I was packing for an out-of-state business trip when my husband announced that our marriage was over and he wanted a divorce. I was equal parts crushed and relieved. Had this been 12 weeks earlier, I would have been equal parts crushed and terrified. The big difference was that after being a stay-at-home mom for years I had landed a decent job. It is 2016 and moms, especially SAHMs, are still forced to worry about how financially devastating divorce can be.
Generally speaking, folks don’t go and get married thinking they will divorce. And as far as I can tell, not many partnered moms go into parenthood thinking, “Yeah, I totally want to be a single mom.” And so it was with a heavy weight in my heart that I stood there slack-jawed and stupid watching my husband form the words that would end our marriage.
Being a working mom while we figure out who gets what and who lives where has given me a little peace of mind during a very tumultuous and uncertain time. First, I know I can put a roof over my kids’ heads. It may not be a super nice roof for a long while, but it will keep them safe. Second, I have a place to go to during the day that keeps my brain occupied so that I can’t sit and marinate in the self-torturous thoughts of what-ifs and your-faults. I can get lost in my job for a few hours and give my heart a rest.
Had I been a stay-at-home mom when my husband dropped that lovely bomb on me, I honestly do not know what I would do. I hear stories all the time about women being strong in the face of adversity and figuring out how to make it out of a marriage and into a new life with their wits and finances intact, but I quietly wonder if I share their reserves of strength. I worry that I am not smart enough or tough enough for that kind of empowered action. “I’m just me. I’m just a mom,” is what my brain tells me.
My kids are watching this unfold and that is possibly the hardest part. They see me trying not to fall apart in their presence. They hear the words leaving my lips with scorched edges as I try my best to maintain some semblance of respect and peace with my husband. Having a job with a regular paycheck means that I can show them how to survive with my head held high — no matter what the outcome of this nightmare. “I’m me, dammit. I’m a fucking kick-ass mom!” my heart says.
At night when I close my eyes and my brain flicks on and runs through all of the shit I need to get done the next day, it inevitably snags on that one bulleted item reminding me to breathe, to be strong. I don’t know how other women do this, and there is never a moment during this early stage of divorce when I think, “I got this.” The truth is that I want to fall apart, but I can’t. My brain and my heart talk over each other in a cacophony of fear and love and plans and sadness.
So I get my ass up every morning. I put on my work clothes and pack lunches and kiss foreheads and I trudge on to work where I am thankful that on Friday morning there will be money automatically deposited into my bank account. After a few more Fridays and some gumption, I will be able to start looking for a smaller more modest roof to put over my head where I can show my children that I am indeed tough after all.