Longing and a hard truth

It is because I lust for it so that it eludes me.

Or so I surmise.

And I do mean lust. I can feel the desire for it physically. It only makes the object of my lust more embarrassing. After all, financial security is not sexy. No. It is not supposed to be lusted after. Are my Midwestern roots showing? You notice I did not say wealth (too complicated). I said financial security. That means a home that I own. Savings for the future. A sizeable emergency fund.

My younger self is laughing at me. “Oh, how staid we have become,” she is saying. “And it is all your fault.”

Apologies to those who know my story but for the newbies: I was a career woman. Earned a masters degree. Got married. Had babies. Stayed home for a bit with said babies. Along the way, my husband and I plotted a solid financial future. More him than me. He was the financial brain. We worked toward it—that part was equal. And then, like a bad made-for-TV movie, the drama appeared. He was an options trader when the housing crisis hit. And, while sparing you the gory details, he took more than a few wrong turns in life unbeknownst to me. Turned our lives upside down, financially and emotionally.

I divorced him. Took multiple jobs to keep the house, keep the kids in their private school, to dig myself out from the hole I found myself in. I vaguely remembered, in another life, us talking about our plans for the kids’ college funds. It seemed forever ago.

And now here we are. Here I am. I’m tired, frankly.

Here’s what I didn’t know, what legions of married women out there don’t seem to know: The rules change—all bets are off—when the demise of a marriage hits. At least for women of a certain age.

We are encouraged to work, shamed for working, looked down upon if we don’t work, while married. It’s a no-win. But the minute divorce is upon us, the stage direction becomes crystal clear. We are told to play the female in need of rescue. Don’t work too much. Don’t work too hard. You won’t get alimony. You’ll have to pay him child support.

Guess what? Bad advice. Unless your soon to be ex-husband is a saintly, stand-up guy. What you end up figuring out in the end is the only one you can truly count on is you. And so you better “man” up, better find something deep within yourself, so your kids have the stability you crave. And yes, I see the irony in “manning” up. I think women like me are changing the gender of that term.

What I told the people who gave me said bad advice, the people who told me I should wait to see “what I could get from him” was this: “I’ll bet on me.”

And I did. Thank God.

I paid dearly for it though. My three jobs were just covering the bills and a life meant for two full-time incomes when I would receive one of several letters from his attorney threatening punitive alimony. It meant I would have to pay him, not the other way around. I paid for it again when he took me to court so he would not have to pay any child support.

Funny how when a man is purposely underemployed, the courts will punish a woman for stepping up to the plate to support her kids. My friends and family were shocked. “You’re kidding, right?” they’d exclaim. “You’re working your ass off so your kids don’t lose everything. Surely the courts see that.” But I wasn’t kidding.

And so, for the past six years or so, it has continued. I work a lot. I no longer give a damn about who shames me or who admires me. As a wise friend said, “The haters gonna’ hate. You’re an alpha, honey. Women will hate you for being more competent, more interesting, than their gym-rat and book-club lives will allow. The men will hate you for trying to equal the playing field, for working as hard as they do to pay the mortgage. You’ve become competition now, not eye candy. The good news is, when the fire burns down just about everything and everyone, you will know those left standing with you after it are true friends. The ones who see you for who you are. The ones who can admire what you’ve done.”

Oh, I hold those words close. On nights when the freelance pace slows and I count how many months I can hold on before we’d have to move. In the wee hours of the morning when I wonder if I’ll ever have the time, energy and inclination to wake up next to someone again. And more importantly, to be able to trust that someone not to flip out and turn our lives upside down. I know that sounds irrational. But when it happens once, it’s hard to ever go back to the innocence of thinking it can’t happen. It certainly can.

I dream of an imaginary eccentric aunt I’ve never met suddenly leaving me her fortune. Or at least a tidy windfall. Do I sound greedy? Obsessed? I hope not. I just want a little flippin’ relaxation in my life. A little breathing room. I am forgetting what that felt like.

