By the way, there is a roommate who lives here, too, who makes everyone uncomfortable, but Don acts blithely unaware of this and refuses to admit that his presence in the house is an issue with our relationship. I keep trying to explain to him that this country consists mostly of divorced families and children learn to adjust and do not normally get to control the living situation! Help! — Uncomfortable, But Have No Choice
Let me get this straight: You’ve dragged your teenage daughter to a living situation where there’s one full-time roommate who makes you all feel uncomfortable and multiple kids who stay there on a regular basis who also make you feel uncomfortable? And you put yourself and your daughter in this uncomfortable position because you say you have no choice? I don’t believe you have no choice. I believe you may have limited resources and limited options, but I don’t believe that living with people who, at best, are uncomfortable to be around, and at worst could potentially harm your teenage daughter, is your only option. What about other friends? What about getting a place of your own and finding a roommate who doesn’t make you uncomfortable? What about family? What about filing for government assistance? Seeking financial assistance from your husband?
I agree that kids shouldn’t control a family’s living situation, but they also shouldn’t be forced to live among people who make them feel uncomfortable. Their comfort and safety should be a top priority. That’s a basic responsibility of a parent. It’s more important than your getting to live with your boyfriend. And you know, this country doesn’t consist “mostly of divorced families.” And even if it did, that’s not an excuse to shuck the responsibility you have to take care of your kids’ basic needs. There are lots of divorced couples with kids, sure, and many of them manage to prioritize their kids’ needs, and provide shelter that doesn’t compromise their comfort and safety. You can be among those responsible parents, too. It’s a matter of shifting your priorities.
And this — your skewed sense of priorities — is the issue in your relationship with Don, not the roommate who makes everyone crazy. Each of you seems to have an inability to meet the needs of your kids before trying to meet your own and each other’s needs. As long as you continue keeping their needs lower on your list of priorities, you will continue to be at odds with Don, your kid, his kids, and each other. Because as parents, you know something is “off.” When your kids aren’t comfortable, it’s difficult for you to be comfortable (if you’re a compassionate and empathetic parent, that is). Get right with your kids — give them all comfortable living situations — and you’ll have a much better chance of getting right with each other.
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