Unsupportive family

posted
09-Oct-11, 00:39
by flack 1 star member
Avatar for flack
posted about 6 years ago
I've read a few posts here from PhD students struggling with unsupportive partners, but has anyone else here had the same problem with family? Right now I'm trying to cope with learning that my family are totally unbothered about me starting a PhD:

A bit of background: I'm 30, my parents are both dead, and the only surviving member of my family is my younger sister, with whom I don't get on for various reasons. Apart from her my closest relatives are my mum's younger brother and his family.

I got my PhD offer almost a month ago, and ever since I have been trying to break the news to my family, but have failed. First of all my uncle picked up the phone and I told him "I've got some news: I'm moving to Edinburgh..." but he interrupted with "you can't come home for christmas this year as we're going away, bye" and hung up on me. I then tried to call my aunt on her mobile but she didn't answer, so I texted her to say I had some important news, and she then texted me to say she had a sore throat and couldn't talk... and the next time she was going out... and the next time the landline phone was broken (although it wasn't when my uncle picked it up) and the next time she was too busy... by this time I realised I had been trying to contact them for ten whole days, so I texted to say "look, this is important, please pick up the phone" and she replied to ask if I could just send the news in a Facebook message to my cousin instead...

At this point I just lost it and texted back to say "why can't you spare just five minutes? Forget it, this is important but you obviously don't care". I also asked why she kept making excuses not to talk to me, and why her husband had hung up on me, but I've heard nothing from her since.

It's just made me sad- my family have never been close but just a "congratulations" or "we're happy for you" would have been nice- instead they haven't even given me five minutes to tell them what I'm doing. I'm moving 500 miles and they don't even care. I know they have a few inverse snobbery issues- I recently learned they call me "The Posh One" behind my back, and I've been taunted with "oh you think you're so bloody clever don't you?" for doing a Neuroscience MSc, it's all so unfair and I just wish they didn't behave like they were ashamed of me.

Registering with uni just keeps reminding me- every time I'm asked for my next-of-kin contact details, or for permission to discuss my fees with a parent or guardian... I feel like I don't have a family anymore.

My friends have been amazingly supportive- one of them, despite being extremely busy, dropped everything to come and meet me for a celebratory drink, and when I think about that and the idea that retired family members couldn't even give me five minutes on the phone just makes me angry. Despite having wonderful friends and a big leaving do planned I'm still feeling strangely alone- I'm having visions of being alone at my graduation, with no-one to feel proud of me but myself.

Sorry
posted
09-Oct-11, 00:43
edited about 29 seconds later
by flack 1 star member
Avatar for flack
posted about 6 years ago
...for the rant, but I'm feeling so alone right now when I should be feeling elated. Can anyone else relate?
posted
09-Oct-11, 02:57
edited about 14 seconds later
Avatar for TwankyPhD
posted about 6 years ago
hey dude,

don't take this out of context, mate, not rubbing your nose in it, just saying the grass isn't always greener...i mean, i have a very supportive family, my mum and dad are great and helpful and very proud of what i'm doing- however, it is a different thing to explain every minute detail to them about a complex piece of work like a phd....so i think there's difficulties on the other end of the scale (no easier or tougher to deal with depending on personalities involved) but i think it sounds like cutting ties might be easier than beating urself up over people that wont speak at all.
much easier said of course, but i barely speake to my eldest three siblings, they dont get me and i dont give a rats ass that they dont. that being said, it lso sounds like some counselling or even just finding a few friends to confide in might help you work out a way to cope! hope it works out
posted
09-Oct-11, 07:31
by Delta 4 star member
Avatar for Delta
posted about 6 years ago
Flack, many congratulations on getting on to your PhD. It seems to mean a lot to you and it's a great achievement. I'm sure your parents would be proud. It's sounds as though other members of your family may have their own insecurities but try not to take their attitude towards your education personally.

