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Single Mom: What About Staying Together for the Kids?

Single Mom: What About Staying Together for the Kids?

By Kristen Chase

Since I’ve started writing here at Alpha Mom, I’ve received numerous questions about divorce, single motherhood, and all its many nuances. So I thought it would be helpful to share my answers to those questions as part of my weekly column. Of course, I’m no divorce expert, so please do not take my opinion a therapeutic recommendation, but if my experiences and observations can help others, then I’m happy to share it.

What about if you decide to stay in your marriage for your kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts. -A 

Well, A, you should know that you’re not alone in that question. I actually received that same one in various forms a few times over the last couple of weeks, so clearly it’s something on many couples’ minds. And in theory, I understand how it can make sense, and perhaps for some parents it could work.

Most of what I’ve personally read when it comes to marriage, divorce, and families really states that happy parents are the prescription for happy kids. So the inference is that if you’re happier apart, it’s actually better for the kids rather than staying together, being miserable, and fighting all the time.

But like I mentioned in my previous post about how I decided to leave my marriage, breaking up should not be taken lightly because there are a myriad complicated issues that could affect the happiness you hope to achieve by breaking up.

There are finances, logistics, and a slew other choices that could potentially make you more stressed than if you were staying in an unhappy marriage.

So really, you need to define what “unhappy” is as it relates to your marriage because it could run the gamut from abusive to annoying, which is quite a range of experiences.

That’s not to say you should stay in your marriage if it’s just annoying or moderately unsatisfying versus abusive. There’s no scale to tell you when the time is right. Everyone is different.

However, there are many cases in which I’ve seen couples stay together who might consider themselves to be unhappy, most of which have to do with both the parties agreeing to be cordial and appropriate, particularly in front of the kids. You’d need to decide if you would be permitted to date other people, if that was something you’d want to consider.

But even then, you’d need to take a hard look at what sort of example you would be setting for your kids in terms of what a marriage looks like, as well as whether it’s truly better for the kids, especially in the long run. So many of us tend to only see what’s happening in the here and now, and forget that there will be future consequences to deal with, which could range from resentment and disappointment, to the feeling that they were somehow deceived or lied to by you both.

I came to my decision weighing all the choices I mentioned above very heavily. I knew that I was in a good position financially, and because my ex-husband traveled so much for work, they were already used to not seeing him that often, which I assumed would be the case when we were divorced as well.

But very importantly, I wanted my children to see me as a happy person, even if it meant me being alone. Additionally, I no longer felt comfortable living unauthentically, which was my personal experience being in a loveless marriage.

Whatever your decision might be, I strongly suggest considering every aspect of what goes into fostering health and happiness for your children. In some cases, it might be best for you to stay together. But in others, while the immediate implications might seem high, in the long run it could make sense for you to break-up, hopefully as amicably as possible.

If you have questions about divorce and being a single mom, please feel free to email me at kristen[at]coolmompicks[dot]com. Your information will be kept completely confidential.

About the Author

Kristen Chase

Kristen Chase is a writer, author, and a single mom of four. It’s as exhausting as it sounds (at least the mom part). Also, awesome.

Kristen is also co-founder of

Kristen Chase is a writer, author, and a single mom of four. It’s as exhausting as it sounds (at least the mom part). Also, awesome.

Kristen is also co-founder of Cool Mom Picks and author of The Mominatrix’s Guide to Sex.


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  • Nina

    July 24, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Great piece. For me, the decision came down to the fact that my kids were watching and learning from me, that I was setting the example for them of what a marriage/relationship looks like. And I didn’t like the example I was setting when I was married. I want them to see me in a happy, healthy, delicious relationship… or see me happily single; that way they will know that they don’t ever have to settle for mediocre or “less than” in a relationship.

  • anon

    July 24, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    I’d love to hear people’s take on staying in a marriage with someone you love but aren’t in love with. B/c that’s what I’m currently facing. My husband, while certainly not perfect, is an overall good man and a great father to our two daughters. And I love him for that. But I am not in love with him and have not been for years. I feel like he deserves more. And that I’m living a huge lie. I’ve considered leaving, but I always talk myself out of it. It seems absurd to leave someone who loves you and is a good father. But is living a lie every day of your life more absurd? Where does personal happiness lie in a situation like this?

  • Emily

    July 24, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    My ex’s parents stayed together for the kids and he had a not-great role model for what a healthy relationship looks like. Same with my husband’s parents. They divorced when he was an adult, remarried, and are so, so much happier. Happy parents = happy kids.

  • tami

    July 24, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Very sound advice. My mom and biological father split when I was quite young and I have been forever grateful to my mom for setting a fantastic example. I am grateful that she showed us by leaving that self worth is important and for me as her daughter she showed me that its ok to leave someone if they do not value you. Staying together for the kids is a fallacy in my experience. Nobody is happy in a tension or dysfunction wrought home. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that kids don’t sense things and aren’t aware. They are.

    • Kristen Chase

      July 24, 2014 at 4:56 pm

      So important to say, Tami. Kids are so intuitive and as much as we think we’re hiding it, chances are they know. 

      • tami

        July 25, 2014 at 11:48 am

        Thank you for writing about this difficult topic, Kristen. It’s so nice to see such honestly on such a hard thing to talk about.

  • liz

    July 24, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    People often ask me if my parents are still married and I always say, “yes and happily…but not to each other.”

    I’m so lucky to have grown up watching two very different, but very positive, models of partnership  in each of their marriages. It doesn’t mean divorce wasn’t hard, or awful in some ways. Sometimes it still is, even 30-something years later. But I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. Honestly, I don’t know too many adult children of divorce who have ever said, “you know Mom, I really wish you had stayed in that unhappy marriage for me.”

    • Kristen Chase

      July 24, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      Such a great point, Liz. Thank you.

  • Name (required)

    July 25, 2014 at 5:01 am

    As a dad, I came to realize that it was not good for my son to see his father regularly criticized, demeaned, and disrespected. Perhaps I could overlook that treatment for me personally, but it was not good for him to be around that. I think his life is much healthier now that he is around me without hearing all the negative things his mom used to say about me. He and I have a great relationship, and I’m not sure that would have happened if I had stayed with his mom.

  • Tj

    September 23, 2014 at 9:25 am

    Nina, I’m in the same situation. I would say that my husband is a good father and is good to me but I have no love for him. We wouldn’t be friends in the outside world. That has caused a lot of tension. What made my decision is that I know love and how it can feel. I want that and I don’t want to waste another 15 years of my life (until my youngest is 18). What good would it do for anyone to just have me live counting down the days? I’m not going to suddenly, or over the long run, start feeling a connection with him or be physically attracted to him so I’m moving on. We’ll be great partners in raising the children, of that I have no doubt.

    I’ve searched for over 15 months for the answer about when is it time to go. Only you can know the answer. It will come to you when you’re ready to hear it.