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Haleth's avatar

How do you handle family issues and college classes?

Asked by Haleth (18947points) September 24th, 2015
7 responses
“Great Question” (7points)

This summer I enrolled in community college. I’m going back in my late 20s while working 50 hours as a retail manager. Even getting enrolled is the farthest I’ve ever gotten. In previous years, I’ve been burned out at work and given up over really simple things like filing pieces of paperwork on time.

Getting enrolled was like crossing a huge finish line for me. My plan was to take mostly online classes and study on the weekends.

In my first week of class, one of our staff members called out sick on my off day and I had to cover it at the last minute. On my next off day I went to a work function. In the middle of that, I learned that my grandmother was very sick in the hospital. Last weekend I spent that whole night and next day there. That also meant driving an hour to pick up my aunt and bring her to and from the hospital. She is a very kind and caring person, and also an avid back seat driver! My granny is so sick that the family is making funeral plans.

I am already two weeks behind in my classes. I e-mailed one of my professors explaining the situation and her response was two words: “Course code?” I feel like sick grandmother is, like, this stock excuse that people use to get out of anything, and really doesn’t garner much sympathy or understanding. I’ve gotten pushback from my job over trying to take time off to be there.

Without my help, my aunt will not be able to be there. She needs to be helped out of the house, into the car, and to the hospital room, so she can’t just take a cab. My uncle has been making pushy inquiries about the will and he and my aunt have been fighting over that.

This whole situation is running me ragged, and I’m basically a ball of guilt, resentment, exhaustion, and worry. ALSO, I took a class at the college back in like 2009 and didn’t finish it. That means I’m already on academic probation there, and if I don’t pull up my GPA this semester I will lose my student loan.

My granny is going into a high-risk surgery tomorrow, and I have a big assignment due on Saturday. I work both of those days.

Lots of people get through college under these kinds of circumstances. How?

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longgone's avatar

“Lots of people get through college under these kinds of circumstances. How?”

By neglecting something else. The possibilities are limitless, there. They could neglect their health, their children, their pets, their happiness, their friends, the housework, their minds…plenty of people neglect their family and make college their top priority. Nobody does everything well. Your priorities may not simplify your life much, but the right ones never do.

It sounds like you have only just managed to concentrate on yourself. It’s a shame that this achievement is in danger of being put on the back burner yet again, but it is definitely not your fault.

On the specific questions:

1) I’m very sorry about your grandma. Virtual hugs.

2) Does your aunt have the money to hire someone to help? Do you have the money? It may be worth it.

3) Try to ignore your uncle. Keeping out of family drama is a skill, and it needs practice. Repeat to yourself, “Not my circus, not my monkeys”, if you need to.

4) The semester has only just started. There is plenty of time to pull up your GPA. You can concentrate on that later on.

In general: I’ve been in very similar sitations. When family drama and personal goals clashed, it helped me to identify things I could safely neglect or pass on for a while. I might decide to neglect the housework, for example, as well as cooking real meals. I might ask someone to walk the dogs. Once I gave myself permission to do all that, the pressure lessened. Take half an hour and find some tasks you can delegate. It sounds like you’re very caring, there must be people in your life who are willing to take care of you?

In addition, taking frequent little breaks will help make you feel less overwhelmed. I know you think you don’t have the time, but you need to take charge here. This is your time, you only get a limited amount. You’re doing enough, and you need small breaks to function. Will you mourn lack of college degrees when you’re on your deathbed, or will it be time spent being happy? Don’t let it be the latter.

Cruiser's avatar

I would get an appointment with the Dean of your college asap to discuss your situation and schedule. I hit the wall in college as well and it was thanks to my Dean that he saw a path to success I could not due to the stresses and challenges I was trying to dig out from under. He/she may also have some options to offer you may not have yet explored. Good luck with everything and try and stay strong through your grandmas ordeal.

JLeslie's avatar

I’d talk to the Dean or someone in guidance and see what your options are and tell them your concerns. There might be some sort of rule, allowance, or regulation you don’t know about.

FMLA sometimes covers employees in this sort of situation, so you could also look into that and see if you can take a leave of absence from work? Maybe FMLA covers education too? Would you be ok financially if you don’t work a few weeks?

I’m curious, are your parents helping with your grandmother?

I don’t think a sick grandma is some sort of stock excuse. It does sound like you are under more pressure than the typical college student. When your only 18 or 19 people don’t expect you to take on such adult responsibilities like picking up slack for other adults in the family. Will you feel horrible if you paid someone to do some of the caring for your grandma and driving her? I assume you probably don’t have the extra cash, but maybe your aunt does?

Haleth's avatar

@JLeslie I just e-mailed my academic advisor.

I believe FMLA only applies to businesses over a certain size. My store has 6 people on staff. Small businesses aren’t required to offer health insurance either. Currently I’m taking a few hours off tomorrow, which I’ll have to make up at some undefined future time.

My family is small and the sides are no longer connected. My mother and father divorced in the early 90s and she died 10 years later. All this stuff is happening on the maternal side, which is small. It’s me, an estranged uncle, my disabled aunt, and my granny, who is 83. I’m the only one who is able-bodied, has a car, and is willing to help.

A couple months ago I moved an hour away from them, and they found someone to do basic errands and drive my aunt to the doctor. She is retired and on social security, and actually has a smaller income than I do. (And I’m living paycheck to paycheck!) My granny is in a nursing home. This is a fairly extraordinary situation and they’ve been depending me a lot more than usual in the last few weeks. It just sucks, because I’m worried sick over my granny and also worried that this will derail all of my goals.

talljasperman's avatar

When I was depressed in university I asked the local counselor for a note to take time off. I got 3 days plus the weekend off.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Speak to a university counselor. You may be able to apply for special consideration because of your family pressures and the stress it’s causing you. You’ll need evidence to obtain special consideration. Also, you should be able to apply for an extension for upcoming assignments. Make sure you do this before the due date(s), and again, you’ll need some evidence from the counselor or your doctor to support your request. It isn’t you that’s sick, but your doctor (or their doctor) should be able to provide you with supporting evidence.

Don’t feel bad about asking for an extension or special consideration. You’re trying to complete your studies with extreme family pressures. Seek help when you need it. I’ve had people ask for extensions because it’s their wedding anniversary or even their parent’s anniversary. I refused!

Other things I’d check out are whether lectures are recorded. At my university, all lectures are recorded, and there is a real push for flexible/blended delivery. So find out what flexible options your institution offers. If they aren’t offering anything, have you made friends with anyone doing the same classes? Can you get someone else’s notes?

As to your prof’s “Course Code?” While that’s abrupt, and in my opinion rude, they probably get a lot of emails from students without any info about the course they’re discussing. Your professor is probably convening or teaching a number of courses. I know I am.

JLeslie's avatar

When you meet with your advisor have the your grandma’s hospital information available. This way if they want to check your story they can. I feel pretty sure when you talk to them they will see your story is genuine without having to check.

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