With eight years of motherhood under my belt, I like to joke that I’ve now been promoted to management. I no longer have to frantically run after my kids – now I tell them what to do and they listen (at least 60 percent of the time!)
But I’m also never one to shy away from admitting that motherhood has put me through the wringer, numerous times. I had postpartum depression, I constantly struggled with a low breast milk supply, and it took me longer than I would admit to reconcile my new role as a mom with the ‘”old” Ivana.
Thankfully, I had an amazing support system to help me navigate difficult times. However, I’m painfully aware of the fact that so many moms feel lonely, overworked, and underappreciated, so I feel that it’s my calling to help them – to pay it forward.
You’ll find me answering questions from moms on a daily basis and typing away late into the night, whether it’s on social media or via email. I empathize with these strong women who are giving their kids their all (and then some) but still feel like they are failing in some way.
The pressure can be too much, especially if they feel like they have no one in their corner.
Having answered hundreds of queries in the past few years, I can see a pattern developing, a common cause behind many of these moms’ problems: an absent husband slash father.
By “absent,” I don’t always mean physically. After all, emotional absence can hurt just as much as physical absence. Just last week, I tried to help a mom whose husband would sleep almost through the entire day because he’d stay up late playing video games. She said it made her feel like she was a “single mom, living with a roommate.”
Trying to offer a definitive solution to such problems is hard, and the answers aren’t always easy or necessarily what we want to hear. I’m not a professional therapist, so all I can do is offer advice based on my own life experience. And I always end up thinking about my own husband and how his kindness and support have meant the world to both me and our kids.
When we met, I couldn’t say that I knew what I was looking for, like most young women in their twenties. But as we grew as a couple and as individuals, it became clear to me that his strong family values, generosity, and willingness to help anyone and everyone were the same traits I wanted in the future father of my children.
In the US, more than one out of 4 kids live without their father, making the decision of who we’ll have our kids with incredibly important. And simply living with your dad under the same roof doesn’t guarantee a close bond – I know plenty of people who will attest to that.
The truth is that having a strong and stable father figure builds happy and confident kids. How do I know that? I’ve seen it firsthand – our kids aren’t afraid to come to either of us when something is wrong (even if they’re in trouble) and they know we don’t expect them to be perfect.
What’s more, my husband understands the importance of spending quality time with our kids and always finds a way of coming up with fun activities that make our son and daughter forget all about the TV! Our backyard has seen more DIY science experiments and mud pie contests than I can count, and I know I can always rely on him to come up with the perfect way to spend the day together.
But the parents’ relationship is just as important. Disrespect, hostility, unhappiness – kids are quick to pick up on these things and are nowhere near as oblivious as we’d like to think. A girl who sees her dad treating her mom with love and respect is going to expect the same from her future relationships, while boys model the same behavior that they see in their father figure and understand what is acceptable and what isn’t.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that my husband and I have a perfect relationship (who does?) but we always make sure to leave any difficult conversations for after the kids have gone to bed – they don’t need to hear about our finances or that we were considering moving cross-country. As far as we’re concerned, their world should stay as innocent as possible for as long as possible.
None of this would be possible if my husband didn’t share the same values as I do.
In fact, it would’ve been borderline impossible. And while I believe in fighting for your marriage, I also believe in fighting for your kids, and a happy single-parent family is better than a two-parent one where husband and wife can barely stand to look at each other.
Remember that your relationship builds the foundation for what your kids will expect from their future relationships. Their future happiness depends on their childhood experiences. It’s a scary thing to realize and brings so much responsibility, for sure, but it also helps you put things into perspective and realize what’s important and what isn’t.
I always tell young women to take off their rose-colored glasses when they meet someone they would consider marrying. Emotions are beautiful and powerful, but values are what will keep your family strong even in moments of hardship.
When I look at my husband playing with our kids, I realize that I’ve been blessed with a man who will always put their happiness above his own. He makes my job as a mom easier and I couldn’t thank God enough for bringing him into my life.
Like many other families, we’ve struggled with the challenges this year has brought. But with him by my side, I know we’ll be just fine.