Three Jobs, Two Kids, One Disabled Mom, and No Hope. Help!

I am a single mother of two young boys (ages 3 and 4) working three part-time jobs to support my family, which includes my disabled mom. These are terrible jobs. I wash dishes at a restaurant at one. At another, I stock grocery shelves. And then another is as a convenience store clerk. I've already been held up and I've worked there for three weeks. I am up at 4 a.m. and gone from 5 in the morning until 9 at night, six days a week. I have Tuesdays off. My mother watches the kids while I am gone. But she is getting up there in age and has a growing list of health problems. I don't know what I would do without her. I fear I will have to find out one day soon. I once had a good job with a $60k salary and benefits but I blew it. I made a mistake and got fired and I have been blacklisted by that business ever since. I feel like life won't give me a second chance and this is the lot I am left with. I feel hopeless and it pains me to think about the future. I don't feel like I have one but I have to think about the kids. The kids that I never see because I am working! There is no way right now I can see having the money to send them to college someday. I fear they will not have the opportunities I had (and squandered). I cannot afford a therapist right now and I am not sure a therapist could even help me. Maybe you have some ideas. I am hoping you do. Thank you. —Feeling Hopeless
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Dear Feeling Hopeless,

I have to admit that when I first read your letter I felt overwhelmed. I was a single mother myself for several years, many years ago. Your voice called up those years, and I remembered how tired I was and scared sometimes—and I had only one child at that time, not two like you. Being a mother is extremely hard work, and then you’re working hard in your jobs, too. I worked two jobs, one full time and another part time, and I went to school. I thought back to what helped me at the time, and maybe it will help you, too.

I know you are devilishly busy and tired and have no time, so my advice is to take time for yourself. That probably seems and sounds impossible, but I will say it again—you must find time for yourself. You might think I’m nuts by now, but one thing that helped me was taking walks. I walked whenever I could, mostly between job and home; I saved car fare/money, too. Of course, I lived close enough that walking was possible. I don’t know if that applies to you.

Those walks gave me time and space to think or just space out and be by myself with no demands on my attention or my time, even if just for a little while. While you’re walking, if you like, you can concentrate on taking long, slow, deep breaths, which are good for your physical and mental health. This combination of breath work and walking can help relieve anxiety and depression, too. Maybe walking isn’t your thing. Maybe there’s something else you like doing better; if so, do it. You need to take a break, however small, and make it a part of your daily routine—caring for yourself will translate into caring for the people around you. You’ll feel it, and they will, too. Of course, it takes practice. You have to keep doing it.

I have the feeling that you feel guilty about whatever mistakes you may have made in the past. You are paying for this already in your work life; try not to pay for it in your current emotional life. That translates into “stop beating yourself up.” Whatever you did, I doubt you deserve life imprisonment, which is what feeling guilty all the time really is. Concentrate on doing better now.

You may not be able to save money for your children’s education. In that case, they will have to rely on financial aid and/or attend public schools—like I did and maybe like you did, too, like many people do, and that’s OK.

Your mother is helping you and the kids, but maybe you can find another person to be in your corner. Many psychotherapy training institutes and social work schools provide low-cost therapy. Religious organizations may be of help, too.

You write that you are no longer able to continue in the business where you worked before. Take some deep breaths, look around, and see if there are any training programs that might work for you so you can give yourself the second chance you long for.

You can do it. You sound like you’re smart and determined. Most of all, don’t give up.

Best wishes,
Lynn

Lynn Somerstein
Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT is a Manhattan-based, licensed psychotherapist with more than 30 years in private practice. She is also a yoga teacher and student of Ayuveda—the Indian science of wellness. Her main interest is in helping people find healthy ways of living, loving, and working in the particular combination that works best for them, connecting to their deepest energic source so their full range of abilities can be expressed. Lynn's specialty is understanding and alleviating anxiety and depression.
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  • Lori

    Lori

    February 13th, 2015 at 11:19 AM

    Oh my goodness, I do not know how you manage all of that. It makes me feel terrible to realize that I have a husband who helps out, one job, and one child and yet there are still those days that I complain about having too much to do. Reading your letter let me see just how fortunate I am to have what I have and that I should be grateful for what I do have and not bemoan the bad. I hope that you are able to find some help for you and your family.

  • nate

    nate

    February 13th, 2015 at 2:07 PM

    Is there another field that you are interested in? because it sounds like you are a devoted and hard worker- surely there is someone out there who would consider themselves lucky to have an employee like you!!

  • Dorothy

    Dorothy

    February 14th, 2015 at 9:25 AM

    Power through this honey! Things will turn around, you will see that they always do for people who work hard and are committed to doing it like you are.

    You got this!

  • cyndi

    cyndi

    February 16th, 2015 at 5:36 AM

    u r gonna burnout fast- take some me time if u can

  • Lynn Somerstein

    Lynn Somerstein

    February 17th, 2015 at 5:57 PM

    What a beautiful and supportive community this is. We are very lucky.
    Thank you and take care,
    Lynn

  • Abigail

    Abigail

    February 18th, 2015 at 2:05 PM

    This may not even be a possibility for you, and believe me it takes some courage to do, but I remember a few years ago when I lost my job and the thing was that I couldn’t seem to get my foot in the door because of the recommendation that I was getting from my old manager. I know that I had made a mistake but I also didn’t think that I should have to live with that forever. So I emailed her, apologized and explained when was going on, and what do you know? After that I think that her tone changed when talking with others about me and soon after I landed a great new job. It worked in my case, not saying that it would in yours, but it could be worth at least thinking about.

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