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  (#1 (permalink)) Old
southern Offline
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Seemingly-Unfixable Family Problems - April 13th 2012, 07:08 PM

I'm a senior in high school, going out-of-state for college next year. I'm the youngest of four, and the next-youngest sibling left the house before my freshman year in high school. I'm having a really hard time feeling good about going to college and leaving my parents. Selfishly, I'm so happy to escape my house. But I'm leaving behind a very troubled house, and I can't do anything to fix it. My dad is in his mid-fifties and has been unemployed going on a year now. I worry that employers aren't hiring him because he is “old”, short-tempered, and not at all self-aware. My dad's dad was an alcoholic with a strained marriage. My dad doesn't drink (thank God, because I can only imagine if he did), but he never learned the acceptable way to talk to a wife, and never learned how to control his temper. My mother is the sweetest, most patient woman, but she is constantly made miserable by my dad's never-ending complaints and bickering. I know that my dad thinks he is a good father/husband when he compares himself to his dad, but he doesn't understand that dads aren't supposed to constantly berate their wives or to make fun of their children (lightheartedly, but eighteen years of being “jokingly” called a dork, goth, dumb, nerd, etc. gets old). I could on with my complaints about him, but let's just say that when I'm in a good mood, I try to stay away from my dad so I can hold onto my good mood. He tries to be a good dad, he really does, but I can't help resenting him sometimes.

As I said, my dad is unemployed, and my mom's job is in the lower to mid-salary range. We live in a big house in a nice (read: pricey) neighborhood, and we can't afford it. I'm afraid that my dad won't ever get a good job again, and we're already in debt. I wish I could take care of my parents, but I can't, and won't be able to for years.

Because my mom feels powerless about my dad's job situation, she starves herself to lose weight. She can't control the job market, so she controls her weight. Every night she drinks Nyquil, because if she doesn't, she can't sleep because she is so hungry. Every morning she gets up early to work out for hours before going to work. I worry because she is so fragile to begin with. She had breast cancer three years ago, she had to get knee surgery on her arthritis-ridden knee, and she recently threw her back out. I see pictures of my mom in her prime, and she looks so healthy, but now she just looks broken down and miserable. Not to mention, starving herself makes her grumpy and less patient, which in my house, is the kiss of death. My mom and I have to be incredibly patient to deal with my dad, and if either one of us are cranky, the house is filled with all sorts of fun arguing and yelling matches. But mainly I just worry that my mom is going to put her body through so much stress that she's going to injure herself more. I just don't know how to get her to eat healthily (she doesn't know how to cook, nor does my dad, so I never learned and can't just cook lean meals for us to eat).

How do I handle all of this? I can't give my dad a job, I can't fix my parents relationship, I don't know how to fix my mom's feeling of helplessness so that she can eat healthily again. I'm going to leave for college and my parents are going to get old and hate each other even more now that I'm not there to peacekeep (any time I go away for a week, I come back and they're not speaking), my dad's going to have to take some job that will make him miserable, which will make my mom even more miserable, and my mom's health is going to continue to deteriorate. I just don't know what to do.
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Re: Seemingly-Unfixable Family Problems - April 13th 2012, 07:45 PM

Hello and welcome

I'm sorry to hear about everything that's going on in your family, I can't even imagine what that must be like. The difficult part about a situation like this is that you're right when you say there isn't much you can do. You can't control other people it's that simple, nor is it your job to fix the job market, your parent's relationship, or your mother's health. If you feel you can, let her know that you're worried about her because you know she's not taking care of herself and urge her to seek professional help. That's really all you can do for her.

You have no reason to feel guilty about leaving because you can't fix these things living at home any more than you can fix them living at school. It will probably be good for you to get away from the stress for awhile. It's in our nature to want to take care of our families, but some things we just can't. Find a healthy outlet for yourself until you leave, which may include talking to someone like your guidance counselor. When you get to school you will most likely have access to free counseling services, if you feel you need help dealing with this, I would suggest taking advantage of them.

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Re: Seemingly-Unfixable Family Problems - April 14th 2012, 10:49 PM

OP, if you were looking for someone to tell it to you direct and to the point: You cannot fix any of those things you mentioned. You already know this, but it is okay to need to hear it from someone else. There is no magic solution for any of it, and it will be hard. I will not say this will be easy because it won't be. But it does have to happen. You do have to let go and move on.

The good news, however, is that life (all life, be it simple or complex) adapts to change rather well. If it didn't, no one would function at all. Removing yourself from the equation of your household will pose a terrifying challenge, because we as human beings are scared of items which we cannot predict or control. It's in our nature and nothing will change that. In dealing with ones family situation, this is even more true because we are directly tied to the individuals. You have seen what happens when you leave for a week, but short term and long term effects have been known to be different. It doesn't mean they will be, but they certainly can be. As days move by, people have a tendency to do what they must to survive.

Your mother and father will adapt when you are gone. Could this lead to household problems? There will almost assuredly be some to occur, yes, and many of them will happen right at the start, but it doesn't mean that all is doomed to fail or that this will be the situation forever. Sometimes failing is the only way to get better at anything, be it a family dynamic or something else in life. I cannot predict what will happen, being far removed as I am. But nor can you, even having known your parents all your life. Keep in touch with your family as you move on, but know that you cannot control all of the variables no matter how hard you try. It will be tempting to return and try to fix them, but that course would only end in failure. At least with the option of moving on, you stand a chance to see things improve. In some ways, you might say there is only one real option.

I only offer this advice because you asked.

Good luck in whatever you decide to do.
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Re: Seemingly-Unfixable Family Problems - April 15th 2012, 05:08 AM

Your parents wouldn't want you to miss out on your education because of them and I think you know that, otherwise I think it would be harder for you to be going. I can not imagine what you are going through, but who knows, if you get done school, you can help them then. I know that isn't a solution for now. But since that is important to you by the sounds of it, at least you can have an end goal. Is welfare an option? Have you talked to your family about how afraid you are to leave?
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