Why Do I Have To Be The Strong One?

One of the things I miss about childhood is knowing that no matter what happened, my mom would take care of me. If I needed money for something she would always find it. I never really knew how bad or how tight finances were because Mom spoke mostly in vague and generic terms. Now I’m the adult. I have two grown kids and a wife. The daughter is 19, but while technically grown-up, has never had to deal with the grown-up world on a true one on one basis. She has had her own problems that she has had to deal with (after deciding that she was all grown up at 18), but Mom and Dad have always been there to catch her when she faltered.

When my daughter moved out (okay, ran off) in mid September of 2011 to go live with her then boyfriend and his parents, she learned that things weren’t as bad at home as she thought they were. Apparently we were horrible monsters because we did things like make her do her homework, go to school, clean her room, wash the dishes, and take care of the pets. Six months later she was 5 months pregnant and pretty much begging to come home. We took her back with open arms, but at the same time the wife and I had finally found the perfect comfort level. We had all the bills under control. We enjoyed each other’s company. Now we had another mouth to feed and another person to add back into our personal dynamic. It was hard, but we managed.

A month after this happened I found out that I was losing my job. I was given two years to find another spot to land in the company or be unemployed. At 47 I did not need to be unemployed, so I took a much more physical job than the one I had. The other option was to try and get a job with more stress or one that would likely be abolished in a future round of budget cuts. My schedule changed, but I assured everyone that we would be okay. I would actually end up making more money per paycheck.

In July my granddaughter was born. I love her dearly, but I was also faced with another human being that ultimately I would end up being responsible for taking care of. My daughter would look after her and my wife would make sure she was fed and clothed and clean (tasks my daughter still has difficulty with performing for herself), but I would have to work to pay for her food and her clothes. My daughter originally planned to breast feed exclusively. That soon changed to occasionally and was eventually supplanted entirely by bottles of formula. Formula is not cheap.

Her husband (they were married in March, but he is still only 17) moved in around October and we also started moving around that time. They lived in the old house while we lived in the new house, and I paid for the utilities on both houses. In December my son and his wife moved into the old house and my daughter and her family moved in to our new house. It’s a long complicated game of musical houses, don’t ask.

So around this time we’re trying to move, trying to get set up for Christmas and Thanksgiving, and keep everything going when my paycheck gets screwed up. In my old position I was responsible for making sure all the employees in my unit got paid. In the new position I have to hope that the supervisors remember to put in things like paid leave. Needless to say, one of them didn’t.

My health also decided to start really giving me problems. My blood sugar would spike or would bottom out and my asthma became more debilitating than it had been in years because I was getting into so much dust, and dirt, and pet odors during the move all while exerting myself physically and then headed to work where I would perform even more physical lifting and loading.

Here we are now in February and I am still trying to recover financially from two screwed up checks, holiday expenses, and feeding a family of five. Today my blood sugar spiked high. I was shaking. I couldn’t function and had to call off from work. I ended up sitting in a recliner and sleeping most of the day. When I was awake, I was silently fighting the urge to break down and cry. I know my life isn’t nearly as bad as so many other people’s. I know we will eventually get things straightened out. I know we will eventually get moved, get the kids into their own place, and get a quiet and restful home life, but right now all I can think about is why do I have to be the strong one? Why do I have to put on the brave face and not let anyone know how bad I’m hurting? How did Mom handle things like this and make it look so easy?


175 thoughts on “Why Do I Have To Be The Strong One?

  1. mkesling63

    Why do you, because you make yourself that. Kid you want to go , o. Mom you want something, you do it then. That or go find a support group and drag the kid with you. Frankly my daughter knows if she leaves call me if you need money. Have a nice life out there.

  2. gnovember

    Thank you for sharing something quite so personal with us. i love the final paragraph best, it ended on a positive note and i am hopeful that your situation will improve. God bless and I also wish for my mom on a hard day.

  3. mrsdeboots

    Being who I am, I always feel slightly better after getting my feelings out, so I am hoping that writing this made you feel better.

    While I can’t relate to your exact situation, I am a mom, I am the only one in the house bringing home money (husband and 2 kids) and it’s incredibly hard to be the rock of the family.

  4. spamfred

    Wow, I totally get where you are coming from but I don’t understand why you are paying so much for everyone. Sometimes you have to exercise tough love and in this instance that sounds like forcing your daughter and her husband to take responsibility for their actions and work out how they will support themselves. If he has to take 3 jobs to support them then tough luck for him, you’ve done all that once, it’s their turn now.

