For stay-at-home moms, divorce often means a return to work and while it may be unexpected, even undesired, it doesn’t have to mean returning to the work you were doing before. So how do you go from stay-at-home-mom to working single mom?
Lisa Thomson was a stay-at-home mom when she got divorced after 18 years of marriage. At the time, her two children were about 11 and 13. While Lisa was awarded spousal support it was for a limited period and not for the rest of her life. That meant she had to go back to work. Here’s how Lisa handled that:
I went back to school and took an Interior Design program. It’s designed for part-time study. It worked out really well. I could take a night class. I could take the early morning class while the kids were as school, so that was great. I slowly worked my way towards getting my certification in Interior Design.
I thought about it for quite awhile because I could have gone back to what I was doing before. However, what I was doing before was very physically demanding. I was a fitness trainer and an aerobics instructor and so I was in the recreation and Phys Ed. business and I would have had to re-certify. Almost like starting over in some way. So, I really would have had to want that badly.
At my age I started to feel like, “Is that something I can sustain for a long period,” whereas the Interior Design, although that is a fairly physical job too, it’s not like teaching three classes a day to try to feed yourself. In the end, I did get child support and spousal support for a period of time, so that really helped. You can’t really function without it, to be honest.
Going back to take courses, it costs a lot of money. It’s not cheap by the time you pay for your courses, your textbooks, everything. It’s quite costly and if you’re not getting any support. I don’t see how it would be possible. You’d really be between a rock and a hard place, so that spousal support is crucial. It’s very important.
Financially it was a challenge. In some ways it made me a little bit insecure but in other ways, I appreciated it almost, because I started to realize that I had more than I needed and that I could do with less. It forced me to take a look at my finances. I actually bought some books and I use those as references in my own book, because I do write a whole chapter on adapting to a lower budget during your divorce. Basically, how to take control of your finances.
It was a little bit scary, but on the other hand I just would sit down and you have to do this anyway during the divorce where the lawyer will ask you to make a budget. Because they do want to know exactly what your expenses are and that will have some bearing on your spousal support, of course.
In some ways it was good for me. It was a good experience, because it gave me a little bit of power back and empowered me and forced me to learn to take care of my finances a little bit better.
I almost think the hardest challenge was more mental than the actual making ends meet. I think it was more the mental outlook of feeling deprived or feeling insecure or feeling less than you used to be, for example. I think once I could get over that and accept that, “Well, those things really aren’t true,” how much disposable income you have in a month doesn’t really define whether you’re a lesser or better person than whoever else, it was easier. And that was just a process of getting over that. But I think, because I never really had to worry about finances before, it was a lesson.
The Divorce Coach Says:
I had also gone back to school for a master’s in journalism while we were in the process of separating. I didn’t have spousal support but I did have a significant financial cushion from a severance package and that made it possible. That degree led to the start of this blog which lead me to divorce coaching and mediation. Who knew?
This is completely different from what I was doing before and that’s the beauty of an opportunity to retrain. I wouldn’t say you can choose to do anything you want or a complete do-over – my choices were constrained, willingly, by my wanting flexibility to be home in the afternoons when my children got home from school – and you do have to be realistic about taking on debts, and earning potential but if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, now is a great time to explore that.
I keep saying this but there is always less money after divorce and I agree with Lisa that it forces you to take control of your finances. If you’ve never had a budget before, you have to now and doing so means not only knowing mathematically exactly where you stand but I’ve found, again like Lisa, it’s emotionally empowering.
Decreasing expenses is typically easier than increasing your income so finding ways to manage with less becomes a new mantra.
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