Dealing with parental pressures to find a job
June 18, 2014 12:43 AM   Subscribe

I recently graduated, but I'm already feeling pressure to find a job now or else be bombarded with my mom's criticism. How should I deal with this until I get work?

Last Saturday, I went to commencement for my Statistics degree. I'd ideally have secured a position as an actuary at some big insurance company, but that didn't happen so I'm living with my parents and younger sister for a while.

I've already sent out about 18 job applications since then and have been learning some admin skills that would help me in my profession (VBA and Access). I've also been studying a bit for exams which I need to advance in my career later on. However, I still am worried about how I come off to my parents while I'm still unemployed.

I also have anxiety and depressive issues since I have a tendency to ruminate on my "failures" and discount my positive traits or successes. I've felt this way since I was in elementary school, and haven't managed to find a good way to distance myself from these destructive thought patterns to this day. I couldn't even enjoy my commencement because I kept thinking about how my grades could've been better and how my roommate situation could've been happier if I had just tried harder or been a better person or something.

The main problem:
My mom tends to be very critical of me. My dad assures me that she's really proud of me for my achievements (getting a good degree at a good college in 3 years instead of 4) but she's terrible at showing it. Maybe it's because she grew up in much less favorable circumstances as an immigrant, but Since I wasn't happy at my commencement, she bombarded me the next day with how selfish I was then and how I should've worked harder so that I could've become more like the people who got 4.0's in two majors and completed research, and such. She's also really critical of my weight and tells me I won't get hired because my interviewer (should I get any) don't like fat people. She also expressed anger that I couldn't put away my feelings of sadness and disappointment in myself and considered it selfish that I didn't (actually couldn't) do it. She seems disappointed that I have these mental problems and seems to be at least somewhat ashamed of me for it. It's like she had believed she failed me in some basic way. I feel both trapped in a cycle of disappointing her since she constantly belittles my achievements compared to her own and that I am have little identity beyond her wants and desires for me as long as I remain dependent on her.

I think the worst part of this is that I have the sense that If I call her out on this behavior, she'll just cite that she's just trying to push me to do better in life or accuse me of being in denial of my problems. For example, I've tried to get her off of my case about my weight, but she just says that people will judge me anyways and I'll get of diabetes even if I love the way I am, not to mention that she has flawed views on how weight loss actually works. I got similar results in high school when I wanted her to stop criticizing me for getting maybe 92% on a test rather than 95-100%. I've tried to enlist my dad's help too, but he just tells me it's "just something you're going to have to deal with." My best friend really wants me to confront her, and show her articles on how to help people with depression, but I can't help but feel like she wouldn't take it well.

I know with certainty that I have a decent skill set that can get me above average work, but since I don't have the ideal resume, I'll probably have to wait a month or two at the very least before I get work. I know I'll almost definitely need a therapist for as long as I still have student insurance. However, I am under the impression I might run into problems justifying the costs and dealing with her feelings of shame relating to me needing a therapist in the first place. I am also trying to help out with house keeping to seem like less of a financial burden, and I'm contemplating restarting my 5K routine again.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to handle this situation with grace? If I don't get a job in 6 months or less, how do I deal with the shame of my parents taking on my student loans (especially since I'll have no insurance and no way to afford therapy by then)? How do I justify to my parents taking leisure time when I don't have a job?
posted by bluekazoo to Human Relations (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Take any job that wil get you out of her house. She may not be able to help herself from harming you this way, but that is what she is doing. Temp-work with data entry or something, tiny little flat or room somewhere, continue applying for career-track jobs.
posted by Iteki at 12:57 AM on June 18, 2014 [27 favorites]

I would strongly suggest learning about Nonviolent Communication- it's a system pioneered by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, an American psychologist who specializes in mediation and has brought peace to warring tribes in Rwanda, Burundi, Sierra Leone, and many other countries.

Here is a rather lengthy video of a workshop he conducted that I believe is the best explanation of his work- it includes audience participation and real-world examples:

The basic premise is that we have been taught for thousands of years that violence is the right way to deal with people- not just physical violence, but moral violence. That is, judging and blaming. This is reflected in our language- we use words like should, should not, deserve, right and wrong, good and evil. Fair and unfair. These words imply moral judgment.