    1. sivrag2 Post author

      Unfortunately the three jobs thing is not a realistic option. He is only 17 and has a learning disability as well. He has not been used to anyone expecting him to do well in school until he moved in with us and my wife and I forced the issue. I would rather struggle for a year and a half until he can graduate, and hopefully help him in school as well, than to have him get overwhelmed by jobs and fail school or drop out.

      1. eviecat21

        You are the strong one because you can be. You not only have had grace for your daughter but you have also taken this young man under your roof. Sometimes we just have to do what it is that has to be done. By growing this young man you are investing into your granddaughters future. You are very blessed. It might be an “awful beautiful mess”, but beautiful none the less.

  5. teen mom to teens

    Ahhhh, because you love them. However sometimes our love gets mixed up with pity and in my experience, when we do so much, it actually tells our kids we don’t think they are capable to live their life and sometimes, we think they’re not because they don’t live it the way we like, in turn taking away their ability to become responsible. One day at a time and one small change, even if it hurts or is uncomfortable, at a time.

    1. sivrag2 Post author

      I would be more willing to push the kids if their situation was a little different. My daughter ended up failing her senior year of high school and had to go back. Her husband is still only 17 and struggling with school. He has a bit of a learning disability and was never really challenged to do better at his school work. When my daughter ran off to live with him and his family, her grades plummeted and her attendence was at the point they took her to court for truancy. Once she moved back with us, that came to an end and she almost managed to pass missing graduation by 2 points in Senior English. She went back this year and made up that credit and graduated around Christmas. The son-in-law is trying to finish school and is also looking for work, although I have told him that his school must come first. I would rather struggle financially for a little bit than for him to fail or drop out of school.

      1. teen mom to teens

        It is so hard when they’re so young. I too had my first child when I was young. I admire the support you are giving them t finish school, that is important.
        For me, looking deeper into they whys of what has happened a our parts in it is important as well. Being a parent myself, I’d walk through fire for my kids 🙂

  6. russianmartini

    Sorry to hear about your stressful situation. Believe that this, too, shall pass. Your mom probably didn’t have it easy, she just made you think she did. You’ve done the same for your child and unfortunately she has not learned responsibility. I think some tough love is in order. If your daughter and her teenage husband are old enough to be parents, they are old enough to get full-time jobs, even crappy ones, and pitch in with the bills. Part of being the strong one is knowing when and how to delegate responsibility. Hang in there and best of luck!

  7. FacetsofLucy

    Wow! You are definitely your family’s hero and I sure hope they appreciate you. You know the stress is physically hard on your body and if you are sick , you can’t help. Someone told me once that we can only give so long without recharging. You need to find time and space to rest, enjoy your wife and maybe have some alone time. And, I agree with the previous post – delegate! delegate! delegate!

  8. K-Faith

    Sounds familiar, I want you to know that I will be praying for you and your family. It can be very difficult to NOT become resentful when you are carrying the weight of many dependents especially when you didn’t necessarily sign up for it. However, especially when it comes to our kids, we often bite off more than we can chew. This economy is not he best time to bite more than you can chew, thats for sure. Keep the faith, take the wife out on a FREE date! Ha ha ha.

  9. marliesgerritsen

    You only have to because YOU THINK you do.
    In my opinion your felt responsibility to provide for all of them may have to do with a lack of trust.

    I think you don’t trust your daughter and her husband to take care of them selves. And why should they prove you wrong? After all, this is nice and easy. You put a roof over their head, and dinner on their table. Why would they want to change that?

    I would advise you to put them to the test. Give them a couple of month and then cut them loose. If they are mature enough to be married and raise a child I would think they should be able to provide (at least partial) for themselves. Let them come up with a plan. (May be at first just their own food, and/or clothes. Or the babystuff.)

    And you could (or may be should?) provide the backup, not the easy and attractive alternative.

    At least that’s what I think. Good luck!

    1. sivrag2 Post author

      It’s not that they are mature enough to be married and have a child. It’s that they were immature enough to get into this situation in the first place. The son-in-law has had a rough childhood and I saw where they were living when she ran off with him. I’ve seen crack houses that would have been better places to raise a child. If I can help them out until he graduates, and challenge him to do better in school, it will be a small sacrifice on my part, and I fully trust that my son-in-law will provide for his family. My daughter has seen her mom able to be a stay-at-home mom/wife for the last 6 years and thinks she can just jump right into that role. She doesn’t recall the years of struggle we had. It also should probably be said that when we were struggling my mom and my wife’s parents all helped us out as well. How can I do any less?

