Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Housewives

 (Post updated at the end)

I have been a stay at home mother for fourteen years.  I thought it was the best choice for my kids.  I still think it was the best choice for my kids.  But in 103 days (not that I'm counting) I'll be financially on my own with three children.

I am thoroughly unprepared for this.

My parents divorced when I was little.  My mother has always been the breadwinner.  I didn't grow up in a home where it was expected that I'd marry a nice man and stay home and raise children and be completely financially dependent on someone else.  I was raised with the expectation that I'd get an education and have a career and if a nice man and children were part of the picture, that would be lovely, too.

But the nice-man-and-children came along during the get-an-education  portion of my life plan, and I opted to forgo the have-a-career part.

And now here I am at nearly 38 years old looking at entering the workforce for the first time in fourteen years. With no skills.  Did I mention that part?  I mean, I have skills.  But I have no official training that would make me an appealing job candidate to an HR department.

Despite what the title may suggest, this isn't a post about working moms vs. stay at home moms.  This is a post about being prepared for the possibility that your choice to stay home might be taken away.

There are some of you reading this who are smugly sitting there thinking that your marriage is too good to ever end.  Your husband is too good a man and you're much too happy together.  Odds are, you're right.  But guess what?  I thought that too.

I have a dear friend whose only preparation is having a substantial amount of life insurance so that she doesn't have to worry about money if her husband dies.  I think that's a wise thing to do.  Except sometimes they don't die.  Sometimes they just turn out to be a really poor choice in a mate, and you don't discover that fact for a couple of decades.

I'm not suggesting that all women go out and join the workforce immediately.  But I am suggesting that all women who choose to stay at home also choose to prepare themselves for the possibility--no matter how impossible or remote they think the possibility is--of having to support themselves and their children.

Get an education. Learn a trade.  Do something.  My immediate future is limited.  There are only so many jobs I can do, and jobs in general are scarce.  I am facing the reality of free school lunch and food stamps, even with a job, because the type of job I can get will likely be minimum wage. It's a hit to the self esteem to know that I will have to rely on those programs for awhile. (Let me be clear--there is nothing shameful in needing to use those programs.  But when you have a Facebook feed full of friends posting self righteous posts about the person in line in front of them who is using food stamps but also has a nice smartphone and nice clothing, it can cause you to feel ashamed if you find yourself in that situation.  I have a nice smartphone.  It's far, far cheaper to keep it than to pay the fees for canceling my contract early.  I have nice clothing.  It was bought before I faced life on my own.)  (Side note: I really need to clean up my Facebook friend list.)

You wouldn't sail a boat out into the depths of the ocean without a life vest, even if you were positive the boat was too strong to sink.  I did, and now I'm treading water a very long way from shore, with three children holding onto me. When it takes all that you have to just keep your head above water, it's practically impossible to make any progress toward the shore.

Let me serve as your warning.

(Umm, also? If you happen to be someone hiring in the Baltimore/Annapolis/DC area, I can start June 3rd.)

****I am updating to clarify a few things in the post, as some concern about them was mentioned to me.  First, my husband will be paying child support.  He will also be paying alimony for two years, and will help out with other things when possible.  Second, it was my choice to have the kids most of the year.  I insisted on it, in fact. He did not run out on us.  It was a mutually agreed upon decision to divorce, and I am insisting the kids be with me for the school year. Third, when I said, "There are some of you reading this who are smugly sitting there thinking that your marriage is too good to ever end.  Your husband is too good a man and you're much too happy together.  Odds are, you're right.  But guess what?  I thought that too," I was not implying that he is not a good man. He is.  We had our problems, but he is a good man.  Fourth, he has asked us to follow him to his next assignment in Georgia and live there near him, which he feels will alleviate most of the financial problems I am facing. (For the record, I disagree, but that's for another discussion.). Fifth, I had a couple of ideas about work over the past few years (personal trainer and real estate) and he was supportive of those.
I wrote this post to talk about the necessity of women to be self sufficient.  I thought I had made it clear that *I* made choices that have made me not self sufficient and have limited my own prospects. Others saw this post differently, and I wanted to clarify.****


Rena said...

Other than the traditional stuff, your resume should include writing experience, publications, conferences and workshops attended, and your organizational skills reguarding BGW. Turn that into an event planning skill, cuz you gotta admit it takes a lot of work.

