11-20-2018 10:09 PM
Hi everyone (or anyone!),
I am married with three children (10 - 14 years) and this is the first time I have done anything like this (so bear with me). I came here because I've been struggling for a while, and thought sharing my thoughts might be a good way to help get some clarity (and self-healing). Plus, feedback from complete strangers sounds like it could have a strange appealing quality (although at this point, I'm not sure what feedback I'm looking for) . . .
My wife and I are having marital problems. She's been depressed for a long time, and disengaged from the family (would get home from work and then be glued to her phone). She was controlling (e.g., wouldn't let me help manage our finances) and kept us financially insecure through annual big ticket holidays. However, we very rarely fight, and she started taking medication a few months ago, which has helped (although still largely unsupportive in terms of helping with the kids, housework or participating in family activities). I'm also not the best husband (e.g., I cant remember the last time I took her out for dinner).
My son has a number of mental health issues (ODD, ADHD & Depression). He's been especially "off the rails" for the past 6 months: violent towards me, expensive property damage, admissions into mental health hospitals, frequently running away and getting in trouble with the police/court. I took 3 months off work to manage things (my work is very supportive), and although things improved somewhat (the police had a curfew on him which worked for a while) things are going sour again.
I am struggling to manage work responsibilities (given that most of the family responsibilities fall onto me) and his school has now shortened his day (will finish at lunch) which I'm not sure how I'm going to manage (means another school trip during work hours). I'm looking for additional educational opportunities as I know finishing early will also lead to more running away (he gets bored at home and would rather hang out with friends and do drugs).
My daughters are doing an amazing job (given the day-to-day struggles they are exposed to) although they are showing symptoms of anxiety. We don't have any behavioural problems with them (well, any more than what is normal). They openly don't want to live with my son, and I do think it would be best for them to spend periods of time apart.
Over the past 3 weeks my wife has been overseas. Its made me think more about separation. I brought this up at my last counseling session (our family receive support from a range of mental health services in addition to private practitioners) and the question was posed to me "would you try and work on the relationship?". The strong feeling I had was "No", which is horrible, as I'm basically saying that I have given up on trying to make things work. Its especially horrible now that my wife has improved and is willing to improve her behaviour.
I always struggle with the dilemma of knowing what's best for the kids. Is it better for mum and dad to separate, or are they better off with dad always around? When my wife was depressed it was somewhat simple, as I could tell myself "the kids need me", but with her improving that argument no longer applies. What should I do? What is best for the kids?
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11-23-2018 09:38 PM
11-20-2018 11:04 PM
Thank you for sharing what's been going on for you and your family @Dad4good. It sounds like there are a lot of things to unpack here that would put a strain on any relationship. I'm sure many of our members will be able to share their experiences and support but in the meantime I just wanted to check what type of supports you have for yourself? For example, friends, family, a counsellor or helpline (i.e. Mensline)? Or are there any self-care strategies that you use that you find helpful?
I would encourage trying to make your self-care and support a key priority and that way you can maybe get some clarity around making a decision that's best for you and your family.
11-20-2018 11:30 PM
No, I have to admit, I haven't been doing enough self-care.
However, yesterday I went to the GP and got myself some sessions with a psychologist. I also had some counseling as part of the family therapy my family is receiving (and I have called parent line a number of times).
I agree, I'm doing these things as I think they will help me come to a decision on how to move forward.
11-21-2018 11:39 AM
It sounds like you are juggling a lot of different responsibilities between looking after your son when he is going through tough times, looking after your daughters, work and keep the house going when your wife has been moving forward with her recovery. I just want to say how much we admire your persistence and can hear just how much your kids mean to you! I can imagine it must be really hard some days, and we want you to know that we hear you I hope you find that there are so many parents that can relate to what you are going through here.
You mentioned you will be seeing a mental health professional, which is really great to hear! Parents often tell us on the forums that looking after themselves and investing in their personal wellbeing helps them to continue supporting their family when times are hardest. Sometimes it can feel hard to fit this into the day, or like there are other priorities, but we want to reiterate that you also deserve support to help keep you going when times get hard. What sorts of things do you do for you?
Has your son been engaging with seeking support to help him manage the feelings he is experiencing? You mentioned that he has been in hospital- did they give any referrals to community based services to see your son on an ongoing basis? I can imagine that periods of hospitalisation must be hard on your family and there are some really great carer services available, including some your daughters might be interested in. Are you based in Australia?
We can see you have been really active overnight supporting other members on a number of threads- we are really grateful for your input and hope you can have some valuable conversations here that help you work through your next steps forward
11-21-2018 09:20 PM
Thanks for touching base!
Yes, my son has lots of professional support. He has always had a private psychologist and pediatrician, but since the hospitalisations he also started to receive support from ELMS and Anglicare.
Anglicare also provide us with family counseling. Both my daughters have a private psychologist and my eldest daughter will soon be receiving counseling support from Better Place Australia.
My son has been missing most of his appointments lately (even just today I ended up using his private psychology session).
Yah, my biggest barrier to self-care is finding the time to do it. Just doing this was more than I usually would do (I guess that's why I take advantage of my son's missed appointments). Anyway, I spoke to my son's psychologist today and he was happy to help with my ongoing support, so I'll make sure to book an appointment soon.
Actually, my session today was good. After initially talking about my son, I opened up about my marital issues. It became clear that I am motivated to separate from my wife, and that the feelings of guilt are always going to be there (its just something that I'll have to manage if I pursue with the separation). In terms of 'doing damage to the kids' the psychologist reminded me of the impact of the current situation.
My wife comes back from her holiday tomorrow. She knows that I am wanting change (I raised it over the phone last week) but I haven't told her that I am leaning towards separation. I will raise the discussion over the next few days (I think!). I'm really scared, as I know the possible implications . . .
11-22-2018 01:05 PM
Hi there @Dad4good,
I'm glad to hear that you had a good session yesterday, it sounds like it was helpful for you I agree that finding time for self-care can be incredibly difficult, especially for parents. What sort of things do you like to do for self-care? Sometimes taking a minute or two for a small break of self-care can be great way of squeezing it in. Things like making a cup of tea, listening to your favourite music while driving, what do you think?
It's okay to be scared about having this conversation with your wife. Did the psychologist offer any suggestions as to how to have the conversation? I hope things are going well today.
I'm interested to see what other users have to say, our members have such a wealth of experience and insight.
11-23-2018 04:55 PM
11-23-2018 09:38 PM