      1. Candienziia

        I worked from the time I was fourteen, it seems that in a house which has four people of working age, you shouldn’t be the sole earner, even if people take part time employment. It’s unfair that you’re taking the entire burden. Based upon your article, you’re allowing your daughter to live her life almost as though she did not get pregnant and decide to become a mother. It’s one thing to help, it’s another to provide a free pass. She needs to learn to be independent and you and your wife babysitting her when she’s 19 and a mother is not creating a competent or independent woman.

  10. lovelydiscourse

    I get this. Boy, do i ever get it. I always force that cry though. In the car, most of the time, driving home at night. Its cathartic for me. Some stretches of time really are about just opening your eyes and planting your feet every day, aren’t they? Those times do seem to drag on forever, but nothing is forever, not even this. It really will pass. That thought always helps me. I hope you are able to take care of yourself. Thank you for sharing this.

  11. dr8wn8ndqu8rtered

    I’m sorry for your stress. Sounds like it’s perhaps because you’re being 3 husband/providers instead of one? This is not a good solution, and your body is telling you what your brain is not ready to acknowledge, yet. What would your children do if you lost your job, landed in the hospital, or even died? That’s the step they should be looking at NOW. Is your married son paying you rent on your old house? If not, why not? Is your daughter working? (Her husband can help her mom with the baby during the day if she’s not breast feeding.)

    I can fully understand doing what it takes to get the 17-yr. old son-in-law through high school. I actually attended some credit classes with my son to ensure he attended and finished high school. But having gone through some of this tough love stuff (and boy, is it tough), I also required that the jobless adult son living at home do plenty of chores around the house to at least help ‘pay’ for room and board. It’s the only thing that will get them out there pounding the pavement in the real world if they know with certainty that they are now earning their way in the world. After 1 year of yardwork, housecleaning, errand running, and other household duties, he was all too eager to go to the job interview that gave him his current job–and is now happily independent. You make ‘adult’ choices, you get adult responsibilities. There’s no way around it, and they will eventually grow up — though some only when they have to.

    1. sivrag2 Post author

      The married son normally takes care of all of his financial stuff. It’s only in emergencies that he comes to us for help. There has been some problems with the utilities mainly because my wife and his wife didn’t get the accounts and names switched in a timely manner partly due to the moves being in the middle of the holiday season. As for rent, it’s a long story. My wife’s parents moved and gave us their old house as part of her inheritance early rather than trying to sell it. In turn we did the same with our son and his wife.

  12. lauramacky

    And I was just sitting here wallowing in my physical pain. I definitely need to get over that, but sometimes it helps to vent. I totally get it, and I hope every person here prays for you. Thats what im going to do I right after I reblogged this so hopefully others will pray too!

  13. craymazing

    Your post made me want to cry. Mostly because I end up in the same situation. Not in circumstance but emotionally. Being the strong one is an automatic response, and then later, I realize I have feelings too. I’m not as good at leaning on other people, and I don’t want to burden them. Then later, I feel used because I’ve sucked up everyone else’s emotions and haven’t given any of my own away. Emotionally bloated.

    Anyway, it’s frustrating because we do it to ourselves, and it’s hard to break the pattern. But you are strong. And you’ll get through.

  14. renmi2000write

    I admire you. You are a great person. It is ok to cry. You earned it. This too shall pass. After letting your feelings out by crying, try not to get too upset because it won’t help. You might try counseling.

  15. Corinna

    thank you so much for this post…just last night I had a very intense “conversation” and I asked him the same thing. Why do I have to carry it all, have no room for error and be the responsible one. He had no answer. No surprise…Take a minute, deep breath, and know you are not alone. Thank you for saying what we all think…

  16. Marjolein

    I hope you’ll recover soon, both financially and physically.

    I’m not sure whether you’ve already tried this, and whether it would work, but what my parents did was this: from an early age on they would let us know how much money was coming in and what we were spending the money on. As children we quickly learned how much things cost and my mum always told us “remember, you can only spend your money once”. Parents can still be the people children fall back on, but you don’t have to make life seem ‘easy’ for your children’s sake.

