How to get help with life issues during a pandemic.
June 25, 2020 7:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm not holding it together very well and was struggling even before the pandemic hit. I'm overwhelmed and alone and need practical help, preferably that's not just "call this phone number."

I'm F/mid 40s, married to a cis guy in his 30s. We have three children - a 5-year old girl and boy/girl twins that are two and a half. When we met, I was a "globetrotting badass" (my husband's term) making six figures and my husband insisted that he always wanted to be a stay-at-home dad. I took a chance and started a family with this man, who it turns out was not up to the challenge of full-time parenting.

These 5 years I've been the only income earner and I have struggled with my ability to get work done at the same time my husband is struggling with dealing with the kids. He complains constantly about having to deal with them, in the form of endless texts when I'm trying to work or anger that I'm not home to do it myself. But I'm killing myself just trying to earn money, and doing all of the emotional labor and pretty much all of the physical labor too. I had to take a lower paying job after I lost my previous job when I couldn't focus. I do all of the cleaning, all of the laundry, all of everything. I'm overwhelmed. I had already given up on paying any bills basically, when the pandemic hit.

Cue the pandemic, I'm "working from home" but really I'm taking care of 3 kids all day every day. I can't do my job because my husband won't get out of bed until 11AM, my husband doesn't care as long as he doesn't have to do anything aside from playing video games, we have a mouse infestation and kids with lice that I can't get rid of. I'm dancing a serious tap dance promising my boss that I'll get my work done when it's not true and I haven't been and there's a good chance they will let me go. Our house is in foreclosure. I need to declare bankruptcy to get out from under mountains of medical debt. The bank wants our car. Every day I get up and no matter what I decide to do, it's always the wrong thing to someone. I can't handle any of it anymore and I honestly don't know what to do now. Every time someone says "oh just call this place..." I want to throw up from the anxiety of having to carve out time to make a phone call. Any ideas on how to get help?
posted by cabingirl to Human Relations (35 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I am so angry on your behalf. If there was ever a time for a Come-to-Jesus talk, this is it. He's acting like a spoiled child and jeopardizing your whole family.

Tomorrow morning, wake him up. Tell him he needs to watch the kids so you can work. That includes feeding them and tending to their needs. If he does not immediately step up, consider divorce. Seriously. You would be in no worse position than you are now, and you wouldn't have to do the emotional labor of managing his petulance on top of everything else.

As for the lice, the only thing that worked for us was nightly treatments with olive oil and a metal lice comb. Give everyone the shortest haircuts you can tolerate first (yes, just cut it yourself -- it will be fine).

Glue traps for the mice.

Hopefully someone else will be able to point you to resources for non-scammy financial counseling and managing bankruptcy. Good luck. I'm rooting for you.
posted by libraryhead at 8:52 PM on June 25 [25 favorites]

Oh, my heart goes out to you so much, and I'm so glad you posted this question before you hit the point of going off the deep end. I'm not sure I can offer you much other than sympathy and "I've been there" and "you can do it", but I'll try.

First, the sympathy. I could have written something pretty close to this a few years ago (minus the pandemic, of course). Only income earner, small children, husband who was ostensibly doing most of the childcare but really I was trying to do it while also keeping up an intense full-time job. No time to myself, managed to get through the day only by steadily ignoring my needs and who I was and what I wanted -- and doing this for years and years and fucking years -- until I just... broke.

I broke. I did not handle it well. I did some stuff that ended up hurting myself and a lot of the people I loved, though I didn't set out to do so. I blame myself for a raft of bad choices, but also, realistically, given where I was, I'm trying to also give myself some grace. It was either that or kill myself or something else equally disastrous -- I had no capacity anymore for anything besides something stupid and ill-thought-through, because I'd destroyed my reserves long long before.

The reason I'm glad you're asking this question is that maybe you have more self-awareness than I do and maybe you'll stop yourself from hitting that point. So here are some thoughts that I wish I could have told my previous self. I hope they will help you.

First, and I say this because I really really needed to hear this: you are not wrong to feel this way. This is unsustainable and it's really horrible (and not your fault) that you are in this situation. Your needs matter too. You matter too. They do, they do, they do. Please internalise this.

