I sat in the hairdresser’s chair while she talked about people I’ll never meet.
“Of all the people she could have gotten pregnant by, and it was this guy! They don’t even like each other, and they were only together two months. I was like, ‘Weren’t you using anything???’ I asked her about her baby shower, and she said she isn’t having one. Which, I get, because she’s not married; the situation isn’t good; it wasn’t planned, and she’s not even with the guy, but still……everyone should have a baby shower. She’s going to keep it, and she’ll need stuff. She said that no one has offered to throw her one, so she isn’t having one. So, I volunteered. I mean, can you imagine? Not having a support system like that? Your mom and your best friend neither one even offer to throw you a baby shower? Nothing? How awful that your hairdresser has to throw you a baby shower because no one else will! I can’t imagine not having a support system AT ALL.”
Oh, Sweetheart, I can!
I’ve been that girl. I am that woman. I’ve been the one who has graduated college, got married, had babies, and no one celebrated. Accomplishments and major life events go unnoticed. I’ve received frightening diagnoses, been abandoned, buried family, and am living in squalor, and it sometimes seems that the only people who notice are the ones who blame me for ending up like this.
What they don’t understand is that the reason they are where they are is because, somewhere along the line, they had an intact support system that assisted them and allowed them to be the success they are today. They’ll often say they’ve worked for everything they’ve got. And, no doubt, the individuals I’m thinking of are indeed very hard workers. But, way back when, someone made sacrifices and did the unglamorous mundane things so they could focus on achieving their goals. Goal completions were celebrated, or at least congratulated, which spurned them on. And, their “tribe” still helps them today, even if they aren’t willing to acknowledge that they aren’t a one man or one woman show.
I know families who all live on one piece of property or on adjacent properties. There are, at any given time, four, five, or six adults to watch children and guide them, run them to activities, let them know they’re loved. There are that many adults available to take down the trash, pick up a gallon of milk, feed the dog. They back each other in child discipline and instruction, reiterating the values mom and dad are trying to instill in them. They come together to have garage sales, do yard work, perform household repairs, and host celebrations; they divide the work. They loan vehicles and move each other in when tough times strike. They take turns tending the sick and keeping vigil with each other through long nights in a hospital.
It keeps the wheel running smoothly. It keeps any one person from feeling over burdened and overwhelmed. It allows each individual the opportunity, the freedom, to at least attempt to reach their goals.
And, like my hairdresser, they can’t imagine what it’s like on the other side over here.
Over here……where, children don’t get meals and clothes and help with homework. There is no structure. No routine. No support. Over here……where one adult is strapped with ALL of the responsibilities. One person to educate, train, raise up, instruct, pray with, feed and clothe, and love the children. One person to work and provide support. One person to perform maintenance and repairs. One person to bear the burdens of the world on their lone shoulders.
And, face the shame of their failure.
My clients will frequently tell me at the end of an obviously long, hard day, “Go home and put your feet up!” They mean well, they really do. But, I have to get groceries and cleaning supplies for the next day, cook a meal, go over the kids’ school work, deal with whatever has broken around here on any given day, pay bills, take the trash down, feed animals, wash cleaning rags and restock supplies for the next day, return calls and reschedule clients, try to schedule kids’ dentist and doctor visits, read to the kids, brush their teeth (or, at least check the job they did), dole out vitamins, clean my own place a bit, and deal with whatever emotional crises the kids may be dealing with. Last night my 15-year-old was tormented with nightmares and barely slept…..he dreamed his dad and his family came here and tried to kill him.
Rest, recharging my batteries, exercise, and time “alone with the Lord” are elusive in my life.
I was recently asked, “If it was really that bad, why didn’t you just leave?” I HATE that question. First off, the ‘if’ is really offensive, as though it may not have been as bad as I’m telling. Second, where was I supposed to go with no money and sometimes no car and dragging along five children? I didn’t have family to run to.
The house we rent is cracking and sinking. The water runs iron brown from all of the faucets. The sewer is seeping through the ground. The lights short out. My four-year-old grandson told me that I should put the firewood tarp over the house because of all of the cracks, as he pointed at the roof and asked me if I saw them. Acquaintances will ask, “How much can you afford? I’ll keep my ears open. I’m always hearing about open rentals.” Their intentions are good. But, they can’t imagine. They can’t imagine what it’s like to not really, honestly, be able to afford anything. My realtor friends think they’ve found me a great place though it’s a 2 bedroom, further out from town than where I’m at now, for only $200,000. For this area, perhaps that is a good deal. But, I can’t afford that! Nor would I even qualify for that kind of loan! I made $10,000 last year! My sweet, precious Bible study pals talked last Christmas about no one being able to live off of $10,000 a year nowadays, they did when they were first married but you couldn’t now…..They can’t even imagine.
Two families I know have moved in with her parents, so they don’t have to try to live in their own houses while they’re being remodeled. A friend recently moved her ill brother onto her property from out-of-state. My daughter’s retired father-in-law just built their new pump house while my daughter and son-in-law were both at work. Some things are simple, like animal sitting while someone goes on vacation. Some things are big, like home sharing.
The thing is, even for these friends and acquaintances who are successful and independent with lovely lives, they still depend on their families more than they realize. They wouldn’t ever refer to it as “dependence.” They might say they have “a great family.” They might rightfully point out that they do for their families plenty, too! It’s just an intact, healthy support system where everyone does what they can. It’s just an outward expression of familial love. But, some of us don’t have that. We never did. We’re left floundering without a support system with the burden of our worlds resting solely on us, overwhelmed and exhausted, wondering when God is going to provide us with some miracle……like a support system. That thing to them that is brushed off as something to be expected, is for some of us a miracle that we hope and pray for. And, we’re the ones who can’t even imagine what it must really be like to have love and support that you can take for granted will always be there.