What To Do When You Are Parenting Alone In A Marriage

Parenting is a source of joy and presents many challenges.  The task of being a parent can sometimes be a never-ending tug of war emotionally and physically.  Emotionally there is the need to balance being the “parent” and maintaining control, teaching important lessons, setting boundaries and providing the love and nurture children need.  Physically there is the need to handle all the daily chores, tasks and issues involved in child rearing and managing a household while attempting to get enough rest and tend to personal needs.

The answer to “what to do if you’re parenting alone in a marriage” can vary depending on why you may find yourself parenting alone.

Sometimes couples have very different parenting styles which may lead to one person doing the parenting. 

Are you parenting alone because the two of you have differing parenting styles? 

It would be good to spend some time evaluating whether or not you have pushed the other parent out of the parenting role or whether the other parent just quit parenting because of the frustration felt related to your differences.  If you have pushed the other parent away from taking an active role in parenting or frustrated that parent so much that he/she has given up and deferred the parenting to you, is it because you believe that your style is the right one and the other parent is totally wrong in how he/she would choose to parent?  The two of you need to take some time to discuss the differences on your styles and where those differences may have originated.

Realistically, you may both need to discard some of what you think about parenting and then work together to develop a style that works for both of you. 

This is not something that you do in front of the children; this is something you work on away from them. Then you present a united front to your children. 

Children need to know that their parents are on the same page with their parenting.  It gives your children added security to know that both of their parents care about what they are doing and where they are headed in life.  There is no perfect parenting style but there is parenting that helps your children to grow up knowing how to set boundaries and live by them and knowing how to make good choices and to understand that there are consequences when they choose to do something that is not good or right.

Sometimes you may find yourself alone in the parenting process because of your circumstances. 

Possibly the other parent is working the kind of job that keeps him/her away from home long hours or for days or weeks at a time.  Sometimes one parent may be very ill and is not able to do the kind of parenting the two of you together would do.  It is still important that you both spend some time discussing how you will parent and determine that you are both on the same page with it.  Then let your children know that you are united in how you are choosing to parent even when you or the other parent may not be available to help in the actual day to day parenting.  

There are times when one parent has absolutely no interest in the parenting role and has abdicated that role completely to the other parent. 

This is a situation that happened a lot in the past but still happens today.  There are times when one parent is not interested in what anyone in the family does.  Often it is the father, but not always.  That parent may have grown up in a family where there really was an absent parent.  That parent may have been in the same house with the family, but not participated at all or very little with the everyday family life.  The belief is that “we will parent how we were parented!” 

So, if you came from a family where one parent was not actively involved in your growing up, that may be how you begin to parent your children. 

It doesn’t have to stay that way unless you choose to parent exactly like you were parented! 

If that other parent makes a conscious effort to change and wants to become more involved, will you let him/her do that?  Sometimes you may determine that you really don’t want the other parent involved in your parenting. It could be that you are afraid of a repeat performance of how that person was parented – such as repeating physical abuse or dictating orders to the children all the time and making life miserable for everyone! 

Yet, there are times you feel alone in your parenting and want the other person to step in and you ask for help but then push that person away or put that person down in front of the kids.  He or she gets so frustrated and feels that there is such a mixed message that they pull away completely. 

Are you really willing to let the other parent be involved in parenting or not or have you intentionally or unintentionally blocked the other parent from becoming involved in the parenting process? 

Have you taught your children to dismiss whatever the other parent has to say to them and only seek you out?

If you, as a parent, have tried over and over again to get the other parent involved in the parenting process and have not succeeded, you have to determine whether you can and are willing to be a single parent and not be angry about it.  If it is difficult for you to deal with, then seek help for yourself not with the idea that the other person will change if you go to a professional but that you will learn how to manage the parenting role alone and be OK with it. 

If problems in parenting have hurt your marriage and interfered with your family, we can help put you back on a healing path.  Dr. Debbie McFadden is the mother of 4 successful married adult children and has counseled parents for the past 25 years.  Dr. Debbie will help you determine if your parenting patterns can be changed and how to best go about it. If you’re ready, take the next step now and call 630-333-3202 for a free 15-20 minute phone/Skype consultation. She will tell you about how our process works and you will come away from that call with the information you need to make a decision about how we can best work together.

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