Your mom does have good intentions (that is, she is attempting to express her needs for acceptance, for your safety, for her doing right by her parents, etc), but has been raised in a violent way, as we all have. She doesn't know a better way to express herself. Nonviolent Communication gives us the ability to look past another person's judgment and see them for who they really are, and that allows us to move forward in effective ways that we'd never been able see.

My life changed when I watched that video. Sincerely. When you check out his work, you will be absolutely amazed at how unnecessarily violent and ultimately ineffective our language is in truly communicating what we want to others. If you ever wondered why our world is fucked up, this is your answer. There are societies that have little to no violence at all- they don't have words for right or wrong, good and evil. Those words obfuscate real connection to your own needs and others' needs.

Good luck, and if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask.
posted by drd at 1:13 AM on June 18, 2014 [31 favorites]

I would just tell her that you're acutely aware of your faults right now and that harping on them is just making it harder for you to get a job. And then just get up and walk away when she starts in on you. Every time. This will become easier and your therapist might have more tips.

This assumes that she not going to kick you out as a result of this, but that sounds unlikely from your description
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 1:20 AM on June 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would push back harder at your dad. Tell him it is unsafe potable for him to allow your mother to treat you this way; if he does not step in and stop her abuse then the result will be that once you get a job you will move out and have nothing further to do with your family.

You should also have your therapist arrange a family meeting where acceptable behaviour is discussed and agreed on. I'm sorry your parents are not helpful and using such harming words and language.
posted by saucysault at 1:40 AM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, and another thing- here's a great resource:

Bay Area Nonviolent Communication has a series of videos called the Conflict Hotline, where they work through specific conflicts between many different kinds of people using NVC principles. There are a few videos concerning mothers, so you may find them enlightening.
posted by drd at 1:42 AM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Habitual criticism like this has little to do with anything you did or could do; it's a reflection of your Mom's personal problems, and until she finds a healthier way of coping with those personal problems the criticism is likely to persist no matter what or how well you do. I doubt that challenging her directly will help. She's behaving this way because it makes her feel better, and asking her to stop doing something that makes her feel better is a tough sell. But, you can minimize your exposure to her. One way or another, arrange your days so that you spend little time at home when she is there and awake.

My guess is that when she starts in on you, you already feel a desire to get away from her. What gets in the way of acting on that impulse? Are you habitually sitting around in worn-out sweatpants? Do you lack quarters for the parking meter in the place you'd like to go? Think about such obstacles and deal with them. Figure out what you need to do to ensure that you can leave the house whenever you want. Shower and get dressed in going-out-of-the-house clothes as soon as you wake up. If you have a car, make sure it's not blocked into a driveway by one of your parents' cars. If you use a laptop computer a lot, keep an appropriate carrying bag for it handy. It's a lot easier to enforce a boundary like the one suggested by matildatakesovertheworld, i.e. to leave whenever she starts in on you, if you have the logistics taken care of ahead of time.
posted by jon1270 at 3:35 AM on June 18, 2014 [14 favorites]

Also, instead of learning stuff you'll learn on the job anyway or preparing for exams you're nowhere near taking go and get a part time job. Anything, barista/retail/anything at all.

This will do three things.

1/ You'll get out of the house regularly - by the sound of it that can only be a bonus.

2/ You can offer to pay some of your own way and contribute to household expenses. Your parents may not take you up on this but at least make the offer, it's an adult thing to do and helps establish you as an adult child living in the house, no longer a child.

3/ You have income you can spend at your discretion. So you can for example seek therapy to learn how to cope with your anxieties. You can also start to save up for the various expenses associated with moving out. Things like a rental deposit and first month rent etc. That way you are ready as soon as the first proper job offer appears.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:53 AM on June 18, 2014 [9 favorites]

The parental pressures you describe are not going to go away. If you get a job, you should have gotten a better one, etc. Best is for YOU to go away. Figure out some way to move out as quickly as possible. (The pressures will STILL be there, but you won't be living with them on a daily basis.)
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:12 AM on June 18, 2014

One wonderful thing that nobody tells you about being an independent adult: you get to decide on what terms you will interact with people. That means that, once you've moved out, you can decide that you're no longer willing to talk to your parents if they are unsupportive or overly critical.