I don't know if this applies to you, but you might consider going back to school. You'll be poor enough to qualify for lots of financial aide and you may find more marketable skills with more schooling.

Good luck. I know you can do it!

Rena said...


Linds said...

Wise words, my friend. Your circumstance has really made me step back and think. About being prepared for the "just in case". Yes, I'm happily married right now, but what if Sam died or got hurt on the job... or I just needed to bring home the bacon. I have no real life skills either. Time to get busting!

Jamie Newman said...

Have faith in yourself Brandi! Apply for lots and lots of jobs- anything you think you can do. You just never know. I had little to no skills and applied at a company that did something I have a passion for. They trained me and over the past 10 years I have worked my way up. Hang in there. I believe in you. You can do this!!

Jane of Seagull Fountain said...

I agree! And you can do it!

jane said...

i was in this same dilemma one year ago this very month. scared the bajezzers out of me. thankfully, my husband and i didn't get a divorce but it gave me the guts to start my photography business.

you are so smart that you will find a way to make this work for you and your kids. i agree with everyone else, you've got this!

Karen said...

I've been reading your blog on and off and I always find it interesting - but generally I dont comment ( I guess I have stalker tendancies :-) )

But this touched my heart and I had to share my own experience with you. I was in EXACTLY your position -except in another country - 20 years ago !! 2 small kids, no job experience , apparently no skills- and a husband who left to 'find himself' !!

I lost a year of my life whilst i did the whole 'poor me' thing and suddently I woke up one morning realsing I hadn't died ! Just made some poor choices. And it really was that sudden. The day before I spent lying in bed crying - and suddenly I got up with an urge to spring clean and get my life back.

I drove a friend to university for an interview and left 3 hours later with an offer of a place myself. (We had a system here where I could get finanical support to do that.)It was a new degree and the stretched the entry requirements to take into account my 'life experience'.

I still found myself with 4 part time jobs to make ends meet and doing a lot of burning of the midnight oil.

Three years in - my husband came back - and it was Ok because I didn't need him any more... I took him back because I still cared for him, because I didnt want to be a single parnet because our daughters loved him. BUT what I didnt do was forget what happened. And as I explained to him...the balance of power in our marriage had changed. He could stay because he wanted to. Or because I wanted him too..but there were rules...and if he couldnt live with them , then he shouldnt let the door bump him on ass on the way out ;-)

I finished my first degree, got 2 more ( because who knew I was smart ;-) ) , got a job, a better job , a great job. Earned more than he does .

My girls saw that nothing in life came free. We lived on fresh air and jelly sandwiches for a while . I became the role model I always wanted to be.And guess what --they werent damaged by a little hardship !

I became empowered and strong.

Now we have been married 36 years. Our daughters are married with families of their own. We have a good marriage based on trust and honesty . We're not together for the kids or anything other than we want to be.

I am financially secure on my own - I have my own bank account I pay my own bills- because that makes me feel safe.And thats important to me.

My girls are kind, compassionate strong women ( I did that :-) - my greatest accomplishment in life!)

So, what I really wanted to say in a long winded sort of way is that the day is darkest before the dawn. You're a strong , capapble woman. You write an entertaining and interesting and thought provoking blog that people want to read.

You're obviously in a dark place right now - but even though you dont see the exit sign - I do.

Lets meet here in 2 years time and see where life has taken you because despite you not thinking so...I think you'll be doing okay !!

texcommando said...
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AZ Larsens said...

You WILL land an awesome job because you DO have skills. You figure out a way to market those and put yourself out there and you'll be golden in the workforce. And ditto to what others have said, you can qualify for grants and financial aid to go back to school if that's what you want to do. You have until June to think about it right?

Also I just requested you as a friend on Facebook. We were friends once upon a time but I went through a "only be friends with people you know in real life" phase a few years ago. I don't care about that anymore. And I don't do those political posts so it's safe to add me. :)

AZ Larsens said...

Also I would just like to say that NO ONE knows what goes on behind closed doors in anyone's home or marriage. Nobody can judge you or your decisions on what is best for you and your family.

I'm sorry that you are going through this.

Jen said...

I totally agree, I wish I had finished my degree instead of dropping out of college as soon as I got married. Even though my marriage is fine right now, but it is important to be prepared for whatever may happen in the future. I will be teaching my girls to get an education even if they don't plan on working.

princess apr said...

