I went into my marriage as a working woman, imagining that I would work and raise my kids. Because my ex had a very demanding job and we couldn’t really afford childcare, it made sense for me to stay home. It seemed easier for me to leave the workforce than to figure out how to navigate corporate America.
Now, I was 15 years out of the workforce and getting divorced.
What happens if he doesn’t want to give me any money?
How will I make ends meet? What kind of lifestyle will I have?
If I have to go back to work what will happen with the kids? Who will raise them?
Who would hire me? I have no skills.
What if he stops paying the bills?
And so the story in my head went. My husband had every intention of being amicable for the sake of the children and was a very reasonable guy. On the other hand, I knew that if things went south, there was a risk my whole world would be turned upside down. I knew we were better off divorced and so did he, but I hadn’t really prepared for the consequences of what that meant.
It’s not fear but the thing you fear that paralyzes you and stops you in your tracks. I knew that to be the case and yet I couldn’t get out of my own way. Fortunately, we had an amicable mediated divorce, but I was a bundle of nerves throughout the whole process.
There are a lot of things I wish I’d done differently, the most important ones are below.
- Don’t forget who you are. Being a mother and wife are wonderful things, losing you is not. You are more than Johnny’s mommy and Jim’s wife, you are unique you. Don’t lose sight of that. It took years of therapy and coaching to figure it out.
- Find something fulfiling to do outside the home – even if you do it from home. Writing, selling products online, consulting, coaching, all of these can be done while your children sleep. I took classes for a while but they never lead me anywhere. Eventually, not only did I have no saleable skills, my self-esteem was at an all-time low.
- Learn not only how to budget, but what things actually cost. How much money is coming into the family, how much goes out? How much are you saving? What would you do if you lost your source of income? I understood the math but I didn’t really get what it would cost to live post-divorce.
- Do your research before you start the divorce process. Had I known all my options, I might’ve felt more comfortable with the mediation process and advocated better for myself. Instead, I was so scared I took whatever was offered.
- Hire a Divorce Coach. I had a therapist, a mediator and trusted my spouse as my financial advisor. I didn’t have anyone who I could turn to in those desperate moments. All my friends and family had busy lives and very little experience with divorce. Had I had someone guiding me, I would’ve been more informed and had the strength to advocate for myself.
Don’t use being a mom as an excuse to avoid taking charge of your own life. If you don’t do it, who will?