As a “civilized” society, we don’t talk about money much. In years gone by, as my mother’s daughter, I wouldn’t have. But I blog about what is front and center. And this elephant in the room has been front and center for so long. Perhaps the lesson from the Universe is to befriend the insecurity of it all. Don’t tell me to close my eyes, put my arms up and giggle as the roller coaster rolls down another hill. It’s my turn to exit the loop.

In the end, I will continue to bet on me. Which was really the thing I should have done from Day One. It’s something I hope young women—and not so young women—do more wisely than I did. And I hope our court systems, while catching up with the times in terms of women having to pull their fair share of financial responsibility in divorce settlement, also catch on to the flip side of that equation. We should not be punished for working our asses off when it counts. When the chips are down, I’ll trust a mother to figure it out for her entire family. Every time. And most of the time, she’ll do it as I did. Quietly. But maybe it’s about time the female breadwinners spoke up for change. And about time that those who support us raised their voices in unison.

If it takes a village, why are we doing it alone?

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63 Comments Add yours

  1. Hats off to you, K. I’m sorry you’ve had to go through so much, but very proud to know you as an esteemed blogger friend, writer and mother who is both kind and tough where it counts. You’re remarkable.

    1. candidkay says:

      I felt much the same about you, Cynthia, after reading your book. So glad our paths have crossed! And I really do appreciate your kind words.

  2. skyeblaine says:

    What a beautiful post, and so true. You are a fine writer.

    1. skyeblaine says:

      I want to add: I was a single, divorced parent of a disabled child for many years. In fact, I was divorced three times. And then I met my husband 29 years ago. They are out there, the stable, kind, good ones. I want that for you.

      1. candidkay says:

        Oh, I love stories like yours. I still believe in happy endings. I just realize that it may take some of us longer to get to it. And if my happy ending a solo, I am OK with that. But I am still sentimental enough to really believe in love. I am so glad you found it :-).

    2. skyeblaine says:

      Is there a way to follow your blog? I don’t see a button?

      1. candidkay says:

        There is a button :-). At the very bottom of the page, under the header “top posts,” you will find a follow button. Please let me know if it’s not appearing for you for any reason. And welcome! Glad to have you onboard :-).

    3. candidkay says:

      Thank you! I am glad this one touched you.

  3. Kristine, I admire you, and at the same time I wish for you the breathing room and/or the windfall you so desperately deserve!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Jennifer. I am trying to let it all fall into place!

  4. Grateful to know a boss like you, Kay. Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. candidkay says:

      Happy belated Thanksgiving to you! And thank you for the kind words:).

  5. Eli Pacheco says:

    A breather. It would be great to get a breather, wouldn’t it? Just, a little spending cash, or a credit card balance that zaps to zero. I know the longing. And I need to get back here more often, too. You have a way with words.

    1. candidkay says:

      Wishing you a little relaxation this holiday season! And thank you for the kind words.

  6. cristi says:

    Very well said! This week of Thanksgiving I am grateful for you. Your wit. Your wisdom. Your willingness to put it all out there (in life and in words). YOU inspire me. So, thanks for that! May peace and blessings be with you and your family this holiday season. ❤

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, thank you! Grateful to be the object of gratitude:). Wishing you and yours joy and peace for the holiday season also!

  7. Roy McCarthy says:

    You set a great example Kristine. Our traditional assigned roles might be more fluid these days but I still don’t see too many men accepting more responsibility rather than less.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Roy. I guess, man or woman, it comes down to character. We show what we’re made of on a daily basis. I try to get that more right than wrong. “Try” being the operative word:).

  8. A very powerful piece Kristine.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Andrea. Just telling my truth, knowing there are plenty of soul sisters out there.

