Guest blogger Traci: I am a divorced single mom of a 14-year-old boy, Kurt, who, as far as I can tell, has been spending his summer days with a stockpile of electronic devices. I have to work, otherwise food wouldn't get on the table. My ex-husband rarely gets a child-support check sent on time (in fact, as of this post, it's been four months since I saw the last one), so sending my son to a summer camp is out of the question. The camps that I can afford (barely) are largely peopled with little kids, and Kurt "would rather die" than go to one.
So he's been staying home. I've told him to keep his TV-watching to a minimum and to please keep the house orderly. But each day when I came home last week, he was watching TV or playing his Xbox and the house was trashed. Food was left on the counters, empty plates left in the living room, dirty clothes on the floor, bed unmade. One day, he was still in his pajamas!
I know he's still mad about his dad leaving, and mad at me for God knows what reason. He's just mad at the world, I think -- and perhaps rightly so. Most of his friends' parents are still together, and while they're on their vacations to Maui and Paris, here we are, sweating it out in this miserable South Georgia heat. We used to be that family -- traveling, doing lots of fun things together. All that's changed since the divorce, and I feel horrible for not being able to provide him with the life we used to have. But now I've got this slovenly boy lying around the house, not getting exercise, not doing anything but contributing to the mess I have to clean up. When I ask him to help out, he rolls his eyes at me and continues to stare at the TV screen. He's turning into a bum, and I don't know what to do. I love him so much, but he is becoming unmanageable.
My girlfriends tell me that love is in the actions -- just saying it isn't enough. They say I'm allowing him to fall into a pit of self-pity, and that I need to take control again and get him back on the right path. I know they're right, but what can a mother who works 40-hour weeks do that will bring her son back to his old self? One friend suggested I take the television and computer out of the house and store them in her garage, saying that then he wouldn't have any choice but to do something productive. On paper, that looks like a good idea, but I almost can't bear to take away the two things that make my son happy.
I wish I could be a stay-at-home mom, but that's out of the question: If I don't work, we lose everything. I am so at a loss and feel such despair. I hope somebody out there has been through this before and can tell me what to do. My son is headed for a lot of trouble if I don't figure this out. I know I'm being a lousy mother, but I'm so deep in my own situation, I can't see things clearly anymore. I would appreciate your blunt advice.