Entry-level jobs suck, and they suck even more when they're not in your chosen field, but the freedom that a job will buy you right now is priceless.
posted by third word on a random page at 4:16 AM on June 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

You mention the 5k, do you mean couch to 5k? Do it. Get out of the house as much as possible. Get up early every morning, go for a walk or a run, come home, pack a lunch, and leave. Go to a library, any library. Go to museums, parks. Go to a yoga or some other exercise class. Do some volunteering. Get a part-time job. Keep applying for likely jobs. Go home at the end of the day as if you had put in a full day at work.

Your mom may change once you have a secure job. At least then you will be in a better position to demand that she stop criticizing your every move.
posted by mareli at 5:29 AM on June 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

Yes, move out as soon as you can!

Meanwhile, my mom was similar, especially with the comments about how nobody would ever love me because I'm fat, etc. And like you, I struggled with feelings of guilt and shame and feeling inadequate for years. I think it's great that you're identifying this and trying to deal with it now.

My advice is, do not engage. When she's raging at you and telling you how much you suck, try to tune her out, take deep breaths, and go to your happy place. It is NOT YOUR JOB to make her happy or to make her proud of you. The things she is telling you are NOT TRUE. You are doing great and you have nothing to feel ashamed of.

I was in therapy briefly for other issues, during which my own family issues resurfaced. And the most helpful thing for me was hearing my therapist say, "That's terrible. Those were really cruel things to say. That must have been so hard for you." Because just having somebody acknowledge that your mother should not be treating you like this, that it's just plain wrong, was so helpful to me in realizing that I was good enough on my own, and the problem was hers.
posted by chickenmagazine at 5:31 AM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are entry level actuarial jobs, but they are much easier to get once you've passed exam 1.

Did you take any actuarial science courses in school? They can really help. If you haven't, consider enrolling in a school that offers them. Out of state if you can.

As for your Mom, she won't change. Ever. You need to start blowing her off. Your Dad is telling you to stop giving her so much power in your life. She's been wrong about pretty much everything so far, so why do you even listen to her shit, let alone believe it?

Get into therapy, if for no other reason than to have a neutral third party tell you that she's being an ass about everything.

Consider as a place to apply for Stats jobs with ghe government.

The next exam period for CAS exams is October, so while you're studying, get ANY kind of job to get you out and working. Bartend, wait-staff, Starbucks, whatever. Something flexible for your job hunt, fun for you, and can be a source of money so that you can feel good about where you are.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:52 AM on June 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

Nope, she won't change. Do what you need to do to feel good about yourself, move out (take whatever job for the time being that will allow this to happen), and ignore her. Parents the world over have been shitty and critical towards their kids since the beginning of time--you will just have to deal, as your dad says. But this will be good training in dealing with the inevitability of other people's criticisms in the future.
posted by greta simone at 5:59 AM on June 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Your mom won't change. If you had a job immediately she would likely shift her criticisms to something else about you - based on your description of the situation, she seems to take you as a reflection of herself - but an external one that she can blame and shame without any repercussions to her own ego. Conversationally, looking her in the eye and always saying (as often as it takes) "I hear you, mom" is a deflection that might enrage her, but shouldn't lead to recriminations because you're not ignoring her or putting her down. You're not saying you agree and you're not saying that she's right and you're not saying you'll do whatever she wants - but you're letting her know that she has made herself clear, and there's no need to continue the conversation.

I'd also suggest looking for temp work - not just to get some money in your pocket and to get out of the house, but also because getting to know people at different companies can also lead to that first job. Plus your mom will see that you are motivated and working hard, which might help her lay off a little.
posted by Mchelly at 6:30 AM on June 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

The time right after graduating is rough, it's not unheard of to spend several months applying for jobs all day and not get a full-time job. Can you work retail or some other entry level job in the meantime? Would that cover your student loans if you keep living at home? A friend (with a masters degree - it took her several months to get a fulltime job) did that, she worked retail, got a nice work wardrobe (with the store discount), and it got her out of the house while they waited for interviews. You don't need to disclose to anyone that you've got a BA and are doing it but there's no shame in it either, believe it or not people admire young people who are willing to show some humility that way, it shows character.

