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Friday 18 January 2019

Dear Mary: Our student daughter isn't pulling her weight at college - or at home

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Mary O’Conor

My daughter is in second year at college. She failed first year due to a lot of anxiety and depression. She is an only child and quite spoiled by parents and grandparents alike.

She repeated first year then went on to second year. She didn't do one of the exams and got a cert from her doctor which was supposed to cover her but the lecturer disagreed and she has now failed that semester.

She was due to go on work placement this term and we were hoping she would get something paid so she could contribute to the cost of her going to college. She has no part-time job and doesn't want to get one unless it's something she likes.

Both my husband and I work full-time and we regularly see young people coming in for interviews and working their way through college.

When my daughter is in college we are giving her the food and her grandparents give her hundreds into her hand every month, which is a lot for a college student.

Now she is at home with no placement and no part-time job.

Her friends work full-time in the equestrian industry which is what she is really interested in and good at.

In fact, she has spent her whole childhood around horses and attending races and in making good contacts. She spoke to someone in charge where her friend works about getting work but nothing has come of this.

Any time we try to bring it up there is an argument. The easiest option is just say nothing but that isn't fair on us because we are paying all the bills, and any time I mention it I get "if you hold that over me I will leave and not come back".

There are times I wish she would just go. I feel so inadequate that I can't deal with this as a parent.

My daughter does tend to argue with my husband more than me and has come to expect me to defend her but I won't do that any more, I won't take his side or hers.

When I come home from work she is "I'm starving, what's for dinner?" or I get texts at work asking me to get stuff from the shop on the way home, which, most of the time, I don't do because I don't have money as all our monies go on the bills, including her college.

She didn't want for anything growing up, although she thinks she was hard done by.

The reality is we never missed parent-teacher meetings, birthday parties, drives to discos and back or trips to friend's houses. This is still going on because she has no licence.

Mary replies:  It must be difficult for you as parents because your daughter is not showing any appreciation for the sacrifices you have made on her behalf. I realise it must be difficult for your daughter also and being at home all day must add to her depression.

However, while she lives in your house as a young adult she needs to respect you both, and if she cannot contribute to her own upkeep by part-time work then she should contribute to the upkeep of the home by, for instance, preparing meals and doing some housework.

Perhaps she has no idea of the family finances - lots of us didn't when we were her age - so why not draw up a realistic statement of how things are? Show her your income and outgoings for every month to let her see how tight things really are. Then ask what she is prepared to do to help.

Realistically, she cannot leave as she would be unable to support herself and she must know this, so she is just trying to stop you from asking her about a job by threatening to leave home.

I hope that whatever she is doing in college is connected in some way to working with animals. Otherwise she will have very little incentive to study as this seems to be her true passion.

Is she happy with her course? It's important that she is.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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