People often look at me, with my four boys, and comment something to the effect of, “boy, you’ve got your hands full.” I usually smile back politely with some cheery response and go about my day. That’s what I do every day; go about my day. I go about my day and smile as much as I can and just keep going. But it is getting harder and harder to go about my day and smile because inside I am falling apart and at whit’s end and don’t feel like smiling. In fact, what I feel like doing is crawling into bed and crying, but I don’t have that luxury because I am the single mom of four boys.
Up until recently, I was married and raising four boys. Raising four boys is a hard task in and of itself. It was hard in my marriage because my ex was never there. He did very little to help with the boys or around the house or to even be a part of the family. That is a huge reason why I left him. Now that he is out of the house though, he is involved with the kids even less. He is getting to live the kid free life that he apparently really wanted all along and has left me to parent four boys completely on my own. We moved away from family almost 7 years ago, while the kids were so young, for his job, so I have been left to care for our kids on my own. Now that we are split, I’m not only left to parent our four children alone, but I’m also left to pick up the pieces of our broken family.
When you are a single parent you don’t get any breaks. I have four, so even when I finally get one kid to sleep or busy doing something, I still have others that are making demand of me. The need cycle here is never ending, but unfortunately, my energy and emotional capacity is not. I am constantly running on empty and emotionally exhausted, even more so than before. When a kid needs something and I’ve just finally sat down to eat, take a break, or weed through emails, there is no one else for me to ask to go deal with it so I can have a minute. When the kids wake at night, and two of mine still do, there is no one else to switch off with after the third time of getting up and the fifth night of no sleep. When I am sick, there is no one else to make the kids dinner or pick up the groceries. It is constantly just me and four very needy kids who are having troubles figuring out the reality of their current situation.
My youngest is constantly throwing fits and having big emotions that he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand why the dad he loves and wants to spend time with hardly sees him anymore. He wants to spend time with his dad and call him, but his dad doesn’t feel the same way. It is hard to manage his emotions on a daily basis, but even harder to watch his dad yell at him for having these melt downs after seeing him for a short amount of time, when all he wants is more time with him. He comes home from his brief visits in worse shape than before he left. My second youngest doesn’t have too much interest in his dad, but likes his video games. All he knows is that visiting dad means lots of games and the heavy burden of being quiet while visiting or it will be all his fault that his dad gets kicked out of his not so kid-friendly apartment. My second oldest also craves his dad’s attention and hates that he must fight all his brothers for his dad’s attention in the small window of time that he gets with him. He constantly asks if he can get an extra day with his dad without his brothers, which I’d love for him to have, but his dad refuses to take them for anymore time than 24 hours in a week. He needs a lot of time to himself. My oldest doesn’t even want to see his dad and I have to beg and bribe him to go just so I can have a short break from them all and get stuff done. He hates going to his dad’s place and I don’t blame him. The place is small and not meant for kids. Other than video games, they have nothing to do there. They don’t even have beds to sleep in and are constantly threatened about making any noise. My oldest gets anxious and doesn’t want to be there. When they come back, usually after less than 24 hours with their dad, they are all a wreck. They are tired, hungry, cranky, and have been cooped up inside with each other for too long. I have to field melt downs and complaints and questions I don’t have answers to. If I can’t answer questions about their father’s behavior and choices, I’m not sure how they are supposed to try to understand and be ok with the situation. I’m always careful not to say negative things in front of them though. I might hate the way their dad treats them and his lack of interest in them, but I’m not about to say anything about it in front of them. I’m sure they will figure it out on their own as they get older, my oldest is already starting to.
Aside from trying to help my four boys through everyday life and deal with the emotional consequences of divorce, I have so many other things that I’m trying to deal with. I’m trying to pack up an entire house and get rid of things so I can move the boys back to where there is family to help me out. I’m running boys to appointments for different therapies. I’m trying to figure out how to do this divorce and make sure the boys and I get enough to survive. I’m dealing with the everyday messes, cooking, cleaning, and homeschooling of my kids. And I’m still trying to find time to deal with my own emotions in this divorce.
With each day that passes and each interaction I have with my ex, I become more and more sure that I made the right decision and that I probably should have made it earlier, except that I was scared. Now I’m in the thick of dealing with the things I was afraid of and I often wish I could just put a gun to my head. I don’t have the luxury to break down though and I certainly don’t have time for therapy or any kind of break from my life. But things are becoming more and more overwhelming and the tears are becoming harder and harder to choke back until I can find a few seconds of privacy to let them out. I often find myself turning up the music in my car so the boys can’t hear me as I cry while I’m driving them places. I sob loudly in the shower or hide in my closet to cry. I find myself paralyzed with anxiety, laying in bed balling with my door locked as the kids bang on it with demands. I cry until I throw up. My stomach is in knots and I don’t want to eat. If I do eat, I often throw it back up. I take pills to sleep and more antidepressants than usual. I can’t even hide my tears anymore. Today I sat quietly crying in a chair near my kids, while they ate lunch at a burger joint. People looked at me and judged me, but I just didn’t even care. It was a hard day, too hard, and I couldn’t do it anymore without crying. I have a hard time being productive because I constantly find myself in bed crying.
At this point, the tears aren’t for my broken marriage, I’m beyond that. At this point, my tears are for my boys and for me. I can’t do this all alone, but I have no choice and it isn’t fair the boys or me. I cry from the heart break that my boys deserve so much better. I cry with anger and rage that I have to do it all alone. I cry because I love my boys so much that I don’t understand how their own father can be so disinterested in being a part of their lives. I cry because it is all just too much and it is hard to keep putting one foot in front of the other to keep going on with my day.
Life isn’t easy and neither is being a mom, especially a single mom of four kids. Every day is a struggle just to survive and to keep going. I’m juggling more than just what you see on the outside and despite my smile, I’m falling apart on the inside. Yes, I have my hands full, more than anyone knows. I don’t need the obvious stated, what I need is some help, but I know that isn’t coming, so I’d settle for some sympathetic words or maybe a hug because raising four boys alone really sucks.