You can't change your mom, your best bet is to get the heck out of your parent's place asap. In the meantime you could give your mom updates about what you're applying to, what you're doing with your time, instead of engaging in arguments over your weight or how you could have done the past differently, just respond with "today I studied X, and applied to X job". "Mom, I tried my best, and I succeeded in graduating with a high average in 3, not 4 years, you should be proud of what I've accomplished". Just list our your accomplishments and pull them out when she starts attacking you, and if she gets really antagonistic, leave the house to go to the store or for a walk. Re: weight issues, she can be concerned for your health but you are educated and understand things so it's really not ok for her to comment on further, when she starts in on that I would just exit the conversation if possible, do not respond at all.

Do you have other friends who graduated and could go in on a lease together? Start making a wishlist or plan of what you want your life to look like in the next 6 months. You've done a really impressive thing and soon you'll have more control over your life, I promise.
posted by lafemma at 7:18 AM on June 18, 2014

Here's a Psychology Today article about Narcissistic Mothers. See if any of it resonates with you.

I don't know why, but people who grew up in tough times, and with self-worth issues themselves, develop this.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:21 AM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, as everyone has said definitely move out as soon as you can, whatever it takes. She will never change. In fact, ime she will get worse with age. It is unlikely you will be able to enlist your dad's help in making any of this better, because he already knows how awful she is to you and has chosen to ignore it to make his own life easier.
posted by elizardbits at 8:58 AM on June 18, 2014

Assume that your mother won't change, because there is a good chance that she won't, especially in the short term, and even if she does change, she'll change on her schedule, not necessarily on yours.

In other words - what you can control right now, is your own life, reactions and behavior. You can choose to walk away when your mother says something hurtful and unfair, or respond in a way that makes you feel better about yourself. You can choose to find routines and positive things to do - projects, exercise, volunteering, working at temp jobs, spending time with friends - that improve your skills and make you feel good. You can choose to get outside help by talking to someone.

I have a genuinely narcissistic mother, that is to say, she suffers from what's called Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I also had a father who could be critical in some of the same ways you described. My father changed: a lot - and in time to make our relationship very strong all these years later. My mother has not changed - because she has a personality disorder that is very, very hard to fix. She is not a person who just has narcissistic traits, but someone who is truly unable to experience emotions and relationships like a normal person. Based on what you've said, I think it's very possible that your mother falls in the other category, like my dad - of being a relatively normal person and not someone beyond hope. That said, Ruthless Bunny's link is very helpful, I think - because by projecting through you, hoping to live through you -- that is a narcissistic trait.

However, you have to live your life, whether or not your mother comes around, and if you are to start feeling better, you have to take steps independent of your mother's behavior or expectations that her behavior will change. You are not responsible for your mother's happiness. You are not responsible for your mother's behavior. You are only responsible for your own actions and reactions. Once you learn this, you will find that you may have to remind yourself of it, over and over again throughout your life - especially if you are drawn to hypercritical, even abusive people who are not satisfied with you as you are. That is the only one-size fits all advice that all people can benefit from - that we ultimately are responsible for ourselves, our feelings, our actions - and cannot expect to change anyone else. It's especially important for anyone who experiences anxiety about other people's behavior - because you can do everything right and someone may still feel that you have made a mistake.

You are already anxious and ashamed about the possibility that you won't be working yet, that your parents may pay for student loans, when you graduated a full year ahead of schedule. You should be patting yourself on the back and deciding what you want to do with your life, not beating yourself up. Therapy and positive self-talk can help with stepping back from a painful situation, in order to say, "Hey, objectively - I'm not doing too bad." For instance, objectively, you just graduated from college less than a week ago. Wow! Congratulations! And you received a degree in three years! Hey, I'm impressed. I thought the statistics portion of my masters degree was going to kill me, and here you are - you've finished an entire degree in statistics in three years. Well done.

What you did is objectively, an accomplishment and something to savor. If you have to walk away from Mom and savor it outside the house, OK - but do take some time to give yourself that pat on the back. (It's OK to reward yourself inexpensively at this point - go to a movie you've always wanted to see, or visit a friend you want to see.)

I want to also point out that while your mother may be an immigrant and may have lived through hard times, there are all kinds of people who behave like this with their children. I think a lot of them are angry about their anxieties and project them onto their children. My mother in law was really crappy to my husband in between school and the start of his military career, even though he had a set date for entering boot camp. Later on, when he didn't get into OCS (officer candidate school) immediately, she pitched a fit - what was wrong with him that he couldn't do that? That was how she dealt with her anxiety about what he was going to do with his life. Now she wonders why he doesn't see her often or spend time with her. Was she an immigrant, did she live through lots of hard times? No, and no. There are always people who have worse lives and experiences, who nonetheless act with compassion and patience - and people who use their past experiences as an excuse to behave badly, because they don't have a method of responding more positively to the stresses of the world.