  9. cac824 says:

    Brilliant writing, so thought provoking. The comment of the man who was raised by a single mom… Isn’t that in the end our end goal? To raise boys who feel safe with strong women and can respect their partner as well as love them? You’re doing it. Thanks for some great thoughts to end this day💛💛💛💛

    1. candidkay says:

      That is very much our end goal. And I think, despite some very dark night of the soul, we have both done pretty good job thus far I’ve getting our boys there. ❤️

  10. I have read and reread this post. It oozes with meaning for so many, of deeper truths that many must acknowledge in some way at some point in their lives. It reminds me of dark nights I have endured, daunting, taunting hours that haunt us until we find ways to become bolder even as we realize we must not fear being older — not if we, as you have done, grow wiser along the way. The rules do indeed change. And we never know when unfairness, neglect and injustice will find us, will make us even more vulnerable, and will highlight senselessness that so often pervades. Amid the such uncertainties, I know this: I will bet on you as well. You are truly an Alpha — in all the best ways.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, thank You for chewing on this post :-). I mean it. I do feel that sometimes when we write,
      there are levels that we are aware of and levels that only come forth after we’ve sat with the piece for a while. I appreciate you taking the time to sit with this one.

  11. I so admire you. For doing what needed to be done to support yourself and your boys. And for being that alpha female working mom.

    1. candidkay says:

      That means a lot. Thank you for the kind words and sentiment. I hope someday I am able to look back and appreciate what God helped me find during this time. Right now, there are moments of that but others when I’m just too tired to care. I am banking on the fact that that will improve.

  12. George says:

    I believe you said it better and more concisely than I’ve ever heard. I’ve also learned, over time, that when a woman needs to speak her mind, which you have here, the best thing to do is listen and stand behind her, admiring all she had achieved and supporting all the trust she has in herself to accomplish even more.
    I’d bet on you in a heartbeat.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, George! It’s only taken me about six years to get this concise about the whole matter:). And I appreciate your wisdom in approach–support means the world to most of the women I know who are bearing the primary breadwinner role.

  13. I thank the Lord that when my wife and I separated that both my children had turned 18 and it never had to touch that crazy place called alimony or child support Kristine. Of all the things I have come across in this world that has got to be the most emotional roller coaster I have ever seen.
    It needs work, a lot of work to bring some sanity into lives that have been turned upside down. Maybe a marriage insurance so that if there ever is a divorce there will always be money for the children at least to help their upkeep. It would remove so much of the financial as well as emotional turmoil that always goes hand in hand with the family turmoil.
    Maybe that is your next path with the journey and experience you have been through. Start up a financial plan for that marital insurance scheme, I think with that type of security behind each and every marriage it would definitely be a popular plan 😀

    1. candidkay says:

      I can’t believe that I am saying this, having been raised to think marriage is forever, but that is a wonderful idea! I don’t think children should have to suffer for our mistakes.

      1. Exactly. The divorce rate IS about 50%…as much as we do want forever. All it probably needs is a yearly premium and all payments go to the actual bills, as in direct payment to schools or doctors or fee’s etc. Leave the daily stuff like food or social outings stay with the parents to keep that closeness there and not isolate the children in that way. As you have said, children first ❤
        I'll leave it with you 😀

  14. That’s a tough gig you have been handed. In Australia the government really supports single Mums financially so it’s not so difficult. Come and live down under! We will support and love you 💚💕

    1. candidkay says:

      The sunshine itself is tempting! Had a friend recently move down there and his pics are making me envious:).

      1. Well you are always welcome here! but in the meantime, listen to this amazing woman Lynne Twist. She changed the way I think about money and it works 👍🌈

      2. candidkay says:

        I will certainly give her a listen!

  15. Rachel McAlpine says:

    Courage you show in truckloads. But it’s just so hard sometimes…

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you. I try not to moan and groan about it. But as I see the courts and attorneys play games with people’s lives, it comes to the fore.

      1. Rachel McAlpine says:

        Sickening and mystifying too: punishing the kids— why?

