Saturday, January 2, 2010

Bad Mother Either Way

So I guess this is what I have determined to be the real question here - which one makes me a bad mother?

1. To stay in Ill. so the boys can stay at their existing HS where they are doing well academically and socially as well as in their sports.


2. To move out-of-state to a HS the boys are having extreme difficulty adjusting to. They will probably end up not being able to play any sports the duration of HS.

1. If I stay we are poor, to the point of me needing to use food banks for all of our food this month. I do not have the money for food. It is my reality. Even figuring out how I will be able to get some gas will be a challenge.


2. If we move, it would be less of a financial struggle and I would feel supported by Sam.

In any case, once I get a job at either location life will be greatly improved. But it will be hard to look for work on my own and then start in with the full-time hours and go with that grind here by myself. It would be far easier to live with Sam while working because there would be two of us on the home front instead of just me. I haven't worked full-time for years.

A lot hinges on how quickly I can find a job. I sit for the CNA certification on 1/14. But regardless, it looks like the month of Jan. would be very lean and mean and cold.

So back to the question. Is it better to keep the boys here where they have the stability of school, friends and community and the unpredictable nature of having to rely on food pantries? Or, better to move the boys where it will screw up their academics and possibly their chances at any sports scholarships for college but at least we will have more food and I'll have the support of Sam?

Which one makes me a worse mother? Knowingly moving into poverty or knowingly screwing up lives so as to avoid poverty? Or will I be a bad mother either way, so at this point does it really matter what I decide?


  1. your eldest is 17 years old? a junior in high school? i have been following but for the life of me, i do not know what to say. i know you vent and probably don't want anything more than commiseration, and i've held back. but you seem to be at a precipice and are ready to jump off to placate your sons.

    you've written that your sons are angry and belligerent about moving to the new home with Sam and have promised to fail at their new school. your comparison above shows that you will be poverty-stricken if you pay to pack up yet again and return to an apartment so the boys can be back with their friends and go to the school they are familiar with. you've written what the counselor from their new school believes of your sons.

    are either of the boys aware of the extreme stakes of doing things their way? do they realize how precarious it will be for all of you? i know you wish to protect them and shelter them but there are times when life does not give a mother the option of keeping their children in the dark. i do realize your sons have faced very adult life situations but they are not trailblazers in this. as a former teacher, i've known of other children who faced parallel situations and did not make monetary demands that would put the family closer to disaster.

    if your sons do not know how bad bad has been and will get, maybe you should have a mature conversation with them, and let them know how difficult this is. how frightening. they may be made of sterner stuff and would be more willing to work with you, be nicer to you.

    if your sons know and are applying the pressure to force this decision to go the way they'd like, then i do not envy you your decision.

    to keep your sons smiling, you have to beg and scrounge for food and a roof over your heads. you will have to have a full time job leaving them with quite a bit of time on their own unsupervised. i honestly am at a loss, especially if they know how hard they are making your life without any concern for your well being.

    i hope your sons someday realize that you are sacrificing everything, literally everything, to give them what they want. making a decision to do the best you can for your sons does in no way make you a bad mother. you are the one trying to please everyone and sacrificing you own identity to do it.

    if i have misread your past blogs about your sons' dispositions then i apologize in advance.

    i wish you peace, security, and safety.

  2. I have to agree with WNS. I have the feeling that your boys may be acting out at the new school academically simply because you haven't made a decision and so long as they think there is a snowballs chance in hell of getting their way they are going to do everything in their power to get their own way.

    If you were to draw a pros column and a cons column about moving permanently you will visually see that the pros column has way more than the cons. The cons is that the boys have to leave their school. Everything you've written about them says they are smart, saavy, talented young men who, if they applied themselves, could succeed at anything. Big IF? Not really, because once you take away all other options they will have to apply themselves or suffer the consequences. IF they choose not to do their school work at the new school and can't play sports, whose fault is that? Yours, because you made them move? NO.....theirs because they could have done the work and chose not to. Their counselor seems to have their number and feels they are capable. Is it in their best interest to let them get their own way? What kind of message is that sending to them? That threats and manipulations are the way to get what you want?

    I know they have lost a great deal. All of kids have. But, you have to do what is in their best interest in more than one area(staying in school) if you are going to have a chance at any kind of life for you and them. Sacrificing your own happiness and financial stability to give them what they want is not in their best interest. Like WNS said, if you work full time who will be there to keep an eye on them? These are the years, if ever, that they need that watchful eye. What kind of Mom can you be if you are unhappy all the time? If you are stressed all the time over money, food, gas? Is them getting what they want to be at the cost of your identity? You have lost enough in my eyes. You all have and this move seems to me to be the beginning of the rebuilding of a life. It may not be easy but it has such potential.

