Q&A: What do you do when you feel like you just can't do it anymore?

Anon writes:

"I'm a single mom of a 6-year-old and 2.5 year old twin boys. I got divorced right after the boys were born and I've been doing it alone the whole time. My 6yo is helpful but is having some very serious behavioral issues right now, in the form of tantrums, acting out, saying she hates everyone, etc. Her best friend's parents (my friends) have even instituted a "break" between my child and theirs because her behavior is so out of control. (Not physical, nothing dangerous. More like a simply time out ends in 2 hours of screaming bloody murder from her room). I think her behavior is due to the fact that her horribly-unreliable father hasn't seen her in months and doesn't have any plans to, despite promising for months that he'd be taking her for the summer, as is written in our parenting plan. (He simply says he can't, because he has to work and can't afford sitters for them.) I've given her individual attention, I get sitters for the boys and take her out alone, I've tried talking to her and truly listening (she says she doesn't think anyone likes her and her dad doesn't want her), we do a TON of fun stuff, I go to every school function.

The thing is, I'm at the end of my rope. I'm so tired of being told that she hates me, and her brothers, and doesn't love me, and wants her dad. The boys ask for him all the time but don't have the resentment and anger (yet). I don't work (I live off my child support/alimony, just barely) because I can't afford childcare with the wages I'd make. So I have no break. My friends and family are only supportive in the "that's a bummer" way, not in the "let me help you out" way. I wish they'd step up, because I think my daughter could benefit from having another figure in her life who isn't stretched so thin. Alas, there's no one here.

I just don't think I can handle this. As we all know, the highs are high and the lows are very low in parenting, and sometimes I do ok. But overall, I'm just spent. I just don't know if I can keep this up. I'm on antidepressants, I have anxiety meds, I have sleep medication (which I can't take, because I'm solely responsible for these kids and can't be zonked out). Still, I'm having heart palpitations and "losing it" a little more than I'm comfortable with. I'm genuinely getting worried about having a nervous breakdown. I exercise, I have friends, I hire sitters about twice a month to get a break, I'm doing what I'm "supposed to."

I just don't want to hate my life, and constantly fight with my kid. I've tried a zillion methods of parenting, but God, I'm just so tired and overwhelmed. I just can't figure out how to make it work. I love my kids, of course. That's a given. But it's so constant and monotonous...and the fighting, and the screaming, and the tantrums, day in and day out times infinity.

All I can think to do is drop the kids off with their father, just so I can get a break. Legally, he should have them this summer. But I'm not sure that's actually best for them, despite their longing to go. (Not to mention, if he can't work because he takes them, he stops paying me.)

I keep hearing "suck it up" and "dig deep" kind of comments...but I just can't. There's nothing left to dig from. Please don't think I'm overdramatic or whiny or whatever. It's not like I'm about to turn them over to the state or anything. I'm just out of ideas for how to make this work. It's not working."

I'm really sorry people are saying "suck it up" to you. That's both clueless and cruel, and I'm guessing it's coming from people who aren't alone with their kids 24/7 and who don't have a child who's acting out constantly.

I asked Anon some follow-ups questions, and it turns out that her kids' father lives 500+ miles away. So she can't just give him the kids for a weekend or after work. He says he works six days a week, and is uninterested in seeing the children, although Anon is willing to let him stay in her house to visit the kids while she stays someplace else. He doesn't want to see the kids.


Everyone: This is the fallout that happens when parents don't take their responsibilities seriously. I know it can be really, really hard to have to deal with an ex, but if you don't keep pushing to see your kids whenever you can, your kids are going to bear the pain of that. I know there's someone out there right now who's wondering if they can really keep dealing with an ex to be able to see their child: YOU CAN. You can do it, no matter how much it hurts you, because the alternative is hurting your child. Your child needs you.

Now, to Anon: Your daughter's hurt is more than you can deal with on your own. For one thing, you can't really comment on your ex to your daughter. And for another, you don't know enough about the grieving process in kids. You need someone who has experience with grief and separation to help your daughter through this. I would search for a divorce support group for kids for your daughter. If you can't find one, look for a counselor who has experience helping kids with grief. I'd call her school counselor or social worker as a starting point to find someone.

Once you find someone to help, you'll have that other adult who will understand enough about the process to be able to talk about it with you honestly and give you the feedback you need about how to help yourself deal with it.

In the meantime, I wish I lived across the street and could just tell you to send your kids over to play with mine and @jenunexpected's in my front yard while you spend some time alone. Not being able to afford to work is serious, and real, and happens to way more of us than people in different employment markets imagine. The good news is that eventually all your kids will be in school and you'll be able to work for pay. The bad news is that that's a few years away.

If you felt like you could, you could email me back and tell me where you live, and we could see if we could find more support for you, whether that was just finding a few like-minded moms to hang out with who would understand your stresses, or more substantial childcare or employment help.

What I do know is that even though you think you can't do it, you ARE doing it. I just wish the tunnel wasn't so long so it was easier to see the light at the end of it.

Who has words of help for Anon?