The Married Single Mother


For a long time I’ve wanted to write this. Somehow something always got in the way. Maybe I was afraid. Or maybe I didn’t want to seem angry. People tend to dismiss mothers as well as incensed women and especially incensed mothers as an attempt at silencing or shaming us.

Or maybe I wanted to believe things would change. Maybe I didn’t want to upset my husband (I do love him). Or to be judged ungrateful because I understand just how fortunate I am to be married to my best friend and have two healthy children. But I can’t stay silent. 

For over a decade I have felt like a married single mother. I understand it’s not the same as an actual single mother, and my point is not to compare the two. I understand single motherdom is extremely hard, unfair, wrong, heart-breaking, infuriating, and exhausting. My sister was one. I get it. What I’m saying is that whether you are a single mother or a married one your role isn’t vastly different.

I may have a co-pilot, but I don’t have a co-parent, and although the two of us endeavored to create a family together, and together we are charged with the task of raising that family, only one of us is doing the raising.

And I don’t know how I got here. I don’t know how two people can become parents, but only one is saddled with the responsibility for it all. It seems as if upon the birth of the first child all parental responsibilities default almost automatically to the mother.

It’s not that my husband doesn’t help or that he isn’t an excellent and loving father because he is. What I’m saying is he’s not a full and equal parent.

To illustrate my point, I’ve taken the liberty of devising a list of his and her responsibilities. You should try making one of your own sometime. Or just use mine. I’m certain it’s fairly interchangeable.

My list of responsibilities is as follows and I quote:

1. Set all parenting standards and troubleshoot standards when proven inadequate or ineffective.
2. Enforce all parenting standards and discipline kids when standards have been violated
3. Research, procure, schedule, remember and take both kids to all doctors, dentist, pediatricians, and specialist appointments
4. Ensure kids take in the occasional fruit or vegetable
5. Get kids ready in the morning and deliver them to school
6. Maintain school schedules and correspondence with teachers
7. Attend all school conferences, assemblies and concerts
8. Read through school papers and keep up on school notices and permission slips
9. Fulfill school volunteer duties
10. Collect kids from school in the afternoon
11. Care for kids when they’re sick, make arrangements for all half days and school breaks and patch together camps for summer recess
12. Help kids with homework
13. Ensure my son reads to a parent nightly (i.e. me to make sure he understands what he is reading)
14. Make sure my son learns his times tables before graduating high school
15. Devise, remember and maintain bath policy (i.e. every other day)
16. Brush and floss my son’s teeth twice daily as per dentist’s reprimand and make sure my daughter does the same
17. Enforce bedtime and ensure kids have completed their nightly routine (i.e. bags packed for school, teeth brushed, bathroom used)
18. Make and take kids to all hair appointments
19. Shop for all kids’ clothing, shoe and school needs
20. Monitor kids’ laundry to ensure they always have clean clothes for school
21. Wash all household, my own and kids’ laundry
22. Switch winter and summer clothing according to season
23. Organize all old clothes and toys, box them up and schedule them for donations
24. Plan and prepare weeknight meals
25. Take inventory, compile grocery list and do the food shopping
26. Clean the kitchen and dust and clean all furniture
28. Sweep and wash the floors
29. Vacuum the rugs
30. Assign the kids chores and enforce those chores
31. Arrange social calendar for both kids
32. Host and attend playdates for kids
33. Plan and execute birthday parties for both kids
34. Buy all gifts for every occasion for every person the two us know jointly
35. Remember all birthdays and significant events of family and friends
36. Maintain all social contacts and relationships
37. Force kids to practice instruments nightly or at least occasionally
38. Organize and find a home for every single item that enters the household
39. Signing-up and taking kids to after-school activities
40. Go to work (part-time)
41. Fulfill just about every domestic duty down to replacing every sliver of soap left in the soap dish, every empty shampoo bottle, and every spent toilet paper roll
42. Write a book

By contrast, my husband’s responsibilities are:
1.     Make coffee
2.     Take out the trash and recyclables
3.     Pay the bills
4.     Go to work
5.     Clean the bathrooms twice monthly.

Wait, I lied. My husband also makes sure we are always stocked with a fresh supply of green grass. He manages our grass seed reserves, replenishes it as necessary and fills in bare spots year round. Thank God for that. Without lush green grass, we’d be destitute.

The thing is my husband is a good guy. Anyone would tell you I’m lucky to have him. Especially my parents. If we were ever to split, my parents would take him over me any day. I’m also not saying my husband doesn’t work hard or wouldn’t do anything I asked. Of course, then I’d be responsible for asking, and making sure it got done. What I’m saying is he doesn’t bear responsibility at home, and I’m just a little tired.

I can understand how I should shoulder a bulk of the responsibilities when I was the one at home caring for the kids. My husband was out of the house for 12 hours a day at least, and as the primary parent I didn’t dispute that I should take on a majority of the domestic responsibilities. But all of them? All?

