Monday, April 4, 2011

With Great Responsibility, Comes Great Joy

Yesterday, I had a little breakdown. The responsibility of raising my six kids, taking care of the house, writing articles, paying bills, driving here and there, attending sports practice, making dinner, and now packing and getting ready to move on top of everything else just got to me. I broke down crying and repeatedly said, "I can't do it all. I just can't do it. I can't do everything. No matter how hard I try, I just can't do it." I felt hopeless. I felt like I was drowning. I felt like I would never ever get caught up and have everything taken care of when it needed to be taken care of.

My little breakdown continued this morning. I have so unbelievably much to do. So much so, in fact, that I didn't know where to start. I just looked around at the empty boxes and the piles of belongings to be packed. I glanced at my long "to do" lists. I gazed, completely devoid of emotion at the stack of papers on my desk. Then I lay down with Brooklyn to watch a movie. Sometimes, when I feel overwhelmed, I just shut down. I don't know where to start, so I don't do anything.

I'm happy to say that after 24 hours of a lovely little pity party, I picked myself up, did some cleaning, and made a dent in my "to do" list. I always feel weak when I break down and feel sorry for myself. I hate feeling like that. There's no reason for it. I'm stronger than that. I have too many blessings and good things in my life to wallow in self pity. But despite that, now and then, I do lose control and cry. I have a very hard time remembering that it's okay to feel overwhelmed and it's okay to cry sometimes.

When I look back on different situations in my life and see how they worked out so well despite my tears, aggravation, frustration and fear that things would never turn around, I feel foolish. I love being able to look back and see how God knits everything together for good. I think that's how I keep going and how I can enjoy my kids without stressing out too much over the little things. Because I know, those little things just don't matter in the long run.

This is what I wrote over at Babble today. . .

I’m raising my six children without any help from their father.  That’s not the way I wanted it when we were going through the divorce process.  In fact, the first thing I said to my lawyer is that I wanted my soon-to-be ex involved in the kids lives as much as possible.   But, unfortunately, he couldn’t deal with everything and chose to remove himself entirely.  

Although it’s hard and demanding and takes every minute of every day and then some, I wouldn’t trade places with him for all the money in the world.  At the end of the day, I can look myself in the mirror and (aside from the wrinkles and bags under my eyes) like what I see.  I can go to bed confident in the knowledge that I’m doing everything I can for my family. And not only am I doing the right thing, but I love being a mom. It’s my dream job! It’s my favorite thing in the world! I couldn’t even begin to fathom walking away from it!

My kids’ father showed up for Lexi’s softball practice on Saturday.  Well, for about half an hour of practice anyway.  I can count on one hand the number of times he’s seen any of my kids in the last year and a half (other than the few times he ran into them while he was still working for the school district).  And yet there he was without a care in the world, acting like nothing was amiss; the distant uncle who stops by when he’s in town and says “hi” and then leaves.  No responsibilities.  Just a moment of fun with the kids a couple times a year.  And really, it’s not even “the kids”.  It’s Lexi and Brooklyn and rarely Clayton.  The older three want nothing to do with him.

I bite my tongue and grit my teeth for my kids’ sake, but I can’t even bring myself to look at his selfish face.  The fake niceties from him make me want to throw up.  The fact that he owes me about $8000 in child support and yet shows off the tattoo he just got makes me shake my head in amazement. But beyond the anger and disbelief in his actions, is a degree of pity. I mostly feel sorry for him because he’s the one missing out. He’s the one choosing the lonely path that leads to wasted years and regret.

In a way, it makes me thankful that I’m on my own with my kids.  I mean, it would have been nice if my ex hadn’t gone off the deep end and we were able to effectively coparent, but since that isn’t an option, I’m kind of glad I don’t really have to deal with him.  I can only imagine how difficult it must be to coparent with a less-than-cooperative ex-spouse.  In that way, even though I don’t get a break and all the responsibility is on my shoulders, I have it much easier than those divorced parents who have to manage to get along with each other even though they couldn’t get along in marriage.

So, I’ll be the one arranging to get everyone to practice and I’ll be the one outside in the stinking cold for five and a half hours, watching them and cheering them on.  I’ll be the one buying all their equipment and taking them to the ER when they break an arm (just thinking ahead.  I mean, it’s bound to happen sooner or later.).  I’ll be the one paying their regsitration fees and pitching in for the coach’s gift.  I’ll be the one consoling them when they lose a game and I’ll be the one taking them out for ice cream to celebrate a job well done. 