Second, somehow and in some way you need to have a "come to Jesus" talk with your husband. I say this knowing how hard it is. There's a reason I ended up in such a shit situation: because I'd tried to have such talks before, but they never went anywhere - he never internalised that this was a real problem. Our communication was so shit that after a point the thought of having yet another unproductive and painful conversation was so terrible I just stopped trying. It was another thing on the to-do list, and moreover another thing that I knew would be hurtful and wouldn't even get anywhere. So I really really get why you might not want to do this.

Still. Your husband is a big part of the problem so whatever solution there is has to involve him. In my case, one of the hurtful things I did was have an affair. That was not a good thing (do NOT recommend) but one weirdly good outcome of it is that it forced my husband to finally take me fucking seriously when I said I was miserable and this was unsustainable. Now our relationship has basically collapsed, but it's much healthier for us both, and we have a much, much more equitable division of labour.

I am not saying you should have an affair. But you need to make your husband step the fuck up. The thing I regret not doing -- the thing I should have done -- was bring up the idea of a divorce. I'd been thinking it for years but (again) exhaustion and learned helplessness kept me silent. Other than my affair, I think that's the only thing that would have gotten him to take me seriously. I really wish I'd done that instead. Maybe you have some other idea for how to get your husband to take you seriously and step up. If so, do that. But trust me: if you don't do that, if you just keep trying to go and go and go and go, then you -- like me -- will hit the point where you can't do it any more and you do not want to get there.

Third, try if you can to reach out to somebody and tell them the whole situation. You need somebody who is on your side. In my case, when I broke, I ended up calling one of my best friends who I'd been keeping up a relationship with but hadn't been sharing any of the actual terribleness of my life with. I'd been keeping them at arm's length because the emotional labour and the sharing was yet another thing I didn't have time for, and it would have required me to admit to myself how utterly trapped and miserable I felt. I am so glad I reached out to them though. They helped me so so much -- I probably wouldn't have gotten through some of the hardest parts of the last year without them -- not just by providing a listening ear, but by helping me figure out what to do next when the simple task of figuring out the next step felt beyond me. I hope you have someone like that. It doesn't need to be somebody you are currently confiding in... just somebody that you could confide in. Even somebody you were once closer to but have lost touch with.

I'm uneasily aware that these aren't magical solutions. Your situation is hard. But I hope they help at least a little. I give you so much support. You can get through this, I promise.
posted by phoenix_courage at 8:58 PM on June 25 [22 favorites]

You may be underestimating the power of bankruptcy to quickly give you some breathing room for the financial issues you describe, e.g. Will Bankruptcy Stop Foreclosure? (Findlaw), and the MeFi Wiki Get a Lawyer page includes information about the process of finding a lawyer, and the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys offers a searchable membership directory on their website. You have so much going on, and my focus is drawn to what could be a relatively low amount of effort that could create more space to help address everything else.

Similarly, you may also want to consider whether you are eligible for FMLA leave under federal or similar state protections, for which a consultation with an employment law attorney may be helpful as a fast way to get oriented to your rights and options. There is likely information about these laws and rights on your state government's website, but an attorney can offer advice and information tailored to your specific situation.
posted by katra at 9:00 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]

Something somewhat similar happened to me and I separated from my husband and didn’t get back together for about a year and a half until after the kids were older and he copes a lot better as a parent now.

They were 2.5 and 3.5 when things were tough and he couldn’t cope with them- now they’re a couple years older and he manages things a lot better. Your husband is having a tough time- two toddlers is NO fun. But he had these kids and he needs step up, or step out of your way.

My husband had a very tough time with this and was begging to get back together as a family but I really knew it was the right thing to do, I felt he needed to grow in some ways... and with time the situation improved.

Feel free to pm me. I did all the childcare myself and no matter how tough it was, it was easier to do it by myself then to have him bringing me down and just being a really crappy parent. You must have a lot of deep sadness and anger. I know how that feels. I have a lot of thoughts about this and I’m sure that you’ll get some answers about how depressed he must be etc. but the people who matter more than anything are the kids.
posted by pairofshades at 9:07 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]

Your situation is hard and no wonder you're at your wits end, I'm so sorry it's so tough. I've been wealthy then homeless with kids so I know it sucks.

