Once a couple has a child, they also end up deciding if one parent should or is able to become a stay-at-home parent. I do believe that life is altogether easier if there is a stay-at-home parent but there’s always a price to pay in terms of future earning potential, career development and your long-term financial picture. Weighing that price against the benefit to the child seems an obvious consideration. A harder consideration is weighing it against the possibility of divorce.
My present guest, Stacey had been married for twenty years when she and her husband divorced. During her marriage she was a stay-at-home mom, supported her husband’s business and had her own business but now, two years after her divorce she close to earning what she earned before she was married. Here’s Stacey:
My husband comes from a wealthy family and that gave us some of the safety net. And I think this is very common, but I had a career and we followed his career and his dreams.
When we were first married I had a job on the coast and I loved what I was doing, but once my son was born, I also wanted to be with him and I didn’t want my husband to be so unhappy. I always joked that if I had a woman, a nanny, taking care of my son, I might have been able to stay at my job, because I could’ve said, “What did he do,” and she would have told me whereas my husband was really a guy. He was like, “Fine.”
If I’d had a nanny, she would have been able to say, “Our son did…” She would’ve been able to give me the details of his day, so I wouldn’t have felt as cut out.
My husband did tell me some stuff, but I didn’t have that connection of sharing my son’s day, because I think he was unhappy and not being fulfilled. He totally loved our son, but he was not cut out to be a stay-at- home parent or adore being a stay-at-home parent. And I really cherished that I got to do that. It was really fun for me.
When my son was about two we moved to another state and at first there wasn’t anything really for me to do and I was doing the stay-at-home mom thing. And then when our kid got old enough, I started to do my career. I switched disciplines and that didn’t make as much money. I also supported my husband’s business in ways that he wasn’t capable of supporting mine, although, he tried. I think he did the best that he could do.
Since the divorce, I’ve actually have come closer to making the money that I made prior to marriage, which is like a bummer, that’s twenty years ago! I want to build that IRA up. I think there’s things about being a woman in her fifties that are hard. They’re fine and wonderful, but they’re also hard.
It doesn’t worry me to support myself. I have my own business but it does worry me to find work. I like what I do. I’m confident. I like helping people. I’m more than confident. I’m creative, but the part that worries me is not finding the work.
I think the workplace is harder than having your own business. I feel really youthful, but I’m also aware that I am changing and the profession that I’m in is ever-changing. I feel like I have a lot of ideas. It’s hard to focus on what will bring in the work and what if those disciplines that we’re all ask to do change and now it’s all mobile! What’s the best place to focus your attention?
The takeaway from this post isn’t about how you should have thought about the possibility of divorce before you became a stay-at-home parent but rather to be aware now of the consequences of having become a stay-at-home parent.
Having been a stay-at-home parent means that your own personal retirement savings may be less than what they otherwise would have been and your current earning potential will be impacted by the time you’ve spent out of the workforce. Both of these factors need to be taken into consideration in any financial settlement.
As a stay-at-home parent, you may be trying to figure out how you continue to be at home for your children, especially if both you and your STBX agree this would be best for your children. However, their needs are not the only priority to be considered. What will happen when you do eventually return the workforce? Those impacts mentioned above will be compounded – it’s not just about covering your current living expenses.
Figuring out these ramifications would be beyond most of us and that’s where turning to a financial advisor would help. If you already have an account with an advisor, they may be willing to do this without an additional fee. If you don’t have an account or your account isn’t considered large enough, then you can expect to pay a one-time fee. It’s easy to balk at this, in addition to legal fees but often times that fee will be covered through increased spousal support and/or the division of assets.
Equally, if you’re the one who’s looking at paying spousal support and you feel that your STBX’s request is unreasonable, then this is a tool that could help you.
If either you or your STBX are a stay-at-home parent, when you made that decision, did you consider the possibility of getting divorce?
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