When Terry (author of the blog Scribblings of a Soccer Mom) and her husband of eleven years split up, she was a mother of two children who’d been working part-time from home. While she had some alimony, getting back to full-time work was a priority even if it would mean challenges when the children were sick or on school holidays. Terry wanted and needed to be financially self-sufficient. Here’s Terry:
When my husband and I separated, I was working part-time from home for a magazine. About ten months later, the publisher just stopped publishing it and I thought,
“Oh my God, I have to find something now.”
I sprung into action and started looking for full-time work and temp work and out of the home, because I didn’t want to look like I wasn’t trying to do something. I did temp work for a while in accounting, math is not my strong suit, but I was willing to do anything to make enough money to provide, that was all I cared about.
My ex did agree to pay alimony so there was some income, and we didn’t argue about that either. It was one of the things he was perfectly fine doing as a “thanks for staying home with the kids for 11 years” type situation. We had an alimony agreement of “until I made a certain amount or remarried,” I would get alimony. It wasn’t going to be enough to live on very well, so I did have to find something else and because I have a degree in journalism and had done journalism before, that’s what I went back into. With that and alimony I was able to live, rent a house and take care of the kids and everything.
It was weird because since the kids were born, I had never not been home in the summer. I had never not been home when they got home from school, so it was and still is sometimes, even now, hard especially when I think about some of the things I miss in the summer, lazy days and going to the park or going to the pool. I would bring my laptop with me to the pool, because it had wi-fi, and I would do my work while they played. I would do that all the time, just bring my laptop somewhere and I would work while they hung out with friends or whatever, so I liked having that freedom, and I miss it. I miss some of that when they’re sick or they need something, I miss being able to immediately do it for them, without thinking “can I miss today from work?” or whatever.
However, I never want to be in the position that I was when he first left.
“I don’t have a job and I haven’t worked in eleven years, what am I going to do?”
I never want to feel like that again. Even though he immediately agreed to alimony, I still don’t want to feel like that again. I didn’t want to be dependent on him anymore. I didn’t want to take his money. We’re tied forever, specifically while the kids are in school and young, we’re tied forever anyway, but I didn’t want that tie anymore, I wanted to cut that tie as thin as possible and I never wanted to feel that way again.
So, I’m still working, even though I’m remarried, and my now husband covers most of the house bills that we have, and I cover bills here and there because I don’t make as much. But I make enough that if he left, I could survive. I know I can because I did it. I want to be able to do enough that I can survive.
The Divorce Coach Says
One of my top calls to action for anyone getting divorced is to figure out how to be financially self-sufficient. It is so important and probably more challenging for stay-at-home moms. Terry is a perfect example of how to do it as is another of my guests, Jen who ended up moving in with her parents so she could go back to school for her teaching certificate. I like how Terry used her alimony as a safety net while she got back to work.
Becoming financially self-sufficient isn’t something that happens overnight. For many of the women I’ve interviewed it has meant spending several years to get a professional qualification to increase their earning capacity. It’s also meant careful choices about their living situation, choosing to rent instead of own, or choosing a condo over a single-family house. It means making a realistic assessment about child support and alimony – even though it may be court-mandated, there is no certainty that it will be paid and as unfair as it is, you need to figure out how you will survive if it isn’t paid.
As I write this, I think about Megan, A SAHM for four years and Nancy, a long-term SAHM. Nancy said she was petrified of the future – her divorce had been in process for three years and she still had little idea what her financial position would be afterwards. Megan, knew her alimony was running out in a few months and was probably going to accept her new boyfriend’s offer of financial support – she wasn’t ready to go back to work. Both Nancy and Megan were anxious about the future and both to me, seemed to be paralyzed by that uncertainty. Neither had taken steps to invest in their own future. Even if Megan did accept her boyfriend’s help, she could be facing the same situation again when and if that relationship ends.
It seems to me there’s a huge psychological benefit to figuring out the financial piece – I can’t quantify this or produce statistics but from my interviews, the women who have figured it out have an optimism about their future. I think it comes from inside knowing that they can take care of themselves, a sense that they do control their destiny. What do you think?
Photo credit: tobascodagma