How can I survive a miserable and unfulfilling job?
February 25, 2015 1:36 PM   Subscribe

I am stuck in a terrible job, with patronizing and rude coworkers and bosses, challenging responsibilities, and low compensation. It's making me sick, turning me into an alcoholic and an insomniac, but I'm afraid to leave because of financial burdens. What can I do? Where can I draw the line between financial responsibility and my own well-being?

I am a 26-year old female, trapped in a job that I hate for the past eight months—it’s at a daycare, and it’s all I could find after searching for months upon finishing my Master’s Degree. (My Bachelor’s and Master’s are both in English; I’d originally wanted an administrative job in at a university, but couldn’t find one, so I settled for a daycare job temporarily, since my student loans were kicking in and I had other bills to pay. I was broke and desperate.

Anyway, I work in a classroom of two-and-a-half and three-year-olds, all of whom are very sweet and affectionate, but extremely hard to work with. I clean up several bathroom accidents a day—a lot of them are still potty-training-- and change several diapers a day as well. Their fine-motor skills have not developed yet, so planning art activities with them is extra-difficult and time-consuming, and I deal with many temper tantrums and a lot of crying all day; frankly, I don’t get compensated nearly enough for the amount of work I have to do and how exhausting and demanding the job is.

All of this would be fine and tolerable while I look for something else, but our management is incompetent, unorganized, and extremely rude. I get patronized for asking simple questions about work-related issues, and I get tremendous attitude for even asking to go to the bathroom (we are required to ask before leaving the classroom, due to state-regulated teacher-to-student ratio requirements). Additionally, the two other teachers I am working with in the classroom are constantly in terrible moods, because we have a lot of children with behavioral and emotional problems in our class, and they are very tough to handle. I have tried my best to be helpful and work hard in the classroom, and I even made it clear to the other teachers and administration to be clear with me in terms of communicating any issues they have with my work, and anything I can improve on. However, I get no constructive feedback, only attitude all the time, so at this point, I’m not even sure if the problem lies in the people at the center itself, or my own work. I’ve honestly put forth the best I can.

Now, my questions are: how can I survive such a hostile and stressful work environment? I have terrible insomnia, and have been drinking alcohol after work almost daily for a couple months, just to relieve the stress and be able to somewhat relax. I’ve tried indulging in hobbies I enjoy to calm myself down—zumba, yoga, writing, watching funny movies, reading—but I am always go back to the same misery, no matter what. As someone with a history of anxiety and depression, and who was already taking Prozac (due to an array of other issues in my personal life), before this job even happened, I am very deeply affected by the negativity I’m facing here, and I don’t know how to cope. It’s affecting my health so much—is it worth it to even continue the job at all? Would it be a better idea just defer my student loans, and use my savings to fall back on for other bills while I look for another job? My parents have offered to help financially as well, since they notice how unhealthy and stressed out I am, but I hesitate to accept help from them, because I fear that it would make them more controlling over me, as they are a very domineering and intrusive pair to begin with. However, they are the only family I have close by, and therefore the only people I can rely on, if I decide to quit my job and look for something better--perhaps try again to find a higher education job--while I restore my health.

What, given all the above details, would be the best route to take, in your opinion? I am at the end of my rope in misery, daily dread, lack of sleep, and very poor health (I always have a terrible cold from being around the kids all day), and am open to all advice and recommendations. Thank you in advance!
posted by summertimesadness1988 to Work & Money (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Would it be a better idea just defer my student loans, and use my savings to fall back on for other bills while I look for another job?

Yes, if you can. This job is doing nothing for you.

Another thing, you know that Prozac and alcohol don't mix. Stop using alcohol inappropriately.

Start getting your resume out there for any and all jobs you're qualified for. I can't imagine you're making a nice living teaching in day care (correct me if I'm wrong) so for now you're looking for anything that offers a decent wage and benefits.

Don't think so hard about doing work in your field if there aren't any jobs in it. Think about getting a job that pays your bills and doesn't leave you frustrated and angry at the end of the day.

My parents have offered to help financially as well, since they notice how unhealthy and stressed out I am, but I hesitate to accept help from them, because I fear that it would make them more controlling over me, as they are a very domineering and intrusive pair to begin with

I would work two full-time jobs before I'd let my parents support me in this way. You're an adult. At least try to get two jobs before considering this.

But yes, if you can afford to do it, leave this job and get another. People do it every day.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:45 PM on February 25, 2015 [7 favorites]

I think you have to leave! That sounds awful! You have my sympathies and hugs.

Can you possibly swing applying to jobs while still working at your own? I didn't see you mention that as an option, only quitting and then looking. You sound like you would be a great employee who would be a wonderful boon to the right workplace. Do you still live near your school? Do they have career services resources? I would imagine they can still help you. Even a temp job sounds better than what you're going through now. That sounds soul-draining, and after awhile you start to internalize that it's you, when really it's the environment/them.

But if it's really dragging you down and you can't take any more of it, you have [the internet's] blessing to quit and search full-time. Have you checked out the Chronicles of Higher Education at all? There are over 2000 administrative jobs currently listed here.
posted by spelunkingplato at 1:46 PM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Get out of this job as fast as you can. Yeesh. There is no shame in accepting help from your parents (especially if they offer! It's not like you've been begging) and deferring student loans. Until something in your field turns up, can you get a job at a restaurant? Retail? Tutoring?

It seems like a patchwork of other incomes would be far preferable to this right now, and even if you're living on tips and parents' help, it sounds like your overall quality of life will improve big-time.
posted by witchen at 1:50 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

if I decide to quit my job and look for something better
You don't need to quit your job in order to look for something better. Set yourself a goal of two hours a week of job searching, resume updating, interviewing, etc. If you are drinking now, would the boredom from being out of work result in you drinking even more?
posted by soelo at 1:51 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

I agree with witchen. You do have another option at the moment that isn't so detrimental to your well-being: graciously accept your parents' offer, quit your job, and find something temporary that will allow you to stay on your feet while you find something else.

