176

To preface my question, I am an Irish 21 year old male currently on a college work placement. I work Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM - 5:00 PM as an RPA developer and Business Analyst.

I commute by my car approximately 40 minutes each way so this adds another hour and 20 minutes to my working day. I also tend bar locally Friday night and Saturday night from 8 PM to 3 or 4 AM every week.

I live at home for the summer until the college year starts again in 3 months.

My issue stems when I arrive home in the evenings from work and go to my bedroom for an hour nap everyday to recharge and be productive for the night. When I get up from my nap and talk to my parents for the first time for the day I generally get a comment along the lines of

Oh yeah, here he is again after sleeping at 5 in the evening, tired from sitting in front of a computer typing nothing all day.

This is always a sarcastic comment followed by a chore (cleaning my room, cutting the lawn, taking the dog for a walk) that is given to my as I have "Done nothing all day and it would be good for me".

My issue here is not how can I get my parents to stop giving me chores (I am perfectly okay with the chores) but more to get the negative comments to stop.

I have tried bringing it up that just because they don't understand my job doesn't mean that I do nothing, or the fact that I am sitting down all day working on a computer as it is extremely mentally draining.

I have also tried showing them projects I work on but I am always dismissed with the response

But it's easy for you to do computer things because you're good at them.

How can I convey to them that my IT job is mentally draining and that I am not in fact doing nothing all day in a way that they won't just casually dismiss it and continue with the negative comments?

More information:

  1. My mother is a stay-at-home parent and my father is a goods delivery man (drives a van delivering yogurts and ham to shops). My parents and I are generally very stubborn about things in general and because of this I'm not sure of how to be blunt without coming across as aggressive as well.

  2. I currently train three days a week playing football at 1 hr 30 mins each time with a 90 min match at the weekend, so physical exercise is not an issue at this point.

  3. Moving out of home is not an option at this point as the money I am earning is all going towards paying for my college fees for my final year.

  • 3
    Could their behaviour of belittling your work and your need to rest be a quirky way of asking you for more support? As in I wish he wouldn't sleep an hour in the afternoon, but do more chores, since I/we can't manage them all (anymore) – Arsak Jun 24 '18 at 23:40
  • @Marzipanherz I wouldn't think so, I have the same chores to do every week and always get them done. It's just the negative comments have gotten to me lately – Fitzy Jun 25 '18 at 7:27
  • 7
    Welcome to Interpersonal Skills! Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. – Tinkeringbell Jun 26 '18 at 17:08
  • @Fitzy Do you have any updates about your situation? Did you try any of the techniques from the answers? Did they work? – Radu Murzea Sep 5 '18 at 9:31

12 Answers 12

151

I think I would meet this head-on. Thinking is tiring and both your parents know this because they do it. Something like:

Nothing? When Dad is driving, he is sat in the van, but he's not doing nothing, is he? He's watching the road, for other drivers, pedestrians, eejits coming out in front of him, maybe people asking him stuff over the radio, planning the best way to get somewhere if there's traffic, there's a lot of thinking. And he'll tell you that's hard work, because it is. And yourself, don't you have to decide every day what to cook, should you pop to the shops, do we have enough butter, should you get a load of washing on now or later, a lot of decisions to be made all the time. [Ideally you could also add in here something about a relative or friend of hers that you know is mentally draining: And then Aunt Cecily calls and you have to talk to her for an hour listening to her problems when you have plenty of your own things to take care of.] You know that can wear you out some days more than doing something physical. That's how it is for me - I have to make a lot of decisions, answer a lot of questions, react to things that are happening.

Then smile because you enjoy your job, you're not complaining, and you're good at it too.

So after all that thinking, something physical is a nice change. I'm happy to mow the lawn or walk the dog, stretch my legs a little, it will be good for all of us. Just please don't call my work doing nothing. It's hard in its own way.

It's possible that your parents are being less critical than you think. If you can substitute "nothing physical" or "only thinking" when they say "nothing" the suggestions to move around a little can be seen as suggesting you vary your activities rather than implying you are paid to relax. But you can address the "my work is hard" part nonetheless.