I’ve done just about everything in an attempt to restore balance, but whatever my situation, whether I worked part-time, full-time or at home, my childcare responsibilities never changed. And while cleaning the bathroom is good, I mean really good, does it exempt you from everything else? 


  1. I am totally one of those! How do you get him to clean bathrooms?

    1. Anonymous2/06/2013

      Well, the arrangement was he cleans the bathrooms & I clean everything else, which sounds like a good deal, but everything else is a lot.

  2. I agree with this so much.
    It is very slanted here in my house.
    I personally think it is bc I am a sahm right now.
    But once the kids are in school full time and I work part time, this will shift.
    But I get resentful many times because of it.
    And I have the most helpful hubs.

  3. BEEN THERE, done that. I agree about the cleaning bathrooms bit - you are lucky there! as for the disciplining, YOU MUST BE A UNITED FRONT. If he doesn't take part in enforcing the "rules" then he will be the "fun guy" and you will be the "mean one." That's one skirmish you *must* win. As long as your kids grow up and respect you, are grateful for all YOU did, vs. Dad, you will win the battle. I did. :-)

    1. Anonymous2/06/2013

      Yes, we are united. It's just that I'm usually the disciplinarian. He agrees, but he's not the one to come up with punishments. Sometimes I make him deliver the news so that I'm not always the bad guy.

  4. I think that there are a LOT of us who can relate to this. I think that I can somehow rationalize this because I'm starting to understand that women are simply a higher species. I tell my husband this all the time. He can't remember a grocery list with more than 3 items on it. I keep our tiny human alive and well. There's no trying to compare the two. It is in no way fair. It's like punishing the higher functioning employee by saddling them with more work but not more pay. But, I think in many (not all), but many households this is totally the case. Hugs to you. You are SO not alone...even though I know it feels that way a lot of the time...This is a wonderful, honest piece of writing. Thank you for it.

    1. Anonymous2/06/2013

      Thank you.

  5. Maybe he's afraid to take on more responsibilities? maybe he won't be able to measure up to expectations? Due to the shitty economy and job market DH and I have lived in a commuter marriage for waay too long. At least part of the time he had 1 or two children living with him & I lived apart with the other/s...which gives us both a unique perspective. More than once we've sat down and devised a list of everything that needs to be done and divided it up to lessen the burden on one.

  6. How about negotiating more sex or a sex act of his choice for every task you want him to take on? Or bake him something. I don't know. Just being funny.
    I just figured I wanted everything done right (which is MY way) and never really cared about the division of duties. But I'm kinda OCD so cleaning is a fun activity for me.

    1. Anonymous2/06/2013

      Will take your tips under advisement - they would create an incentive program. But actually the two are related. I do the whole "my way" too, but I've lessened my standards. When he was in charge of dishes I only requested clean utensils occasionally. Then we got a dish washer! Yay! He does try to help, it's just that his efforts are not sustained. I also know we have different personalities - I'm more hyper & he's more laid back - so I try to take that into consideration, too.

  7. You are definitely not alone! This is me in a nutshell! I have been doing this for the last five years. I, too, love my husband very much, he is a great guy, great father, but I do the bulk of raising the kids. I sometimes resent this situation, but I don't know if I could relinquish my control of how things go. I think it would be a little different if he was the stay at home parent but I'm hear with the kids all the time and it was my boobs they were attached to for a year of their lives. :)

    1. Anonymous2/07/2013

      Thank you, Abbey. That's why I wrote it. I think most if not all women are in this situation. But, it's also a matter of expectations. Some women, like my sister, completely expected to be fully responsible for raising the kids, but that's not the relationship I had w/ my husband. Up until the kids, everything was even. We both equally did housework. So when we had kids it left me saying what happened?

  8. I took on the Lion's share of the responsibilities when I became a SAHM. And, every few months when it gets to be overwhelming and I am feeling underappreciated - I have a total freak out meltdown. Then, everyone steps up to help least for a little while.

  9. Anonymous2/07/2013

    Yup. Exactly, Tracy. And I'm not even complaining about doing more than my fair share. I'm complaining about doing practically all of everything. I don't expect him to help when he's not here, but on weekends he should step up & be responsible for making sure the kids do their homework or chores or pitch in w/ housework. He does cook dinner on the weekends, which is nice.

  10. What I loved about your post is that you did point out what he DOES do. I've seen so many overlook even the little things.

    I so understand this lifestyle. My husband travelled for work and so I was often home alone for large stretches of time- doing everything myself with four kids. Then when he'd get home he'd be very, very stressed, jet-lagged, etc and feel that he needed his own time to unwind, sleep and destress with a computer game. So I was left alone with the kids... again.

    It wasn't that he didn't participate by bringing in money. But sometimes I wanted a companion, a co-parent. I wanted to be able to say, "Just wait until your dad comes home!" :)

    But we managed. I began to see things differently (after a huge issue came up) and I learned how to thrive in that, how to grow my marriage even when he was gone, and how to help the kids connect with him. Some of it is still hard. We've been married nearly 20 years.