This job sounds like it is ruining you both mentally and physically, and it is not worth it.
posted by alligatorman at 2:01 PM on February 25, 2015

Reading the previous answers I have to agree that you need to get out of any soul-sucking job- these things have lasting effects. But if you just can't just now, you have to dissociate yourself from the job. This job is not fulfilling certain needs, like friendship and positive feedback.

You need a life outside work; one that will bring in a little balance and affirmation, and give some perspective. Join a club, get a hobby, whatever. Listen to podcasts or books on tape if you can have ear buds at work, to occupy your mind and blot out negativity. The work environment is rarely ideal, but when it's all you have going then it becomes overwhelming.

Granted that your job situation irritates you, another mental trick might be useful: Your preconceived idea of what you will experience at work will color your response to whatever happens. So you have to concentrate on the positive experiences you can have, and minimize the negative. Poopy diapers and soiled clothes seem to be part of the gig for you. But if you just decide they are just one necessary but small part of your day, then they don't have to control your head space. It works for fathers and mothers, and it can work for you.

Here's one way to get this started: Every day, or maybe several times a day, try to think of several positive things about your experience that day. Small things- like I remembered to sharpen my pencils yesterday, and so today I'm all set. Or today is applejuice day, and all the kids like applejuice. Or Bobby looks especially cute in that shirt he's wearing. It helps to be looking for these things- it changes your frame of reference. Get used to looking for some small thing for the next time you have to write something down. And things will get better. Not only in this job, but your next one, wherever that may be. People want to be around positive people.
posted by halhurst at 3:05 PM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Deferring your loans is not the end of the world. I did it when I was unemployed and it was worth it because now I have a job that pays me well and I frankly don't even notice that I pay my loans. I also borrowed a little money from family that I paid back. They could afford the loan and I made sure to pay it back within a certain amount of time, and it was fine.

If you're like me, you worry about being financially responsible and taking care of yourself and thinking long-term and whatever else, but this job sounds totally useless. If you're working in a miserable job in a field you have no desire to stay in just to pay off your loans, then the answer is simple: Defer the loans and leave the job. You are getting nothing out of this job at all. If you're taking better care of yourself, you will be much better at looking for new jobs. That's not even getting into the fact that this job is literally driving you to drink.

What I would say is this: If you go ahead and quit the job (because it sure sounds like you aren't cut out to be working with kids), quit whilst making a promise to yourself: If you quit the job, you are going to devote x% of your time to finding a new job, you are going to drink only x number of times/drinks per week, and you are going to adhere to a bed time of xpm. The last thing you want is to quit this job and then continue all the self-destructive behavior and slide even further. Quit the job and vow to find your footing and get back on track.
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:28 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh, hello there Blast Hardcheese ca. 2004! Right down to the English degrees and the disheartening daycare job and the parent offering help I was reluctant to accept.

-I took the help
-I quit the job
-I went to a temp agency (or, uh, three) and agreed to take literally any placement at first
-Eventually I started taking some necessary risks in my job hunt and one finally paid off.

It wasn't a piece of cake and because I was living at home, inertia was reaaaaallly strong (though it sounds like your relationship with your parents is more fraught than mine). I have never again in my life watched so much terrible TV or eaten so much awful food. But ultimately I think it was worthwhile: from that first lucky break I have built a 10 year career that has been very satisfying.

Since your folks are offering, take them up on it. But first, make a solid plan down to the nitty gritty details--a daily schedule, even--and stick to it.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:05 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

That job sounds terrible, I'm sorry. Do whatever you can to keep applying for other jobs.

Although it may be tough since you have been in childcare and want to switch industries with limited or no experience. How is the economy in your area? Are there generally opportunities for the type of work you are seeking? Do you know people in those careers? I would think about asking people you know if they would be willing to recommend you or pass along your resume. Start building your profile on Linkedin for the job you want, not the job you have.

Also, this is kind of out-there advice, but if you try your best and hustle and are still unable to find anything, consider something like the Peace Corps, Teach for America, or teaching English abroad. In addition to having an amazing experience it shows employers that you are motivated, have professional experience beyond child care and that you can perform in challenging and unfamiliar situations. Although you may want to be careful due to your heath issues and only take on as much risk and unfamiliarity as you can handle. Good luck!
posted by seesom at 7:41 PM on February 25, 2015

I second seesom, I came here to recommend teaching abroad. You don't have to teach toddlers either -- you can teach children, teens, and even adults.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 2:53 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

OMG! Of course! Teach in Abu Dhabi!

It won't be easy, but you'll be in your content area and you'll live in nice housing and be able bank some cash. Pay off your student loans and come back home with some good experience behind you.

Do due diligence, I considered it, but being Jewish, it's probably not a good fit for me.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:25 AM on February 26, 2015

Based on personal experiences that have been related to me, I really, really would not recommend teaching in Abu Dhabi.

I have been in a similar situation to yours, although I actually DID want to be a teacher, and quitting was the best thing that happened to me! It was so great! I could breath again! I went to a temp agency and got a crummy job that turned into a real job that was decently interesting (that office eventually closed and I am temping again. If you are in the DC area, let me know and I can give you the number of my temp agency.).

Seriously, I really would recommend quitting. You are miserable, this is draining your energy, and I know that right now it feels like it is impossible anything will ever get better, but it will when you don't have to face doing this every day. A temp job is great because it'll be easy and low-responsibility enough that you can feel good about yourself as a professional again and it will give you the energy and confidence to find the right thing.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:33 AM on February 26, 2015

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