Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
My daughter, who is 26, just found out she was pregnant. She is not married, although there is a boyfriend, and she has been living with me in a small apartment since we lost our house to foreclosure two years ago. I’m not sure how this is going to play out.
I want to be happy for her and she needs someone to be happy for her. She wants to have the baby. But I fear for the future, both hers and mine. What if she ends up being a single mom, with me playing the fill-in parent role? Or, worse, what if I am just out of the picture when they baby comes and she starts a new life without me? She is my home right now. My ex is a wacko and my own family has never fully accepted or understood me. I’m not sure what I’ll do.
I feel so precarious but I think it’s more important than ever to act like everything is OK.
Dear Carrie On,
People can only know what they know; our lives are an endless repetition based on the skills we have. If you had a messed up life, and your daughter has had a messed up life, you need to add some skills to this family if you don’t want your granddaughter to be in the same position. It isn’t the immediate crisis that matters so much in the long term; there has been, and there will always be crisis. How the rest of the story will be written depends on the skills, intention, and behaviors you all choose now.
It’s a good idea to contact a social worker for case management services; find out what housing, welfare, and other assistance you are eligible for. I recommend counseling for codependence; this is work that will help everyone set healthy boundaries and expectations with one another. Consider skill programs for parenting; dialectic behavioral treatment (DBT ) can give you the skills to deal with ambiguity. You will probably need to consult a lawyer regarding your rights in custody issues and restraining orders with ex’s.
Your family has already tried it on your own and here is where you are. Add the skills and help to get you were you would rather be.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: it may seem like a good idea to call in the professionals right now… but I am not so certain it’s the panacea Dr. Brilliant is hoping for. I know people who tried that route and ended up with nothing but further chaos at the end of it. There are a lot of lousy social workers and a lot of bad decisions made in the name of social services. And I have never met a single woman who found that her problems with an undesirable ex were resolved by a restraining order. All that does is give a woman a right to call the police if the order is violated. It is a complete crap shoot whether the police will be helpful once they get there, or whether they will arrive before damage has already been done.
Here’s what I recommend: sit down and have a talk with both your daughter and the father of her coming child. You need to all get clear as to what is going to happen and what you all expect from each other. This is not the time to tiptoe around worrying about upsetting the apple cart or rocking the boat. The apples are overturned, the boat is half-submerged. It’s time to deal with what’s going on.
I may be off base, but I suspect that both you and your daughter have come to this point largely through a lack of planning and decision. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of “just getting through the day” when you go through one crisis after another. If you continue on that course, I predict disaster in your future. If I were you, I would take control right now. There are online sites for organizations in your state that offer aid and grants to women in your daughter’s position; start checking into them yourself. Here’s one to start with:
Oh, and by the way- you have your own problem to deal with right now. Unless the baby’s daddy is out of the picture altogether, you need to build a life for yourself, separate from your daughter. It’s going to be a big help to her if you babysit and offer support; but a mom who has no life of her own can become very burdensome for a daughter who is starting a new family. You need to make plans of your own. You probably should have done this years ago, but there’s no better time to start than now.