I’ll be the one enjoying every minute of their lives.  :)

And guess what!  I’ll be the one they thank when they win the Superbowl, World Series, Olympics (again, just thinking ahead here).


Kaia said...

I sincerely wish I lived closer than across the country to help you out! Even if that would make you would think I'm a creep :P Instead, I'll be over here praying!!

Heather Reese said...

It's nice to know that I'm not the only one that just shuts down when I'm stressed.

Unknown said...

I think we have those moments of feeling overwhelmed to remind us of our strength.

I am raising my "step" daughter, her mom left when she was five. I know firsthand dealing with that pain children go through when they feel abandoned, I can't imagine trying to be strong for 6 kids. You are absolutley amazing to me!!

Staceroo said...

It's not weak to break down and have a pity party when you can get back up and keep going. Sometimes we all need to just throw our hands up and cry/yell/shut's what you do after that matters. Having been a single mom with limited father involvement I know the trials and tribulations and also the amazement of seeing and being part of those moments - the little ones that make our kids who they are. Hang in there Dawn - you're doing just fine.

Jen said...

I know the feeling of breaking down and indulging in self pity that shuts me down emotionally as well. I want to share some verses that help me get through those difficult moments. Verses to encourage you :)
Isaiah 41:10(NIV) "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Jeremiah 29:11(NIV) "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Philippians 4:13(KJV) "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
During this season of life, know that He is with you always. When we are down, He can pick us back up again and give us strength!
You are in my prayers as well as your kids!!

Suburban Correspondent said...

Reach out to just one local person you know who is good at mobilizing people. Ask for help. I know you can manage without it, no one doubts that. But life doesn't have to be that hard. This note sounds condescending because it's written; but imagine instead me calling you and yelling at you to stop being a dunderhead, one mom of 6 to another. We're in the same trench, Dawn; but I'm too far away physically to do you any good right now! Otherwise I'd be taking your kids to games and barging into your house to help you shovel through the kids' rooms. And we'd have a darn good time while at it, I'm sure.

When you ask people for help, you are doing them a favor. You are giving them a chance to do a good deed, first of all; second, many people want to help but are afraid to if you don't ask. It took me years to learn this, but it is really important. Asking people for rides for the kids, for help packing, etc., benefits them as much as it does you. I'm sure you have at least a dozen acquaintances that are dying to help out but don't know how.

And I know that still leaves you a crapload of stuff that only you can do - I know! But getting even a little bit of assistance buoys us up psychologically, helps us feel nurtured in a way that makes everything easier. It's like when you have a new baby and yeah, you can feed your kids Cheerios for dinner every night for 3 weeks and no one will die (not that I've...uh...done that...ahem); but people bringing dinner over every other day changes the atmosphere in the house from one of determined desperation to one of "Hey, we're gonna be just fine!" And believe me, the kids do better with the latter. They cry and fight less, which makes your life even easier.

Hugs and love. And congrats on that new job and your upcoming move! Let me know if you need a stopping-off place while relocating.

Katie Lee said...

I think breaking down every once in awhile is healthy and normal and can be rejuvenating. Sometimes, you just need to wallow in all that is difficult. It gives you the release to be able to pick up and get going stronger again. You are doing so much and responsible for so much, it's a wonder you don't break down more often. But you are strong and capable (we can tell from your writing) and I know you will come out of this an even happier, wiser person. And your kids will, too! I agree about the reaching out to local friends. People need help and people need to feel needed so asking for help serves everyone! Thinking of you and your family.

Sharon said...

Everyone needs and deserves a little pity party from time to time. You don't need to feel guilty. Your responsibilities are overwhelming. You have done a great job of raising your children under some pretty awful circumstances. You are now packing up a house and seven people for a cross country move. A true testament to your courage and love for your family. You are doing what needs to be done and having a little breakdown from time to time is the least you can do for yourself!

Susan said...

You are miraculous, but it's time to move on with your super crew. I've read you for years. Updates every now and then on the asshole, but do what you do best, making potatoes into potato salad. Or was that lemons into lemonade?

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