You have to jettison your husband, dtmf. It's time for him to go, for your sanity and for the children's health. Then you need to relax and stop trying to hold everything together. You have too many balls in the air and it's not sustainable. You're a decent, intelligent person who can make a new life, but you have to let go of the one you've got now - it's a mess. Cherish your kids so they feel loved, the rest isn't too important; you will make a new life for yourself, and perhaps your husband may eventually grow up enough for you to let him join you again (my wife and I separated for some years then rejoined our lives, knowing more about how to not hurt each other ... but that may not be right for you)

Previous replies have great advice; heed it. You're doing too much. Plan for a different future and put this behind you. Hugs to you, and bravo for such strength and bravery as you're showing.
posted by windsock at 9:57 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]

Thank you all for the thoughtful and caring advice.

Any thoughts on what to do when he just won't? (leave/get up to care for kids/etc) I mean, he just won't. I tried throwing him out a year ago - he didn't leave. I tried telling him he needed to step up, either he gets defensive and accuses me of being abusive and gaslighting him (?!) or he acts all empathetic and nothing changes. I mean, it's kind of maddening - I find myself wondering every day how someone who claims to give a shit just..doesn't, at all.

I know I have my own issues that make it hard to draw a line with anyone, not just him, but just because that's true doesn't mean I deserve this life. Right?
posted by cabingirl at 10:59 PM on June 25 [5 favorites]

You totally do not deserve this life.

I think if he just won't, then you have to be willing to serve him divorce papers and get the law involved if you must. That is so so hard but that is what they are there for.

You're not abusing or gaslighting him. And even if you were (you're not!) then it's better for him, too, to be out of this situation.
posted by phoenix_courage at 11:08 PM on June 25 [19 favorites]

From the overwhelmed anxiety perspective, a really awesome tip is to pick one thing you are going to do that day. Then try and do it.
posted by freethefeet at 11:46 PM on June 25

Jesus this sounds shitty even pre covid. This guy thinks you are a doormat since you didn't kick him out last time - he sounds like the world's worst 13 yo babysitter. Would you be relieved if your husband got hit by lightning and vanished from your life? If so it is divorce time. Get a lawyer who can advise you on how to do this well. They can advise you how to do the eviction safely. Prepare for the possibility of violence; entitled little boys tend to do that when they see no other options and are worried that their cash cow may be in danger.

I think a lot of your other problems may get easier once you take care of this primary one - e.g. it may be more easy to hire a live in nanny (esp. with unemployment levels) once he's gone and you have a chance to just address problems he is denying (e.g. mice). For work, don't be afraid to admit problems and seek employer help e.g FMLA, counseling, or legal services.

For lice, use Nix Ultra, available in a three pack from Amazon. It kills chemical resistant lice via an oil that suffocates the critters including the eggs. Do at least one weekly shampoo with it until you are sure every family member is clean (maybe 4 weeks to be sure).

Good luck. You and your poor kids certainly deserve better than this.
posted by benzenedream at 12:33 AM on June 26 [9 favorites]

He wouldn’t leave? You have issues that make it difficult to draw a line?

It might be helpful to you to spend some time working on tapping into your power. I find the archetypal mother figure to be one of the most powerful figures. When this similar thing happened to me I identified strongly with the mother figure, her influence on the lives of her children, her great responsibility, her precious and exhalted place. In 70 years when she’s gone her children and grandchildren will remember her. How DARE anyone stand in her path? Awaken that mother bear within you. Picture yourself holding a powerful staff, surrounded by the powerful women you know of, who may have passed, imagine them giving you courage to go and do the work that must be done. Those images really grounded me and helped me create boundaries, respect myself, and build my relationship with my children. That feminine maternal power is bigger (to me) than love and broken promises and betrayal and it helped me cast aside a lot of the fears I had about taking complete control and it helped tune out the whining and his narrative and I could feel my own truth in my bones.