Of course, they may dismiss what you say. But you're not just saying "I don't do nothing!" you're explaining (in some detail, and using analogies to things they know to be true) why the thinking part of your job can be tiring. As well, you're flattering them a little and assuring them that you also think they have hard work to do all day - you are not trying to claim that you work harder than them and somehow "deserve" a nap that they do not deserve. You stay positive, you focus on what you're happy about, you explain your job a little but not in wildly technical terms or showing off at all. That should go some way to keeping things nice and not starting a fight or an argument over who has a hard job and who does not. How are they going to argue with this? "Your father's job is not hard at all, how dare you!" or "You speak politely to your mother, she doesn't have a lot of thinking to do, she relaxes all day!" I don't think so. Even the simple phrasing "in its own way" means that it's harder for them to argue that it's not hard just because it's not exactly the same as something else that is hard.

62

I work in IT myself - UK-based - and for the first few months out of university, was still living with the parents (who are tech-savvy, just not to the same extent as you or I).

There may be reluctance to talk at length about what you get up to in the working day because your parents and others may not understand it. In these circumstances, parents may do one of two things; either fill in the blanks with their own imaginations, or conclude that nothing was done at all. Find a way to talk to them about what you are doing each day (with minimal jargon), including anything particularly troublesome or complicated. This will help them realise that you are indeed keeping yourself busy, and therefore why you need time to recharge when getting home.

This happened especially with relatives from a non-management background, or those whose jobs involved a lot of manual labour; it can be hard for some to comprehend that a job can be mentally tiring as well as physically. It can be important to make your parents aware that this is a result of you being good at your job; you have responsibilities, you are trusted to handle critical situations, a team's success or failure can be influenced by how on-the-ball you are. In a calm way, give them the facts about your day. Help them see for themselves why you need your time to recover.

It may help, if you don't already do so, offer to pay dig money or offer alternative contributions to the household. It might dissuade your parents from demanding more from you in terms of everyday chores.

If the sarcastic responses continue, you may have to be firm and tell them of how this is an important step in your career and you need support, not jokes. You can make mention of the aforementioned suggestions too. Hope it helps!

40

You're not alone in this. Unfortunately, people who don't work in technology will never fully understand what you do and conflicts like this will happen. I had major issues which parents-in-law coming to stay while I was working from home. I quite literally could not hear the person on the other end of the phone for all the noise they made, then they had a big row about me choosing to go work outside the house when they visited.

Some things that I learned from that experience:

  • A major factor for them was feeling ignorant about what I was doing. They have always done manual-ish jobs and felt defensive/threatened by me doing a job like that and the possibility that I might be looking down on them. I wasn't, but it added fuel to the fire. Bearing this in mind, though, allowed me to be more philosophical about things they said/did similar to your parents.
  • Some analogies did help. I liken programming to spending all day talking to the most pedantic idiot you've ever met. You have to explain EVERY LITTLE THING. It's exhausting in the same way that looking after a toddler all day is exhausting.
  • Being careful about language helps to deal with them feeling threatened. Better to say "I find my work very tiring" than "My work is very tiring" because the second version they may complete as "My work is [more important and difficult than your work and] very tiring"
  • Time helps. We don't have the same problems any more. Not so much through any dramatic change of approach, more through a slow growth in understanding

Also, I'd agree with the comment that you're working too much. If at all possible, reducing hours would make you better at your main job and better at dealing with the whole thing.

21

I find that a simple comparison helps because it gives people a reference to start from, they need to 'reset' their frame of reference (which currently is "just sitting and typing some stuff", which isn't the hard part).

You need to find some example they can relate to. I don't know how it's called in English (or even if Ireland has something similar), but this often works well for me:

Do you remember those weeks at school where you didn't have classes but had a few tests per day? Where you had to use your head quite a lot to prepare for those tests? Well, that the intensity I use full time at my job.

5

I think what is likely to be help is to establish a more open channel of communication with your parents.

As someone who struggles with the same thing with my parents, actually in an extremely similar circumstance as yourself, I've found that talking about discrete details from my day helps my parents to build a better mental picture of what I've been doing. Saying things like "I wrote an impressive algorithm today that will save x amount of time" or "Man, I had this logical problem I just couldn't solve" might tip the scales of understanding towards them.

Now, in my experience with a similar workload to yourself (albeit in America where this is to be expected of a college student), I find it hard to even find time to talk to my parents. I don't mean to assume, but this may be part of your problem as well. I would suggest taking steps to reduce your strain; part of the problem here stems from the strain and toll that your work is taking on you, which is going to make you feel more irritable with more innocuous things.

