Me and baby, living at Mom's

I got pregnant young, got married young and already we're separated. Now what?

Published April 3, 2012 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Reader,

I'm taking a little vacation down in Florida. It may be possible to conduct a couple of writing workshops while I'm down there, if a space and people can be arranged. I'll be in Fort Lauderdale Thursday the 5th, then the Gainesville area from Friday the 6th until Sunday or Monday, and then back in Fort Lauderdale the 10th through 12th. Email me if you'd like to attend or help set something up. It would be great to meet some interested people and write together.

The column should resume Monday, April 16.

Dear Cary,

I'm a 20-year-old female. I've been married for just a little under one year now. I also have a healthy 7-month-old son. I only had a relationship with my husband for one month before we got engaged. Two months after that I got pregnant.

Everything was great up until the engagement. The pregnancy made things a little better for about two months. We got married around the time I was 4 months. As time passed things got worse and we got distant. He has been all about himself and only did things for me to get stuff out of it for himself. He has been tempted to cheat and has talked inappropriately to other girls during our whole marriage. I finally got tired of it and I'm now at my mom's. He wants me to come home but I can't bring myself to do it.

He is horrible with money and we would have to get money from family to get the baby what he needs and get us food too. He left me in the hospital while I was 8 and a half months pregnant.

He still tries to bribe me to come back and it's all about him again. He wants me to give him the rest of my money but I'm about to get my license and my sister is giving me her old car. It feels like he doesn't want me to have money so I can't get anything and I'll need him. He makes $600 biweekly while I make less than $300. Although I love him I'm not in love with him. It feels like I stayed with him for the baby. Now I don't know what to do. Should I go back and try to work it out even though I gave him a bunch of chances before and he hasn't changed, or should I leave him for good? I'm torn between the two. Everyone says I should finally leave him but I'm not sure. Can you help?


Dear Torn,

It's probably best for now that you take care of your baby and stay at your mother's. You're safe, you're healthy and you have a healthy baby. If your mother will keep you there, then you have a stable place to raise this kid. You don't need a man in your life right now. You need to concentrate on surviving, making a decent living and providing for your kid.

That may seem hard at times. You may feel lonely and truly want your husband. You may miss the intimacy and the good times. But your life has changed. You have some very grown-up challenges now.

It won't be like this forever. At least maintain the situation as it is for a year or two and see how things go. Make stability your chief priority. Try to eliminate all the distractions and drama from your life right now, and just concentrate on raising your baby. Be grateful for your mom's help and support. These are crucial months for your baby. The stronger you are, the more secure you feel, the better it will be for your baby.

Later, when you feel you have some breathing room, you can think about longer-term plans. Maybe your husband will fit into those plans and maybe not.

Can you stay with your mother while you endeavor to perhaps finish a college degree or get some training in a business or trade? Can she take care of the child while you are out of the house, or does she also have many outside obligations? How long can you imagine living with her? Are things OK or are they tense? If things are OK now, it may be that you and she could raise this child for the next few years. Then you could move out when the child is a little older and you're on your feet financially.

These are the kinds of things you will need to think about.

Time is going to fly by. Since you are young, your perception of time is that of a young person. But marriage and child-rearing happen over years and decades. So does your relationship with your mother. These are slow-moving, evolving things. They require the long view. Your best decisions will not be based on how you feel right this moment, but on how things will be in three to five years.

So take some time to visualize how you want things to be in three to five years. Think about your baby and what will be happening then.

It's hard for some people, myself included, to do this kind of thinking. We like to live in the moment. But planning does not necessarily require a calendar and a calculator. One way to start planning is to simply visualize things. Think about how you want it to be. Clip pictures from magazines or print images from the Internet that represent how you want things to be. Surround yourself with images of your ideal life. When you feel tense or frightened or confused, spend time visualizing the life you want to have. If you can imagine it, you can at least head in that direction. Then when people with some experience in life see your vision they can say, Hey, here is how you get from here to there.

Your child's father at some point will most likely want to be in his life. That could be a positive thing. Your child will probably want to know his or her father. So do what you can to maintain a good relationship with him, even if you are apart. Just don't let him take over your life; don't believe his promises. Believe only what you see. He may not be mature enough and stable enough right now but that could change. So try not to burn your bridges. Just tell him that right now you have to do what's healthiest and most financially stable for you and the baby.

Be kind to your mother. She may get on your nerves from time to time but she is really saving your life. Take advantage of her willingness to help. She is probably excited about having a grandchild and will enjoy helping, but may feel at times that she's overworked.

All the important people in your life are growing up. You're all changing. There are great surprises and challenges ahead. Welcome to adult life!

Just take it one day at a time. You'll be OK. You'll get through this, things will get easier, and one day you'll look back in amazement.

By Cary Tennis

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