I also highly suggest getting up early and spending time journaling and getting grounded. Those are precious hours.
posted by pairofshades at 12:39 AM on June 26 [6 favorites]

This sounds wretched and I'm really sorry. In the short term, who are your people and can you call them? Do you have a retired aunt or uncle or parent or friend who can come and stay at your house for a week or two? Or who will take your children for a week? I really want you to get some childcare relief. What would you do right now if you were a single mom? Call in your people. Yes, there could be a Covid risk, but right now you are facing lots of risks. Honestly, if you have a good relationship with your mother-in-law, she might be a great person to help right now. Or do you have a friend who could take the younger ones for a half day or day? You are in a really bad spot and I think it's okay to ask for help wherever you can get it... and then do all the stuff everyone else said above. Good luck.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:08 AM on June 26 [4 favorites]

Can you use any vacation time to take some time off work? I don’t know what your actual relationship with your boss is like so this may not be feasible and it’s highly dependent on your boss’ personality. But as a manager myself, if my direct report came to me and just honestly told me they are having some home issues that are affecting their ability to do their job and they need a few days to sort out, I would actually be a bit relieved to know 1) that the employee does realise there is a problem and 2) they are being active in coming up with a solution. I would feel it would be better for the business to plan around a few days absence knowing you’ll come back in a better place, rather than the current situation where there is uncertainty on both sides. But like I said, some bosses are unreasonable so it depends on your understanding of them and your relationship with them.

In terms of your husband, I don’t know the technical or legal details of how to kick him out safely and legally, especially right now. But what if you just give up on him. Just cross him off your list of someone you can depend on in this house. He’s a grown ass man. He can cook and clean for himself from now on. He can sleep on his ass all day but don’t expect any labour from you for his well being because he isn’t doing a damn thing for any of yours. What I am hoping for you with this advice is to just... let him go. Your expectations and disappointments in him just... release them and with them also hopefully release one major area of stress to you. He is now an old piece of furniture you are just waiting to take to the dump. Just walk around it.

If you’re able to take a few days, try and completely forget about work and tackle your home challenges one at a time. Give your son a buzz cut. We’re stuck at home and it’ll grow back who cares. I’d be tempted to do the same with the 2 year old girl. And yeah cut the 5 year olds hair as short as you can both tolerate.

The money situation is unfortunately still a “talk to an expert” situation. There is too much complication here with house and medical bills and a likely divorce in the near future.

But put on an oxygen mask. Take a few days off (maybe a Thursday and Friday so you can also have the weekend). Write off the husband. Set some traps. Cut some hair. Get money consolidated.

I wish you the best and please update us if you can or need more encouragement. I’m rooting for you.
posted by like_neon at 2:10 AM on June 26 [6 favorites]

I know I have my own issues that make it hard to draw a line with anyone, not just him, but just because that's true doesn't mean I deserve this life. Right?

Right! When I was in a sucky relationship, I remember how the stuff about boundaries and codependence made me feel like things were all my fault. But a lot of problems just go away when you're with people who fit you better (e.g., who you wouldn't need to set boundaries with because they wouldn't push in those areas to begin with), and over time and with experience, you improve your ability to identify those people.

I'm so sorry you're going through all this. I can relate to parts of what you describe. I wish there was a way to lift any of this weight off of you through the internet. Working from home while taking care of three kids is impossible.

Likely unhelpful advice that I'm sure you've considered, if it does happen to be an option: You know about the leave benefits for employees who have to take time off for childcare during COVID, yes? Did you consider taking in a roommate or live-in exchange of X hours of childcare in exchange for rent? Also, banks and other creditors are supposedly putting the brakes on foreclosure / collection due to COVID-related hardship, but I imagine you've looked into that, too.

I'm so very sorry you're dealing with this. Unfortunately, the only way out is through, which doesn't help. Like everyone else, I'm rooting for you and hope that amidst these answers you find some that are helpful.
posted by salvia at 3:04 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]

Here are a few other tidbits. My boss has sat me down multiple times to tell me that I'm not keeping up. Every time I try again and I keep trying to put my nose to the grindstone, so to speak. I try really hard to turn in my work and keep up with the dishes and laundry. These efforts last about 2 weeks before I am completely trashed - which is where I am now. I took two days off this week already because I can't sustain that level of effort. So I'm frustrated with myself that I keep backsliding, that it makes me look like a giant slacker, that I was dumb enough to get myself into this situation.

