Ask Someone Else's Mom by Susan Writer

Mom Fears a Semester Break May Lead to a Permanent One

DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: I am the single mother of a wonderful 18-year-old girl. She is a star student who graduated from high school last year with both her diploma and an associate degree from college. I have always encouraged her to pursue a challenging career that uses her considerable skills in math and science. As such, she chose a major in pharmacy. 

Last month she told me she is not going to school this semester. She wants to take a break until summer, when she hopes to transfer to another school with a better pharmacy program. (She was previously accepted to this program, but rejected them. As for the transfer, with high requirements, this is unlikely since her grades went down considerably this past fall).  

In my experience, students who “take time off” never go back to school. I told her I cannot support this decision, and that this is a poor decision resulting from the previous poor decisions to overload her schedule at an unsupportive party school in an attempt to rush to graduate. She stated, “No problem, I will just move out.” 

  Am I being inflexible and unfair? She has worked very hard for a long time. However, what kind of mother would I be if I continue to let her make self-destructive and childish decisions? Should I allow her to move out, or should I support her (financially and emotionally) while she “takes a break” from preparing for her future? --- TOTALLY PUT OUT IN ATLANTA

DEAR TOTALLY PUT OUT IN ATLANTA: Taking a break has become quite common; so is the burn-out experienced by kids who have been knuckled down and studious all the way through high school.

Since your daughter graduated high school with a degree that generally takes two years of fulltime study to complete, she’s proven her ability and desire to work hard, and now, it’s just possible she needs a break. Her first choice of colleges may not have turned out so well, but that doesn’t mean she’s ready to walk away from completing a four- or more-year program.

With the spring semester already underway, letting her take the next few months to work and get a taste of life outside of school might help her towards a clearer decision about her next steps. Your giving her a little space and a chance to make her own decisions — even if you believe them to be poor ones — could be a big part of making her time at home less stressful for both of you.

Her ride, though, shouldn’t be a free one. She should earn money and contribute to your household income. Holding down a job is a worthy education for any young adult, and she’ll be learning real world lessons that could prove infinitely more useful than a semester abroad.

Need advice? Please send your questions to Someone Else’s Mom at