I actually felt really gutted for you reading your post. I can't say I relate to it entirely as I am close to my family (you make me feel very fortunate) but the PhD is not a big deal to us. That said, I don't have any real friends but that partly my fault and so you are forunate in that you do have. Blood shouldn't bind people together but times we share, our experiences and the support we get (I just happen to get that from my family who are blood and you seem to get that from your friends). Be a good friend to your friends and channel your energy into them and make them your family.

Don't be sorry, that's why we are here to give off steam and I hope it helped.

I hope things improve for you, that you enjoy your PhD but don't get so engrossed in it that you forget the people who matter - your friends.
posted
09-Oct-11, 09:43
edited about 16 seconds later
Avatar for DrCorinne
posted about 6 years ago
Hello Flack and congratulations on getting your PhD offer!

I agree with Delta. We tend to put our families on a pedestal, and think that they are above the rest of the world, but this is not true. They are like everyone else, with their faults and insecurities. Once we understand that, it becomes easier to accept their behaviour.

I have a very supportive husband, and it is thanks to him if I managed to get through the up and downs of the PhD. But it's sad that my parents won't be at my graduation. Actually, I didn't get a word from them about it. Years ago I would have been broken by this, but now (this is my 3rd graduation), I understand that they can't relate to what I am doing (neither of them has a degree) nor to the person I grew up into.

Study is a sort of "waste of time" in their views, and so their behaviour is not surprising.

So, be proud of yourself, and of all you are going to achieve in the course of your PhD. You don't need the seal of approval of your relatives to be confident. What you have been doing speaks for you.

If you are unlike family-wise, you are lucky to have supportive friends. Cherish these relationships and go ahead with your life.

Well done and good luck with your PhD!
(up)
posted
09-Oct-11, 10:06
edited about 24 seconds later
by ady 5 star member
Avatar for ady
posted about 6 years ago
======= Date Modified 09 Oct 2011 10:08:30 =======
Hi Flack

Many congrats on securing your PhD place and hope your move to Edinburgh goes well.

I agree with the others but also remember, you can pick your friends but you can't pick your family! I'm sure your parents would be very proud of you and if your sister doesn't get it, well that's her loss. She probably feels a bit intimidated by your academic prowess and the way she manifests that insecurity is by being dismissive.

My family are very supportive although extended family have made plenty of digs at me and my husband to the effect of, "oh, is she still at that lark?" etc. Neighbours have made similar jibes. To be fair I don't think they really mean anything by it but they don't understand what's involved and seem to think the fact that I "am still at it" equates to a type of failure on my part.

It's a pity about your sister and aunt and uncle but apart from wanting a bit of recognition from them, do they really impact on your life? It sounds like your friends are great, they must mean a lot to you.

Good luck starting out, and as Delta says, that's part of what the forum is all about - mutual support from people who do really 'get it'.
posted
09-Oct-11, 11:50
edited about 3 seconds later
Avatar for ribenagirl
posted about 6 years ago
Hi Flack,
sorry to hear that you're family aren't as supportive or excited about this for you. I think as others have said often our families just don't understand. I get on well with my family in general but they didn't congratulate me either - simply because I don't think they even know what a phd is. and instead I ended up in an argument with my dad who couldn't understand why I would give up a job to go back to university, instead they thought I should be buying a house, getting married and staying in a 'job for life' - I think its just a generational thing.
So, I've not spoken to them during my phd about the ups and downs and sometimes miss that support - but get it from friends and other who understand instead, and it sounds like you have a good support network even if its not family.
Edinburgh's a great place and you'll meet lots of new people who can support you and share your phd journey with you. I'm new here to and loving it!
Good luck and well done!
posted
09-Oct-11, 12:12
edited about 24 seconds later
by Eska 4 star member
Avatar for Eska
posted about 6 years ago
======= Date Modified 09 Oct 2011 12:19:54 =======
Hi Flack,

I'm really sorry to hear about the loss of your mum and dad, and that you feel so alone at the moment.

