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TOGETHER ALONE: What to Do When You’re a Married Single Parent

Question:

I’m basically a married single parent.  My husband and I both work full-time but he expects me to be the “on-call” parent and deal with anything that comes up during the work day related to our three kids—illnesses, school functions, parent-teacher conferences, everything.  I have less time off and work farther away from the kids’ schools than he does so I think this is unfair but can’t leave my kids in limbo.  I’ve talked to him many times but nothing’s changed and, on top of all this, he’d like another baby!!  I can’t take much more and am getting to the end of my rope (and my boss’s patience).

Answer:

There’s no way around it: you’re in a tough bind and there are no easy answers.

Married Single ParentParenting any number of children should be a shared joy and obligation, and doing it well and ensuring their needs are met means shouldering the load together.  It’s also important for your children to witness successful co-parenting so they learn how to do this in their own relationships.

When this doesn’t happen, feelings of confusion, disappointment, and anger can build and eventually threaten to completely derail a marriage if unresolved. Many a spouse has asked themselves, “If I’m doing this alone, why don’t I just become a single parent?

Of course, what feels like an easy way out soon turns into a dead end but I understand the level of stress and frustration this can cause.

Even without your husband’s support, you’ve apparently been keeping things afloat and your children don’t appear to have suffered.  However, it’s clear from your question that both your sanity and your marriage are starting to fray so please realize that your kids will still bear the brunt of any imbalance or unhappiness you allow to fester at home.

Let’s explore some of the choices you have, however difficult.  Because you’ve already expressed your concerns to your husband and there has been no change on his part, I will bypass my normal “Level 1” suggestions and consider these “Level 2” interventions you should think through carefully before implementing.

Your Options

Option 1: Continue to do what you have been.
This doesn’t seem tenable, so I would rule it out completely unless other circumstances—like your work schedule or other home duties—change significantly. 

Option 2:  Continue to do what you have been with the understanding that something else will be taken off your plate.
This will require agreement from your husband that, for example, if you have a school event of medical appointment to attend with the children that day, he will take care of making dinner, helping them with homework, and giving baths, etc.

Option 3:  Inform your husband that because you can no longer continue what you’ve been doing, you will be making some changes yourself.
Including the possibility of cutting your hours at work or even quitting your current job and looking for a part-time role will likely get his attention.  The message here should be “For me to continue doing X without your help, I will stop doing Y (or start doing Z).” From what you’ve said, this may be necessary anyway to avoid being fired or demoted so I would take the bull by the horns here, including having an honest conversation with your boss about what’s happening and exploring any potential relief your employer may be able to offer.

If you’re interested in this topic, you may enjoy our blog on
Polar Opposites: How to Handle Parenting Differences.

 

Option 4: Hire or recruit others to help.
Is there a trusted neighbor, close friend, or babysitter in your life who might be willing to serve as your proxy in some of these situations?  Do you have family members nearby who would be available and willing to step in if needed?  This is my least favorite option, simply because there is no parent substitute in the eyes of a child in most of these situations and someone like a neighbor simply can’t serve in your stead for things like parent-teacher conferences at school.  But this idea still has merit.  Have you considered all your resources?

Option 5:  Seek expert help.
Whether alone or together, talking to a pro about feeling like a married single parent can not only open doors and ideas but can provide some much-needed relief and support.  We are a phone call, e-mail, or Messenger chat away.  😊

For more thoughts on when disagreements exist
about having another baby, check out this article on
When Couples Can’t Agree on Having More Children.

 

Married Single ParentBaby Makes Four?

I would never use the prospect of another child as some kind of bargaining chip with your husband, but I do think it’s completely reasonable to tell him that you feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities you carry now and don’t feel comfortable with the idea of expanding your family until you receive more help from him.

If another child is something high on his wish list, you’ll see a change in his behavior.  Just make sure that this change is demonstrated through continued and sustained actions and not only through words!  Evaluate these actions over a longer period (i.e., not just two weeks) to ensure any change is permanent before making a decision.

 

Aside from my suggestions above, the one piece of advice I would give you is to stop trying to “get” your husband to do anything at all, which is time wasted.  Whatever solution is created will work because YOU decide to take responsibility for your own schedule, your own situation, and your own sanity.  I wish you only the best.

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