    You are a phenomenal Mother! You have done so much with so little for so long. It is time for you to put your hand out and take Sam's and let him be your soft place to land. You deserve it. Once you do this I suspect it will allow you to be an even better Mom than you already are. The only difference will be location.

    How many friends from High school do you still have or still remember? How many are still in your life today? High school may seem like the world today, but in the grand scheme of things it's merely a small cog.

    Wishing you peace my friend and hoping you get that soft place to land. BTW.... your title..... you couldn't be a bad mother even if you tried!

  3. Move and the boys will get over it eventually. They'll be moving on with their lives and you need to move forward with Sam. Give it a try, if it doesn't work out, at least you tried.

  4. womanNshadows already said most of what I was going to say. From previous posts, I've gathered that the boys complain about minor deprivation like not having money to go out with friends, which to me shows that they're not aware of/prepared for the level of deprivation they'll experience if they get what they want.

    So right here is where I think you sit them down and lay all the cards on the table. Staying at their old school is going to mean eating only what the food pantry can supply, wearing only the clothes and shoes they already own, not being able to go to dances or movies with friends, not being able to afford toiletries beyond basic soap and shampoo, not being able to buy class rings or yearbooks. Are they willing to make that trade-off to be in the place they want to be? If they want to have a more normal high-school life, are they willing to scale back on their sports and get part-time jobs to pay for it?

    Also, at their ages, their grades are 100-percent their responsibility. If they choose not to do their work or study for tests and they fail classes, that's their choice. If it means they end up going to community college for a while to make up for their mistakes, so be it. They'll survive.

    And neither of the options you present would make you a bad mother. Just someone trying to do the right thing in a difficult situation.

  5. My appreciation and thanks to both of you. I have always put everyone else's needs in front of my own and I have a very hard time making decisions. It helped me to have a partner in life with this. I just clam up having to figure out things on my own. I feel like I've kind of gotten a "tough love" talk from the both of you.

    wNs - Yes, I have spoken to the boys about the dire financial situation. I think they believe that once I get a job everything will be okay. But I am still worried about how long it may take me. The market is still bad out there. I worked horrible hours at the big box store - sometimes Fri. and Sat. night and absolutely hated it because of leaving the boys. I will only now take a job with daytime hours.

    I don't want my boys to appear as ungrateful or to make excuses for them. They have been through the wringer and I feel that the amount of loss they have had to deal with has been way more than school-age kids should have had to. In a way, I think that not having had a father in their lives has resulted in some of their inability to understand fully the implications of our situation. We live in a wealthy town where poverty is hidden and I have sheltered and protected them from reality. I'll try talking to them again about the realities we face.

    Kelly - I will draw up a pros and cons list and see how it stands up. In support of the boys, at least the oldest went in for extra help and used up both daily study halls for tutoring and is still failing. That is what scares me. I do think they gave a shot at the new school and it truly doesn't seem to be a good fit.

    You said a lot of nice things about needing to preserve my own identity and happiness. I thank you that and will do my best to reflect on your kindness. I don't have any friends from HS, which I hated and I really blossomed in college. But I wasn't a homecoming queen and my sons are both in that crowd.

  6. Vanessa - I have told the boys what is going on and they have both replied that they would rather be homeless and living here than attending the new school. My oldest found some friends who he says will help us with food. I canceled the insurance on our second car and have told the oldest he can no longer drive until I can afford to reinstate it. I also mentioned that we will not have food except for what I can obtain from charity and again they told me they would live with that for the opportunity to remain here. My oldest has talked about looking for a job.

    But perception is different than reality.

  7. I am so glad you saw this as "tough love". I was so worried you wouldn't.

    In my first marriage I sacrificed everything for my daughter, who just graduated from UF. I lost my own self identity in the process. I was so lucky to be given a second chance with Joe. Our children are our most valued resource. I wanted to give her everything I didn't have. She got it but I lost myself. They say hindsight is 20/20 and I can now see that I could have done things differently and still have given her what would have benefited her and have done better for myself.

    She is now off on her own journey and believe it or not angry at me for leaving her Dad and finding my own life. So as of right now, I don't have my husband, my daughter or my stepsons. BUT....I do have myself. I at least like myself now. Good thing too since I spend a great deal of time alone.

