Growing up I envisioned my family life as a Married Mama. My wedding, my husband and our beautiful children. I imagined welcoming our babies into the world and how lovingly we would raise them together. As I entered my twenties I started wondering when I would be blessed with this family. It wasn’t until I reached my late 20’s that I realized the family I envisioned may never materialize. I thought I had done everything right. I had been in long-term relationships, got my Master’s degree and lived what I thought was a good life. It wasn’t until I neared 30 that my long-time fiance decided to settle down and marry. Everything happened in a whirlwind and I often sit and look back on this time and wonder how I ended up as a single-married Mama.
The question I should have asked my husband was “are you going to be a family man?” I should have started every relationship this way because this is an extremely important question to ask before wedding. See, he and I have very different ideas about family. In his mind he works. He works and works and that is his contribution to our family. There will be no nightly dinners at the table, throwing ball in the back yard with our sons or planting our garden together. He will leave 4 hours early every morning to get to a job where his shift started at noon and would arrive until nearly 9 PM every night.
What does my husband do? He’s not saving lives, putting out fires or keeping our neighborhood safe. He’s a salesman. I hear from customers about how wonderful he is; how friendly he was and how much care and time he put into finding them the right product. I don’t know this man: The kind, friendly man who spends careful hours on anything. The man I know comes home as we’re ready for bed, often falls asleep before he changes his clothes and leaves as our family is waking up. I often think, he’s like a roommate. A roommate who doesn’t take part in household chores, running errands or caring for the little ones. I sit here and wonder when I became a single Mom.
I know I should be thankful. I should be thankful for having a hard working husband. I should be thankful we don’t need any public assistance to raise our 4 children, and thankful that he is determined and too proud to reduce his hours at work. See, in his career he does not get paid an hourly wage. If he doesn’t sell any cars he can actually owe money to the company for our family’s benefits for the week and he stresses immensely about that happening. It does happen, even if he spends 12 hours a day at work, there could be zero sales or little commission on sales he does make. I know I should be more sensitive to his feelings and strong desire to work constantly. However, it’s hard to think of his feelings when I’m alone with our children for 12-13 hours, I haven’t showered in 6 days and my meals consist of old food that has been sitting out and partially eaten by our children.
My husband went back to his job 3 days after I returned home with my 3rd son days before my oldest turned 3. I stood there holding my newborn, with 3 babies 3 and under, begging him not to go into work for 12 hours. “Can’t you work your scheduled shift, 12-8?” “Please don’t go into work on your day off.” He walked out of the house and has continued to every day since then. He’ll often say he’s coming home early, or going to go in at 12 instead of 8-ish. However, every day he walks out the door early and doesn’t look back, even on his day “off.” I have called begging. “Please come home, the baby won’t stop crying, the kids are all screaming and I’m losing my mind. I watch the door, I listen for the phone, but there is nothing that will shake his commitment to his job. It is at these times that I realize I am alone. I pray Grandma, who still works nearly full-time, will make an unscheduled stop by our house and I am extremely thankful for her. Super Grandma to the rescue! She breaks out the books, tosses the kids into the bath tub and will even hold the baby so I can shower. Without Grandma I would not shower at all.
I often think that I should feel lucky. There are many Single-Married Mamas with their husbands overseas. Husbands, or wives for that matter, who work far away for days or weeks at a time not even returning home at night. I am thankful for the hour he spends with the kids in the morning, or sometimes before bed so I can get some reprieve. I do my best to not create bills. I don’t buy new clothes, purses, jewelry or anything I see as unnecessary. Our biggest expense is groceries. We have 4 babies who can really eat, I breastfeed and cloth diaper. One of our children has a bone tumor and must not have growth hormone. Thus, organic groceries are expensive but at the top of our must-purchase list. I coupon and try to save as much as I can on these items as well. I turned off our cable TV service to cut costs and do my best to keep our energy bill low. Still, he doesn’t come home earlier, go in later or take his day off. When did I become a Single-Married Mom?
I often consider moving in with my parents. My sons would grow up with far more adult interaction and support but in a split-parent home. I could work more at my job too. I enjoy work. I never thought that I would think of work as a break, but getting to be around other adults helps me appreciate being a Mom more. The question I ask is; Is it healthier to stay in a Marriage with one nearly constantly absent spouse then to split the family? I don’t know. As the product of a divorced family I remember dreaming that my parents would reunite. Despite my father’s unfaithfulness, abuse and refusal to show for court ordered visitations with us…I wished they would reunite. It is that memory that redirects my thoughts from ending this marriage. I want my children to feel loved and if that requires this marriage staying together then so be it.
I do not have a plan. What is the plan? I don’t know. I am taking this day by day and moment by moment. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. There is no Nanny, Housekeeper, Chef or even food delivery service. If I need to go shopping all 4 of my babies need to come too. I grocery shop infrequently. I have had my now Dutch PA style hair cut twice in 6 years because the thought of taking 4 children to the salon is just totally not possible. I no longer paint my nails or trail run. I pluck my eyebrows in the minivan mirror before getting all of the kids out and look forward to these infrequent grooming opportunities. There are no date-nights with hubby or romantic time at home. I never make it to girls night and can’t get the brood together to go back to the La Leche League meetings I enjoyed attending on Tuesdays. Being a Single-Married Mom is all consuming.
To the other Single-Married Moms out there. Please know that you are not alone. When the children are screaming, someone has peed on the floor and colored the wall. There are other Moms at home crying too. When the day is tanking hard, and I have literally stepped in shit I remind myself that there are better days to come. Some day I will sleep long hours. Some day the hair on my legs will not be an inch long! Some day there will be time for me. I will take up running again and maybe even paint for fun. The baby will not cry all day long forever. Some day we’ll take nature hikes, visit museums and maybe even have one of those family bands you see in satirical shows on television. Some day, spending time as a Single-Married Mom will be fun. Some day my house will be quiet and I’ll have all the time in the world to scrub tile, bathe and tend to my garden. For now, as they said on Grey’s Anatomy…I’m Squirreling it…taking on my days one nut at a time.