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Kids, Divorce, Good Parenting, and Summer Jobs

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I have one kid who is a sr. in college who has never had a summer job. (1 internship two years ago) My other child has worked all through high school and continues to earn money to buy the things they want.

What Is Good Parenting?

Should all kids have summer jobs? Should all kids have chores around the house? Should all kids be held to the same standard (within reason) as their siblings? Should divorce rupture the parenting balance?

I was voted off the parenting participation a few years after the divorce. My ex-wife got the custodial parent role, and what I came to learn meant she didn’t have to cooperate with me at all. Ever. Sure, I could sue her in family court if I thought she wasn’t adhering to the parenting plan. But that wasn’t going to happen and she knew it. So, she just stopped. She got married a few years back, and what could’ve been a win for all of us, has veered into even more anger, more vindictiveness, and less (you guessed it) co-parenting.

It’s been a hairy summer. The non-working child has been staying with their mom and her husband. Since June they demanded that he get a summer job. He didn’t. They set deadlines and he blew them off. They challenged him. They yelled. And he did some motions that looked like job hunting, but he had zero intention of actually getting a job at Starbucks, or a fancy grocery store, or anything not related to his major, computer science.

The confusing part, however, is why they (his defacto parents) have never before pressured him to get a job. A summer job. I didn’t bow out of the parenting role, but my authority ranks at zero. So, why is this summer so different? Last summer he did bunk, traveled to Eastern Europe with his high school girlfriend, and did bunk again when he returned. No job. No problem. Meanwhile, my daughter came home and worked for a family doing kid care and pickups for good money for the entire summer. Why was my son not challenged to WORK?

Boundaries & Consequences

Regardless of every summer before this one, my son has been left to explore his own entertainment during the summer. This summer, my ex-wife and her husband appeared to be getting firm on this requirement: a summer job.

Today is August 7th. My son will return to college in a week. He has still never had a summer job. Even as his mom demanded that he be “out of the house” during the day, at a job, he failed to take it seriously. He “looked” for a job by calling Starbucks and asking to talk to the manager. WHAT? That’s not how you get a job at Starbucks. You GO to Starbucks, meet the manger, and fill out an application. When confronted by his mom about his spreadsheet of Starbucks applications, he literally recorded himself CALLING STARBUCKS and asking to speak with the manager. To prove his effort.

Oh, and his cell phone doesn’t have voicemail set up. So, if some Starbucks manager got the wild hair to call him back, they could not leave a message. I’ve asked him to set up his voicemail for the entire summer. He claims there is some technical reason he can’t. He’s on ATT. I just switched to ATT and set up my voicemail in 2 minutes.

I Will Always Support You

I am angry with my son for his actions and inactions. I’m also angry at my ex-wife and her husband for their lack of leadership and guidance. For years now, I have been marginalized as a parent. They have the main leverage and controls and they have failed to guide my son in any constructive way. Blasting and demanding your kid get a summer job and then not following through with any consequence, is a failure of parenting. Kids need summer jobs. Kids need to understand the effort required to buy those fancy shoes. My son doesn’t have a clue. I’m guessing he doesn’t know how much his car insurance costs.

I am still my son’s father.

A month ago, in early July, I gave my son a job. Partially to fulfill the demand from his mom to “get a job.” I also looked forward to the opportunity to spend more time with my son. (Last summer, for example, I saw him TWICE.) And I hoped that my efforts would make a difference. I set my son up for success as best I could. I even had a set of projects that would use his significant knowledge in computer science and all things internet.

It didn’t go well.

In the month that followed, including today, my son has delivered ONE of the 20 projects we discussed and documented. We have a Slack channel, and we’ve got a Google Sheet that contains all the ideas, all the projects, and all the expectations of his work. And… Just like his Starbucks efforts, my son has put up smoke and mirror claims of his work. He didn’t complete anything after a single PowerPoint reformatting.

The part that is so difficult to swallow, is this business work, that I was putting together for him, COULD provide him with 2k to 4k per month, while he goes back to college. And he’s giving me the message that he couldn’t care less. His thoughts are scattered. His sleep schedule is nonexistent. And he rolls on toward the end of the summer. With no summer job. I too, have failed my son.

And when he texted me an hour ago about wanting to come stay at my house for a few nights, I understood this to mean, he was frustrated with his mom and her husband. It wasn’t so he could present the work he completed.

As his father, I am saying yes. As his father, I am taking my focus off his job. I am more interested in getting my son’s sleep schedule and mental health in better condition over the next week. I have always been in support of my son. I have taken on his mom and her husband about the issues concerning his health. And, as usual, I have been shut out by them as well.

Tonight, provided he actually comes over, I’m going to demand he set up his voicemail. We’re going to do it together.

A moment of levity: A few weeks ago, while my son was staying with me he was in the kitchen with me and asked, “Do you have something against doing the dishes?” More than half of the dishes and mess were his. Doing his own dishes, or “the dishes” was not in his consciousness.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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