Dear Dr. Wallace:

I’m a 17-year-old girl, soon to be 18, and I have a problem with my parents. I hope you have time to respond to my letter, because I really don’t know where to turn next with my unique situation.

Because I started school at an early age, I’ve already graduated from high school and am now attending a nearby community college. I feel that I am a mature person. I enjoy being independent, and I think that’s why I really enjoy going to school.

My parents are both big workaholics. They each have full-time jobs, for which they have to commute more than 40 miles. Both are also vendors at separate swap meets on the weekends, and they recently opened a used clothing store. Ever since they started working at the swap meet and in their own store, they have completely changed. I guess you can say that they are money-hungry.

Needless to say, being the oldest of all of my siblings, I work at their store more hours than I probably should. This has created much havoc in my life. I no longer have any free time for myself. In the future, I’d like to be a primary school teacher or a psychiatrist, but first I’d like to work at a preschool or kindergarten to gain experience and earn some money along the way. I’ve already determined that my major will be child


But because I’m working at my parents’ store, I don’t have time for any other job. And many times, I work there more than eight hours a day without pay on the weekends. They say it’s all for the benefit of the family and that I’m just being too selfish. I understand their point of view, but I’d like to acquire all the units needed for my degree, too.

I’ve had some opportunities to work at a preschool, but I’ve had to turn them all down. I’ve even had to arrange my schedule so I can work at the store when no one else could be there. And now my grades are slipping a bit because of this.

Am I being selfish? Do I have any chance of getting control of my time? Please give me any suggestions you might have, because my future plans are really important to me.

— Family Business Hostage, via email

Dear Family Business Hostage: Your parents are making a huge mistake! When a student’s grades begin to slip because of employment, it’s the employment that must be curtailed. It’s nice that your parents are so industrious, but they must not let their ambitions spill over into your life.

Please show my answer here to your parents, and ask them to help you by cutting your hours down at their store so you can study and do some work in the field that might lead to a future career.

Write to Dr. Wallace at