I've never had the choice not to work though I would be horrendous at staying at home for so many reasons. I've always had the thought that no marriage is too good not to fail. Maybe at the moment, but it's a marathon and you never know what is coming around the corner.

Have you signed up for temping? If you're looking for benefits, you can always use temping as a way to get income while you look for full-time jobs, too. I'm sure you'll do well because you can speak and write clearly and type. So, the jobs are often above minimum wage though not a lot. I have worked temp jobs while looking, did one temp to perm and temped while I was between jobs. Washington Post had job listings and job fairs.

And cull your Facebook list and use it to your advantage. It's a good place to network. There are some jobs in my field that are entry if you want me to look into them more. Drop me an email if you have a specific location you have in mind or if you want me to send your resume around.

Pam the Realtor said...

I'm still available to talk about real estate if that's the direction you want to go. Good luck! I know you will find just the right thing for you

cb2manor said...

Hi Brandi...i just sent you a friend request on FB because I wanted to send you some info on prospects of a job, but then realized I could still send the message via FB (they wanted $1 to send it to your regular Message Box, really FB? You are getting this HUGE tax return and you want me to pay $1?!?)...Anyways, it said I could send it to you to your OTHER folder, so I'm not sure if you'll find it or not! LOL!

Will said...
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Will said...
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rachfishop said...

It's shame that I'm in another country, because I'm an HR Manager and I'd hire you right away. You brighten my week from 4,000 miles away, just think what you'd to for office morale if you were on the premises!

If you want an HR Manager (albeit a foreign one) to look over your resume just let me know how to get in touch with you. Honestly, it would be a small repayment for all the laughs you've given me with your blog.

Some other thoughts... best book ever for job hunters is 'Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions' by Martin Yate... Just gone onto Amazon and it looks like he has a new book out, 'Knock em Dead' - might get that myself as my contract ends next month.

From my own experience the other thing I would say is get your resume out, in volume, to as many places as possible (I'm finding that I don't get many applications turn into interviews in the current climate, so have a routine of going through all the relevant job boards once a week and applying for everything that looks like a possibility). Also publish your resume on the job boards; I actually get a lot of approaches that way, quite a lot of them from scammers but mostly genuine.

THE best way of getting a job is via someone you know, and I'm thinking you must have a ton of friends on the army base and in your church who know what you're capable of and might be able to find you an opening (I know your church is big on volunteer work so you've probably got some good transferable skills from that... my immediate thought is classroom assistant, I don't know if you have those in the US? Basically, the CA helps the teacher out but doesn't need an education degree).

Sorry for the jobhunting essay :-) but one final thought... over here we call the portion of our taxes that pays for benefits 'National Insurance' because it's basically the same as any other insurance scheme: you make your payments in the good times so that if and when your go through a hard time you can make a claim for the benefits that YOU PAID FOR IN THE FIRST PLACE THROUGH YOUR TAXES.

Sending good luck and warm thoughts your way...

MJ said...


As someone who was in a different situation--working husband through school on minimum wage with a newborn and living in the basement of his parents' house--I am PISSED when I think about how much money I wasted because I was too proud to accept food stamps or WIC or medicaid. We could have been in much better shape when he graduated and got a real job, than we are currently.

THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ACCEPTING HELP. Heaven knows I paid enough into the system before, and we're paying into it again.

Sending you hugs and love and no advice. I'm only happy that you're taking care of yourself. You're awesome, and I'm cheering for you!!!

Kylene said...

I was raised to never ever be a stay at home mother. I hugely disappointed my family when I dropped out of school and got pregnant. I could have at least done the paperwork for my associates, I had enough credit hours but I thought, surely I will take a class or two next semester. I also realized that I really can't be a stay at home mom forever because in a few years, all my kids will be gone for seven hours a day. And so then, what will I do all day? It sounds awesome for a minute, but without structure I tend to fall apart. So, I have realized that you should never give up your whole self like that. It is important to keep passions and hobbies and things to keep you going when you aren't needed so much. Also, being completely financially dependent on someone is horrible. My mom told me if you won't plan for a divorce then you should plan for a kidnapping. No life insurance and no pay check. Also, every person should feel relevant in the world, like you hold your own place. It is very empowering.


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