Marta: Prioritizing Her Children

A huge goal for Marta is ensuring her children’s well-being. She restricted Tim’s contact with her daughter (age 23) and son (age 15) because of his violent episodes. She decided to keep his interactions to a minimum but realizes she does not want to deny Tim access to his children. However, she recognized that Tim’s “in and out” behavior contributed to stress in their lives. When Tim’s phone calls with her daughter Ivy became lengthy, Ivy commented to Marta, “Now, I’ve got both parents that talk to me forever on the phone.” As a college student, long phone calls with her parents contributed to Ivy’s stress. Also, the extremes of talking with her father extensively and then having him disappear out of her life upset her. During Tim’s most recent episode, Ivy worried about him. Was he driving around? Was he on the street? Was he moving around and staying at different places?

Marta experienced the challenge of having all the responsibilities for caring for her family. She shared, “It was really, really hard because I would do it all myself.” She talked about wanting to be there for her son, Joe. He was age 10 or 11 when he experienced his dad’s violent behavior.

My son and I were at the library, after I picked him up after school. When we got home, I walked into the back door of the house that goes into the porch and kitchen. When I opened the door, I noticed the kitchen window, the blinds were kind of blowing. There was already a restraining order in effect at the time. That seemed kind of weird. When I came back out, I thought the window must have been broken. I thought somebody broke into the house, not thinking he would have been the one. My son kind of waited. He didn’t come into the porch. At that point he was kind of scared already of different things that were happening. Because of random phone calls and that kind of thing. When I peeked into the door and saw that [blowing curtains and broken window] I went out to call 911 when he [Tim] was in the house. He had destroyed a lot of stuff. As I was on the phone calling 911, he came and attacked me with our son right there. That was pretty traumatic.

Tim was arrested and hospitalized until he stabilized on medication and then went to jail for several months. When he was released, he moved in with his mother.

Marta talks with her children about Tim’s illness.

I try to talk about it as much as I can to try to help them understand. Dad has an illness. He’s sick. My daughter understands it a lot more being that she’s older even if she didn’t experience it firsthand, except spring break. But my son has kind of seen and remembers different situations. After that episode [when Tim was physically violent] where we actually had to split and he wasn’t allowed by the house or anything, my son actually went to speak to somebody--therapy sessions for several months.

The therapy sessions were helpful for her son Joe, who shared how he felt about his dad’s illness. More recently, Joe has shared information when his friends ask about his dad and asked to see a school counselor.