Struggle is not weakness.
When you become a parent, you take on the hardest and most important job in the world – the raising and nurturing of a new person. Your life becomes consumed with doing everything you can to make sure that little person has everything they need, and quite a bit of what they want. Mostly you just try to do your best to insure that this new little person grows to become a healthy and happy old person. One that has what it takes to hold his or her head up high as they move through life, able to handle whatever is thrown at them.
What happens, though, when you don’t feel that way about yourself? When the stress of trying to make ends meet and provide for your child convinces you that all you have to give just isn’t enough? How are you supposed to teach them how to thrive when you feel like you aren’t able to do so yourself?
Becoming a parent didn’t suddenly give you all the answers. There was no software upgrade that came with the new baby download. No doubt that you were and still are trying to figure yourself out while juggling everything your kid(s) need. So what do you do when everything’s piling up on you and you’re feeling like there’s no hope of coming up for air?
Shout for a life preserver.
No man or woman is an island. Especially if that man or woman is a parent. There will no doubt come a time, if it hasn’t already, when you need to tag someone in. Maybe you’re coming up short on the bills this month. Maybe Child A’s school and extra-curriculars clash with Child B’s. Maybe you’ve been working double-shifts to try and bring in some extra income, but you still have a pile of laundry and a mile long list of “have-to’s” to get through at home. Maybe you’re dealing with mental or physical challenges. That’s when you shout – not whisper, not hint – for HELP.
It can be to your parents. It can be to your siblings. Your old college roommate. Your priest. Your rabbi. A doctor. A therapist. Your barber. (Well, maybe not the barber. Just depends on your barber, I guess). It can be to an on-line group full of people in the same situation who can share with you how they’re making it through. It can be to anyone you trust. There’s just one catch, though:
Don’t think of it as weakness.
This is especially hard for Dads. Chalk it up to old macho stereotypes, male pride, etc. Dad is supposed to be the strong provider, the guy who always knows best. Well, part of knowing best is acknowledging when you’re in over your head, and being man enough to do what needs to be done not just for your family, but for yourself. Everyone struggles. EVERYONE. If struggling is weakness, then there isn’t a strong soul on this planet. We may all struggle with different things – money, relationships, depression, anxiety – but we are all struggling with something.
Oh, and as far as those folks you see on-line or know personally that seem to have it all together? Those folks that seem to be breezing through life? Trust me, they’re either not, or they’ve already been through their own struggles and managed to break on through to the other side.
I’m writing this because I know it firsthand. Trying to cope with depression, work with my wife to keep the household going, raising a son with special needs and another that I desperately worry about not getting neglected in the process takes a toll. I’ve been blessed in my life to have the kinds of friends and family that are ready, willing, and able to tag in and throw me a life preserver when I need it. Asking is hard. Admitting to myself that I’ve come up short and I even need to ask is hard. It’s not as hard as letting things fall apart by trying to go it on my own, though.
Struggle is not weakness. Struggle is natural. Struggle happens. You are not deficit because you are struggling. You are not weak because you’ve done your best and still somehow found yourself not where you wish you were. True strength comes in accepting where you are and doing whatever is necessary to get where you need to be.
I can’t lie. I’m constantly trying to convince myself. Half the reason this is being written is to keep myself honest. About where I fall short, and what I need to do to fix that. That includes looking to others gracious enough to extend their hands. It’s not something I want to abuse, or take for granted. However, when the offer is there, it’s best to accept it. By doing so, I might just get to place where I can repay that generosity, or better yet pay it forward.
It’s the hardest lesson to learn, and one of the most important that you’ll ever pass on to your kids.
So be strong, my friends. Grit your teeth and dive in. Just don’t forget to reach for that life preserver when it’s thrown to you.