Still at Stay-At-Home Mom After Divorce

When asked, one of the first pieces of divorce advice I offer, is to develop a plan for financial self-sufficiency. That’s a bigger deal for some people, such as stay-at-home-moms, people who’ve been out of the work force for some time or people working for minimum wage but there’s almost always less money after divorce and it’s always an adjustment. Even when there is a legal obligation for child support and maintenance, there’s no assurance it will be paid.

That quest for self-sufficiency leads many divorcing mothers to move to where their family is. It’s where they know they will have a support network and help getting back on their feet. That’s exactly what Andrea did. What’s unusual about Andrea however, is that she’s still a stay-at-home mom. So I asked her to talk about how she manages for money. Here’s Andrea:

[contemplate1]I live in a house that my family owned before. I live on the street where I grew up, so I know all the neighbors. Some of the kids have moved back, so my kids play with their kids, and there’s a little swing at one house, there’s a trampoline at one house, there’s a play house at one house, there’s pools at two houses, and it’s a cul- de-sac so they can ride their bikes, there’s a basketball hoop, they have a really nice, relaxed life.

Life after divorceThey don’t go to their small, exclusive schools, but they both like their schools better. I was hoping that the small schools they were in before would be this nurturing environment, but they were like a microscope. We had enough money to pay our bills, but the families that we went to school with were like the Kennedys. These people had islands and their own airplanes and things, so we were never really quite in the group.

It’s so much more relaxing now. Everything is so much easier. I don’t have to pay rent or electricity or anything like that and I get support from my husband at a level that allows me to stay at home. My attorney worked it out so I get spousal support forever!

I’ve had this talk with my best friend many, many times. If you want to put your kid in a care facility, which no one ever does, I lucked out and got the best possible care facility. She’s in a fabulous place.

If you have to leave your transvestite, bisexual husband, I lucked out and I got my kids and I into the best possible place. It’s not a scenario anybody wants, you don’t grow up dreaming about it, but I landed on my feet and my kids are happy and I’m happy and everybody is safe.

The children don’t know about him being a transvestite but my youngest one has said a couple times that she thinks he’s gay.  All my friends and family down here know now but where we lived, as far as I know, nobody knows: not his parents, not his brothers and their families, none of our neighbors, nobody at the church or the school, nobody where he was an athlete or is an athlete. Nobody there knows. Here, everybody knows.

Very few things worry me. Sure my ex could go out of business but what is the worst thing that could happen considering what I’ve been through?

I’m always kind of looking for a job. The economy here is bad right now, but I’m always looking for something. The problem is, it’s not that I can’t do the jobs but frankly, when I look, I don’t have the computer skills to do what they need. Even for the most menial job, I’ve never heard of the computer programs that you need to know.

I asked my dad,

“You’re paying for this and you’re paying for that, and you’re contributing here and there, maybe I should get a job when the kids start school again?”

He said, “No, I don’t think you should do that. I don’t need you to pay anything.”

I’m an only child. My dad and I have always been really, really close. He was a great dad, he’s very generous and he’s great with my kids. I’m lucky.

It’s funny. People say when you leave a marriage, there’s always things you leave behind and you leave your friends and there’s not anyone to talk with late at night and there’s not anyone to share parenting responsibilities with. I never had any of that, none of it. I feel like I don’t know what a marriage should be. Now I just don’t have anyone complaining about how much it costs.

I’m so excited to be free from him. I seriously have these moments where I just feel like doing gran jetes down the hallway. It’s like,

“I’m not related to him anymore, I have my own name back,”

and I’m running down the hallway and skipping. I’m so relieved that I’m not trapped.

[contemplate2]

Andrea and I didn’t get into the mechanics of how her attorney had negotiated maintenance for life but my sense is that it’s pretty unusual these days. And as much as I can appreciate and admire Andrea’s fearless attitude, the rational, practical side of me stills cautions the need for a self-sufficiency plan. What happens when her ex dies? What happens if his business goes bankrupt? What happens when he retires? Lots of what ifs.

Yes, not having the computer skills is intimidating but local authorities often offer free skills training classes. Another great way to learn these skills is to volunteer at a non-profit. Megan is another SAHM I’ve interviewed and unlike Andrea she was receiving maintenance for a limited period and faced a very uncertain financial future.

And oh, the visual of the grand jetes! It brings such a smile to my face and reminds me to keep everything in perspective because life is good :)

This is the last post in Andrea’s series and I’d like to thank her for sharing her courageous story.

Photo credit: fingle

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  • Guest

    I’m sorry, but my goodness you’re spoiled. For your kids’ sake and yours, get a job. Do you want to teach that you can sponge off other people? Moderator: Let’s hear from people who are responsible and live in the real world. Please.

    • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

      @Guest – I have to disagree. I don’t see Andrea as being spoiled. Yes, she is in an unusual and enviable position of being supported financially but that doesn’t make her spoiled. I would not want to have endured what she has been through to become financially support.