That said I plan to talk to her today about my situation. She knows things aren't right and has said as much and offered to talk but not pushed it. I don't want to admit defeat but I have to tell her that I can't do it. My employer is offering a COVID leave of absence, I may try that for a few weeks.

Just ignoring him doesn't work because his presence somehow multiplies the housework. I mean, it's one thing to have to keep up with the kid's dishes and cups. But when all of the dishes are dirty and the counters are covered with garbage that couldn't make it to the trash can and it wasn't like that yesterday, it's hard to ignore.
posted by cabingirl at 4:07 AM on June 26 [5 favorites]

In the long run, your husband will need to step up or leave. You can't make him step up. You can't make him leave either, but the bank can when the house is foreclosed.

It sounds like step one is really to get some childcare help from anyone who is more competent than your husband. That is a low bar, so I'm hopeful that you know someone, anyone who can help, even if it means you have to explain how bad things are.

Beyond that, I think trying to salvage your job is probably the next priority. Talk with your boss, probably try and get some time off (still get childcare help) but you'll probably need to come up with a plan that means you can be productive once you come back from leave.

You'll need to either have one last 'come to Jesus' talk with your husband, or skip it and head straight for a divorce lawyer. He is creating mess in your house and in your head. You will be better off as a single parent than what you have right now. The divorce lawyer should probably be able to take into account the debt and the foreclosure and set out the best way forward for you in splitting up and what the range of likely outcomes is.
posted by plonkee at 4:59 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]

There’s a side of me that thinks you should start by running over all the gaming systems with your car and pouring ice water over him in the morning but it’s not really a good idea.

If I were your boss I would want to sense that you were making changes during your leave, and if you’re a people-pleaser, it might help to mentally pretend that you’re going to share the plan with her. Because it’s just not tenable. You didn’t get yourself into this situation - he had a huge hand in it. The grown up thing for him to do if he hates childcare would have been to get a job.

I hear you that he drags you down but if he died, what would you do next? Do that thing. It sounds to me like these things might help:

- talk to your boss and agree on a return date. Consult a divorce lawyer.

- I agree with call a relative. You need childcare. His parents might actually be the best. If you can, call them and tell them about the lice, mice, and being close to getting let go, and ask for their help. You don’t need the most emotionally supportive person, you need the one most likely to show up, and if it’s someone who can shame him, so much the better. (But not like, abusive.)

- I would call a real estate agent and meet with them to see about evaluating and possibly listing the house. Don’t waste hours of their time but it sounds likely you’ll have to move anyway. It’s fine if the house is a wreck, most agents have seen it before. Involve your husband in that process so he knows, and also because he has to legally be involved. You may find you actually do want to sell and move out. The idea of trading rent for childcare/dishes isn’t a bad one as well. Both these plans might spur him to action, might not, who cares. He’s clutter in your life right now.

- if you can, trade beds with the 5 year old. You sleep with the 5 yo, he gets the twin bed. Start creating a divorce zone so you can get some mental space. Can you work on a friend’s porch that has wifi or get permission to go into your empty office, after your time off?

- streamline as much as you can. You can have peanut butter and carrot sticks for dinner for a month, oatmeal for breakfast, eggs for lunch.

- let him know you’re working on childcare (rent for childcare sounds ideal) and he should be looking for a job. I know he probably won’t but it may be that inside he is just as trapped and if you haven’t had that conversation with him, it may help.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:05 AM on June 26 [10 favorites]

So, I used to be a practicing lawyer, and then I got divorced and hired my own lawyer. One thing I did not appreciate when I was practicing was the degree to which people were paying me to take the emotional burden off of them. Once I hired my divorce lawyer, my marriage, and what to do about it, largely became HER problem. It was a revelation.

I think your top two priorities (besides the lice, obviously) are calling--just a phone call!--a divorce lawyer and a bankruptcy lawyer. All you have to do is pick up the phone and call, and turn your problems into their problems. It will be such a blessed relief, I promise you.
posted by HotToddy at 7:22 AM on June 26 [18 favorites]

My employer is offering a COVID leave of absence, I may try that for a few weeks.

This sounds like a great idea. Part of your boss’s issue here is the uncertainty about whether you’ll be able to get the work done, which means it kind of stays on her to-do list, as does checking up on you, which then further occupies your time and stresses you out. Having a set absence that she can plan around would be a big relief to you both, I bet.

