I’m 22 years old and a recent college graduate. Unfortunately, with the state the economy is in, I’m having problems finding a job, so I had to take up residence with my parents. While neither my parents or I have a problem with this arrangement, I’m finding some of the things they believe about me to be pretty ouch-worthy, if you will. This has lead to two problems I’m currently having with them.
I like to be open with my parents, so several months ago I told them that I was an atheist. My mom looked at me and said, “But you’re not an atheist.” It really surprised me to hear her say that, and I then found myself having to explain to her that I really am. When she finally believed it, she and my dad both started making fun of my atheism rather loudly in a restaurant. After that, I tried to keep my atheism on the down-low.
I eventually found out that my father identifies as an agnostic, and I thought that maybe I had found a type of ally. Hearing him discuss his own frustrations about something to do with religion, I thought that maybe I could open up again. When I did, my mom seemed genuinely curious about why I’m an atheist, and I tried to best explain how I came to my conclusions. I thought she had accepted, but later I found out that she thinks I’m just going through a phase.
That leads into my first problem — my mother just thinking that I’m going through some sort of phase with atheism. I know that in my mom’s head, I’m still just a child. After all, I’m the youngest. But it frustrates me that she seems to think that I’m incapable of making my own decisions — especially since I’ve held this conclusion for a few years now. And what is perhaps even more frustrating is that my agnostic father seems to take her side on the issue.
And because my non-beliefs aren’t being taken seriously by my parents, I found another problem emerging relating to getting a job.
I went to college to become a teacher. Since I have no money or car, I’m limited in where I can teach for the time being. At one point, I got an interview at a Catholic high school for a temporary position. I have no problem being in a religious environment because I know that I can just not talk about being an atheist, and that doesn’t bother me.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get the job due to a question asked in the interview about whether or not I followed the rules of my church.
I didn’t want to lie, so I said that I don’t belong to a church.
That made my mom rather angry. I understand that she wants me to get a job, but I don’t want to just outright lie. But because she doesn’t really believe that I’m an atheist, or that I won’t remain an atheist, she still thinks that I should’ve lied. That really bothers me.
When I’ve talked to others about it, it’s always been, “Having a job is better than having no job.” I have no problem being quiet about being an atheist, but just lying? At the time it was rather easy to google my name and/or email and see that I’ve been involved with atheist organizations.
So, I just have no idea how to handle my parents thinking I’m just going through a phase and that I should just lie to potential employers about my non-beliefs.
The first problem, not being taken seriously by your parents, is not your problem. It’s theirs.
They probably won’t take you seriously until some time after it no longer matters to you whether they do or not. Focus on your being a grown-up inside yourself, rather than in their eyes.
It’s good that you like to be open with them, and you probably should continue to do so, but when you share things, if it sounds in any way like you’re wanting their approval, that puts you into the role of child and them in the role of parents. When you share of yourself, do it entirely as an adult relating to adults. Share only because that’s what you want to do for yourself, not for any kind of reaction you want from them.
This does not mean to have a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude, or to be cold or aloof. It simply means that you no longer attach your emotional comfort to their impression of you. This detaching also does not mean that you will have to passively accept disrespectful treatment. If they ever start that public ridiculing of you or your atheism again, you’ll need to assertively object and demand in adult tones that they immediately stop.
Even if you are able to consistently be in this adult mode, they might not respond to you as an adult for quite some time, because that is often a difficult and slow transition for parents to make.
Being an adult is about your own opinion of yourself, and living up to that opinion each day. Stay true to your own values, period. Somebody else’s image of you is irrelevant to your adulthood. So treat your parents’ opinion of you as if it’s none of your business.
Your business is to attend to the second problem, which is getting a job. And it looks like to do that, you need wheels.
Your mom wanting you to lie to get a job is beside the point, is not the problem for you to solve. That’s her business. If you don’t want to lie, if you want to be true to that ethic, then that choice means you need to increase your physical range, so you can find a secular school where you won’t be asked about your religious views or practices.
Think creatively and in terms of possibilities. Perhaps just at first you can use a transit system, or commute with a friend to reach more schools, and when you get the teaching job you can commute with a fellow teacher who lives nearby, helping with the cost of gas. Perhaps you can negotiate a loan from your parents for a cheap car, just to get you farther out there to catch that job. Once you do, you can continue living at home for a while and pay them back for the car. Then if you wish, you can move out and have the physical independence to match your inner emotional independence.
Or, if their opinion of you truly no longer matters to you, if you really are emotionally independent, you could also choose, just for the convenience and the company, to continue living with your parents as long as all of you agree, as adults to adults.
Frustrated, I think soon you will rename yourself Fulfilled. Your desire to remain ethical and not to lie while still being discrete suggests to me that you will be a very good teacher. A teacher’s strength of character is at least as important as their academic competence, and perhaps more so, in my view. I wish you good fortune in your hunt for a job and your quest for your inner sovereignty.