anyway, i'm going to stay positive!
June 23, 2011 11:51 AM   Subscribe

How can I quickly reorganize my life/habits to adapt to new demands?

My dad has been very sick for the past 6 months and hasn't been able to go to work during that time. It was always him that made the rent for the apartment that we all lived in, but since he stopped working, we have been using (I'm guessing) the tax return we got earlier this year + whatever little savings we have to pay the rent.

I work as a Graduate Assistant at my university from Sept. to May, and use a decent-sized part of my, admittedly puny, earnings to pay for car insurance (we have two cars -- v. necessary, because there are 7 of us) and our cellphone bill each month. In the summer, GA's aren't given work, so we have to find something else to do. I found some tutoring work and a couple of design jobs (referred to me by a friend) and planned to use the money I got from that to cover the two bills I'm responsible for, for the rest of the summer.

But then 2 weeks ago, my dad told me that we only had enough $ for one more month of rent. And that we had to figure out what to do next. (Also, I think that he didn't say anything earlier, because he felt embarrassed. In our culture the dad/husband is supposed to take care of everything. But since he got sick, he couldn't do that anymore. He's been quite depressed about it.)

So, now I have to figure out how to raise enough $ for 2 bills AND rent. Cutting down is not really an option... we don't have any "frivolous" expenses -- we don't eat out, go to the movies, travel, shop a lot, have cable, or anything. We don't have credit cards or credit card bills to pay. Our bills are very basic - rent, insurance, electricity, cell phone, gas, some groceries (we get help with food).

But I only have the tutoring job and one more design job (which is only paying $300...) And unfortunately, some of the kids I tutor will be going on vacation for 2 or more weeks, so I'm losing the weekly pay I get from them.

The past few weeks have been incredibly stressful for me, because at the moment I'm essentially the only person working in the family. I'm not upset about that at all. I'm the eldest, so it's to be expected. But it's a little overwhelming. I'm 25 and feel like I'm suddenly responsible for the whole family. (Most of my siblings are little and cannot work and my mom is very busy taking care of them and my dad and the house, etc. I do have a sister who just graduated but still needs to take her R.N licensing exam, which she will do very soon. However, the job market here isn't great, because there are too many nursing schools and not enough hospitals with openings.)

So, I'm been trying to figure out how to find more work. I've been searching through Craigslist for design/writing work (but a lot of it pays too little or seems like a scam), asking the families of the kids I'm tutoring if they know any other kids who'd like to be tutored, and working on stocking my Etsy shop.

I planned on splitting my day between tutoring in the morning and afternoon and crafting or web designing at night. But it always turns out that I come home from tutoring super tired (I tutor up to 6 kids individually for 1-2 hours each per day) and even if say "okay, going to work on that website now", I can't. I just end up falling asleep or browsing the internet randomly. I feel very fatigued.

So, for the questions:

1. How can I get more energy/motivation?
2. Where can I find more work? I can do writing and simple web designs. I can also tutor in English. What other jobs/work should I be looking into?
3. What is the best way to figure out how to organize my day so that I'm using its full potential? I usually use lists, but it's not working as well anymore.

I'm very much used to having a full plate of things to do. During the school year, I'm a full time student, I teach classes, participate in a lot of extracurriculars, blog, craft, help out at home, etccccc. So I don't understand why suddenly I can't do it anymore and why I'm so tired and fatigued.

Sorry about the long question and thank you!
posted by joyeuxamelie to Work & Money (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
You're a grad student. Can you take out a student loan to get you by?
posted by k8t at 11:58 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


You probably need to look into social assistance for your family and/or disability benefits for your father. I don't see how a 25 year old student can possibly support seven people regardless of how hard she works and no matter how many personal needs or goals she sacrifices. Social assistance could cover your basic needs until your dad is back on his feet, and there'll still be opportunity for you to help out with some of the extra bills.
posted by orange swan at 12:00 PM on June 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


Look, it sucks, but if your family wants to get by you all need to figure out how to get the most people working. Just start applying for jobs -- anything. If your sister's not able to find a job right now that means she can be taking care of the kids while your mom applies for jobs. Or some of the other older kids can take care of the smaller kids. One person supporting a family of 7 is just untenable. Write up a list of exactly how you use the cars and if you can schedule it so you only need one. Is there public transportation? Do you live in an area with a grocery store that does delivery? Check.
posted by brainmouse at 12:02 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Definitely look into social services. That's what they're there for. If your dad can't work he should look into getting on to some type of disability payment. Then there's food stamps. With that comes rent assistance if you're in danger of losing your apartment.
posted by bleep at 12:03 PM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


So I don't understand why suddenly I can't do it anymore and why I'm so tired and fatigued.

