Help! My Parents Don’t Understand What I do

Parents. At their best, they’re supportive; at their worst, they keep nagging you about getting a “real” job. Because I currently freelance and mostly work from home, my parents think I’m not really doing anything. They imagine I spend my days applying to 100 jobs online until I hear from someone. This, of course, is not true, but I don’t blame them for thinking that way.

To this day, many employers struggle with trusting their team to work from home. We are living through changes in the workplace and a shift in career perception, but the older generations aren’t catching up fast enough – if they ever will.

Related: Your Dreams Don’t Have to Make Sense to Anyone

If like me, you’ve had to explain what you do to your parents a million times and they still don’t get it, you know how frustrating that can be. You probably had these reactions on many occasions:


Also me

After a while you wonder how many interrogations you can endure before giving up on them completely. What you need to understand first and foremost is this: It’s not their fault. They want to be there for you, but they don’t know how. Even then, the nagging can become downright unbearable. You want to keep doing your thing without shutting them out, but at the same time, you can’t let their expectations distract you.

I hear ya. I’m still going through it, and here’s how I’m dealing with it so far:

Explain your end goal

Any experience can bring you closer to your dreams if you can recognize their value. It’s easier to understand the hustle from this perspective. When it comes to creative fields (or any other fields really), there isn’t a linear path to success. Some people know what they’re meant to do straight out of their mother’s womb while others find their calling later in life. Most millennials experiment with a few gigs before finding what they love. There is no right or wrong way, long as you stay true to yourself. If you can make your parents understand that, they’ll be less likely to question your moves.

Document your wins

I know my parents worry that I’ll end up broke if I don’t have a traditional job, so it’s really important for me to show them that having a 9 to 5 isn’t the only way to make money or be successful. You’ll eventually find out that their biggest concern when it comes to career matters is your financial health. Meaning, it doesn’t matter how you make your money, as long as you can support yourself. Obviously, if you earn an honest living within legal norms.

So, be sure to share every milestone. You got a mention on a major magazine or landed a high-paying client? Let them know! Secured a deal with the very company they’d want you to work for? Even better! Include them in the process as much as possible so that they can see your progress. It will make them trust you more.

Keep calm and carry on

So what you have to tell them a few times before they get it? A mentality is like a habit of thinking and old habits die hard. Be patient enough to explain the generational gap and the new career discourse. If that doesn’t work, show rather than tell them what you’re doing. Maybe a logo you designed or a piece you wrote will do? No job is so abstract that you won’t have anything concrete to present. Even a virtual assistant can point to a project they’ve worked on.

At the end of the day, your parents just want the best for you! They might not agree with your choices, but you don’t have to exclude them from your growth process. The pursuit of your dreams can be a learning experience for all of you.

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