I’ve seen a lot of posts going around recently about a local family whose children were taken by CPS. The police described the family as “living in squalor”, and three separate adults (the parents and a grandmother) were charged with child endangerment. Two of the younger children are now in foster care, and the older two are now living with their grandparents. I’ve seen many people calling these parents “scum”, saying that they hope the children find a home where they will be loved.
Sounds pretty standard for this type of situation, right? I mean, what kind of parent doesn’t keep a shiny clean home for their kids? It’s the least you can do.
But what if it’s not? What if you’re actually doing your best and trying your hardest and you still can’t keep up? What if (stay with me) these parents are not parents who don’t love their children? What if they meet all their needs and give them all the love they need and keep them fed and clothed and bathed, but keeping up with the house is just more than they are able to do?
This is a reality for thousands, if not millions, of parents throughout the country. This is mental illness. This is a struggle that I am all too familiar with.
My heart broke for this family reading this story. These parents are made out to be villains and just overall terrible parents by people who have NO IDEA what their life is really like.
Imagine yourself working 60 hours a week. You barely make the bills and you have a large family. You have very little time when you’re not working and the kids aren’t in school to actually spend any time with them, so you prioritize spending quality time with your family over the housework, and it begins to pile up. You notice and try to do what you can here and there, but over time it begins to really add up.
Now imagine you suffer from a mental illness. Imagine yourself lying in bed, in one of your rare moments where you get to just relax, and you’re staring at the pile of dirty clothes in the corner and telling yourself to get up and clean it up because it’s only going to get worse but you just. can’t. move. Imagine it takes you two hours to be able to get up and take a shower, let alone to have the energy to clean the house. Imagine trying to get up and clean the mess but your executive dysfunction takes over and you’re so overwhelmed that you turn in circles for ten minutes trying to figure out where to start and finally become so overloaded that your brain shuts down and all you can do is crawl into bed under a blanket and lay there till the panic passes.
This is my life.
This is the life of millions of people who suffer from mental illness. My children are loved. The mess doesn’t make me a terrible mom. It just makes me a shitty housekeeper. My kids know they are loved. They talk to me about everything, we have a very open relationship, and I do all I can to make sure they have everything they need and are happy and healthy and thriving. And they are. But I also have a spouse who doesn’t really understand mental illness and who believes that it’s the woman’s job to keep up the house, for the most part. I have 5 children who don’t ever seem to pick up after themselves unless I’m right behind them forcing them to do it (and let’s be honest, who has the time???). I’m very open about my mental illness with my children, because I want them to be able to do the same if they struggle. They know my diagnosis, and about my psych medications, and they know that sometimes, mommy’s just going to have a hard time keeping up with life. And they know that that’s okay.
Now, I don’t know the people from these articles personally, but I have seen the pictures, and I recognize the symptoms. Imagine how many more children would be spending Christmas with their families this year, if only we took the time to offer these people the help they need to develop healthier habits, instead of automatically labeling them as “terrible parents”????
Just because you can’t see the battle doesn’t mean they aren’t fighting with everything they have.