Because now you're responsible for everyone, not just yourself. You're taking too much of this on - definitely follow what others are saying, and investigate all avenues of social services available.

Do you have someone to talk to about this? This sounds psychologically overwhelming. You still need to take some time for yourself, even if it's just meeting with a friend for a walk around the block. Also, some sort of exercise can help. I've been dealing with some similar family things, and I'm far away. Long walks help me to think things out, get me moving, and put me in a better mood. I can then think a little more clearly about what to do next.
posted by shinyshiny at 12:15 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


You're tired because you're stressed and overwhelmed. It's normal and understandable.

You need to sit down with your parents and your sister and make a plan, because knowing what has to happen will make you feel less overwhelmed. That plan needs to start with the finances because you can't plan in an absence of data. You need to know what bills in what amount need to be paid when: rent, car insurance, gas, utilities, groceries.

You need to do that regardless of whatever social services may be available to you, because those will take time to sort out. Once you have a financial goal, you can look at timelines - is your father going to be able to go back to work, when, and in the same job at the same pay or not?

Your sister can likely get work as a well-qualified home health aid while waiting/looking for an RN job. You may be able to fill some of the family gap with grad student loans, although you have not mentioned your status with those, either.

Basically, you need to start with the money and work out a plan from there.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:08 PM on June 23, 2011


Thank you for all of the answers so far!

- As I mentioned, we get help with food.
- My dad is suffering from several chronic illnesses and will likely not be able to go back to work again.
- We tried getting disability payment, but they said something like he is not sick enough. We're still working on it.
- I've already calculated what needs to be paid and when with my sis.
- I don't think I can apply for student loans (federal subsidized loans, are what you guys are talking about, right?) from my school at the moment, because I'm not taking classes. I cannot even use simple school services like the student printers because I'm not enrolled in any summer classes. My student status doesn't start again until the fall.
- At the moment, my sister has a tech job at the hospital, but the number of hours they give her is irregular and not constant -- She works 4 days in a month. We are trying to give her time to study for her license exam, because it will cost more if she doesn't pass it (in terms of retaking the exam, which costs hundreds of dollars, and pushing back finding R.N. level, i.e. higher paying, work) She is taking the exam next month.
- My other siblings are either in elementary school or college full time (taking 1/2 time classes means she will lose her scholarships), so they can't work.
- We definitely need both cars, because we live in an industrial area that is far from everything. My dad uses one of the cars to get to his frequent dr. appts or to pick me up when my mom can't. My mom uses the other car to drop me off at work, my brothers at summer classes, drop my other sister off at school, run errands, etc.

If I could get more answers for question 1 and 3, I would really appreciate it!
Thank you so much!
posted by joyeuxamelie at 2:26 PM on June 23, 2011


I planned on splitting my day between tutoring in the morning and afternoon and crafting or web designing at night. But it always turns out that I come home from tutoring super tired (I tutor up to 6 kids individually for 1-2 hours each per day) and even if say "okay, going to work on that website now", I can't. I just end up falling asleep or browsing the internet randomly. I feel very fatigued.

...

3. What is the best way to figure out how to organize my day so that I'm using its full potential? I usually use lists, but it's not working as well anymore.


If tutoring wipes you out for the day, then keep your mornings open for your more creative work (web design, crafting). Tutor in the afternoons and maybe the evenings, depending on the schedule of your clients, and then crash early.
posted by shiny blue object at 3:53 PM on June 23, 2011


My other siblings are either in elementary school or college full time (taking 1/2 time classes means she will lose her scholarships), so they can't work.

I would check with the sibling(s) in college if they would be willing to help out, maybe only for the summer if they absolutely can't work during school. They would probably be very happy to do so, because I know if I saw my older brother/sister work his a** off and couldn't help, I would feel pretty useless and sad for him. Also, even if it's just a little money, or a non-monetary contribution, like helping around the house, it will, I think, take a big weight off your shoulders, because being the ONLY ONE responsible for that whole household must be extremely stressful and pressuring.