    I wrote a book called "Married Mom, Solo Parent" which hit the stores Oct. 2011. and yes... he read it! Part of our changed marriage took place when he read the book. He hadn't actually seen or completely understood the devastation his lack of involvement had created... even though I'd told him a zillion times! Reading it as I wrote it, and then even writing the last chapter himself (encouraged by our publisher) really opened his eyes. The subtitle of the first part of his chapter says "Men are clueless." :D Not to say that men are dumb, or idiots.. no. Often men just don't see life and family the way we do, and they are completely side-tracked by their own issues.

    He realized that even though I'd said it, he just didn't get it.

    Don't give up! It can get better! (And if you are interested in the book it's available at many bookstores and of course online.)


    1. Anonymous2/11/2013

      Congrats on your book - love the title - I guess that's what I'm talking about - a married but solo parent. I do think a lot of it boils down to miscommunication or misunderstanding even though as you pointed out we've been saying the same things over and over again.

      Thanks for chiming in.

  11. I guess only single mothers disagree with the idea of married women calling themselves single.

    To have someone else helping at all or with bills is what it is. What we have alone as parents is something totally else.

    There is no over lap. Women can be demanding as parents and misunderstand what it means to be part of a partnership, marriage and relationship. That will never the same as being totally alone or children who don't even know who their fathers are.

    I get that persons can feel and be abandoned in marriage. This happens emotionally or at least can be perceived in that manner. It also really happens when one partner leaves and does not come back. When they are not contributing financially, when they run off and disappear only remaining in pictures, name and memory.

    Some of us are really single and others just feel alone. There is and will always be a difference.

    1. I agree there is certainly a difference. As I said the point was not to compare the two, & of course there is a whole host of issues surrounding single parenthood. My point was that if you are a single mom or a married one you can still feel very much alone on this parenting road.

  12. I think you speak to a lot of moms with this post. I've been married twice, and when I remember saying to my therapist before I decided to get a divorce, "I feel like a single mom with a cool boyfriend who comes over sometimes." My second husband has proven to be a pretty awesome co-parent (he adopted my daughter and we have another one) but I have said frequently to friends (who also complain about the balance of duties in their marriage) that I am ALWAYS parenting project manager. It gets frustrating. Even if you're an awesome dad and husband, how long would it take you to figure out that we need to schedule, doctor, hair, dentist, etc appointments if I just suddenly stopped doing it?

  13. Anonymous2/08/2013

    Wish there was a like button for this comment. I once put my husband in charge of school lunch, & then I worried about my kids developing rickets. They did suffer malnutrition, but they survived. I also wonder about when I replace the soap in the shower. Does my husband think it magically materialized? I doubt my kids would ever see a doctor if my husband was in charge & when people make the argument that men are just different from women (which I agree we are) but they use it as a reason why men can't be responsible for their children, I don't buy it. How do single dads do it then? Or gay dads? Somehow they manage to keep their kids alive. And, your point that you are ALWAYS the parenting project manager is exactly what I'm talking about. I don't mind doing a bulk of the domestic stuff but not parenting equally w/ how the kids should be raised is the most frustrating of all.

  14. Anonymous2/10/2013

    Been there done that and worked full-time.The husband had 4 days off ina row and did less. I am currently divorced and better off because I have one less person to take care.

  15. Show him your list and ask him which things he could take over for you -- then let him do the things he selected. Sometimes they aren't as involved as we would like for them to be, or even as involved as they would like to be. I definitely know what you're talking about; it's more a feeling of being the only one in charge all the time, being the primary decision maker, having 98% of the burden of responsibility.

  16. Anonymous4/09/2013

    Oh my goodness...this is the list I've been trying to make. I don't think I will be able to get through to my husband though, I've tried too many times and he just refuses to see it. I was a SAHM for 10 years and was completely happy to take on the responsibility. I figured that was my job. I was ok with it and joked with him that all he had to do was bring home more money each year for the family. But,that didn't happen and I've been working full time outside the home for the last 3 years and my husband doesn't do any more today than he did when I was home. I even pay the bills and do the taxes and budgeting for our family. Honestly, if he wasn't around, the only extra chore I would have would be to mow the grass and my two teenage boys generally take care of that. He travels for work and is usually gone 3-4 nights of each week. Needless to say, I am exhausted and very resentful. He gets all the benefit of my hard work with well-behaved kids who are well taken care of with virtually none of the responsibility. This week he will be gone on a "reward" trip for work to play golf at a resort. Hmmm...when do I get my reward?

  17. I am a mom and I have a 5 years old daughter, so I can understand that for any mother how difficult it is to look after her children and going out for job. That is the reason I prefer to work from home that allows me to look after my child and make me independent as I can earn from home and stay updated with today world. If you are also in same situation I have a suggestion for you from here you can learn how to make money or get good earning from home based job, I am confident it will be of Great Value to you and yours. Respectfully, Enjoy:


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