Glue traps have always been my most successful rodent-catching tool (it happens to most of us at some point!)

I’m so sorry you’re going through this. The way your husband is treating you is unconscionable.
posted by sallybrown at 7:46 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]

My employer is offering a COVID leave of absence, I may try that for a few weeks.

Here is another vote for you to please take this benefit if you qualify! Your situation completely warrants it, don’t feel guilty or bad about it.
posted by like_neon at 8:08 AM on June 26 [4 favorites]

Ugh, this sounds like it really, really sucks. A bunch of people are suggesting having a come to jesus conversation with your husband to make him step up, but it's worth asking yourself if that's even what you want. It's totally fine if you're just done with this marriage and you want to skip directly to making that official.

Really, there's only one part of your question I can offer concrete help on, and that's the mice. I strongly recommend getting the kind of traps that look like hockey pucks. They're good because the mouse has to go entirely inside them to get the bait. My experience with traditional snap traps is that, despite the fact that I can't set them without springing them on my fingers like five times, a mouse is somehow able to lick peanut butter off of them without setting them off. Glue traps also work, but be aware that you're going to have to kill the mice yourself if you use them.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:30 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you're pretty sure about what you want to do (big props, lots of people get stuck in this step) and are just uncertain and overwhelmed about how to actually do it.

A divorce lawyer is the expert you need to take all that stress away. They can walk you through the entire process and all the options you have available based on the relevant laws in your area. You can absolutely consult with a divorce lawyer without being obligated to follow through with a divorce (or any actions at all), if it feels like a scary step. If looking for a divorce lawyer sounds overwhelming, which would be completely understandable, I'm guessing some knowledgeable mefite out there would be more than happy to recommend someone excellent. If not, here is a random one I found in your area who has good reviews online, if that is helpful at all.

Anyone would be overwhelmed in your shoes and you're doing amazing. You can get through this, and it'll be such a big relief once you only have 3 children to take care of instead of 4.
posted by randomnity at 9:04 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]

My employer is offering a COVID leave of absence, I may try that for a few weeks.

There are also links to information and resources related to unemployment insurance, including covid-related expansions, on the MeFi Wiki Get a lawyer page. I wanted to mention this possibility given everything that you have going on and how important it seems to batten the hatches wth regard to housing, stopping debt collection, and securing basic income, so you can take a deep breath and consider your next steps.
posted by katra at 9:52 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]

You need to take the leave of absence, hopefully for at least two weeks.

During that time, you should
1) Get at least one consult with a divorce lawyer. Get a lawyer has advice and a specific path to follow.
You don’t have to go through with a divorce, but start the process.

2. Real childcare. Your husband isn’t providing it, and you can’t do it while working. There are plenty of ideas in this thread; pick just one and start on it.

3. Make a start on the lice and mouse treatments.

Those three things outline a plan. If you want to tell your boss something you might only want to mention that you will be arranging outside childcare help during this time; they just want to know you have a plan for fixing the problem.

Near the end of the leave period, *after* getting a lawyer consult, arranging childcare, and dealing with the pests, *then* I have another suggestion. Your husband sounds like a bad combination of jerkiness and depressed. The second might be treatable (sorry, no ideas about the first except divorce). Look into sliding scale therapy, for him. If he has had mental health treatment, including meds, before, it’s time to get that treatment back. (If he hasn’t, maybe it’s time to start).
posted by nat at 10:06 AM on June 26 [3 favorites]

I would also add that by the time an employer is suggesting to you that you should take leave, this is the big hint that they need you to get your personal shit together or they are going to fire you. Take the leave!

I have managed employees with similar disasters in their personal lives. I would much rather have them take leave, address problems, regroup, and come back at 100% rather than randomly flake out due to personal problems. I can plan around a leave but not around random disasters.
posted by benzenedream at 10:06 AM on June 26 [10 favorites]

Good advice already on many points, so allow me to address the lice issue.

I got lice a few times while traveling, and the first time I went to a professional nitpicker who gave me the best info:

Do not bother with the shampoos. They dont work that well and they dont kill eggs. Lice cant jump, and can only live 24 hrs off a living host. So dont feel like hot water washing everything constantly is necessary either.

