For the past three years, I have been living the life of a married single mom. However, throughout these three years, I have learned five important ways to keep my marriage healthy and strong.
If you heard of this phrase, married single mom, then you know that it is often used to describe married women with children who feel overwhelmed, stressed and lonely within their marriage. One mother described her ex-husband as ‘selfish and lazy’ who ‘didn’t care to help’ which was one of the reasons she filed for divorce.
Very rarely do you hear about the other married single moms who have been able to overcome the stress of having to do it all alone and have been able to balance their work and family life while their husbands either work long hours outside of the home, or have been deployed.
A couple of years ago, my husband and I made a financial decision that would drastically change our family structure. At the time of our decision, we had a 3-year-old that was being evaluated for ADHD and autism and I was four months pregnant with our second son. We were very concerned about our financial future because of my history of having a difficult pregnancy. During my very first pregnancy, I started contracting at 17 weeks and my cervix was shortening every day. My medical team felt it necessary to keep me hospitalized to help mitigate the risk as well as attempt to keep my baby inside for as long as possible. I was out of work for most of the year and my husband had to work two full time jobs to keep us afloat.
This time around, we wanted to be prepared financially and mentally. We believed that the best thing for our family financially was for him to take a high paying job in North Dakota to help prepare us for any potential financial burdens. We had decided that this move was only temporary and did not require the entire family to move from Florida to North Dakota.
Having to worry about making ends meet was stressful. Being high risk meant seeing my OBGYN once a week and then going to the hospital to have the baby and my cervix evaluated weekly. This was very costly. At the time the insurance we had required we pay our extremely high deductible before they would cover 80%. Among all of our other regular bills we had a $135 a week daycare bill. We couldn’t afford for him to not be in North Dakota. I was happy with our decision then.
It didn’t take long for me to regret that decision. It was a lot of work doing this family thing on my own, pregnant, working a full-time job, and being solely responsible for an overactive 3-year-old was taking a toll on me. I became bitter, angry, and lonely. I resented my husband for leaving me alone to deal with life on my own. To top it all off, our marriage was suffering. Desperate to fix our marriage, I reached out for help. It took a lot of work, compromise and dedication. It has been a three year learning process and we are one month away from 10 years of marriage. We still have more to learn but for now, here are five things that I have learned along the way about maintaining a healthy marriage while being a married single mom.
Communication is Key
Healthy communication has been the key to maintaining our relationship. While he is away we talk as often as we can. We have installed many different apps on our phone and the kids tablets to allow for easy communication. Utilizing different apps we have been able to create videos, text each other, video chat, and take countless pictures. My husband periodically will take pictures of his day and send it to me and I will share it with the boys. I would take pictures and videos of the kids so that he can witness and take part of all of their changes.
We have learned the importance of being clear and concise as well as setting expectations. This has allowed us to successfully meet each others expectations. We are not mind readers. My husband is not able to know what I am thinking and vice verse. By stating what we expect from each other, we have eliminated a lot of confusion and miscommunication. We have also learned to verbalize our appreciation for each other. I try to regularly let my husband know that I appreciate his sacrifice of being away from the family to help provide for the family. He has also verbalized his appreciation for me stepping up and taking care of the family while he is away.
Last year, my husband attempted to parent our son. Our oldest son was five years old and he told him matter of fact, ‘You can’t tell me what to do, you don’t live here.’ My husband was riddled with anger towards me and with shame. My husband was under the impression that I had somehow instilled this in his head. He was wrong. Our son was well aware of the inactive parenting role that my husband had taken since working out of state. He had left all the child rearing to me.
Since our son’s outburst, my husband has been intentional in actively parenting our kids while he is away and when he is home. My husband has been able to discipline and encourage our son while he is away. He sets expectations and verbally rewards our son. He speaks to him most days when I pick him up from school and ask about his day and what he has learned that day. All behavior concerns are dealt with together. This creates a united front for our kids to see. My son understands that both mommy and daddy our on the same page. By doing these things, my husband has been able to successfully parent while he is away and doesn’t feel like an absent parent.
Create a Routine
Early on we learned to create a routine for our family. Creating this routine helps my husband to regroup and relax without feeling pulled in many different directions. When my husband does come home it is is typically from a Thursday through Wednesday morning.
On Thursday he spends time with the kids. Friday is his sleep in day. I allow my husband to sleep in late and will not schedule any activities or events during the day. Saturday and Sundays are family days. He gets to spend the day visiting with his parents and brother. We also do fun activities, go Disney and birthday parties on Saturday. We go to church on Sundays and have lunch. Monday and Tuesdays we spend together without our kids. We use this time to regroup as a couple, we discuss important issues, we attend marriage courses, and we go grocery shopping together. At times our funds will allow us to go away for one night to have uninterrupted sex. All of this is important to the success of our marriage
Having a Support System is a MUST
At times, we find ourselves alone without family in a new city, state or even country. There are a lot of moms that find themselves in similar situation as you and can help you through this journey. I joined a mom at church which helped me to find some peace for a short period of time throughout my week. I didn’t have to pretend to have all together or know the right answer. These women are willing and able to be a listening ear or an extra pair of hands to help you out. These women were willing to provide emotional and spiritual support. The more active I became in the group the easier it became to trust these women and allow them to be there for me.
Remember, you don’t have to do this alone. Its okay to reach out and ask for help. Locate a nearby mom group that you can join. MOPS is an international association and you can locate one in their registry. You can also become an active and visible member of the different small groups and care groups through your church. Find different support groups through community resources.
Show your spouse grace daily
In the beginning, I struggled immensely with being kind towards my husband. I would vent and complain and cry about things that were happening to me. It wasn’t until my husband had his own outburst did I realize how much my complaining and whining was affecting him. He asked me, ‘Don’t you know I already feel bad for not being there?’ As much as I was angry with him, I never wanted him to feel guilt for choosing to support our family the way he did.
Throughout this journey I learned the importance of showing him grace and I learned to forgive my husband. I had to understand that he will miss birthdays and our kids milestones. He will be able to avoid the daily tantrums and outburst that I have to deal with. My husband won’t be there to wrap me up in his arms when I’m feeling overwhelmed. He will miss family events, Christmas, Thanksgiving and many different holidays. I won’t be able to kiss him on the first day of the year every New Year. Forgive him, he already feels lousy for not being there when these moments occurred. Let him know that you understand that if he could he would but he just wasn’t able to. By showing him grace, I was also learning to be positive and not resentful which led to a happier marriage with my husband.