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(Question has been modified for space and clarity.)
I’ve been having problems with my mom. I’m a recent college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in music education, and I live at home. I have no savings or income, although next week I’m starting a 9-to-5 minimum-wage job that lasts three months.
Not surprisingly, I have a lot of things to pay for. I have to finish paying for my tuition ($1,700); I need to take certification exams so I can start teaching (about $600); and I need to save up for a car and an apartment (both are expensive).
My mom is demanding I pay $100 a week for rent and $80 a month for my phone, for a total of $480 per month.
At my minimum wage job, I will make somewhere around $1,600 per month, which will not leave me much to pay off my debts, or save for the things I need.
My mom instituted this rent after getting mad at me. Recently, we were in a loud, crowded area, and she asked me for help. But due to my hearing problems, I didn’t realize she was talking to me. She got upset and stormed off to the car. When I got in, she screamed at me and told me I’d have to pay to continue living at home.
She has done this sort of thing in the past. Last year, while I was student teaching, she made me pay $3,000 for rent for four months. I got a refund check from school that semester for $5,000, and she told me she’d take the $3,000 out of that. But I never saw the rest.
At this point, all I can do is cry. I don’t mind paying rent or for my phone, as those are understandable requests. And I want to become the adult my mom wants me to be.
I’m sure I sound like every other millenial, and people will think I’m just complaining. But I honestly feel stuck. I know my mom might be hurting for money, because she isn’t working, but is there any way I can handle this without ruining our relationship? --Hurting for Money; Buffalo, NY
The immediate aftermath of college can be a tough time.
For four(?) years, you’ve lived in a protective bubble, surrounded by peers, following a predetermined path: Take this class, earn that degree.
It’s that straightforward. But the moment that tassel shifts to the left side of your cap, all the structure and safety nets and $1 beer Thursdays go away.
And you’re forced to build your own path.
Here are four ways you can start building yours…
1) Be smart with your money
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the following:
Starting next week, you’ll be making $1,600 a month.
You’ll owe your mom $480 a month.
I understand you have to pay taxes, and you probably have other expenses. And I know this job only lasts a few months.
But that still leaves you with, I don’t know, between $500 and $1,000 per month -- times three -- to do with as you wish.
By the time this job is over, you can potentially have your school debt paid off; or your certification exams covered; or the beginnings of a car down payment or security deposit for an apartment stashed away.
Make the most of your money now, so it becomes less of an issue later.
2) Make more money
Have you considered getting a second (or even third) job?
A few years after college graduation, I quit my corporate gig to pursue my lifelong dream of playing competitive golf.
Because I still had bills to pay, I got a job at a country club (which also gave me practicing privileges), and I learned to wait tables at an Italian restaurant.
I’d pick the driving range in one of those caged carts in the morning, work on my game in the afternoon and sling pasta at night.
It wasn’t ideal, but it allowed me to do what I needed/wanted to do.
And my situation paled in comparison to the thousands who have to handle multiple jobs just to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.
The truth is that most full-time jobs don’t consume your full allotment of time. Nights, weekends -- there are plenty of holes in your schedule that could be spent earning extra cash.
I’m not advocating working yourself silly or devaluing the importance of having a social life.
But getting where you want to go requires sacrifice, and you’re capable of doing more than you think you are.
You just have to be willing to do it.
3) Take a breath
When I graduated college, I was in such a rush.
I was in a rush to get a job, and a girlfriend, and the life I believed I was supposed to have. Everyone else was doing it, and I fell in line behind them.
And now I look back at those times with regret.
I wish I had experimented more and taken more risks. Doing so not only would’ve helped me make memories, it would’ve exposed me to new worlds and experiences beyond my insulated bubble.
That’s what this time in your life is for.
And this is where that second job comes in.
You want to be a music teacher, and based on the determination expressed in your submission, you will eventually be one.
But you can’t be one right now.
So why not take this opportunity to dabble in something different?
That could be, say, working at a hospital, or borrowing your mom’s car to be an Uber driver.
I’m partial to it, but you’d be hardpressed to find anything more beneficial than being a waiter.
In addition to offering decent money and a flexible schedule, waiting tables requires you to balance multiple responsibilities in a stressful environment while tending to a rotating cast of demanding bosses.
Kind of like being a teacher does.
4) Be honest
You mentioned that you were worried about sounding like a millenial, like a snowflake who wants everything given to him.
But you don’t sound that way to me.
My impression is that, on the whole, you’re a reasonable person in a difficult spot. And you want to figure out how to best improve your situation.
That said, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little suspicious of your version of events.
Lashing out at your hearing-impaired kid for not hearing you? Withholding -- if not outright stealing -- $2,000 from him?
This is not normal. And if it’s true, your mom needs professional help.
But if there’s more to the story, if you’ve played a bigger role in causing these disputes than you’ve let on, stop the charade and take responsibility for your role.
Everybody screws up, but it’s the adult who owns his actions.
I don’t know what the truth is; there are only two people who do. Which is why I leave you with this question:
If I were to ask your mother what has strained your relationship, what would she say?
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This originally appeared on the Good Men Project.