Dear Annie: I am a 39-year-old man who is married to the greatest wife in the world. We have three boys and one girl; our oldest is 19, and our youngest is 8. A couple of years ago, I started a cabinet-making business, and it is growing faster than I could have imagined. Our oldest son works full time with me. Even with his help, I am falling further and further behind on work. In a world where everyone is used to next-day delivery, it seems like customers don’t understand that the type of custom work I do takes time. I don’t want to turn down requests, though, because we’re trying to get out of debt. We’ve been doing pretty well so far. We paid off our last credit card about six months ago. After years of living with a stress cloud over our heads, it felt like things were finally getting better.
But a few months ago, we were hit with a bombshell and a blessing when we found out that my wife is pregnant. We thought we were done having kids; in fact, I was planning on getting fixed next year. But after finding out the news, I pumped myself up and said: “OK, one more. We can do this!”
We went in for the first ultrasound, and they found two heartbeats. I almost fainted. Then, at the next ultrasound, they found three! And then we found out that all three are girls! It might be a dad thing, but I worry about my daughter more than the three boys combined.
Long story short, I am losing my mind with worry for my wife. She is doing amazingly so far, but three babies is so much for her to carry. She is still trying to do all she usually does, but she is so easily exhausted, so she gets upset with herself. The kids are helping all they can, but she is a mom who thinks she can do it all and doesn’t like to ask them. Meanwhile, I have been working 18 hours a day, seven days a week, trying to get caught up on the jobs. I also try to take my wife to all her appointments. Recently, I started having some chest pains and spent two days in the hospital. Seeing the worry on my wife’s face then broke my heart. The last thing she needs is more to worry about.
I feel like I am trying to do too much, but I don’t see any other way. I truly feel like this world has chewed me up and spit me out, and now it has a yoke around my neck, and I don’t see any way out. — Dad on the Edge
Dear Dad: To start, take a few long, deep breaths. It’s essential that you stop overworking yourself. Set realistic expectations for clients in terms of project timelines, and turn jobs down if need be. Yes, this might lead to reduced cash flow in the short term. But it’s the best way to ensure that, in the long term, you’re able to keep working, without getting sick, burning out or worse. You need to be here to watch your three new baby girls grow up, after all.
A worry shared is a worry halved. Let friends and family members in on what you’re going through. They’ll want to help, and there will be many ways for them to do so — like running errands so your wife doesn’t have to, assisting with appointments and helping care for those three incoming bundles of joy once they arrive.