Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Dreads Spending Summer With Strict Mom

DEAR HARRIETTE: My semester ends in a week, and I’m dreading going back home. I live with my mom, little brother and older sister, and we all have a tough relationship with our mother. She was born and raised in Guinea and moved here after my sister was born. She has always shown us tough love, and it was hard growing up. It’s challenging for her to provide for us all the time, and there isn’t always food at home, which leaves us hungry all day. At school, having a scholarship and meal plan helps a lot, and my friends always make sure I eat if I ever run out of money. I want to find a job, but my mother doesn’t allow it because she thinks I’m too young. How do I make her see it’s necessary for me to work? -- Difficult to Adjust, Phoenix

DEAR DIFFICULT TO ADJUST: Sit down with your mother and thank her for working so hard to make it possible for you to go to college and build a life for yourself. Point out that you know how difficult it is for her to make ends meet. Tell her that you respect her and the family, and to that end, it’s time for you to help out. You know she is worried about your age, but tell her that many young people work in this country, from as early as 14 years old. My guess is that young people probably work from an even earlier age in her country, out of necessity. Ask her to give you a chance to help the family.

You might look for a work-study option. It’s late, but you may be able to find something.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My company has been firing people because it isn’t doing all that well and cannot pay workers. I started to look for other jobs, but many places aren’t hiring. I’m worried that I will be fired next and won’t have a backup job.

I have been putting in extra hours and I’m one of the best workers here, but I have a child on the way and this would be the worst time possible to lose my job. Should I set up a meeting with my boss letting him know that I need this job because of my current situation with my family? -- Worried Sick, Minneapolis

DEAR WORRIED SICK: It is smart for you to talk to your boss, but what you should emphasize is that you are a team player, dedicated to the company and willing to help in as many ways as you can through this tough period. Point out that you know there have been some layoffs, and you are sensitive to the challenges the company is facing. Make it clear that you want to go the distance with them. Ask how you can be of service. Within that context, you can remind your boss that you will soon have a child. Even so, you are all in regarding being a team player. Don’t stop looking, though. Keep your options open.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)