  17. tickofaclock

    That was a beautiful piece. You sounded the same thoughts and questions i have in my head. I was enlightened after reading this coz i always thought that i am the only one that has the same probs. Everyday, i always give my parents a thumbs up for a beautiful life i’ve had after finding out on this adulthood stage how tough it is to act mature when bombarded with so many things, and still manage to smile and tell the family everything is gonna be alright.

  18. alanrand

    Lower your head a little more, squint your eyes, grit your teeth,adjust you footing, tighten your grip on the plow, and pray for the weather to break. You will not give up, you will not die, you are not alone…

    Others have traveled rougher roads before you and have shown you the way…Get your thinking beyond your circumstances, take a personal inventory, and market that which you have to offer…No one can do what you do as well as you do…

    In the meantime, grab a cup of coffee, get alone to yourself, relax, and watch/listen to this video, it might put a smile on your face.. YOUTUBE: JOHN MELLENCAMP – Don’t Need This Body – Waterbury, CT – Palace Theater, Feb. 4 2011…

    I will certainly pray for you and yours. God bless.

  19. Elis

    Sounds like maybe you just wanted to be heard and you’re not really looking for a solution. I say this because in all your replies, your focus seems to be on why the situation can’t be any different than it is, instead of how can it be better – if even just slightly better. Until you believe it can be different or better, it will stay exactly as it is and possibly get worse. Unfortunately, your health probably won’t get better either. You will likely continue to have health problems due to the effects of all this stress on your physical body. If you are unable to earn (you’re already loosing time at work) what happens to your family then?
    I understand paying back generosities and kindnesses provided for you. I understand kids putting themselves in unbelievably difficult situations, but you owning their problems does not teach them to problem solve and does not set them up for being able to repay or pay it forward in the future – it sets them up for perpetual dependency. They may still need to ask for help, but that’s what it should be… help, assistance, not you shouldering all the burden. Managing people (whether in families or work) means being honest and clear about what each person’s responsibilities are and holding people to those responsibilities. The only path to a better solution is 1) you and your wife have an open and honest conversation with your kids about the challenges that exist and ask them what their plan is to handle their problems 2) be very careful not to volunteer solutions but rather ask them how they plan to handle the problem 3) be willing to wait for them to answer the questions and come up with their plan or to ask for your help 4) and then be very clear regarding what you can do and what you can’t do.
    A learning disability cannot be allowed to become a life disability. Adults hae to operate in a very unforgiving world. Teaching your daughter and son-in-law to rise to the challenge, no matter how difficult, is more valuable to them as a life lesson than you trying to shelter them and killing yourself in the process. Even with a school focus, they can earn and have the primary responsibility of buying formula, food, payign for shelter, etc. That is theirs because they chose so and they must shoulder the responsilbilites of the consequences of their decisions. It’s life as it is, not how we think it should be. IMHO.

    1. sivrag2 Post author

      You’re pretty much correct in that I was just venting to get it out of my system. I have been pushing my daughter to try and get a job, but not with threats of being kicked out on the street. The first time I lost a job, I had just gotten married a year and a half earlier and we had just had our first son 3 months before that. I was buying a house, but I went into a depression. My mom took us all in and we survived. There is no way I can ever do any less than what my mom did for me.

  20. slvrvixn

    For very different reasons I find myself in a similar situation. I have a wonderful daughter who is a 26 yr old college grad. We live in the country (30-40miles to civilization) and of course we are in the “what job? era” but in our case with aprox. 60k in student loans to deal with. Add to that my husband, her Dad has been disabled since 1999 and requires regular care. We work together using the internet to develop income streams. It requires constant effort and creative effort but maybe if you all put your heads together you might develop something lucrative. I also agree that we empower our children when we expect them to step up to the plate and own their responsibilities.

  21. Turnip Times

    It is very hard to give tough love but it sounds like this is something you may want to consider. My first instinct is to say “I’m here. I will take care of you. Don’t worry.” However, we have a duty to make our children independent and we have an obligation to take care of ourselves before we take care of anyone else.

  22. Mia Wallace

    Literally holding back the tears as I write my reply here. First of all, many kudos to you and your wife for being there for your daughter through this incredibly difficult situation. She is lucky as hell to have such supportive, loving parents.
    I read this from a very different perspective. My mother is an alcoholic, my father an absolutely sadistic, abusive asshole, and I spent large part of my childhood picking up the pieces and taking care of both my baby brother and myself. I left at 14, and eight years later, am only now starting to walk on solid ground.
    I can only hope that your daughter realizes how lucky she is to have parents who would lay down and die for her and her daughter; where some of us walk the Earth as “orphans by choice,” so that we can do the unthinkable. Only difference is, I’m sure I have never made it look easy…
    Beautiful read, liked and followed!!


