Marriage Advice Moms Don’t Want to Hear

Subtitle: “It Isn’t Your Husband’s Fault

I hear so many women complain about their husbands and I am totally guilty of this too. But, I am not in your average-run-of-the-mill marriage. My husband and I are raising children with special needs, developmental delays, complex neurological conditions, mental illness and learning disabilities. And that puts a different kind of pressure on our marriage.

This is the kind of pressure people experience that are dealing with chronic illness, unemployment or long term financial issues – only worse. This kind of pressure is centered on helping our children and that means the stress is ever-present for both of us. Which sets the stage for problems.

Often families go into full-speed-ahead mode right after diagnosis. Especially moms. We become consumed with learning everything we can about our child’s challenges: Spending hours researching, going to forums, blogs, support groups, calling doctors, and hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars going to therapists, psychologists, behavior specialists, and even MORE money signing up for social skills classes, and buying therapy equipment so we can turn our home into a therapeutic oasis for our child. We spend everything we have each day pushing the envelope to find ways to help our child. Because we are the MOM and that is what we DO.

But what often happens during the never-to-be-quenched-thirst-for-knowledge-mission is a polarization between husband and wife. You cop an “I know the answers” attitude that quickly leaves your husband to play the role of “guy who doesn’t know the answers”. And about a year or so down the road, you turn around and realize that YOU have done ALL of the work. And you get angry. Frustrated. Annoyed. Pissed off that your husband doesn’t understand your child or appreciate all that you do. Sound familiar?

Yet, as hard as it is to believe, it isn’t your husband’s fault. Not the answer you were hoping for?

A constantly stressed out you who has been on hyper-drive for your child for the last year (or more), and didn’t take any time for yourself, never mind your marriage, is now exhausted, frustrated and tired of being a martyr. But your husband didn’t create this.

I’ll agree that he may have sat by and watched it happen, sure, but let’s be honest, would you have listened if he told you to slow down? Of course not.

We all go through this (including me). But the trick is making it to the end and still being married.

Which is why we as Moms have to mindfully choose to take care of all parts of our life – not just hyper focus on our child – but to nurture our own needs, including being present in our marriage. We have to choose to talk to our husband about things other than the kids, their challenges, or the latest special-needs-book we have just read. We have to choose to ask questions, and listen to our husband’s answers (even if he just talks about work, or football, or cell phones). We have to make time to be alone with our husband, even if it means hiring a babysitter, or asking a family member for help (which I know can be hard). Both you and your husband have to actively choose to be a couple.

I know some of you think this is just ‘crazy-talk’ and that finding time for yourself and your marriage is just out of the realm of possible, but like the flight attendants remind you every time you get on a plane, “Put your oxygen mask on first, then help your child.”

Plus, your husband misses you. Reconnect with your hubby and remind him of the girl he married -- the younger, less stressed, less controlling, less "OMG DON'T DO THAT WITH THE KIDS!" version of you -- remember her?

I know your husband does.


Itsy Bitsy Spider said...

God bless you, Hartley. I am a guilty mom too. Kaia consumes our lives (both of us) and it's often very difficult to find time for each other. By the time we do (find time), both of us are exhausted.

This is a very timely post and a good reminder to all special needs parents. I think I'll be putting in a call to the babysitter very soon.

Hugs, Karla

Patty O. said...

Oh Hartley, it's like you read my mind or were a fly on the wall of my marriage. It makes me feel better at least to know that I am not the only one to fall into this trap. Thanks for the reminder to work with my husband rather than against. I know my kids do a lot better when we are working as a team.

The Henrys said...

Thanks for this reminder! This is one post that I'm sure I will need to read and read again.
We were just thinking of asking his mother to watch the kids this weekend but I kept making excuses as to why we shouldn't. Thanks for reminding me that I need to have time with my husband!

In Real Life said...

This is an awesome post! Thank you! :)

Shell said...

Totally agree with this post!

John and Allie Fields said...