What to do: buy this lice comb.

Get a spray bottle a fill it with water, a splash of vinegar, and a splash of leave-in conditioner. Get a bowl full of water. Wet your kids hair with water and then the spray bottle so it's really saturated and sit them down.

Divide the hair in horizontal sections starting at the nape of the neck, and clip everything else out of the way. Starting at the ends and working up, comb through each section, paying special attention to the roots, since that's where the eggs are.

After each swipe of the comb, carefully clean the comb with your fingers while rinsing the comb in your water bowl, making sure to remove all eggs and nits from the teeth.

Go over the whole head twice. Repeat this every 4 days until there are no more eggs in the comb. The eggs that are too small to comb out today will be big enough then, and you'll have gotten rid of all the laying adults in the first round so there wont be any more.

Time consuming but 100% effective. You'll want to do all the kids at the same time so your freshly combed kiddo doesnt catch more adult lice from the uncombed ones.

Best of luck, and DMFTA! You can get through this and things will get better, I promise.
posted by ananci at 11:09 AM on June 26 [3 favorites]

This sounds just awful.

The harsh reality is that your husband isn’t going to help. I can’t tell you why or what exactly his issues are, but there’s no good way to get someone to do something. I am assuming he has also refused to get a job.

Whomever you know that will physically come to the house and/or take the kids for a bit, call them today. Don’t wait. Even if you don’t think you know someone well enough to ask for help, it’s worth a shot.

Then make a call to a bankruptcy attorney and set up an appointment via zoom. I am assuming you have put you other bills on hold. If not, check online. Most places (car, credit card, utilities, etc) have a easy way to request skipping a payment.

I would personally try not to take more than a week off of work unless the work you do is very specialized, and you would be difficult to replace. If it would be at all do-able, you could try to arrange your work hours so that they work better around the kids. That doesn’t solve anything long-term, but it is easier to keep them occupied and safe later in the day with less effort that it requires in the morning hours.

What you need is a live-in housekeeper and daytime childminder. I realize that was supposed to be your husband, but it isn’t working. If you’re not prepared or interested in divorce right now (like you need anything else happening), I think it would be fair to ask him to move out. Then you could have someone useful move in.

Again, speak to a lawyer about the best way to do this. You do not want to get into a big emotional thing, nor do you want him to try to take custody of your children.

Mice are little bastards. Order a bag of steel wool from Amazon and some small, wrapped candy. In a mad dash, drop the candy around the house. Then grab your your kids for a summer candy hunt. Meanwhile you will walk around your house looking for any openings, even dime-sized ones, where critters can get in. Stuff those holes with a generous amount of steel wool—they can’t chew through it. Look especially under/around window frames and underneath siding joints near the corners. Once you’re sealed up, then traps are in order. I would not use glue traps around children. The fully-contained “box” traps (live or not) are a much safer option.

You sound like a very strong, talented woman at her wit’s end. Don’t let the inactivity of this one man take away everything you have worked for. There will be time to process the significant emotional challenges here. But right now it’s time to act—as quickly and decisively as you would on your best day at work. Do it for you, and do it for your children.
posted by Kalatraz at 11:41 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]

Collect the videogames consoles and related stuff, ask a friend to pick them up. Sell them. It won't be much cash, but it'll feel good.

Take the leave. Ask friends and family to help.

You have a scary mental list. Write down all the stuff. Prioritize. Refer to it often. Being so overwhelmed makes it all so much harder. You are in an impossible situation. It's horrible and you deserve a pity party, hugs, support, love.
posted by theora55 at 11:44 AM on June 26 [4 favorites]

I know everyone has their favorite lice trick, but the previously mentioned (but unlinked) Nix Ultra shampoo actually works, kills eggs, and is really easy. It is not based on the same chemicals that lice became resistant to, which is why it can kill eggs. Considering all your other problems, the last thing you need is a new daily lice routine and an extra hour of work that your husband isn't going to do.
posted by benzenedream at 12:13 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

I have similar issues my my husband. I've asked him to leave, but he won't. Something that has helped is when a close friend took it upon herself to figure out for me how it would look if I needed/decided to get him out (she called and talked to the police for me, but I'm not in your country much less jurisdiction and I don't know if your husband yells and intimidates like mine does). A close friend, even a not so close one, would probably be more than happy to do this for you. I'm so sorry you are going through this; you are not alone; too many husbands behave disgustingly and with the pandemic, it's the damn last straw.
posted by kitcat at 1:22 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]

First, you have all my love and sympathy. I am going to speak from where I was, it may not be where you are but it might touch on something for you.