You said you work at a bar; I don't by any means mean to call the job more "casual", but typically service jobs like this in America tend to be more lenient with their part-time workers. Is there any way for you to take a leave of absence from that job in order to focus more on your new IT one? This might help alleviate some of that strain and allow you to be more productive, and free you some more time to spend with your parents and establish that line of communication.

I understand you say that you are happy with the amount of hours you're working and that you can handle it, but please do consider that giving yourself more time to rest, recuperate, and focus will have great effects on your mental health and productivity. Something I struggle to come to terms with myself!

  • 1
    As I live in a relatively small town (population around 5000) there is not an abundance of people to work in bars and there is only 3 people employed here (other than the owner) for the 7 days and I do really enjoy it and don't want to leave them shorthanded for so long so unfortunately leaving isn't really an option. Thanks for the answer! – Fitzy Jun 22 '18 at 12:59
12

I suspect that even though it may be true that they don't understand the difficulty of what you do, that isn't the problem. It's what they see and don't see about you.

The only time they get to see you is before you go to work and when you get back. So they see you wake up, and the next time they see you, you're going back to bed. In between, you're doing what you enjoy.

Those who do housework all day can be touchy when the spouse comes home and asks "I've been earning a living … what have you been doing all day?" It's the same problem - the one who does work that others don't see experiences stress and tiredness, but the source of that stress and tiredness isn't visible, so people tend to dismiss it, to the annoyance of the one who's tired and stressed.

The complicating factor is that they believe (correctly, it seems) that you enjoy your work. It should be like going on holidays! Unfortunately, it means that "Why don't we switch jobs for a day?" doesn't work here.

There are two underlying issues to consider:

  1. There's a possibility that there's no malice behind the ribbing they're giving you. It just annoys you. You can point that out in like fashion:

    Yeah, my work is real easy - almost as easy as housework/driving.

    I don't recommend this, though. It has the potential to backfire and strain the relationship from the other end. It's probably more productive to change your own perception:

    Haha! Brain work is still tiring, you know!

  2. They really think you're doing nothing, and the sleep-disappear-sleep pattern annoys them.

    You can address some of the misunderstanding by pointing to public perception:

    You know how programmers are always shown as needing coffee/caffeine, right? It's not because they're lazy. It's because, like truck drivers, they have to concentrate on what they're doing. And that makes us tired after a while.

In relation to physical activity, your parents might also be concerned about your level of fitness, or perhaps about family interaction. You can address this by suggesting a joint activity:

After my nap, how would you like to come with me for a walk? Something funny happened at the office today, and I'd like to hear your thoughts on that.

4

I've done desk jobs all my life, including 17 years in IT. My parents never understood what I do either, yet they are understanding. My father, despite being a manual worker, encouraged me to go into IT because it was an emerging field and he didn't want me to work as hard as he had to.

So there isn't necessarily a direct link between your parents not understanding your work, and not understanding why it is tiring. And that is probably a good thing, because you'll likely never get them to understand IT.

Rather than try to show them how a mentally draining job can leave you too tired for mowing the lawn, try to flip it around, and show them that too much manual work will leave you too tired to concentrate on your job!

Perhaps say something like:

You may not believe me when I say my job is tiring, but it is. And after I mowed the lawn for you last night and did my night time job I could barely concentrate during the day. Do you want me to lose my job because I'm too tired to think straight?

Obviously, I'm not encouraging you to dodge chores. Because when you get your own place you'll have a lot more to do after work than just mow the lawn and tidy one room. But if your parents are heaping unreasonable chores on you because they think some fresh air / hard manual work will do you good after work, then this may be the way to go.

Our generation may never have to physically work as hard as our parents / grandparents did. That's progress for you. But our generation also has more reported cases of stress, anxiety, burnout, depression and chronic fatigue disorders too. Older folk who tell us we have it easy often forget this, that is if they even believe all those things are real.

Don't use the information in that last paragraph to guilt your parents into leaving you alone, but you could use it as the basis for a frank discussion with them. Otherwise, just try to work out this problem from within yourself - remind yourself that you don't want to fall to anxiety and burnout, so don't let your parents or anybody else stress you out.