I really feel for you. I can relate because my family are not always supportive and I have often - in the past - felt that same fear of being at an important event - possibly my graduation -without them. I didn't go to my Masters graduation for this reason. My parents work in education so they do understand what I am doing, but there is a lot of jealousy, especially from my mother, and at times it seems as if she is deliberately trying to disrupt my progress. I don't go to her for support and encouragment because she'd see that as an opportunity to put the boot in. However, there are plenty of other people in my life who have my best interests at heart and who are always there when I need them. I suspect you have that too.

It is really, really hard to accept that your family are not there for you, and I can particularly relate to what you have said about Christmas. It is those times when it seems as if everyone else in the world is with their family, and when out culture leads us to expect to be with them that family disharmony bites hardest. However, if you can accept your situation for what it is then the good things in your life will come to the fore. I managed this eventually by grieving for it, ie, feeling all the negative emotions about my situation and letting them go. Now I don't care about having Christmas with my family or whether or not they are at my graduation. I know I will enjoy those things anyway.

If you can let go of your expectations of what your blood relatives are supposed do and feel for you, and the hurt they've caused you now and in the past, then fabulous friends you have, and this wonderful opportnuity you have in a beautiful and stimulating city - one of the best places you could ever hope to live, I think - will take over.

This forum is a wonderful source of support - you'll probably need it because moving is so stressful anyway, even without the family drama - so lean on us when you need to.

Good luck and keep us posted. X

posted
09-Oct-11, 12:55
edited about 28 seconds later
by flack 1 star member
Avatar for flack
posted about 6 years ago
======= Date Modified 09 Oct 2011 12:59:27 =======
Thanks for the replies everyone- and sorry for the rant, I'm not after pity here, I was just a bit stunned at my aunt's suggestion that I tell her my news via Facebook- it's not quite up there with dumping someone by fax but I'd still prefer to babble excitedly about my news over the phone, and to hear my family's thoughts.

As for the idea that my parents would be proud- thanks for the reasurrance, but to be honest they probably wouldn't:

Quote From eska:

I really feel for you. I can relate because my family are not always supportive and I have often - in the past - felt that same fear of being at an important event - possibly my graduation -without them. I didn't go to my Masters graduation for this reason. My parents work in education so they do understand what I am doing, but there is a lot of jealousy, especially from my mother, and at times it seems as if she is deliberately trying to disrupt my progress. I don't go to her for support and encouragment because she'd see that as an opportunity to put the boot in. However, there are plenty of other people in my life who have my best interests at heart and who are always there when I need them. I suspect you have that too.


Thanks Eska, this is my situation, pretty much. There are no other academics in my family and I'm the only scientist- what I do isn't any harder than what my sister, a humanities graduate, does (in fact I very much doubt I could have scraped a pass in her degree) but it's still me who gets the "oh you think you're so bloody clever" jibes. It's like they're trying to "ground" me, and insultingly assuming I need grounding- like many (most?) PhD students I'm more familiar with crippling self-doubts than with feeling overly self-assured!

Ribenagirl- I think that "not knowing what a PhD is" thing may be part of it too- I meet enough people who are surprised when I tell them mine will be a paid and (more than) full-time job! Like you my mother just expected me to get married and have children and be a good housewife, but like you said it is a generational thing as that's just what women were once expected to do- even "affable-looking housewife" Dorothy Hodgkin!

TwankyPhD, you're right, I'm not jealous here: while my family aren't close, this also means I have nothing holding me back- not everyone has the freedom to change careers and move 500 miles so really I'm lucky.

Long ago I realised my family are impossible to please, but I guess I've had a hard time believing and accepting it 100%. It's sad moving all that way and starting a new phase of my life without their backing but I'm now seeing it as a turning point. I've also got some amazing friends who are really happy for me- as Daisy from Spaced once said, friends are the family of the 21st Century, and maybe she was right!

Big thanks everyone- I feel better having slept on this and woken up to your replies, you've all really helped and I shall keep you posted.
posted
09-Oct-11, 13:05
Avatar for DrJeckyll
posted about 6 years ago
Hi Flack!

it is surprising that we have such a similar story!

