One of the reasons I love talking to women about life after divorce is each interview is different. I do have a set of questions to guide the conversation but it’s quite amazing how those questions produce vastly different responses and where those responses lead. As I’m writing this post, I’ve realize that the topic of money rarely comes up. I’m not sure why that is – maybe because it’s not a topic that’s discussed openly in normal conversations, maybe because it’s too personal for an interview. I know it’s not because it isn’t an issue.
Sue, whose story I posted a year ago felt a true sense of accomplishment when she sued her ex for back child-support. She saw the child support as being assets that belonged rightfully to her children. Securing those assets not only made her feel that she had done the right thing for her children, it also gave a boost to her own self-confidence.
LA Single Mama and I also got talking about money and specifically, the difficulties of her ex earning significantly more than her. I think that’s a challenge many single parents face and in today’s society I don’t imagine it’s always the man who’s earning more. Here’s what LA Single Mama had to say:
It’s been very difficult to support myself because it is very expensive in Los Angeles. My income was more of a second income but now I’m managing to support myself. I’m just starting a new job because more than anything, I needed to find something that paid more. One of my concerns is that my ex makes a lot more money than I do and my son is starting to notice the disparity between how he lives here and how he lives when he’s with his dad and that’s making me sad.
I try to talk to my son about it – I tell him he’s lucky that he has two nice places to live and there are many children who have much less than he has and don’t even have one nice place to live.
I’ve always tried to focus on giving to others and making sure he realizes he needs to be grateful for what he has because we are blessed. He said recently,
“I go out to dinner with my dad all the time. We never go out to dinner when I’m with you.”
I said something like,
“Well, your mom is a better cook than your dad and it’s very expensive to go out all the time, so we need to eat at home.”
Last night he was saying his dad has a newer and nicer place to live than I do. It’s interesting because he goes to a school where there are many children who are much better off than he is. So I’ve talked to him about how everybody has different things and we’re lucky to have what we have but some people have nicer things than others.
LA is a tough city to raise a child; it’s so expensive here and unless you have an amazing job or a lot of help from your ex, it’s very difficult. Most of the single moms I know are really struggling.
When I was in high school, the parents of one of my friends got divorced and my friend ended up living with her father. She also started showing up at school wearing new fashionable outfits each day. It was a long time ago so my recollection is blurred but the implication was clear that she’d chosen to live with her father, at least in part for what his money would buy.
I know/hope it’s never as black and white as that but LA Single Mama’s situation is representative of many single parents where one partner has a much higher paying job than the other. I think it’s a difficult situation for all parties. If I was the one could afford to eat out all the time and that’s what I wanted to do, why shouldn’t I? If I was a child, I wouldn’t say no to new outfits, a video game or iPod because my other parent couldn’t afford it. And if I was the parent who was struggling to support myself, yes, I probably would resent what my ex was doing.
Assuming there was an equitable division of assets I guess it’s all OK so long as the money isn’t used to buy your child’s affection, or disaffection from the other parent and is spent with the child’s best interests at heart. What say you?
PS. The other aspect to this is adjusting to a different lifestyle after divorce. I have significantly less income now than previously however that was due to a conscious choice to change careers and work/life decision. I found the book Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin helpful and in particular her philosophy toward deciding whether discretionary spending will bring you true satisfaction. It’s helped feel much more satisfied with what I have.