It is SO easy to get caught up in fighting for your child that you do neglect the rest of the world, including spouses. Thank you for the reminder! I'm thinking it may be time for a date night.

Tired Mom said...

Wow! You completely hit the nail on the head here! I'm so guilty of doing this for the last 3 years and I know it's been hard on my marriage. Thankfully I have a very understanding husband or we would've been divorced by now! But thank you for the reminder that I do need to put myself first and remember that my husband needs attention too!

Angela said...

These words could have just as easily come straight from my mouth. Great job on a very pertinent topic.

Tiffany said...

Where's the "like" button? The little thumbs up!? I just had to say that.
I love your reference to the flight attendant "put your oxygen mask on first...".
This was a well written reminder for all moms to remember our marriages.

Pierrette and Lorna dEntremont said...

Thanks Hartley for making overwhelmed moms see the big picture. To see that we must make room and time for all family reaching out a bit more we might find other pairs of willing hands to lessen our burdens.

Joyce said...

Ok maybe you didnt mean to be so amusing but I am cracking up laughing because you wrote all about me!!!!
Except Im single and try to do it all on my own without any help... blah blah blah....
You spoke to me but sadly my hubby hasnt turned up yet, so I dont feel guilt about the lack of substance in my marriage, but your other words hit the nail on the head.
thanks for you words - timely as they are.

Making Sense of the Senses said...

Wow! I don't know what else to say. We are only a couple of months into my daughter's SPD diagnoses. I can't tell you how many times I have promised my husband I won't google SPD, buy another book about it, or contact some sort of doctor/therapist. I haven't been really good about keeping that promise.

Em said...

It's been one year now and your words ring true. I'm exhausted, but luckily after a few months into it I realized that my husband was somewhere in the background waiting for me to have a minute of sanity just to hang out with him. If you're marriage isn't okay, you're not going to be okay and therefore your kids aren't going to be okay. Thanks for the reminder!


Hartley said...

I am so glad you all related to this post! And you all should call me out when I don't respond to comments in a timely manner!!

Don't forget to take care of yourselves,

Gavin Bollard said...

My wife and I both do a whole lot of work for the kids - in our own entirely separate ways.

We don't have the issues of feeling like we've "done all the work while our partners did nothing" but we still find that we have the other issues you've covered.

In particular, we have the "know it all" attitudes in our separate spheres. I'm know it all about psychology and medications (the scientific side) and my wife is like that about education and friendships (the human side).

Your post is a good and timely reminder that we are two halves of the same team and that we need to take time out to reconnect.


Lisa Quinones Fontanez said...

Great post! I am so guilty of this. Especially in the last few months as I'm searching, touring, preparing for kindergarten.

It's so hard to remember who we were. I alwasy say I'm going to make an effort, but something always comes up and then I forget again. Thanks for reminding me!

Mommylebron said...

This post rings so true and it's something I wish I had known from the beginning.
I do find now that when I take some time for mysle fnad give sometime to my husband I wake up the next day feeling more prepared to face it's challenges.

D. S. Walker said...

Your post is so true! My husband does expect me to read everything because he really doesn't have the time. However, he does listen to want I tell him and he is excellent at helping with our son who isn't on the spectrum. He is very supportive on so many levels. I really can't complain although of course I do. He even took a ballroom dancing class with me a couple of summers ago and unlisted his parents help with the kids! I truly am blessed! Thanks for reminding me.

agear said...

This is sooo true. I love googling things and learning about new websites and social sites for parents with special kids. My boyfriend(son's father) could care less. I get mad at him for being so laissez-faire about learning things but he is a good father in other ways. He spends a lot of time with him and takes good care of him. He gets him ready for school most mornings because I am not a morning person and I get really crabby.
Its good to remember we all have our own way of doing things and that fathers have their own way of showing their love.


Claudia M. said...

Thanks! Great post. I am devoting all my free time to research, google, buying books and equipment. Made me smile... It is difficult to stop though..

Samuel.Ricafort said...

I'll definitely share this article, thank you very much for making this.
working moms support group nyc