5 siblings, homophobic parents

No wonder this college freshman wants to move out. 

Can our elder help her plan her escape?


Dear EWC

Hi! I’m an 18-year-old freshman in online college. I currently live at home with my family but I wish I didn’t. I have five little siblings (two toddlers and three teenagers) and our house is always chaotic. My values conflict strongly with my homophobic, Catholic parents. I’m gay and no longer religious, but they’re in denial on the first part and don’t know about my beliefs. They take their faith very personally so I don’t think they’ll take it well at all to the point where I’m not sure if they’d cut off and disown me if they knew. But church is really bad for my mental health and I don’t know how much longer I can fake it. I have enough money to last me maybe three months on my own. Do you think I should tell them and try to set respectful boundaries or is it too risky?


Paul-Dad replies

You’re 18 and in college. Your description of your family size and chaos makes me sympathize with your situation. Maybe it’s best that you find a way to move out. 

I’m assuming that, as the oldest, you are crucial to help with childcare for your siblings. Feeding, dressing, bathing, laundry, housework; it’s got to be constant work. You deserve a chance to have a life, but have you considered the need for you to help out with your siblings and parents? Will they be able to manage without you? They’re not your children, but at least carefully consider how the family will hold up with you gone. Maybe you could have some suggestions ready for your parents when it’s time to move out. Could you promise some reduced level of help, even after you were to move?

I don’t think you should move out with just three months of living expenses. I’d advise a lot more planning. Where will you live? Do you have one or more roommates lined up? What happens when the three months of money runs out? It sounds like you need to get a job if you’re going to move out. Consider that entry level jobs are generally less than rewarding and don’t pay very much. Might you be trading an uncomfortable home life for an independent life that combines a stressful job, a less than a caring boss, college pressures, and challenges to live in a comfortable and safe environment in a house or apartment that may be very modest?

I’d advise you to hold off on having “the talk” with your parents about being gay, and especially about your rejection of their Catholic faith. You are correct in that providing this information to them will set them off in anger, heartbreak, denial, and possibly disownment. If you move out, you can tell them that it’s for a quieter studying environment. I think it’s fair to tell them that you love your parents and siblings, but, at 18, you’re ready for a life that doesn’t include the care and constant attention needed by the young children. I believe the time will arrive, after you’ve moved out and are financially independent of your parents, that you can tell them about being gay. A time and place may also arrive to tell them that you are exploring other means of spirituality besides the Catholic church. It will never be well received, but after you have become an independent person who is comfortable in her own skin, you will have the confidence and maturity to approach the topic and brace yourself for the reaction. I see no reason to be in a rush for that day. 

I know these are difficult issues, and my heart goes out to you. Please carefully consider these many factors before making decisions. I hope this is helpful, but consider also getting advice from other trusted sources, including a licensed therapist. The college you are attending may offer to counsel students that include academic and non-academic issues. Check their website. 

Article #: 469423

Category: Family

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