These Hardworking Parents Are Mistaken

By Dr. Robert Wallace

February 14, 2020 5 min read

DR. WALLACE: I'm a 17-year-old girl, soon to be 18, and I have a problem with my parents. I hope you have time to respond to my letter, because I really don't know where to turn next with my unique situation.

Because I started school at an early age, I've already graduated from high school and am now attending a nearby community college. I feel that I am a mature person. I enjoy being independent, and I think that's why I really enjoy going to school.

My parents are both big workaholics. They each have full-time jobs, for which they have to commute more than 40 miles. Both are also vendors at separate swap meets on the weekends, and they recently opened a used clothing store. Ever since they started working at the swap meet and in their own store, they have completely changed. I guess you can say that they are money-hungry.

Needless to say, being the oldest of all of my siblings, I work at their store more hours than I probably should. This has created much havoc in my life. I no longer have any free time for myself. In the future, I'd like to be a primary school teacher or a psychiatrist, but first I'd like to work at a preschool or kindergarten to gain experience and earn some money along the way. I've already determined that my major will be child psychology.

But because I'm working at my parents' store, I don't have time for any other job. And many times, I work there more than eight hours a day without pay on the weekends. They say it's all for the benefit of the family and that I'm just being too selfish. I understand their point of view, but I'd like to acquire all the units needed for my degree, too.

I've had some opportunities to work at a preschool, but I've had to turn them all down. I've even had to arrange my schedule so I can work at the store when no one else could be there. And now my grades are slipping a bit because of this.

Am I being selfish? Do I have any chance of getting control of my time? Please give me any suggestions you might have, because my future plans are really important to me. — Family Business Hostage, via email

FAMILY BUSINESS HOSTAGE: Your parents are making a huge mistake! When a student's grades begin to slip because of employment, it's the employment that must be curtailed. It's nice that your parents are so industrious, but they must not let their ambitions spill over into your life. Please show my answer here to your parents, and ask them to help you by cutting your hours down at their store so you can study and do some work in the field that might lead to a future career.


DR. WALLACE: I'm 15 and the only student in my class that does not have a cellphone! I've been politely asking my parents for a basic phone for over a year. I'm a responsible kid, and I would not do anything harmful with a phone. Their answer is always, "These phones are too expensive!"

When I was younger, I just accepted this answer and did without a phone. But now, I'm almost 16, and soon I will be able to drive. I really feel a basic phone would be a good tool to keep in touch with my family now that I am older and more responsible. I'm willing to work after school or on the weekends to pay for it. A basic cellphone is only a few hundred dollars or so, and I'm pretty sure I can save that up pretty fast.

What do you think? Should I be allowed to work to buy a phone? - Been Doing Without, Fayetteville, Arkansas

BEEN DOING WITHOUT: As long as you are a good student and a responsible teen — and I take your word for this — I do feel you should have a phone at the age of 16.

The world has changed dramatically, and cellphones are now ubiquitous tools that keep families and friends connected with one another. The expenses, however, go beyond just the purchase price of buying a phone. There are monthly connection and usage charges as well.

Talk this over with your parents, and see if they will allow you to buy a phone if you raise the money for both the purchase price and the monthly costs. I trust that with a decent weekend job, you can earn more than enough money to do this.

Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: Pexels at Pixabay

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