Tough Questions

“Dada, why do we have to leave our house?”

Our condo is half-packed up and we’re officially in transition. I’d like to tell you we bought a new place. Hell, I’d settle for renting a place. But this move is a preemptive strike before we’re made to leave. That’s what happens when you buy a home at the absolute height of the market, said market completely collapses and you find yourself $100,000 upside-down. With an adjustable rate mortgage. Facing rising condo fees and unanticipated special assessments. Saddled with job loss and vastly reduced incomes. Not to mention the fact that MJ is temporarily out of work. Did I mention we’re being sued by our lovely condo association for good measure?

Despite the fact that we surrendered the house during bankruptcy, the bank doesn’t want it so they won’t foreclose. Which means the condo fees we can’t afford to pay just keep piling up. Which racks up late charges. Which racks up lawyer fees. But you can’t get blood from a stone, and I’m rockin’ it hardcore these days. They say investing in real estate is a sure thing. Well now I have a home on Cape Cod that I literally can’t even give back to the bank. How times change.

So now we become a burden to my parents, as I boomerang my pathetic ass back to my childhood home. This time with my family in tow. Don’t get me wrong, we’re beyond lucky to have family who don’t think twice about helping us and taking us in. But I feel like a failure for letting it come to this.

“Dada, I miss my kitties. Why can’t they live with us?”

Look, I hate cats. Hate them. But because my wife loves them, I’ve lived with two Maine coons for seven years. Even though we now have a grudging respect for one another, I have long looked forward to life without allergies and the general snottiness of the feline persuasion. And now I’m on the doorstep of such of life because my mom is extremely allergic to cats and we can’t take them with us.

But along comes a little boy who loves the cats. With no brother or sister to play with, he often turns his attention to his furry siblings. What I thought was merely cute play turned out to be a fairly deep bond. But asking my mom to forsake breathing in her own home is absolutely out of the question. I know she feels horrible, but there’s nothing anyone can do. The cats are going to live with my mother-in-law so they won’t be far. Only an hour away. But to a 3-year-old that trip might as well be to Antarctica.

“Dada, why do I have to go to a new school? I love my friends and I miss them.”

I’ve never had something incredibly sharp and jagged jammed straight into my heart. But I don’t have to be stabbed after that comment, because the look on his face and the sadness in his voice was more painful than any blade.

Will has flourished at his preschool over the last 12 months. He found stability, strength, independence and confidence there. And Will, a boy who once couldn’t play nicely around any other kids, now has a plethora of friends. Every single day he comes home and recites the litany of friends he played with, the games they enjoyed and how much fun he had. He’s comfortable there, he’s thriving there. And now I’m ripping him away from all that.

I’m left to wonder how one is judged as a man. Because if we’re talking provider, I’m failing miserably. I bought a house we could afford at the time, but now we can’t. And as a result, we’re literally losing the roof over our heads. Sure I work a lot and went out and found a job that pays more, but in the end it was a wash because MJ is out of work now through no fault of her own. She’s been fantastic at taking care of the house and I’m so proud of her for starting down a path that will take her back to school. But a real man provides at all costs and keeps things afloat. I really believe that. And by those standards, I’m way south of where I need to be.

But maybe a real man is someone who takes care of his family. Unfortunately, I’m failing there too.

I get up at 5:45 a.m. and leave for work at 6:30. It takes me anywhere from 2-3 hours to get to work. I work from 9 to 5. It’s at least another two hours to get home. It’s after 7 p.m. by the time I pull in to my parking space. That’s after dinner and exactly one hour before Will goes to bed. As any parent can tell you, that last hour before bed is not exactly a time for bonding. It’s filled with “brush your teeth” and “take a bath” and “make sure you go pee.” Yet I try to cram all my hugs, all my kisses and all my bonding into 60 minutes. The last 60 minutes of my son’s day, during which he is understandably tired, cranky and wants little to do with anyone. Nevermind a dad trying to relentlessly cuddle with him.

After he goes to bed I usually have to tend to the blog or one of my other writing projects I do on a part-time basis, so MJ goes to bed while I toil away on the computer. So much for being a good husband.