There is no point keeping in contact with them. Just cross them out of your life. My wider family behaved in a similar way, and to cut a long story short, they poissoned me with anger, bitterness and hatress.

I think that they are jealous, and they are worried that you will ask them for money.

Take care
posted
09-Oct-11, 13:14
edited about 4 seconds later
by bfoxy
Avatar for bfoxy
posted about 6 years ago
Hi Flack,
I can empathise, I have lost both my parents (I'm 32) - my dad died earlier this year the day before my progress exam report was due in. I then had to delay my viva because it was due the day before the funeral. I am doing a health sciences PhD part-time while working an essentially full time job and financially supporting my husband who has gone back to university full time as part of a career change.

I am the first person in my family to do any post-graduate study. My dad was very supportive and proud of both me and my husband (whose own parents are more like how you describe your aunt and uncle). I have 2 older 'business man' brothers who although I have a pretty good relationship with them, they don't understand what I am trying to do. I have found this difficult regarding their demands on my time, they don't understand how I have to prioritise my work loads and yet think they are being supportive with comments like 'Dad would want you to keep going, he was so proud of you' - not necessarily a good thing to hear when things are hard. Unfortunately I think it will be a few years before I fulfil their expectations of being involved as an auntie or providing cousins

Like you I have some amazing friends. They are very good at being there when I need them and also good at understanding why I can't always be putting time into social events. However they too don't have any experience of the actual work load. I have found the various support networks between the PhD students at my University really helpful - at the end of the day I have found that the only people who understand the workload are other PhD students. I would encourage you to use these support systems where ever they are available.

With your family - so they don't understand, perhaps they are never going to be the people to support you in your academic aspirations. But they are your link to your parents and therefore if you need them, maybe you need to try and pigeon hole which aspects of your life you share with them? If they can't do christmas - why not suggest you all meet for a family sunday pub lunch one weekend around christmas. And organise something christmasy with your friends.

Good luck and don't be sorry
Foxy
:-(
posted
09-Oct-11, 20:47
Avatar for Mackem_Beefy
posted about 6 years ago
======= Date Modified 09 Oct 2011 20:50:59 =======
It sounds like they don't want anything to do with you for some reason.

Apologies for my hard line here, but basically, screw them!!! You have moved heaven and earth to talk to them and they don't want to know. I have to say this, but I wouldn't even bother trying to talk to them again. Further than that, don't talk to them at Christmas and don't even send them a Christmas card. If there's no reaction from them, you have your answer. It's time to move one and forget them, no matter how hard it is for you.

As regards Bfoxy's suggestion of a Christmas pub meal with your family, although well meant why expose yourself to a further round of rejection and hurt. From what you've said, you've done all the running and can't do any more.

I'll put things into perspective. I was close to a girl a couple of years back and my mum and dad both fell ill. First my mum then my dad and it alternated between the two. There were a couple of rows with the girl triggered by a failure to invite her to my house on the New Year. My dad was poorly again. A further row a few days later over my apparent attitude resulted in a complete break-off in contact. She didn't even give me a chance to explain.

The next few months saw my dad go right down the pan and finally he passed away a few months later. She remained in contact with one of my friends and had to know what was happening. The situation was such that my friend was even wary of attending my dad's funeral in case he offended her and she broke off contact with him (he did come). There was not even a sympathy card from her in the middle of all the chaos. It's now nearly three years later and it's clear just what a bad piece of work she was. As for my mum, she recovered after surgery, however, there are other issues still to be resolved with her and I know from the times I describe above that people you can't rely on can become luggage when the going becomes difficult (i.e. the girl I knew).

