Fordham GSAS: Grad. Life: Parental Control

Monday, September 20, 2010

Parental Control

When I get sick, I go home. And when I say home, I mean to my parents’ house. Maybe you’re asking yourself: “Why would she do such a crazy thing?” Well, it’s because I have enough on my plate, what with grad. school and all that, to add taking care of my sick self to the list. And my mom is more than happy to take care of her 23 year old daughter when she’s feeling terrible.

In fact, my parents (but especially my mom) would probably be happier if I came home even more often than I already do. I’ve already gotten three phone calls asking me why I have yet to print out my school schedule for them so they can put it on the fridge.

May I take this opportunity to remind you that I’m in graduate school?

Ok, so I don’t mind it that much. And I have to admit I like that my mom asks to see my final papers when I get them back from my professors at the end of each semester…I know how smart she is, and I like hearing what she thinks of my work (and of the comments). And if my parents weren’t so involved they wouldn’t have helped me pay for my applications to graduate school (which, as you all know, can cost a lot of money).

But a recent article in the New York Times has discovered that this kind of parental involvement may be getting a little out of control, with parents helping with applications (and I don’t mean just financially), calling their children to remind them of exams and due dates, and even showing up at orientations!  (Let’s just say this article made me feel like my parents are totally hands-off.)

I know that, on average, children of all cultural backgrounds are living at home much longer than they used to. And this is due to a lot of different factors, including everything from the financial crisis to the rising average marriage age. And, personally, I don’t see anything wrong with that! But, as the NYTimes article mentions, this level of involvement can become a little risky when it’s applied to something like graduate school, or choosing a career.

If there’s no separation, how do you know if you’re going to a certain school because you chose it, or because your parents did? Or if you even want to go to graduate school at all? And, if parents are going as far as getting involved in their child’s work, how can that child take ownership of their research, or feel confident when it’s time to take their comps, or take their orals, or defend their dissertation, when they know mommy and daddy held their hand every step of the way? And, though the article gives some hints at how to cut (or at least loosen) the oh-so-tight strings, it’s not always easy to say “no” to the people who raised you and may still be financially supporting you.

So what’s a poor grad. student to do?


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