      My next guest is Iron Spine Sally who blogs at Time of Her Lives. Her story is very different …

  • Justmekhl

    I just recently found this site within the last week.  But I also agree with the other comment that this is not the real world.  Andrea is the exception to the norm.  After being a stay at home mom/wife for 26 years, I am making $25,000 working 2 different jobs – 7 days a week.  I am putting 3 people through college as well as running a household on this small amount of money.  I am not receiving any kind as child support even though it was awarded but it is just not being paid.  Other women whom I have become friends with are also living the same within these same guidelines.  You do what you can to make it from day to day.  Having someone else to take care of the bills for everything is not normal.  It would be nice to see how the average person is making ends meet.

    • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

      I agree that Andrea’s situation is not typical and to your point, many women who are awarded maintenance and/or child support don’t receive it. I think divorce is very, very challenging for stay-at-home mothers. I’m an ardent proponent of having one parent stay at home, where family finances permit, but the long term cost on earning potential can be devastating. So, @justmekhl what advice would you give to a young mother or father for that matter, considering staying at home?

  • Michrison

    I say hooray for Andrea. Working is not the most
    Important thing. If it were there would be no stay at
    Home moms in the first place. No, it’s not the norm.
    She is providing a stable, caring environment for her
    Children.

    • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

      @Michrison Absolutely agree. I am all in favor of staying at home when you can make it work. I believe it makes a huge difference to children to have at least one parent around when they get home from school and it doesn’t matter how old the child.

  • Andrea

    What I’m trying to teach my children is that home is a safe
    place and that one parent, at least, is there for them.  When they come back from a visit with their dad
    and one of them is having an anxiety attack, she can count on me to pick her up
    from school and take her directly to her therapist office.  I don’t say that it’s not in the budget, or
    that I am working so I can’t take her. I talk on the phone and text them, when
    their father allows it, when they visit him. 
    Sometimes during the day, sometimes in the middle of the night, all
    night.  When the police come to dads,
    because the neighbors have called after hearing him screaming at them, or
    because he is in a fight with the neighbors over who knows what, they are
    scared and I comfort them.  I meet my
    youngest daughter at her classroom door every day, because she has abandonment
    issues due to dad.  He has “lost her”
    several times during visits and has left her home alone at night (yes the
    police came).  She needs extra comfort
    and reassurance (for the time being) from her mother, not a paid care giver,
    and I don’t have a problem with that.  I
    put my children first in ways that they need it the most.  My family has chosen to help my children and me
    through a rough patch, and for that I am grateful.  It’s worth mentioning that as women, rather
    than focusing on what my children and I have been able to escape, you choose to
    focus on what YOU do not have.  I suggest
    that each of you address your own feelings of entitlement and anger.  It’s unlikely that the story of a stranger would
    elicit jealousy in the absence of such feelings.  Good luck to you both.
    Thank you Michrison :)  My being a stay at home mom was the original promise my then husband and I made to our children.  I do my best to be the kind of mom I always wanted my children to have, regardless of the circumstances.

    • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

      @Andrea – appreciate you weighing in here. I love the choice you have made in how to support your children. Their future is much brighter because of you and the strength and courage you’ve shown them. Money is such a touchy subject and it’s easy to feel jealous of someone who seemingly has an cushy life but we all know life is never what it seems from the outside. Stay strong.

  • Guest

    Andrea, I just want to apologize for my previous comment (“Guest”). I admit I hadn’t read your back story and if you bring abuse into the mix, it’s a whole different story. You can’t judge someone if you haven’t walked in their shoes, so please accept my apology for my rash judgement. I can tell you, however, that it did not elicit jealousy in any way. I am proud to be self-supporting and not reliant on any man and I encourage you to take baby steps to eventually end up in the same boat. Your father will not be around forever and more importantly, you can teach your kids that you can take care of yourself and that may be more important in the long run if you want them to be self-sufficient and strong. Especially if you have girls. But I applaud you for being strong enough to get out and take care of your kids and I wish you the very best.

    • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

      @Guest – I can’t speak for Andrea but I appreciate you taking the time to leave a heartfelt, genuine apology. Thank you. I also appreciate your encouragement towards financial self-sufficiency. Knowing that you can support yourself and your children is so liberating and empowering.

  • Anonymous

    I was able to negotiate spousal support for life, too, but only until I remarried. It actually had me wanting to not remarry so i could continue to stick it to him … I knew that wasn’t a good place to be for my kids’ sakes so I did remarry and happily so! I wish I could have continued to stay home but unfortunately I couldn’t. I did stay home for 11 years though so I have to hope that’s helped shape them into the wonderful people they are and continue to become. I agree that it’s important not to judge … if you just found this site you haven’t realized how many people Mandy has spotlighted who have had a much, much rougher landing. Every story is important so we can all continue to learn and grow.

    • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

      @soccermom434 I have absolutely no doubt you have had an enormous influence on your children and even now although you’re not able to be home, you’re building a new business and showing your children that we all continue to grow.

      And yes, I have learned something from every woman I’ve interviewed and each of you has helped me in my own journey :)

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