Firstly, I would like to preface this post by saying that I am not registered or licensed to give psychological advice to others, this is simply a commentary on what I have found to be one of the most challenging issues I have faced in my post-grad career so far; the family that does not understand!
A smidgen of information is necessary before I truly begin: I am currently competing my MA and I am a BA student, I come from a family which is not academic in any manner of the word (my mother is, as she likes to call herself, a home executive and my father is a mechanical engineer who works on fixed wing aircraft and helicopters), and my long term partner is currently finishing her BRek Honours degree. With all this in mind, at the end of my undergrad, my mother and father sat me down and asked me the dreaded question: What are you going to do with your life?
I could have said, “what every BA student does after graduation… Work at McDonalds!” but instead I chose to say, “I want to become an academic. I have since my first day at university.” Needless to say, this statement was met with mouths agape and a somewhat pitying look in their eyes. This subject was not brought up again until the beginning of 2013. In January this year my father sat down and asked me if I had given up on this fools notion of becoming an academic for something that would make me money in the future, like a stockbroker or a lawyer. So now I sit with a family who does not understand my choice in careers and a partner who jokingly mocks my intended degree.
I have come to understand that they are not trying to be mean; they just do not understand why I have chosen this path and thus they tend to express their thoughts in an antagonistic manner. So how does one deal with this problem, in short I have yet to find a suitable manner to completely ease their fears and get them to understand why I wish to be an academic. I understand why my parents are worried, they simply want the best for me. I use to get angry when I heard them whispering behind my back about where this desire of mine came from and how I am going to earn money. Now I understand that they simply will not understand and will not stop worrying about this until I have a stable career and can show them my first paycheck. To them it is not about whether I am studying BA, BSc or BComm, it is simply that they dont understand why becoming a researcher is important.
My advice then, for dealing with family members who do not understand why you chose research, is not to take it personally. I believe that they are not trying to be mean, they simply dont understand, and isn’t that what research is for? To help people understand!