There comes a point where you have to look after yourself and those you know care. As for those that don't want to know, you will find the only person who'll be stressing or worrying over the situation is you. My advice at least given the efforts you've already made and had rebuffed is to call it a day with them. I know blood is thicker than water, however, they call you the 'Posh One', the one that's 'so bloody clever' and that to me shows that they don't even like you. Why waste time with people such as these?
posted
09-Oct-11, 20:51
by phdbug 5 star member
Avatar for phdbug
posted about 6 years ago
Quote From Mackem_Beefy:

I was close to a girl a couple of years back and my mum and dad both fell ill. First my mum then my dad and it alternated between the two. There were a couple of rows with the girl triggered by a failure to invite her to my house on the New Year. My dad was poorly again. A further row a few days later over my apparent attitude resulted in a complete break-off in contact. She didn't even give me a chance to explain.

The next few months saw my dad go right down the pan and finally he passed away a few months later. She remained in contact with one of my friends and had to know what was happening. The situation was such that my friend was even wary of attending my dad's funeral in case he offended her and she broke off contact with him (he did come). There was not even a sympathy card from her in the middle of all the chaos. It's now nearly three years later and it's clear just what a bad piece of work she was. As for my mum, she recovered after surgery, however, there are other issues still to be resolved with her.


Yes, these things happen. Indeed. Hugs to you Mackem Beefy. Did you try to contact her in any way after the break off in contact happened. Did she ignore those attempts?
posted
09-Oct-11, 21:02
Avatar for Mackem_Beefy
posted about 6 years ago
======= Date Modified 09 Oct 2011 21:05:06 =======
Quote From phdbug:

Quote From Mackem_Beefy:

  I was close to a girl a couple of years back and my mum and dad both fell ill.   First my mum then my dad and it alternated between the two.   There were a couple of rows with the girl triggered by a failure to invite her to my house on the New Year.   My dad was poorly again.   A further row a few days later over my apparent attitude resulted in a complete break-off in contact.   She didn't even give me a chance to explain.

The next few months saw my dad go right down the pan and finally he passed away a few months later.   She remained in contact with one of my friends and had to know what was happening.   The situation was such that my friend was even wary of attending my dad's funeral in case he offended her and she broke off contact with him (he did come).   There was not even a sympathy card from her in the middle of all the chaos.   It's now nearly three years later and it's clear just what a bad piece of work she was.   As for my mum, she recovered after surgery, however, there are other issues still to be resolved with her.


Yes, these things happen. Indeed. Hugs to you Mackem Beefy. Did you try to contact her in any way after the break off in contact happened. Did she ignore those attempts?


It was made quite clear to me in an e-mail after the second row from her mum, that no further contact was to be made.   I made my mind up to 'respect' this e-mail as I had too much on my plate with my parents.   That said, I passed three 'token' messages via my friend that the situation was ridiculous, though as I knew already these messages would be ignored it was no more than a 'token' effort on my part so I didn't seem the unreasonable one to my own friends.   The way things happened, I very nearly came across as being perceived as the guilty party at a time I could have done without all the chaos.   Hence my hard line view, that if someone has a downer on you that should be part of your support structure then perhaps it's time to distance yourself from them.

The girl concerned had already tried to split up some of my friendships at a much earlier stage, which I successfully prevented.   She very much wanted thing her own way.   If it had not been for the one mate who wanted to remain friendly with her (and still does), then the break-off may have happened earlier. She saw me as a potential 'trophy' boyfriend because of my PhD. How about me for who I am rather than some fancy title. I detest snobbery and arrogance.
posted
09-Oct-11, 21:13
by phdbug 5 star member
Avatar for phdbug
posted about 6 years ago
It hurts quite badly to be cut off by those that matter to you or are important to you in some way. Sorry you had to go through this. Really.

Postgraduate
Forum

Copyright ©2017
All rights reserved

Postgraduate Forum

Masters Degrees

PhD Opportunities

PostgraduateForum is a trading name of FindAUniversity Ltd
FindAUniversity Ltd, Sellers Wheel, 151 Arundel Street, Sheffield, S1 2NU, United Kingdom. Tel +44 (0) 114 268 4940 Fax: +44 (0) 114 268 5766