Picking up Judy’s story, you’ll recall that her twenty-eight year marriage ended when she came home to an empty house . She never felt it was about her but more about his untreated medical problems. His job situation had been very unstable for a few years and when they did divorce he wasn’t working. So like most of us, divorce meant a significant change in financial circumstances for Judy. Good news though, with some help from her parents, Judy is now financially self-sufficient. Here’s Judy:
When my girls were in third and fifth grade, the neighborhood school they went to needed a playground aid and a special education assistant. At the time, my husband was making good money and I thought half days would give me enough and with the summers off, it was ideal.
It didn’t take me long to realize that special education was where I belonged so I did part-time for seven years and then I substituted primarily for special education assistants for three years. I loved what I was doing.
When he moved out, I was not making enough money. I did turn to my parents for help and asked if they could help support me for a while. I was getting no alimony. I did get most of the retirement money, I got the house and the house payments, I got the vehicles and those payments. So I got a lot of assets but I had very little disposable income. Thank goodness, my folks helped me.
Then I found a program through one of the colleges here in Oklahoma, that if you had been a special education assistant, you could get your special education degree online. I could still stay as an assistant and if say the lesson was teaching reading to somebody with a learning disability, then they would videotaped me doing that and I would submit that.
I had to pick up all of my basics at a university here in town but all the special education was done through this online program. The program was a federally funded so I didn’t have to pay for it and I could get PELL grants for my other general education classes. I did that for a little over two years and the whole time my folks sent me $1,000 a month. I would not have been able to make it if it hadn’t been for them. I got my degree and with that I found this job in this little town north of here and have been a teacher ever since.
Everything just fell into place. It was “this is where I’m supposed to be.”
I have a couple of thoughts on this. Obviously Judy’s parents played a key role here. That means Judy had the courage to open up and ask for help and it meant that her parents were willing and able to assist. Asking for help after divorce isn’t easy – (see my seven rules for asking for help) it means admitting that you can’t do it all and it means risking someone turning you down. But if you don’t give people the chance to help, you’ll never know.
The other thought I had was about asking for financial help from your parents when you’re a mature adult yourself. That would have been hard for me to do but I think a lot of that has to do with pride, stubbornness and that I wasn’t that close either geographically or emotionally. My father did ask if I was OK financially and thankfully I was.
I think what Judy did was smart – she realized if she could find a way to get through a couple of years, she would be able to set herself up. I hope if my kids ever need help like this that they will come to me and I will be in a position to help them.
Sometimes opportunities, like Judy’s, do just fall into your lap and you know it’s meant to be. Sometimes, however an opportunity is really just an easy way out of a difficult situation and taking it is more of an avoidance strategy. I’ve been there – taken a few of them but didn’t realize it until I had hindsight so be careful. And don’t be fooled into thinking that opportunities that are meant to be are easy – it still takes perseverance and commitment to succeed but if you’re doing what you’re good at, life’s a whole lot easier.