  • 2
    Thanks for the answer, however I feel you focused heavily me being given chores as the issue. The issue is the negative comments that go hand in hand with the delegation of the work. Thanks again though! – Fitzy Jun 22 '18 at 14:18
  • @Fitzy I could bulk the answer out further but I don't want to get into tl;dr territory. In the final two paragraphs of my answer I suggest a discussion with them about the ill effects of stress caused by modern working. This was to address the matter of them failing to understand. However this is a sensitive discussion and you may still face the hurdle of them taking the issues seriously. Also, the currently most popular answers here seem to focus on teaching IT to your parents. That isn't what your question is about either. – Astralbee Jun 22 '18 at 14:33
5

Personal Background

I currently have 3 jobs that I work which take up a lot of time from my week. I occasionally have the same problem as you with my parents and friends not understanding how I could be so tired.

My jobs are:

  1. Full time (40 hrs/wk) customer service job at a parts depot with a 1hr commute each way.
  2. Part time (Approx. 14-18 hrs/wk) at a fast food restaurant in a hot kitchen that regularly gets to around 40 degrees Celsius (the AC is broken at the place, it's getting fixed).
  3. Streaming (Approx. 12 hrs/wk) after work on Mon, Wed, Fri and the weekends (This isn't technically a job but I am taking it seriously and I stick to my schedule religiously).

I'm fine with this amount of work, but I do prefer to stay inside when I get home and not do much besides this. My parents complain that I need to go outside more to be more active, and I do agree, however when I get home from either of the jobs I am usually really tired from all the driving or standing. My friends will ask me to go out, and I've been declining their offers more often as of late, which usually leads to resentment from them telling me to ease up and not work so much.

Solutions

These solutions might or might not work for you or anyone else facing this issue. Take these with a grain of salt and adapt them to your situation.

  1. Detail how many hours you work and how this amount of work can be draining, even if it is "easy".

The sheer amount of hours could be enough to convince some people that you have a right to be tired. When my mother said "working at a desk is easier than working with kids (shes an elementary school teacher with a degree in geography, which is important)", I would ask her if she would be able to study maps, or listen to her favorite song for 8 hours a day. When she responded with "no" I related it to 8 hours of working in customer service. I like doing it, but anything for 8 hours a day can become tiring.

  1. Go over the work you have to do at your job.

This is my personal favorite and I use it whenever someone says that streaming "can't possibly be hard" and "isn't as demanding as real work".

Streaming requires you to not only play a game at the best of your ability, but to keep people entertained while doing so. I always need to find something to talk about and respond to conversations in the chat, while also doing something that requires very good dexterity and hand-eye coordination. (I play a fast paced fighting game.)

If they don't believe me after that, I encourage them to stop in during the week and watch me play. Sometimes people need to really see what you're doing in order to understand how it could be considered "tough" or "demanding". In your case, you could sit down with your parents and work through a simpler algorithm with them. If they get overwhelmed by the simpler one, remind them that you have to go through even harder ones at your work.

The "easy" part of the programming, in my opinion, is the actual writing of the code, while the hard part would be figuring out what you need to do in order to make that code to work correctly.

5

Such answers are always very dependent on the personality of the parent. However, one of your quotes suggested to me something that might be done.

But it's easy for you to do computer things because you're good at them.

There's a famous Albert Einstein quote: "Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater." Jobs have a tendency to fill whatever talent you have. If you're good at IT, the IT problems you tackle are harder.

It also reminds me of a quote about Tiger Woods. Sadly I heard it third hand, so hopefully it is accurate. Tiger had completed a very nice chip, and that won him the tournament. The news casters apparently downplayed the shot, saying that's the kind of thing you expect from a master. Tiger pointed out to them that that was actually a very difficult shot for him, and that he practiced it regularly, trying to get better. Now whether I rendered that scene correctly or not, it's the sort of event that reminds us that even when we are good at something, there's always one aspect of it that's tough. That aspect takes work.

On the other hand, if your father does humor: XKCD 722

  • 1
    This looks like a good start to an answer, but here on IPS we need answers to be backed up so that we can see that your answer has been tried, and what effect it has made on the situation. Can you tell us if you have used this method before and if it worked, and how? – ElizB Jul 1 at 18:29
2

It's odd that nobody has said this yet, but:

You are now an adult. Living with your parents aside, you don't need their approval in everything you do.

You know you work hard, and if anything your father may be jealous that you have a line into a better career than he ever did. Do you make more money than him, per hour, without even a college degree? While living with them? This might fuel a little jealousy. Just be understanding of the situation and do your best to be polite about all of it. Your parents have worked hard to give you the basis to do better than they did, so appreciate it.