  23. Kristy Speer

    I moved back home at 35 not because I had to for me but because I had to for them, dads not doing good (I detest the word dying) and my mom will have to be supported I HATE being the adult right now I feel you on being the strong one its a very hard role.

  24. Serena Malcolm

    We parents find incredible strength from the love we have for our children. I read a story once of a mother who managed to lift a car and rescue her trapped child. Imagine the untold emotional strength we must have too! Great post and hang in there! 🙂

  25. pinklotusstoriesandstuff

    Wow, it’s like reading my current situation. Thank you for sharing and letting us know we are not alone. I am a 38 year old mother of three. At the current moment I WAS the only one supporting the home, until my 15 year old daughter became pregnant. I lost my job because I could no longer concentrate and one day I lost it broke down in the middle of the street and quit. My story is a little bit different, in the part of the world where we live I pay private education for my kids. Public school is not the best so I made the sacrifice. It’s not the money I lost in the education for my 15 year old but the lack of respect she had by failing the 7th grade and by leaving the house numerous times for weeks because I did not allow her to see her 23 yr old boyfriend and the fact that she could not appreciate a little bit the sacrifice I was making to give them what I believe is one the best treasures I can give them, education. I let her go, she now lives with her boyfriend who does not have a job and his parents are taking care of both their needs. Of course I help her by buying personal items for her and some money here and there but I made it clear that my other two daughters who did want to live under my roof, who did want my help to finish High School were now my priority. I hope your situation with your family gets better soon. Allow yourself to breakdown once in a while. I was and still am the strong one in the family but a do allow myself to break down once in a while.

  26. Sphere Me

    I have to be the strong one too. And sometimes the sane one. I grew up in a very dysfunctional family. My oldest sister was either being rushed to the hospital for a grand mal seizure or being picked up by the cops for either being truant from school or missing from home. So, my dad always admonished my other sister and me to have patience with her – “she has a problem,” he would say. After I got older and wiser, I refused to participate in this co-dependent behavior. I told my dad it was my turn to “have a problem.”

    My daughter was a third year pre-pharmacy student with tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money thrown at her for basically being a female with a 4.0 GPA in a science field. She ran off with the “greatest” young man in the world, came home six weeks later, and was pregnant with twins! When she was five months pregnant, the father was killed in an accident.
    I was (and still am) single and working two jobs just to support myself. Like you, I was just starting to get ahead and whittling down my credit card debt. I was foot loose and fancy free, and having the time of my life. Still young enough to be able to have fun, but old enough to know how to stay out of trouble! I bought a repossessed house that needed a lot of work. I didn’t realize just how much until after I bought it and got started on it. It still needs a lot of work, but I need a little more motivation and a lot more money.

    That was five years ago. The boys are now four and half years old, and the absolute delight of my life. I cannot imagine life without them. My daughter is a stay at home mother, at least until they go to school. Yes, she could go to work at some menial job that would pay her gas to get back and forth, buy her lunch out, and pay the $800 a month child care bill and allow someone else to care for OUR children and infuse their values into their little heads and hearts. When you reach adulthood, really people, what is five years? But to a baby, the first five years is the foundation that you can never rebuild or restructure.

    This is MY decision – to support my daughter and my grandchildren. Things are tight. I don’t mind. I am satisfied with where we are at this point in our lives. I rest assured knowing that these little boys have the best care available – their own mother. We live in a small town and I know the people who work in the child care centers. If I wouldn’t hire them to babysit for an evening out, why in the world would we want them to care for the boys on a daily basis? It just didn’t make sense, financially nor morally, for her to go to work. Again, that is my decision. I have taken flak from co-workers and family members as well. So when you receive replies that are critical, I understand. Those who have not lived it, cannot comment on it nor understand it.
    Hang in there! I do understand. As hard as it is, you are the strong one, because everyone else is not.

  27. kerrichronicles

    You are right in helping them out and setting boundaries. Your actions are setting an example for them. Keep doing what you’re doing – it will pay off in the end with your children and grandchildren living the expectations you’d always hoped to see.

  28. lsurrett2

    Been there and only slightly done that with children that think they can carry the weight of adulthood before they are ready. One has relatively succeeded on their own, the other has realized its best to stay in the nest for now. Kudos to you and your fam.


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