I kind of feel that you're worried about the impact of working and being in school full time at the same time. I know that time needed to study and work on school stuff is very personal, and different people have different objectives, but I have had a p/t job for the past 4 years without it having any repercussions on my college studies (at maximum course load and maintaining an above 3.6 GPA). I don't work much (between 10 and 16 hours depending on how busy I am), but still, it adds up nicely. :) And I also have time to chill in all that. Most of my friends also have similar schedules.

I have no idea if your siblings have other obligations or if working while in college is absolutely out of question for you guys, but in case you are simply worried about their well-being in school and protective of them, this is my 2-cents of personal experience to reassure you.
posted by kitsuloukos at 4:32 PM on June 23, 2011


(oh and I'm sorry, and can't answer 1 and 3)
posted by kitsuloukos at 4:32 PM on June 23, 2011


How much is rent?
posted by prefpara at 5:02 PM on June 23, 2011


Two thoughts:

1. Maybe your sister who is taking full-time college classes over the summer can take out a student loan.

2. Contact every professor you have had even a passingly good relationship with, preferably ones you have been a GA for, and tell them you are in dire financial straits and you need a) work, b) to become at least a half-time student this summer to give you access to student lending, and c) their help accessing whatever resources your university has for students who are supporting a family and/or are broke.

For instance, many universities have low-cost family housing. Lots of professors might also be coming up on the end of their fiscal year and might have a few grand in "use it or lose it" grant money hanging around, so they might be able to make you a "research assistant" over the summer to get you in cash money until your check comes in.

I don't think there is a way to make one and three happen. I'm not saying that to be harsh; I'm saying it because you need to get help and I don't want you tricking yourself into thinking that if you just work harder, things will be okay. This problem is too big for you to handle alone. There is no shame in being ill or disabled and even less shame in being hard up financially. Reach out to everyone you can think of. People WANT to help you.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:06 PM on June 23, 2011


@kitsuloukos: The only sibling in college is taking summer classes full-time. So she'll be at school 5 days a week. I'm not worried about being in school + working at the same time. I'm a GA, so I take classes and teach for a salary. It's a small salary, but workable nonetheless. It's just that GAs aren't hired by our university in the summer. Really, once the Fall semester starts and I get paid more regularly, things will be better.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 5:15 PM on June 23, 2011


If you are willing to take out loans, go back to your university now. It *may* still be possible to take a loan out for the 2010-2011 school year. Yeah, the one you just finished.

Disability often takes two or three years to aquire. I talked with one guy lately who said he hired a lawyer who did everything for him. The lawyer just sent papers to sign every few months and set up doctors appointments. This did cost money, however.

If tutoring wipes you out for the day, then keep your mornings open for your more creative work (web design, crafting). Tutor in the afternoons and maybe the evenings, depending on the schedule of your clients, and then crash early.

Or get up super early, do website work, then tutor at your usual time. Then crash early.
posted by Monday at 8:15 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm so sorry you, your dad, and your family are under such stress.

Seconding Monday's advice about getting retroactive '10-11 financial aid. I've had it happen!

Talk to a financial aid officer personally, too; sometimes they can approve aid calculated based on updated financial circumstance. i.e. recognizing that the family's 2010 income is drastically different from the outlook for 2011. Sometimes there are also unadvertised scholarship funds that have been earmarked for special cases. I've been astonished and blessed to have that magic wand waved when things looked impossible.

Enrolling in a local community college is another route to student loans. Many have a credit-granting "course" for Work Experience, wherein you document the hours you work. There may be some minimal paperwork, asking what you learned, etc. But nothing comparable to doing exams, labs, and term papers. (Though do confirm that they can offer you financial aid. A two-year school may be limited in what they're allowed to offer those who already have a bachelor's.)

University services usually continue to be available to you during the summer. Inquire if there's a legal assistance program, or microlending service, offered. Many large campuses do. (It would be great to have legal advice about dealing with the landlord. But advised or no, best to chat with the landlord early. As a former landlord and property manager: we have a lot less good-will, and financial room to be patient, if you wait 'til last minute to communicate. But if you've been good tenants, there's a good chance they'll be motivated to work something out with you. You can document that you'll have the funds to get caught up within 3 months, so that weighs in your favor.)

My church quietly gives out modest loans, and even outright monetary gifts, to people in tough circumstances (including falling behind on rent). Some are from the church, but many are total strangers. Talk to your own religious community, if you have one, and then work out from there. There is a lot of hope and generosity in the world.

Churches et al also are frequently hubs of social service in their community, so they're good sources for referral to local agencies. Also a great source of hugs and other forms of personal support.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:05 PM on June 30, 2011


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