puzzling over the number of responses saying, "Go ahead and get the MBA if your parents will pay for it." There aren't many of them, and I think they come from a mostly reasonable place (free grad school = good opportunity), but I think they're wrong.

A close female relative of mine has an MBA. She got it for a very specific reason relating to the work she wanted to do. She was about your age when she got the degree. Her career path has since changed, and she has worked for a pretty diverse range of corporations. The thing I remembered was this: there have been times in her career when she has left the degree off her resume entirely or didn't mention it in interviews because she found that it was making her look overqualified for the jobs that were available. Granted, this happened during recession times, but still--isn't that when one would think an MBA would be most useful? I'm not saying that she's destitute or unhappy with her career, and her MBA has certainly opened doors she was interested in, but the times when she just needed a job to pay the bills, the MBA seemed almost like a roadblock rather than an advantage.

If you want to be able to take jobs that pay the bills while you pursue your music, the degree you need is a BA, not a graduate degree.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:10 AM on July 24, 2009

Listen to your parents.
Assume they know better than you do
Respect their experience
Love them for their concern
Pray for their health and well being

And do what you really want to do
Follow your dreams
And live your life free from guilt
posted by cdkodi at 8:21 AM on July 24, 2009

Oppressive parents here. I knew it was really going to start getting ugly once I graduated from college, and it did, for many years.

You have two really good things going for you: that you already have a degree, and that you are self-supporting. What's good about it is that you are not beholden to your parents, i.e. you need their help to pay your rent every month, and you already have a college degree. I have to agree with others that an MBA is a waste of money.

So get yourself to therapy! I didn't read all the responses, but they were along the lines of "I'm not going to talk to you about this," which is ok advice, but *you* have to feel good about this potential break in your relationship.

Believe me, the drama & histrionics you fear *will* come to pass. You need to feel ok enough with yourself to go through with it. And you will need support to do it, and that support will be your therapist. A therapist is trained to help you along in this dis-entanglement from your parents --- it took years for me. It's not something you simply do one day, without a care for your parents and drop them like a hat. It's not easy, but ultimately it's for control of your own life, because remember: it's your life to lead, not your parents.

And any "failure" you might face, they will throw into your face that it was because you didn't listen to them, and their control over you is that much stronger. Meanwhile, you will hate yourself a little more each day, as you let your dreams die.

So get yourself to therapy, where they've seen this kind of thing many, many times (this is an old story) and start living your life! Good luck, from the bottom of my heart. You will survive. Sometimes parents have a hard, hard time letting go. They just have to see you as the adult you are.
posted by Pocahontas at 2:14 PM on July 24, 2009

Lie to them. Pretend that you applied and got rejected.
posted by anniecat at 7:01 PM on July 24, 2009

I just have to laugh, ruefully, at all this, because reading it I realize I am EXACTLY this young woman's parent after all. Except that I keep wondering why my son keeps getting paying jobs instead of starting a band and being a rock star already. I pledge to now stop nagging him about this. Different in kind, but not in degree. (Knocks headful of pink hair against wall)
posted by nax at 6:21 AM on July 25, 2009

Um, that's my hair.
posted by nax at 6:21 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

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