“Dada, can I have a brother or a sister?”

We both want to have another child so badly, but we don’t even have a home of our own. But more than that, MJ has to be off her current medication if we want to get pregnant. That means we literally have to choose between another baby and her mental well-being. Another child makes us complete but coming off the meds might send my wife over the edge. Meanwhile the meds keep my wife away from the edge, but the idea of not having another baby might send the wheels completely flying off the wagon.

In the end I can’t sacrifice my wife’s health. The thought of not having a second child makes me physically ache inside, but the thought of losing MJ makes me want to dig a hole and never come out. Either way you cut it, it’s not a choice I’m very fond of at the moment.

And somewhere in the middle of this tempest of misery and heartache I’m stuck in traffic either on my way to or from work. I can’t move. All I see are brake lights. I’m hemmed in while my son grows up without his beloved pets, without his friends and with a father he sees for an hour a day. I’m pretty sure some divorced dads get more time than that. The roof over his head isn’t even one I’ve provided. If I’m not providing enough financially and I’m not providing enough emotionally and I can’t give him the things he wants and needs…well, then what exactly am I doing?

“Dada, I miss you. Can you please work from home today and cuddle me?”

Sorry bud, I can’t. But I miss you too kid. I miss your mom too. I’m missing it all. And both you and mom deserve better.

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12 thoughts on “Tough Questions

  1. I feel you in regards to MJ and her meds. It was a very difficult decision for Kat and I as well. We were willing to at least try but the thought was always there that at some point there was no going back, and if we had to make a decision between my wife and the baby, how could we possibly? Luckily for us, her new regimen is working fantastic and it was much, much safer to be on and pregnant. I’m still terrified that the midget will inherit either of our issues, or come down with something else entirely, but I guess that’s just normal for being a parent.

    As far as your last line, about them deserving better? Anyone stuck in a rut deserves better, including you. But such is life and this is your family. You do what you have to do to make their lives better for the future. I know it may not seem that way right now, but sometimes short term sacrifices are very much worth long term gains. MJ understands this. Fortunately for Will, I think he’s young enough that he will be able to adjust to his new environment. Kids always have a hard time with loss. Now is the time to teach him that lesson, that loss isn’t everything and it, and failure, isn’t something that can’t be overcome. Show him the noble way of how to deal with things not going the right way.

    Having his grandparents around will greatly balance what he’s losing from his old home. And now you are putting yourselves in a place where you will have slightly less stress regarding your home which will hopefully lead to less stress in other places in your life. I know going back to live with your parents will mean whole new sources of stress but use this time to recoup and make a plan for the future.

  2. Sadly, I can’t argue at all that you and your family have a ton of challenges to deal with right now. It’s crazy and too much. But, from this blog reader’s point of view, you are far from a failure. I’d say you’re a failure if you give up and stop fighting and trying, and from what I’ve read, you don’t strike me as the kind of guy who’d do that. Best of luck to you guys with this transition…

  3. “Iā€™m left to wonder how one is judged as a man.”

    Simple – one way is you look at your kid(s). That’s how I judge myself, and if you do the same you have to feel good.

  4. Dude, you sucked up your pride and took help when it was offered. That couldn’t have been easy, and it’s obviously killing you, but you did it anyway. You’re taking a killer commute and missing out on things you would much rather be, to put what food you can on the table

    That sounds pretty damn manly to me.

    I’ve been there. Keep your head, down, do your best, and it will get eventually get better.
    Dustin recently posted..Be The Father and Husband That Women Want and Children NeedMy Profile

  5. I think you are highly underestimating yourself in all of this. You did not fail to provide for your family, what you did was do everything in your power to keep your family together. And you have done that. So many couples would have divorced a long time ago with all of the things you and MJ have been through, but you two just keep going. You keep your heads above water every single time and that is what is really important. You are two very strong people, and that is how a man should be judged. When it comes to having a second child, have you two ever considered adoption at all? I know that some people do not think it is the same, but you guys would be a wonderful family for a child to be adopted in to.

