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TL;DR

Dad's unemployment causing a lot of stress on my mum, who works a few part-time jobs and also manages the household. I want to offer help, but now sure how to. I want to know ways to alleviate my mum's stress, ways to make sure my sisters are not affected by the situation, and ways of persuading my dad to start looking for a job.

Details

My dad has been unemployed for almost 7 years. My mum has several small jobs so her income isn't very steady, and she is extremely busy, as she also takes care of family finances and she tries to do the housework - she's very worn out, and I'm worried about her health. Me and my sisters try to help out but we're students and we prioritise our studies. My dad helps too, but he housework isn't really his thing. He doesn't really do much. He doesn't mean to do this, I think, but he doesn't prioritise and doesn't notice that the housework needs to be done, and will only do tasks if we ask him a few times.

When I was still in school, my mum frequently vented to me how frustrated she was with my dad's unemployment, until I asked her not to, as it was hard for me to listen to her talk about my dad like this. I still don't like talking about it, but I feel like I should, as I want to understand how our family's finance is doing, and how I can help. Whenever I bring up fiances or my dad's unemployment or my mum working too much, though, she gets touchy and upset (and this makes me upset as well). My mum told me a couple of times that she's worried about their retirement, and this worries me too, since I'm not sure if I'll have a good enough job to support my parents as well as my sisters.

I plan on supporting my family as much as I can once I get a full-time job, but that won't be for another five, six years, as I'm studying for an undergrad part-time. At the moment, I only have a part time job, and I don't contribute to the family's financial needs. My mum doesn't like it when I offer to contribute to groceries, pay rent etc. My sisters are still in school and do not have jobs, and I know it costs an arm and a leg to raise kids. I want to help my mum, but I don't know what to do. I thought at least talking about it and trying to listen to her would help, but I'm not able to do this calmly, as my dad's unemployment is still a touchy subject and we always end up fighting.

How can I alleviate some of the stress my mum is under, how can I offer her help, and how do I ensure my sisters don't have to worry about this? How can I convince my dad to find a job, when my mum had not been able to do so for so long?

What can I do right now, and what can I think about doing in the future that will help my family?

Sorry about the length of this post, hoping someone has some wisdom.

-Anne, 20

  • Why is your father unemployed ? – user1450877 Jun 22 '17 at 15:30
  • He quit his job when we moved, and he never found another one. He couldn't find a new job in our current place, so he probably lost confidence, and he is in his 50s so he might be finding it hard to go back into the workforce competition wise? I wish I knew, he doesn't like talking about it. – Anne Jun 22 '17 at 15:34
  • I don't see a question in this entire post. What do you want help with? – Becuzz Jun 22 '17 at 16:00
  • I edited the post a bit, hope this makes the question clearer? – Anne Jun 22 '17 at 16:09
  • Much better. Though now I'm personally out of ideas. If your parents won't talk about it, you aren't going to be able to make any headway. You can't address their concerns if you don't know what they are. Your first step is going to be figuring out how to have a calm conversation about it with them. Maybe try finding a time when they aren't stressed, etc. and ask if they are willing to talk about it. If so express your concerns and hopefully they won't just shut you out. Until you can find out more about it, I can't offer any advice as to how to convince your dad to go get a job, etc. – Becuzz Jun 22 '17 at 16:25
4

You have a lot of questions, but the answer to all of them is basically the same: there's nothing you can do about it. It's a hard lesson to learn, but the truth is that you only have control over one person's decisions, feelings, and actions: your own.

You can't convince your father to get a job. He has to decide to get one, and it's unclear what is preventing him from doing so. It might be depression or fear/self-esteem issues, or laziness (sorry), or any number of other things. If government care covers counseling/therapy, and your dad cares enough about his lack of employment and its effect on the family, he can start there. It's possible your mom could suggest this, as it might go over better coming from his partner (but I don't know.)

When I was still in school, my mum frequently vented to me how frustrated she was with my dad's unemployment, until I asked her not to, as it was hard for me to listen to her talk about my dad like this.

You were right to ask your mum to stop doing this. It puts the child in the middle, which is wrong.

Discussing family finances does not need to revolve around your father's (in)actions if you limit the discussion to dollars and cents (or their equivalent). "How much are the average weekly groceries?" doesn't involve anyone directly, and is a fair question to ask if you want to contribute. Whether she will let you contribute is another matter.

There is one thing that you and your siblings can do to help out, and that's housework. You can all pitch in and do the laundry, the cleaning, and the cooking. It's amazing what many hands can do, and you don't even have to involve your parents in much of this. You can just have a sit-down with your siblings and talk about it. Again, you can't force anyone to do anything, but to encourage them, and being an example for them to follow is worthwhile.

What can I do right now, and what can I think about doing in the future that will help my family?

You can stop worrying. It's not meant to be unkind, but please, for everyone's sake, stop worrying about this. It's good of you to want to help your family, but worrying doesn't accomplish anything, and it's not your problem really. It's possible that your worry is upsetting your mum, who likely wants you and your sisters to have as care-free a childhood/adolescence/young adulthood as possible. You can't predict the future*, and everything can change in a moment, so worrying is just an added stress to your life.

Instead of worrying, act where you can act (pick up groceries and make dinner sometimes, do some picking up around the house when you have time, etc.) and to the extent you can comfortably do so. If it upsets your mum to talk about it, try just doing it and see if she can accept that gift from you. Do present it as a gift if you talk about it, not an obligation; that might make it easier for your mum to accept.

Good luck. Your heart is in the right place.

*I came from a very poor family. I had every intention of supporting my family when I started to earn a living. I worried a lot, and it was for nothing. My mom and one of my siblings died before I finished my training, and my dad moved to a part of a country where his pension was more than enough to cover him; my youngest sibling got my mom's death benefits until he was finished with schooling. I sincerely hope things don't go that way for you, but I just wanted to underscore the futility of worrying. Acting - doing wht you can in the present - is much more productive.

  • 1
    Also, doing some housework might be a good way to get your dad to help with that. Instead of just telling him, asking for his help while you're doing it might go over better (or not, you will know this better than us). Actually doing something might help him too. Otherwise, I think anongoodnurse said all there is to say. – user27286 Jun 22 '17 at 17:51

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