WTF Wednesday: My ex tried to kill himself and I am SO MAD!

single mom advice


Dear Emma,

My ex recently tried to kill himself, and I don’t know what to do.

He had not called my kids in a week — he was to pick them up for their annual 4th of July weekend. No texts, no calls, no answer on his cell. I became nervous and called the police to check in on him. The sergeant got on the phone and informed me my ex had attempted suicide the night before my call — put gas on in his apartment and slit his wrists (thank God the neighbors called when they smelled gas).

He was in the psych ward for two weeks and now in a rehab program for alcohol abuse and depression. Now I have my kids full time. Since he is not working now, all child support stopped, and I am terrified of what the future may hold. I had finally given my kids stability, good schools, and I have a good full-time job after being a full-time stay-at-home mom during my marriage. I feel really alone now — alone with no breaks and in a financial paycheck-to-paycheck status because my ex was selfish and irresponsible. Thank you for listening. I have to vent to someone, and I have no real friends as I live in the burbs and everyone is are married and do ‘couple’ things. I’ve been dating someone for a year, but that is ending as he refuses to introduce me to his kids. 

I’m scared, lonely, broke and exhausted! 

— Courtney

Hi Courtney,

Man, what a mess. I am so sorry.

Lots of single moms find themselves in crisis of some sort or another, and many of us have found we must parent alone — logistically, financially, and emotionally. Here is my advice:

Focus on what you can control: your home, your income and career, your social and romantic lives, the quality of time with your kids and your own emotional well being. You cannot control your ex. And once he gets out of the rehab program, you must take steps to manage that relationship differently, because he is unstable.

Buy yourself breaks from the kids. Sitters, send them to camp, relatives, whatever. Just get a break! No guilt allowed!

Earn big. Just earn a lot of money. You already proved you are capable and hardworking —  so few SAHMs make it back like that. Just take child support out of the equation, and kick ass. Especially when your ex gets back on his feet, and starts paying support again, remember: He can stop paying at any time! DO NOT DEPEND ON THAT MONEY.

Get angry. This sucks and it isn’t fair. Go there, don’t hold back. You are entitled to rage.

Forgive him. He’s sick, yes perhaps selfish, and can’t deal. You can deal. So deal. Show your kids what it means to be compassionate and loving. And forgiving.

Find friends. You need support. This might mean moving to a different community. Elbow your way into the married-couples community, get some gay male friends, hang out with young, single people. NOT EVERYONE is married in your community! You need friends, support, a different man to date. By prioritizing relationships in your own life shows kids the value of friendship, love and relationship.

Hang in there. You have far more strength than you realize.



Emma Johnson is a veteran money writer, 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,, REAL SIMPLE, Parenting, USA Today and others.

The Kickass Single Mom: Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children (Penguin, 2017), was a #1 bestseller and was featured in hundreds of media, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, and the New York Post, which named it to its ‘Must Read” list.

Her popular blog, and podcast Like a Mother, explore issues facing professional single moms: business and career, money, sex, relationships and parenting. Emma regularly comments on these topics for outlets such as CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine, Woman’s Day, The Doctors, and many more. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” one of “20 Personal Finance Influencers to Follow on Twitter” by AOL DailyFinance, “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and “Most Eligible New Yorkers” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker on gender equality, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality.

Emma grew up in Sycamore, Ill., and lives in New York City with her children.

3 thoughts on “WTF Wednesday: My ex tried to kill himself and I am SO MAD!

  1. I have been through a very similar experience and can say, a year and a half later, that it will get better. My ex-husband was heavily into drugs and alcohol, but still had some time for physical custody. I was advised by my lawyer that there was nothing I could do to stop him seeing them until he “really” messed up. Attempted suicide, felony drug charges, and an involuntary psych stay were the best thing that could have happened for me to protect my kids. I was able to get sole physical custody (get this through a parenting plan modification and go through the courts!!)), so they did not have to be around that or exposed to more than they already had. The financial piece is stressful, but in the end, it is just money. The health, well-being, and safety of your children are a bigger priority. I won’t sugar-coat it and say it’s been easy or a wonderful life lesson. It sucks. I have been angry, depressed, worried, anxious, flighty … you name it, I’ve been on that emotional roller coaster. Friends and family have been great, but cannot truly relate or understand. Getting yourself worked up over what may or may not happen won’t help you or your kids. Take things as they come; one day (or one moment) at a time. My kids now see their father at supervised visits. They know the difference between use and abuse. They know that I want them to have a relationship with their dad, but everyone needs to be healthy and safe.

  2. Wow. I understand that she would feel anxious and scared, but angry! First off, she referenced their kids as her kids. Selfishness comes to mind on her part, not his.
    Second the father of her children tried to kill himself and all your worried about is money, being angry and accusing him of being selfish!
    This is obviously a really hurt person. No one tries to take their own life out of selfishness. They do it out of hopelessness and desperation.
    No one actually wants kill themselves. They often justify it by telling themselves that the people in their lives will be better off without them.
    Imagine the impact on her kids if he managed to kill himself? They’d be devastated.
    I feel like the advice her should be get support, get out there, focus on the things you can control and lastly have some compassion for the father of your children. Understand that it’s not personal against you and stop acting like it is.
    My two cents!!

  3. My Ex tried to kill himself over child support payments and no job and I understand the power of depression. It controls every mood and outlook you have and I also know that it takes tools and skill to be able to deal with life on those terms that others seem to do easily. I immediately called child support and had them close the case because of the impact it had on my ex. I have always said it isnt about the money, its about the effort.
    Does the thought of him not providing for our child make me angry? At times it does. But i think anger is part of not having control and lets face it, i have no control over anyone’s actions, even his . When I get angry i remind myself that he was hurting and confused and he felt as if he was a failure. Those things that he must have been going through is not why child support exist. In California they say that the support amount is to give the child the same kind of life as if we were still together. So if the amount is causing him to want to kill himself then something needs to be done.
    Look, i have always been the working mom who has my children 90% of the time. I dont take trips without my kids and I sure dont put my needs first above them. My ex misses his visitation and only does the minimal but I know he loves them just as much as I do.
    There are no happy endings but there shouldnt be any situation in which you and your ex cant communicate and have empathy over one another. Do i agree with his effort and actions for my children? No I think he could do more but my kids think he is the greatest and I plan to continue raising them with those thoughts.
    My attorney just past away but gave us great advice for what needs to be done with Mommie and Daddy and nothing more. He said this…
    Mommie has the kids all week and Daddy is picking them up on Friday. You tell the kids all excited and upbeat-” Its Daddy day and you pack their bags and get them ready for Daddy all happy and glad for them and their visit. And Daddy comes and off they go. Then when Sunday comes around Daddy will say,” Its Mommie day and grabs their overnight stuff and hands them to Mommie. Thats it. Thats all that the little ones need to know and hear.
    When my attorney explained that to both my Ex and I-we never fought in front of the kids nor said anything negative about one another in the presence of our kids again. It works. They are worth it

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