    I wish I had it in me to even open myself up to find a Sam in my life. I'm just not there and I fear I never will be.

    Oh, I wanted to let you know not to worry about college and how to pay for it. I know so many ways to fund it it's not funny. When my daughter went I had nothing and we made it through. I also had lousy credit at the time thanks to my ex and we still did fine. There is money to be had when the time comes.

  8. I agree with you perception is different from reality. They have no idea what homelessness is let alone how it would effect them. To them its a term. Let them spend an entire week sleeping in the cold in the van and then try to get up to go to school and be productive. Sure his friends has offered food, but did he think about how taking food from a friend's family would make YOU feel?

    It is noble for him to offer to get a job but you know if you are having a hard time finding work no place is going to hire a kid over an adult in need of a job. It's just not reality.

    As long as they think they have a choice they are going to continue to push in that direction. I just worry about you and your well being. I can't see you having to go to a food pantry and taking food from other folks when you could be with Sam and living a normal existence. When do you come to the point when you say you have sacrificed enough? If the boys are homecoming court material then those boys are going to flourish socially where ever they go. They are those kind of kids, the ones that other kids are just naturally drawn to where ever they go. It will be like that for them in college as well. They are going to be fine, it's you I worry about!

  9. I say if your give them an inch...

    Okay, no trite sayings here. Just be sure you have decided how you will ultimately make your deciscion. As the parent, and the one who has to take the family best interest as a whole, you should probably just be talking to your sons about what their thoughts are. You should have them talk about best possible longterm outlooks with both scenarios. They need to understand that it is never black or white, so don't allow them to think of this in such simple terms. They, like you, must be willing to see the good opportunities which ever way you, and Sam, decide.

    Remember, you and Sam, are the adults here. It will be the two of you working hard to provide for your combined family. It will be the two of you creating a firm foundation for many years to come. The boys should not feel as though they have an equal voice here. It is not their responsibility to provide financially, materially, emotionally, or spiritually, that is the role of the adults. And if you are unwilling to live a life of poverty, always depending on what people are able to provide to you, then take that off the table. Why allow this to factor into the equation, if you as the adult have already ruled that out as not being in the best interest of your family.

    As we know, being the parent is not easy, and it's responsibility can only be shared by another adult.

    Good Luck.

  10. WITM, one thing you might consider is checking into the graduation requirements for the out of state school, then talk with the current school counselor to see how their transcripts will transfer. When we moved from MO to TX, my senior daughter would have had to take night/summer classes and drop her AP courses for menial BS courses in order to graduate here. I let her move back to MO to live with friends so she could graduate. My mistake for not checking into that ahead of time, and she should not have to suffer academically for my bad decision (or lack of forethought). That could help you in your decision making process.

    I also have to agree with most here that you as the parent are responsible for the decision making....good or bad. Informed decisions are best (the pro/con list is a good start). We all make mistakes; not repeating them is goal. But that is what life, learning, and of course love. As long as your boys know you love them and care for what is best for them (and you!), then whatever decision you make is right for you and your boys.

    Best wishes to you and your boys.

  11. Kelly, Dan and Lonesome Dove - I appreciate all of your comments and feedback.

    Kelly - I did not know the situation with your daughter and really feel for you. But at the same time I am so glad she has graduated from college. If I can just get my boys to that point, I will consider myself a success. I joked with a girlfriend last night, that my opening up myself to be with other men after my husband's death has not been perfect. I was divorced by one and now facing challenges with Sam. You and I can have lots of future discussions on this topic in the future.

    It means so much to have someone looking out and caring about me in the thick of all of this. I worry about myself too, my health and sanity. You and wNs raise the good point of losing my identity and self-sacrifice. I need to revisit that. Right now I just have to get through the start of the storm - when I reach the "eye" I'll be ready for that introspection.

    Dan - You are so right about this being an adult and parental decision and I cannot lose sight of that. I also liked what you said about it not being black or white.

    Lonesome Dove - You gave practical and heartwarming advice and I thank you for each. I really appreciate your view on life - that it is living, learning and of course, love. Do all things with love and make all decisions with love is my own advice I have been trying to follow. I think you would agree.

    About the school requirements. We are running into problems because the new school operates on a trimester vs. semester format and the sports requirements are different (tougher). My boys are struggling to try and adapt. I find it hard to make them suffer for what is not their fault. I know of families where the kids have returned for senior year and are living with friends. Or the husband moved out-of-state and the wife stayed behind for the kids to finish high school. That is just a challenging option for us because of the finances.