Similar to the question from: Working mother but unemployed father

except I'm 21 and will likely work full time in engineering after I graduate to support my parents. Anyways, my mom is constantly criticizing my dad for being jobless, and they argue a lot. Mom (and I) are making barely enough money for all of us. Dad is IMO a genius but is bad at English, in his 50s, and got his PhD in atomic and molecular physics from China so obtaining a job related to his research in the US is virtually impossible. Should I convince him to get a job completely unrelated to his work? Or stay out of this altogether? I feel like my mom is getting stressed out; if she were to loose her job... Plus, pop's extremely unwilling to go into anything not research related. Quite a nerd!

  • Hi yoshi - while this is an important thing to get right, it is not on topic here for a couple of reasons. 1 - it is not about parenting, and 2 - even on Workplace this would be unanswerable: we cannot say whether trying to get a job in a different area is best. There are too many variables.
    – Rory Alsop
    Aug 21, 2016 at 19:12

2 Answers 2


Even a genius can get stuck by focusing on an unresourceful perspective. Your dad feels great significance from his education; great connection. This is his identity. That's why it's so difficult to move on to something else. He is probably incredibly discouraged because nobody wants what he has to offer. This can cause tremendous uncertainty. To gain more certainty he insists on what he knows because he feels apprehension and fear towards more variety...like taking some job. He has an idea, a plan of how his professional life, which is linked directly to his identity, should be. That's not his reality though. Perhaps it would serve one to think of oneself having long overcome obvious obstacles (like English proficiency). What would things feel like then?
Where would your dad work if he could work anywhere? What would he do? How can your father form a bridge from his reality to the reality he believes in? What "materials" would that bridge be made of? Would Language be a brick? Flexibility? Courage? Communication? Information? Etc.

  • These 5 questions may be of some help:

What do you want? What's all you have to get what you want? What do you need? What are all the ways to get what you need? What are you willing to do? (This is the part that requires movement!) Action. Best to You and your family.


In addition to user23895's excellent answer, I would say that there are limits to what you can do to fix someone else's life. Your father probably feels that your mother is always on at him, and if he sees you doing the same then you will get caught in the same negative cycle of blame and frustration. Your parent's arguments belong to them, not you. Stay out of them.

Also, don't forget to have a life of your own. Don't let your parent's issues drag you down as well. I'm guessing you have been bought up in the Confucian tradition in which children owe a duty of respect for their elders. There is nothing wrong with this, but there is also merit in the Western tradition where parents have a duty to give their children the best possible start in life and not hold them back once they can fly on their own. If your parents will not find a balance between these two then you must find your own.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .