Pushy pop: Help dealing with 'daddy dearest'

Dear Carolyn:     

I am a 19-year-old college student who is home for the summer. At my father's insistence, I found a menial summer job at a fast-food joint. I had been offered a summer research position in my field of study, but my parents did not allow me to take it because it is located halfway across the country.     

While I am upset about the internship, I am absolutely miserable at the job I ended up taking. My co-workers are very nasty, the hours are long and I'm on my feet the whole time, and my shifts are given to me only a few days in advance, thus leaving me with no time to plan fun activities during the summer. I want to reduce my hours so I can enjoy some well-deserved free time, but my father is forcing me to work almost every day of the week.     

I am so stressed out that I am finding it difficult to sleep, and I am extremely depressed.      

Where do I go from here? I have tried to find a new job, but nobody seems to be hiring. My dad knows how miserable I am, but when I alerted him that I was thinking of quitting, he screamed at me to the point where I just curled up in my room and cried for an entire day.– Miserable in the Midwest

If your father isn't a bully, then he sure is acting like one.     

And to resolve a situation with someone who is/acts like a bully, your best course isn't to zoom in on the situation itself, but instead to zoom out far enough to address the full scope of the problem.     

Translation: The solution isn't to fix the summer job, it's to position yourself beyond your father's control. You're a legal adult already, of course, but as a student I imagine you're financially beholden to your dad, thus your need to accede to his wishes on the internship— stunningly short-sighted wishes, I should add.     

If I were to advise "Pay your own tuition and support yourself," it would likely seem impossible, so I'll break the elephant into small bites. Put in a call to your school's financial aid office (and counseling service, if possible; your description of your dad's response looks like emotional abuse to me). Talk to a mentor in your field if you have one, and find one if you don't, to see if there's scholarship money for talented students; that internship suggests you fit that description. Use those unplanned days off to figure out if any combination of scholarships, loans, scrimping and a job during the school year can free you to make your own choices. These concrete actions alone have the power to alleviate a lot of your current frustration.     

Then, on your work days, work. While I don't wish a miserable job on anyone, a miserable job with an expiration date— when there's a brighter future coming soon— is the kind of experience that replaces whining with perspective down the road, when you'll need toughness you can't yet foresee.           

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.          

(c) 2013, Washington Post Writers Group   

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6 comments

What an abomination this "advice" is. A sniveling entitled brat asks an advice columnist for support to defy a parent who thinks it appropriate for a college student to take "a menial" job for the summer while she's off from the year's "work" at the sort of theme park universities have become, while the parents drain their bank accounts to help pay for it, and this "advice giver" tell her how to "stand up" to her father. Ann Landers would roll in her grave to read this sort of drivel.
Should have told the kid to appreciate her advantages, stop whining, and develop a bit of character. Everyone growing up should have a scut job or two...

Carolyn must be a big "see you next Tuesday" for that kind of advise. Was the summer research position even a paid job? Of course the 19 year old doesn't say, possibly because it doesn't and she would probably have to pay for a place to live, transportation costs, bills, etc, half way across the country. If she's miserable at her job then maybe next year she will pre-plan and find something more to her liking a little earlier in the year. It doesn't sound like dad is being a bully or emotional abusive. Are you kidding me; sounds more like he's giving a dose of #$%#ing reality to a newly minted adult who doesn't seem to grasp the concept of hard work and the fact that sometimes you don't get to choose your dream job. Of course dad is going to tell her to STFU and quite whining about the job. Life is tough; it’s tougher if you’re stupid. If fast food is stressing this whiney little twit out the rest of life sure does have a super surprise in store for her. Telling some teen to hit up a counseling service because dad is laying the smack down and telling his child the realities of life is poor advice. So this teenager should go into debt for her college education, when it is presumptively being paid for by her parents, just so she can thumb her nose at pops? I’m just going to speculate also that if this girl was all that talented she probably would have figured out how to apply for a scholarship before her first year of college. What she needs to be doing is focusing on her "menial" fast food job and learning as much as she can about it. There are plenty of real life skills that can be found in those settings to include learning how to deal with a wide variety of people, management, effective communication, organization, team work, finance, inventory control, etc. Perhaps the reason why this young adult can’t find another job is because she thinks she is owed better rather than proving that she’s capable, skilled, and competent enough to deserve better. And another thing; learn how to bust your ass now so you can get a better job later that offers you paid time off. You’ll enjoy your free time much more when you’re getting paid for it. Sheesh, 19 years old and needs some freetime.

Good advice! Much better to go into debt than to earn money. Liberal journalist tripe. But hey, if you dont like things in the free house, move out while you have all the answers.

Carolyn...Her father isn't acting like a bully...he is acting like a responsible parent. I'm curious as to how old carolyn is. She seems to be about as mature as this whiny 19 yr old.

Agree with all the previous posts. Fast food is a "menial" job? On his/her feet all day? Can't plan parties with the friends? Ahhhh, such cruelty. Big entitlement attitude there. Fast food is an honest day's work, and might help the student to appreciate all that he/she has been blessed with, such as the ability to attend college, parents that support his/her goals and financial needs, good health, etc, etc.
If the student continues this whining, I think he/she should quit this job and join the Peace Corp. A real dose of reality seeing what life is like in third world countries might be just the ticket, and they will provide lodging and meals as part of the perks. Granted, it might be a straw mat in a thatch hut eating whitchedy grubs, but seeing how the rest of the world lives might be the best educational experience yet.

Ditto all of the above comments, save the political tripe offered halfway through jimi's post.

My favorite part of this whiney child's rant? "...my father is forcing me to work almost *every* day of the week." [Asterisks mine.]

I'm shocked--shocked I tell you!--that this poor child's father has pressed her into working--horror-of-horrors!--almost every day of the week. [Bet you a quarter she really means every Monday through Friday.]

To this young woman I would offer "Get a grip and get a life." Most people work five days a week, fulltime, for 40 hrs.+, to earn a living.

@ Ms. Hax: You, my dear, might be well-served to take your *own* step back to, as you suggest, "zoom out far enough to address the full scope of the problem."

The problem lies *not* with the father of this recalcitrant child; rather, it lies with the child who fails to understand the value of a full day's work, the importance of contributing financially to her own education, and that "menial" work in fast-food is indeed *not* beneath her.

BTW: Please conduct some closer research before cavalierly tossing-about the term "bully". In no manner is the father in this case "bullying" his daughter. Instead, he is holding fast to a rational, reasonable line with his daughter.

I applaud him...and gently encourage you to head back to the drawing board to reconsider your position on this young woman's alleged plight.