Do you owe it to your kids to remarry?

My kids will be fine if I stay single for the rest of my life.

But they will be better if I remarry well.

It can be a tough balance to put your energy into thriving as a single parent while also believing that it’s ideal to be in a serious relationship. But the benefits are plentiful.

One of my single mom supporters is our longtime babysitter, Karen, now a grandmother. More than 20 years ago Karen found herself as a single mom to three young kids, and has not since had a serious relationship. She regrets that, and urges me to find love again. “Your kids need to see someone loving you and treating you well,” she explains. I thought of that last week when our friend Matthew was over for dinner, and he gushed about my corn-salmon chowder. “Wow! You just whipped that up?” he asked, then faced Helena and Lucas: “Your mom is such a good cook!” Without a third party to praise me, my kids do not have an opportunity to appreciate some of my finer points.

I also think to decades in the future, and how my children should benefit if I have single mom remarrya  companion after they are grown. Case in point: My kids and I often visit with Nancy and Rolando, a neighborhood couple who met a decade ago, and are now in their 70s. They choose to maintain their separate residences, yet spend every day together salsa dancing at the senior center, eating meals and keeping the bench warm outside the local cafe. “My son is so glad I have a good man in my life,” Nancy says.  It relieves her adult children to know their mom has someone to look after her and keep her company.

I also want my children grow up in a family headed by a couple. I want this to be their baseline understanding of family — not a single-parent model. I believe that my own transition to single motherhood was made remarkably easier by the fact that I was raised by a single mother myself. I did not suffer as much grief in mourning lost dreams of raising my kids in a two-parent family because my own attachment to such an ideal was weak. There are many gifts we single moms give our children — including resilience, independence, and a model for doing it all, all alone. Good or bad, large percentages of our children will divorce and be single parents themselves. But this can become a self-perpetuating cycle, one that ideally should be curbed.

But I find it tough to embrace my belief that it would be better for my children if I were happily married, and still feel proud and whole while I am not. I contend strongly that it is far better to be single than in an unhappy marriage. And yet I am also more realistic about what it takes to make a relationship work — and I wonder if I have hastily passed up opportunities to couple up with good men — to the detriment of my kids.

What do you think? Do you owe it to your children to remarry? How do you contend with the fact that you have not.

Recipe: Corn Chowder

  • 1 medium onion, any color, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped (the more leaves the better!)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped fine
  • 3 small waxy potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, skins on
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1+ tablespoon corn startch
  • Fresh thyme
  • Fresh parsley, minced
  • 3 ears sweet corn, cut from cob
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Hot smoked paprika
  • Olive oil
  • Heavy cream

Heat a Dutch oven. Pour in oil, sautee onion, garlic, celery and plenty of salt and pepper until translucent. Add bell pepper and stir until warm. Add potatoes, bunch of thyme, a few shakes of paprika and broth. Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes or just until potatoes are cooked.

In separate bowl stir together corn starch and half-cup of water. Whisk into pot. Let cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring, until it starts to thicken. Dump in corn, heat through. Finish with 1/2 cup cream and parsley.Toppers: Roasted chicken, poached salmon, avocado, grilled shrimp. Whatever!

Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.

Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

9 thoughts on “Do you owe it to your kids to remarry?

  1. Do you think that growing up with a single mom is actually the reason why you so strongly want your children to have a two family household? Like it was easier for you to make the transition, but maybe now not as easy to fully accept because you did actually dream of having the nuclear family that you didn’t get to experience? I have no idea, just thowing that out there because I grew up in an “intact” house and I feel like I’m experiencing the opposite phenomenon that you are.

    I honestly would have stuck it out with my husband in almost any other circumstances than what we went through because my vision of the nuclear family was so strong. I literally could not see another future. Even when I left, I downgraded to a new “we can be really good friends/co-parents who live just a few minutes away” fantasy. Eventually I realized that wasn’t really possible for us either. It took a long time for me to adjust my expectations down to our current circumstance.

    Anyway, now that I have finally accepted (and am actually enjoying!) my current situation, I am in no rush to get remarried. At all. I can’t help but think about all the messiness involving remarriage – the whole blended families thing. But I don’t want to be alone the rest of my life either. My kids will leave home eventually. So, while I definitely do not have marriage as a goal right now, I would like a real relationship. And I would like to think if the right guy came along I would be open to the possibility of marriage again. But regarding marrying for my kids sake, as far as I’m concerned, my kids already have a dad and it doesn’t matter to them or me that he doesn’t live in the same house. It would be nice for them to see a healthy relationship, but I can’t say I have given that a lot of thought yet. That is food for thought, so thanks for bringing it up!

    1. Erica wrote: “Do you think that growing up with a single mom is actually the reason why you so strongly want your children to have a two family household? Like it was easier for you to make the transition, but maybe now not as easy to fully accept because you did actually dream of having the nuclear family that you didn’t get to experience?”

      Yes, definitely to the first Q, and very good Q on the second!

      1. er, and obviously I meant two PARENT household… but I see you got me :)

        though a two family household could be fun too!

  2. I think we owe it to our children to find stable happiness, whatever that means for us as individuals. I know personally for me, if I do decide to remarry, that guy is going to have to be amazing to convince me to do it again.

  3. I think we owe it to our children to parent them responsibly, teach them to be positive contributors to society, and find their bliss. I believe providing a model of a happy mom (and/or dad) is also a great idea, and if that includes being a married mom vs. a single mom, so be it. But I also think it’s the parenting, not the parent’s marital status, that makes the most difference.

    I know that my daughter now sees my husband treat me with kindness and respect, and she sees and hears us having “spirited debates” that end with a hug, a kiss and laughter most of the time. Hopefully that will help her choose a man with similar character and attributes.

    Before I was remarried, and to this day, she sees a model of a strong woman who is figuring it all out and is sharing the psychology behind those decisions with her so she can learn problem-solving, and how to understand situation dynamics.

    You, alone as a single mom, are plenty of goodness for your kids. If you happen to remarry happily, that will be great for them, too. Either way, they can’t lose.

    Carpe diem.

  4. I loved this article. As a mom who is remarried, I did a lot of soul-searching about what would benefit my life and my kids lives best before getting married a second time. Thankfully, for our family, it was the best decision I could have made. My husband is incredible and loves the kids as though they are his own.

    I’d also like to than you for adding my article from Searching for the Happiness as one of the related articles. I’m quite flattered to be mentioned.

    1. Hi Wendy – It really takes just the right person in the right situation to make a blended family work – and when it does work it seems to be an especially wonderful situation for all parties. Just last night I met a couple married two years ago — she is 57, he 49 — second relationships for both and they were just BEAMING.

  5. Even more than the fabulous comments, I appreciate the positive and accepting attitudes the lovely ladies on this sight have. There will never be a “one size fits all” answer to most single parenting questions and I like seeing that reflected here.

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