  6. I have been following you since the days of BBC. I know its hard, but don’t look at yourself like you are a failure. Unfortunately life happens and all you are up against are trials of life. We are pretty much in your situation, just further into it. We live with my husband’s family. We moved in 2 years ago and things STILL haven’t improved. I can say the positive of this situation is that Aubrey (our 3 year old) is thriving by having her Grandparents there everyday. She’s building a wonderful bond with them and its so great to see her greet them each day. I have gotten to know my in-laws a lot better and have become closer with them than my own family. It sucks to be in your 30’s and have to head back home to Mom and Dad. But fortunately you have a good Mom and Dad to help you out. See the positive in this, you guys will be okay!

  7. Although I have only recently started to comment, I found your blog about 2 years ago while I was pregnant with my son. I have not for one moment doubted that your family is the most important thing to you and that you do everything in your power to keep going and to give them all that you are able to.

    I am so sorry that your family has gone through so much in such a short time. To say that it’s incredibly unfair is a gross understatement, but as Renee already said, you are not the failure in this. A failure would have rolled over and given up a long time ago, but you have done all you can to provide for your family. The best we can do for our families in tough times or tough situations and to do all we can to show them they are loved and to make the best of the time we DO have with them, and it sounds as though you’re doing the best you can with the situation you have.

    Wishing you and your family all the best.
    Becca recently posted..What a year it’s beenMy Profile

  8. I’m sorry. For all of it. You guys seriously deserve a break. You’re not a failure, I think that’s evident in how much you care about your family, and the fact that you can articulate these feelings at all.
    Rachael recently posted.."Awesome"My Profile

  9. Aaron,

    I have been following your blog for 2 years now and I have always thought you were funny and a loving family man. My son is the same age as yours, so I have enjoyed seeing Will grow up along side my son.

    Until recently, I had lived on the Cape with a house that I shared with my husband and son. We were also struggling to make things work, we had no family nearby to help and the economy and having child care expenses to pay for, made paying our mortgage and other bills unmanageable. But unlike you, my husband wasn’t strong enough to fight for his family. He gave in to drinking heavily to the point of losing everything, his job, his friends, and lastly his family (his wife and son). I had to quit my job, leave my friends and move back to my family (outside of the US) for support, emotionally and financially. I am now a single parent, starting over in a new country. This was all unnecessary if only my husband was strong enough (like you) to fight for his family. You are doing the right thing by supporting your family (the best way you can) and working hard to provide. Hang in there!

  10. Hey there. Just wanted to say thanks for having your blog out there… I’ve obviously been reading since inception but never really commented because I wasn’t sure what to say. Seriously after reading about what you guys have to go through on a daily basis, it really makes me stop feeling so bad for myself and realize that I don’t have it so bad. I absolutely ADORE Will and now that Haley and Pancake have been introduced, feel free to unload them on me if you ever need a break šŸ™‚
    Melissa recently posted..Why you Gotta be so Mean?My Profile

  11. “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”

    Maximus is the original Laker fan- take no prisoners never give up kind of guy. That movie should be required viewing for all men.

    If there ever was a time when I thought that some things are really out of our control it is now. It doesn’t mean that we don’t share some responsibility for the situations we find ourselves in, but there are mitigating circumstances.
    You are doing the best you can to take care of your family and that is worth a lot. A lot of people would have just quit and you haven’t. Keep fighting because it can’t stay this way for ever.
    Jack@TheJackB recently posted..My Stairway To HeavenMy Profile

  12. I’m coming to this post years later and find it speaking to my current situation. My husband recently left his job and is looking for a new one. We don’t have any kids, I have a good job and and we have enough savings to last us awhile. Also, this is happening in a strong economy, so I can’t begin to compare our situation to what you were going through. But reading your words helps me to better understand my husband’s feelings. I know he feels like he isn’t being a provider and it’s hard for me to fully understand what he’s going through. Your words are helping me to bridge that gap and I’m so thankful to your for sharing them.

    And I have to add – that last photo of Will looks so much like the recent photos you’ve posted of Sam! šŸ™‚

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