So, find a routine and activities that are positive, then get a job - Starbucks is by most accounts a very, very good place to get a job while you continue searching, and temping is also a great thing to do, too. What you do is go to multiple temp firms, rather than just one, register and show your skills, then, each morning or afternoon, call in each firm, in order, and ask them if there's a job available. If they offer you a one day gig, snap it up - and do a good job. If you repeat this a few times, eventually someone will offer you a longer term temp gig - several weeks, over the summer, maybe into the fall.

Put away some of the money you earn for yourself, into your own bank account, so that someday soon, you can move out into a shared apartment or a tiny bachelor/studio apartment. Do not hand over all of your money to your parents.

As far as therapy, go to the Psychology Today website, and look at the local therapists available. Find a couple you like, and check whether they have a sliding scale. That sliding scale will be there if you hit hard times.

I am also going to suggest that you get a copy of the book called Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. You can find an older copy at the library, or buy your own used, or get the latest edition. This book is about a very specific type of therapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is learning to manage anxiety and depression, by recognizing negative self-talk and behaviors, and objectively responding to them. A lot of people on mefi have used CBT or something similar (whether or not they've used Burns' book). There are some fantastic posts here about people coping with anxiety and critical parents. You might even want to look into the book Toxic Parents - your local library almost certainly has a copy of this book, it's been a best-seller for many years.

Again, I want to reiterate this. Congratulations and well done on your new degree.
posted by mitschlag at 12:41 PM on June 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

I know what it's like being unempoloyed and I found going to the gym helped both keep fit and keep my spirits up. Remember to start off light and increase gradually. In the long run it may help with the weight but I would advise you not to think about that.

On the stress and depression side, you could start reading and acting on CBT based books -- that look at low self esteem depression and anxiety/stress. The "Overcoming..." series may suit you (e.g. Overcoming Anxiety by Helen Kennerley).

Talking to a counsellor may help.

On the work side: What support is there with job hunting, applications, interviews, etc? Ask. It may be suited to you and help (but it may not). Can you think of ways of turning job hunting into a game?

One of the things I did when I was job hunting was to use mail merge when sending out speculative applications (letters and labels) as it added a bit of spice to the hunt and it meant that I had something to talk about in the interview.

Assertiveness training may help with both your parents and interviews.
posted by HiFranc at 3:08 PM on June 18, 2014

If a gym is not you thing then some other form of exercise or sport may be.

Another thing I found helped was doing a "fun" course. Something that I'm interested in but may not be useful for work. I started a Creative Writing course. That helped me feel more positive about things.
posted by HiFranc at 3:17 PM on June 18, 2014

Lots of good advice here already, I just wanted to chime in and let you know that if you are unemployed, or underemployed, you can defer your student loan payments if you wish instead of having your parents take them on.

You can contact the loan agency and ask about this, though some places let you do this online. You can usually defer for several years, actual length of deferment allowed will depend on who issued your loan. After that period, there are other ways to not have to make payments you can't afford through claiming financial hardship etc. for another several years. It gives you time to get established in your career before you start paying, though interest on the loan may still be accruing in some situations.

Pretty much everyone I know with student loans has done this at some point. It's totally normal to not be able to afford your loan payment when you're fresh out of school.
posted by ananci at 10:27 AM on June 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

With a stats degree, you are qualified for a relatively wide range of entry level jobs. Even though you want to be an actuary in the long run, you might consider applying more broadly if you are not already. Temp jobs are harder to get than you would think. Trust me.

[Assuming you are in the US] You know you're required to have insurance now, right? You might be able to be added to your parents' plan (maybe not ideal, I realize). If your state expanded Medicaid, you could possibly be eligible for that while you are unemployed.

Hang in there. The job market for recent grads is still difficult, and many older people don't understand. I have focused on the job angle because others have addressed the interpersonal challenges well, but I also suspect getting established on your own will be the best thing. Good luck!
posted by Comet Bug at 10:13 PM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

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