Elaborating on this with personal experience: When I dropped out of college to become a software developer at 20, my starting salary was higher than my Mother's; she had a new law degree and strong accounting background. People in IT tend to have high values early that can asymptotically drift toward a normal for their age and education, especially in the current economic climate where they're slightly (possibly drastically) overvalued.

My grandfather was a farmer and dentist. He wondered at me in my twenties that a young man six inches taller than him spent his time typing for a living.

So my advice breaks into two pieces.

  1. Be an adult, and take responsibility for your choices and needs. If you need sleep, sleep and be okay with your family teasing you about it. You may be self conscious about making the right decisions here, because they don't really understand them, but sleep management will serve you well for the rest of your life.

  2. Remember that you're lucky to have them helping you get a step up in life, and don't be a jerk about it.

I've been downvoted, apparently for not having specific language to use, but your attitude about dealing with them will be far more important than anything specific you can say. Remember that your parents are people, too, and you may look lazy and overpaid to them for decades to come.

In fact, if you work hard you probably will.

  • 4
    Hi Dylan, and welcome to Interpersonal Skills. As it is, your answer doesn't really answer the question of 'how to convey that my job is mentally draining', except maybe for the part 'do your best to be polite about all of it'. Could you perhaps elaborate on that part, and actually teach Fitzy how to do so when explaining the mental drain of their job? Also, please note that answers on IPS are preferably backed up with either references or personal experience. So, if you could also elaborate on that, that'd be great! – Tinkeringbell Jun 24 '18 at 10:31
0

Bring-your-parent-to-work Day

How can I convey to them that my IT job is mentally draining

Show them.

Take either or both of them with you to work. Explain that you like them to see what their son/daughter actually does.

  • They do it on the condition they stay with you focused, not knitting/reading/etc.
  • You do it on the condition that you remain calm, positive, and patiently explain the technicalities of the work at hand, inventing some metaphors & similes to communicate well. No bragging, no criticizing, just sharing.

Explain to them step-by-step what you are working on. When their attention wanders, bring them back to focus. If you have any meetings, see if they can tag along to silently observe.

Most IT sites I've known would likely tolerate such a visit, with some workmates that would likely get a kick out of it. I've met a few co-workers’ parents on office visits, though usually shorter and more casual visits than I suggest here. Many places have a formal bring-your-kid-to-work day. Turnabout is fair play.

Of course, your folks won’t make it to lunch break. Probably by 10 AM they’ll be high-tailing it out of there. Then, that evening at home, have a conversation about what they saw. Explain how mentally demanding your work is, how much focus is needed. Then request that they cease the jokes and remarks about your easy life. Make a deal: If no more remarks from them, then no more visits with you.

  • Have you ever actually done this? Seems plausible, but some backup/support would take this from sounding good to being good. – apaul Jun 26 '18 at 5:25
  • @apaul I added some verbiage on that point. Yes, I've met quite a few co-workers’ parents over the years. But the visits were shorter and more casual than what I suggest here. What I suggest here is more akin to the bring-your-kid events where parents do make some attempt to explain the goings-on of the workplace and business. – Basil Bourque Jun 26 '18 at 5:56
  • I cannot imagine how this would work in reality. I like taking my kids to work, because they're adorable and funny, and my work colleagues get a kick out of the cute kid things they do/say etc. My parents aren't exactly cute and adorable, or fun people to introduce to my friends. Surely I'm not alone in this. – user1751825 Jun 29 '18 at 5:27
  • @user1751825 But cute and adorable kids are far more distracting than a parent sitting quietly at a desk. Not much difference between a visiting parent seeing your work and a visitor from another department reviewing some issues with you at your desk. – Basil Bourque Jun 29 '18 at 6:00
0

Disclaimer: This is from my personal experience dealing with field installers who spent all days driving around in traffic to reach worksites, where they often worked outdoors.

Frame it a little bit differently, focusing on the interpersonal side of the job.

Sit in a chair all day? I wish. I spend half my day working with difficult people. They want things that are impossible, or that won't work. They pretend problems are easier than they are. I spend half my day convincing them otherwise, and it is exhausting because they are just difficult. Coding is a respite but I get to do too little of it. I need a break from dealing with people.

Now this is something they can relate to.

As for chores, chores are not a surprise. If you need to be asked everytime, then it is you who are being difficult, and in that case you are the author of the interpersonal stress. If their complaint about your "do-nothing" job is part of their request for you to do chores, then what's really going on is them expressing their frustration over the above fact.

protected by apaul Jun 26 '18 at 5:11

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