Jon here, guest blog take over coming through. Please let me introduce you to Laurie Bushman who would like to share her family’s experience with our readers. We can all learn something from Laurie’s experience.
I was a college freshman when my oldest son was born. Our second son was born three years later. Over the next few years, my husband and I married, experienced a deployment, and had our daughter. But, it wasn’t until my oldest turned ten that we finally laid eyes on him and his brother. Our family wasn’t born from lack of planning though it may appear that way. If you look deeper, you will see five individuals’ stories interwoven through necessity and desire. The boys were struggling to survive and we were searching for a new addition to our family. When we added our boys to the family, we knew it would be an achievable, yet taxing, transition. Sign the papers, remember advice from the classes, and make new beginnings. Little did we realize the battle we were about to face.
We started out hiding all of our struggles to remain a seemingly “normal” family. One incident a few years in blew our cover, and we quickly realized it was better for everyone if we lived transparently. I had tried to cobble together a support system that, as it turned out, was painfully disjointed. We could subsist, but the pressure built until we were nearly suffocating under a blanket of stress. Those in our inner circle could sense the verge of a crisis and tried to help.
Sadly, many people had no resources beyond what I could muster. During this time, I also discovered an unwritten sense of shame often goes along with exhausting that last resource. My white flag went up, and soon, the reality of isolation came crashing down. I was often met with apologies or transferred to someone who had no offerings. I’ve made the struggle of locating help and resources for my children a second full-time job. It’s exhausting and often feels futile. I just ask that those who know our family support us. It gives us hope.
Many families are struggling and don’t know how to coordinate resources, not to mention find the hidden ones. Those supports may only come to the forefront when a crisis is looming, as we saw in our case. And, if it’s uncomfortable to ask, don’t count on people offering. Others may assume with no malice intended that someone else has stepped up. We need advocacy and coordination to help those who may not have the strength to take on the search.
Anyone struggling with an issue, whether health, social, or economic, needs a handbook with all the local agencies, contacts, and services to navigate their situation and feel empowered. Then the follow-up becomes the next step. Dubuque is teeming with people and organizations willing to help. Yet, individuals or families who need extra emotional and social supports are slipping through the cracks until an emergency arises. Let’s not allow this anymore.
What’s the best way to spread services far and wide? Communicate. Talk to your friend that is having a hard time parenting. Check in with your neighbor with the unique perspective. If you need help, ask. Not once or twice—as many times as it takes to get results. Mentor. Donate. Volunteer. Reach out. See where you can step in. You don’t have to offer a formal service. Provide time or emotional support. Think outside the box. Unusual ideas are often the best. Some of the “little” things people have done for our family during difficult times have left the most impact. From our son’s former teacher who supports him unconditionally (five years so far!) to the police officers who provide job shadowing, to people who keep in contact with me just because –these are unique supports worth their weight in gold. None of these are in a handbook or distributed by an agency. They’re homegrown and honest.
We, as a community, possess endless ways to offer assistance for families, organizations, and individuals who need it most. Often, people have impressive strengths begging to be uncovered. Celebrate those individuals. Resources are all around us and it’s up to us as a community to unite them.