Wednesday, January 18, 2006

How much help is too much help?

Confession: Almost two years ago I moved back to Richmond after living two late-nighting, soul-searching, Bohemian-fabulous years in New York City. Armed with lots of ambition, but no marketable skills, I moved in with the 'rents and set about looking for my first "real" job. I then proceeded to live with my mother and her husband FOR A YEAR.

(The job search I suppose could have taken place in NYC, but you try going from making $1000 cash a week to being told by temp agencies that since you have no "actual experience answering phones" they'd have to start you off at $10/hour. At the time I saw moving home as a "choice", looking back I realized that I really had no other options, unless I wanted to work in restaurants the rest of my life.)

So yes, a year of no rent, no utilities, no buying groceries, and having cable piped into my bedroom like magic. At the age of 25. After two years of successfully living alone in what is widely recognized as the toughest city in the world. "If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere..." right?

Talk about humbling.

But you know what? It wasn't that bad. I actually get along really well with both of them, so I let my ferociously independent streak go dormant for a while and began to enjoy having someone around to watch TV with in the evening and chat with in the morning. I even managed to sneak boys home once in a while - the ones that weren't freaked out, but kinda turned on, by being in the parent's home.

So the question part comes in here. Now my stepsister has graduated from college and taken up permanent residence in my old bedroom. This particular stepsister is, hmmm... how do you say it? SPOILED. She's never worked a real job in her life, and since graduation has put little to no effort into finding one, even though she'll talk a big game about all of the high-paying jobs that are right around the corner for her.

Needless to say, it is driving my mother crazy. Her children always had jobs when they were growing up and through college, so the fact that she sits around and watched TV all day makes my mother practically ballistic. She is constantly on her husband's back about it, which has got to be causing strain in their relationship. I remind her - loosen up a little bit, I lived there for a year you know.

BUT, she is quick to point out, when you lived here you were working about 3 jobs the whole time, always trying to figure out what you were going to do, waiting for the right thing to come along, but working the whole time.

Yeah, I hope so. I mean, I'd like to think that my situation and my stepsister's situation are totally different. I did work the entire time I was there, even if it was a part-time, low-paying job. Something, anything, to get me out of the house and put a little bit of money in my bank account. But she just goes out to lunch every day, makes false promises about sending out resumes, and turns up her nose at the idea of getting a job at a store or something until she finds something permanent.

So, dear readers, I ask, are our situations really that different? Which is more excusable? Me at 25, moving back in and taking help from the parents, yet working my ass off the whole time at finding a solution, or her, 22 and just out of college, moving home and making no effort whatsoever to find a job of any kind?

I ask this honestly, because while I am ok with the fact that I did what I had to do, I don't really think that my mother has any right to give her husband grief for his daughter at this point.


Blogger Eggnoger said...

This is a very interesting question and one I have also struggled with. My whole message growing up was work your ass off - yes I was the scrawny 6th grader selling Pepsi's at football games just to make 30 bucks. It is hard to go back home - but I have to say that your guys situations seem entirely different to me. Using parents as a grounding place before your next step seems healthy to me. The line is drawn when you allow the benefit of money to hold you back from being independent. I personally could never live at home again, but see no problem for others. What if you were 32? Does that make a difference?

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Beth said...

I'm not entirely sure. I still live at home and I'm 24.

I didn't go to college but I've been working since I left school at 18. I've also paid rent since I got a full time job. I pay my own share of the phone bill and very often buy dinner.

All because i'd been irresponsible with money and actually can't afford to move out. I'm working on fixing that at the moment, but its going to be a long, painful, credit wrecking process.

I think that a couple of months of chill out time after graduating is probably ok, because chances are you'll never get the opportunity to do it again. But that said, she should have a job. She should be contributing something to the house, not just mooching.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Troy said...

i think your cutting your sister too much slack. it all depends on how you define a transition and help after college. and i think your parents ultimately have that say. if you/they feel that regardless of action and attitude the other sibling should get the exact same rights and privileges as you did...then of course she has about 12 months of mooching to use up. but, i think your mom, and im leaning towards her on this...she has reserved the right to define what behaviors have to follow the living at home privilege. it cant be a blanket rights that are equal between you, cause obviously the little things ie. different places in your life, jobs, income, work ethic, attitude...are so substantial that they make these situations of living at home and transitioning so different. and only the same in that you both are their children.

like where’s the line. what if she totally refused to work or look for a job at all for a year plus. would you still think that your mom should lay off since you had free rent and MTV piped into your room.

2:34 PM  

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