"I Feel Like a Single Mom"

Kate and her husband, Jack, have come to loggerheads on how involved they should be in their children's lives. Can this marriage be saved?
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Her Turn

"He's Never There For Me"

"One day last week, Jack came home from the office to find me in our basement knee-deep in water trying to take care of a burst pipe," said Kate, 45, a stay-at-home mother of two. "He took one look at me, turned around, and shouted over his shoulder that he'd be back around 10 p.m., after he worked out and went to a meeting at church.

"I just stood there, soaking wet and sobbing. Why should I stay married to a man who is never there for me? He's seldom home, but even when he is here, he's emotionally absent. And he's hardly involved in the kids' lives -- never has been. Matt is now 13 and an avid soccer player, but Jack has only rarely gone to watch his games, and he always finds an excuse to miss our 10-year-old Lizzie's piano recitals.

"Jack and I got married almost 25 years ago, and waited 12 years to have kids because he wanted to be sure we could afford them. At that time, I was a piano student at Juilliard in New York City, and my teachers said I had a promising career ahead of me. But I gave it all up after Jack and I got married, so I could support us both while Jack was in medical school. I took a job that I hated as a secretary, but I just kept reminding myself that I would eventually be a doctor's wife, and I'd be able to stay home with my children.

"Finally, when I was 32, Jack joined a practice, and we were ready to start a family. I got pregnant right away and quit my job. From the time Matt was born until Lizzie was about 3 years old, Jack had regular office hours, but he had gotten into pro bono work for church projects that took up his evenings. That's also when he joined a gym. I told myself that when the kids were older, he'd be around more. I'd imagine Jack kicking a soccer ball with Matt in the backyard, or reading a bedtime story to Lizzie when she was old enough to appreciate chapter books. I convinced myself things would change.

"But they never did. Jack grew even more distant. I've tried to explain what we need from him, but he ignores me. Recently, I asked him why he didn't hug his kids more, and he just walked out of the room and slammed the door. When we do manage to talk, we fight -- mostly about the kids. Jack says I'm 'pushy' and too involved in their lives. Well, I see motherhood as my job. I'm trying to motivate Matt and Lizzie to do well in school and other activities so they'll have a good future. They're too young to know what's good for them; that's why I'm here. Matt says he doesn't care if he doesn't get into an Ivy League college, but I know he'll regret that later. I'm a stickler about his homework. I also try to make him see how important athletics are. He could be a much better soccer player if he only tried harder. As for Lizzie, I chase her to practice the piano, but I know she'll thank me for that someday. She may not be the natural I was, but she could improve if she buckled down.

 
Continued on page 2:  Her Turn, continued

 

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