I lived with an abusive partner for a long time, my partner was physically abusive, but before that it was the kind of abuse you are seeing now. I literally couldn't see a way out. Part of it for me was letting go of an idea of myself. I had a job. I owned a home. I created a lovely garden with my hard work and sweat. "See that deck, I built that deck." I realized that my life was more important.

Right now, you and your life are more important. If he won't leave, you and the kids have to. You might need to anyway so in the event he does he, he doesn't come waltzing right back. My partner just was terrible terrible terrible about terrorizing me about paying the mortgage, but I just stopped. I was gone, I owed him nothing. You don't owe this man shit. Let him rot, let him look like a foolish prick. Sell the gaming systems to Gamestop or whatever your local 'sell games here" place is. Liquidate his trash life. Change your number, put a filter on your email so you don't have to see his trash words.
Hire a lawyer and let them and their practical voice do any communicating.

Do you have friends with a room? Parents? Siblings? Whatever? Show up and say, hey we need a place. They love you. Let them love you rawly for a while till you heal and rest. Your kids need you whole. Then you can start dealing with the money stuff, get your safety net first.

Your kids need you whole.
posted by stormygrey at 7:42 AM on July 1 [3 favorites]

Collect the videogames consoles and related stuff, ask a friend to pick them up. Sell them. It won't be much cash, but it'll feel good.

Just wanted to add a note on this advice, since it alarmed me a bit. I do think you should sell these at the point where you are gathering all available cash for you and your kids and ready with a plan, but in the meantime this will probably start WWIII. I'd advise leaving him to his games while you make concrete plans for the steps you will take (and there's some great advice in this thread for working out those plans). Best wishes, best of luck, and I know this is really hard right now but you and your kids will be far happier in the not too distant future.
posted by JenMarie at 2:43 PM on July 1

So I'm frustrated with myself that I keep backsliding, that it makes me look like a giant slacker, that I was dumb enough to get myself into this situation. ... I don't want to admit defeat but I have to tell her that I can't do it.

Oh, wow, my heart is breaking for you. You have completely lost perspective on this. You are a slacker? You were dumb enough to get into this situation? This situation is a pandemic. You didn't get us into this situation. So many people are struggling like you are. Some people have spouses who can pull it together a bit more, but the burden of childcare during work has fallen much more on women.

That leave of absence is just for situations like this. You need to be able to take care of yourself and your kids and get a breather and figure out how to move forward. Please stop feeling shame or taking responsibility for everything that's gone wrong right now. Focus on moving forward. This is going to be hard but it's also going to start feeling a lot better when you are no longer responsible for your husband.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:29 PM on July 1

I found out today that the leave of absence was something offered by the company at the beginning of the pandemic and is no longer available. So my options are: try to spin it as short-term disability (I'll need a new psychiatrist?), take the rest of my vacation time, or quit.

On the other hand, I texted with my brother a few states away and he wants me to come stay with him. So that's something. It's a drive, but I can manage. Not sure when yet.
posted by cabingirl at 8:35 PM on July 1 [5 favorites]

Best wishes and lawyer up. You're doing great to have gotten to this point; you're not "admitting defeat", you're doing what you need for you and your kids to survive, which is totally admirable.
posted by benzenedream at 2:01 PM on July 2

Not seeing this in other advice: guard your money. Talk to your lawyers about what you need to do to come out of this as financially healthy possible. Are you paying his debt? What do you own together? What could he try to take? Get help so you don't agree to something that's not to your advantage, just from wanting it to all be done.

Staying with your brother sounds like a solid option. I think getting away from your husband is a great first step.

Foodwise, my survival meals are protein shakes. That's an option if you just need nutrition ready with little effort.
posted by rockyraccoon at 8:41 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]

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