The transition from being half of a married, co-parenting couple to a single parent is taxing for many reasons. Not only do you assume the role of both parents when the kids are with you, both people are taking on a bigger load than they were before (physically and mentally), period.
And of course, a big point of stress and contention is money.
This is one of those topics I think people feel ashamed to talk about when it comes to getting a divorce. It can make us feel weak, vulnerable, and like we don’t have our shit together. But let’s get real, it’s takes a toll on your finances no matter what your checkbook looks like, and the stress it adds to an already emotionally draining situation can be devastating and scary.
Chances are you are splitting a lot of things in half: bills, the sale of the house, child care costs, groceries, medical expenses, and clothing for your children while you both look for a place to live. So two mortgages or rent payments (along with separate utility bills) now. Yikes.
When my husband and I first discussed going our separate ways, the subject would overwhelm me and I would shut down. It was hard to compartmentalize all the emotions I was feeling. I wanted to be strong for my kids and show them I was capable of providing for them and myself. I wanted us to stay in the house they were raised in. There was so much worry swimming around in my head I would make myself physically ill trying to figure it all out.
It doesn’t matter if you go from being a two-income household to a single-income household, or you have to work outside the home for the first time in years to make ends meet and create a new life for yourself. I’m not going to sugarcoat here, it is overwhelming, and you are scared shitless.
When you are used to being a couple — a team — the transition to handling everything solo is a huge burden to carry. I know it goes both ways and divorce is financially and emotionally taxing on men too. They are also experiencing a huge loss whether they wanted to end their marriage or not. But let’s face it, women tend to pull a huge weight when it comes to a making and keeping a home and contributing to the household. So we are left with keeping that up because we want to keep things as normal as possible for our kids as well as shoulder the financial burden.
It’s a heavy load to carry.
Having a partner in life gives us peace of mind knowing we can lean on them for support because we are in it together. Now when times are tough, there isn’t a someone you can look to across the dinner table and know you aren’t alone and have someone to go through it with. You aren’t able to join forces and figure something out if you have an unexpected, costly emergency. Nope, it’s all you, kid. And it’s terrifying as fuck.
So when you are living under separate roofs, even if you are co-parenting and your ex-partner is pulling their weight, every morning when you get out of bed you are hyper-aware you are on your own now.
If the car breaks down you are responsible for getting it taken care of and paid for in a timely manner. There aren’t any phone calls to your partner to vent. You don’t have anyone around who will absorb half of the burden or help you make arrangements.
If you own a home, keeping up with repairs, knowing what needs fixing, and hiring a trustworthy person to do it or finding the time to tackle that shit yourself adds a big stress. You want to have money saved for these unexpected expenses, but that’s difficult when you are now shouldering the financial load for an entire family.
It’s you, and only you, who pays the utilities every month, makes sure the kids aren’t wasting too much water, or being careless with the lights. You are in charge of getting bills paid on time and keeping an eye on how much money you have coming in and going out.
Single mothers become the bank, the investor, the saver, the penny-pincher, and are always acutely aware of what their kids need. And it is stressful, but if you are in a situation where you are only staying in your marriage for the financial aspects, I want you to know you can do this. You are more capable than you know, and you deserve to be happy. This new chapter in your life may be scary and overwhelming, but it can also be liberating and empowering.
The one thing I have realized is that nobody can do it by themselves all of the time. You are going to have to ask for help at some point, and that is okay. Our kids don’t need a super mom who has it all figured out. They need a mom who shows up every day and is doing her best.
And as scary as it can be to know you are completely on your own, and your financial future lies within your hands only, it is doable. Just look at all the amazing single moms out there who are damn proud of what they’ve built. I know more than a few, and I bet you do too. You can do this.