  16. ustome says:

    This is a great piece and although I am saddened to say for you, I feel your pain. Gosh, I am with you here. I’m working full time and looking after my three kids six days a week and trying desperately to keep a handle on finances and a household I can’t keep in order because I am so tired. But we keep on because our love for our children outweighs everything else. I have tried so hard to understand how some dads can not feel that too, and can walk away from their responsibilities, their children. It is incomprehensible. Keep going. Sounds like you are one amazing mum to me.

    1. candidkay says:

      Tired seems to be the word of the hour:). Or the decade, for us. It sounds like you don’t over-generalize and I try not to also. My sons’ father loves them. We just view life and our responsibilities through different lenses. I don’t really understand his. Let’s both keep going, shall we? I think these kids will be the better for it. Sending you a virtual hug.

      1. ustome says:

        Sending one back at you with thanks xx

  17. BillGFL says:

    Well, so many thoughts.
    First, as I’ve said before, the hurtfulness goes both ways in any divorce. What is unconscionable, though, is that both parents not contribute to the financial care of the children. No matter how much the custodial parent makes, both need to contribute.
    Second, things will get better.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m going to hold you to that second thought:). I’m a big believer in things getting better and better.

  18. Before I get to my less-than-profound reaction to your painfully honest words, I gotta say I loved Amy’s comment above about being a “double parent.” Even though I don’t have children, this term seems ready made.

    It’s gotta be so challenging to keep moving, constantly moving, just to stay afloat. Especially when you’re also supporting your children. Expecting security (and well-earned rest) is totally reasonable. I would be throwing a monster tantrum by now if I were deprived of my after-breakfast naps for more than a few weeks, or the freedom to head to a different country to unwind when real life gets overwhelming.

    Forgive the lame conclusion here… but U rock woman!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Gabe:). I will cop to several monster tantrums, albeit in private.

      1. hehehe after years of practice and careful observation, I’ve learned that tantrums don’t work unless there is an audience to be tortured by them 😉 Just sayin…

      2. candidkay says:

        Oh, I’ll have to work on that:). Maybe I’ll ask friends & family who wants to volunteer? No, no, people–not all at once now . . .

  19. Michele Coppess says:

    Outstanding POV Kristine! Such a strong, poignant message for all women. Thank you for sharing your gift of with so many who find such inspiration and strength from your words. You are an amazing woman and mother!

    1. candidkay says:

      Aw, thank you:). I hope the generation coming up–men and women–are smarter about all of this. I’m one of the lucky ones because of my education and work experience. So if I find this stressful, imagine the women who don’t have those credentials. I can’t even begin to imagine their stress.

  20. Amy says:

    For one thing, dear friend, you are not a single mom. You are a double parent. Huge, chasmic distinction of definition here! I admire and value you for all you do to take care for your family.

    My goodness, that last line of your essay stole my breath: “If it takes a village, why are we doing it alone?” A powerful, pertinent question. Alas, I haven’t got the answer. But it is of pressing, vital importance to talk about this issue.

    It pains me to feel powerless to lift the burden of worry and stress from your shoulders in any kind of practical way. I can’t ease this path for you, but rest assured, I am right here with you as you journey forward. If it counts for anything, Kristine, I believe in you. You are smart, plucky, strong, steady, resourceful – and I’m confident that somehow, some way, you are going to get through. Sending love and a boatload of positive energy. And a really, really big hug, too. xo

    1. candidkay says:

      Your words are always so healing. Thank you, truly. I do think we need to start a dialogue–as a society–about parents and responsibilities post divorce. Male or female. Particularly since families are now so geographically spread.

    2. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I’m appropriating that phrase “double parent” from henceforth. Thank you.

  21. Yes, only you can be your only savior.

  22. Your children are blessed to be raised by you. You are strong, courageous and such an inspiration. Keep fighting; I will keep rooting for that windfall to come your way. You deserve it, so very much.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! I hope they take something away from all of this–something deeper about who they choose to be.

  23. suemclaren24 says:

    When I was first married, my father-in-law (!!) came to me and said, “Be sure you have a bank account in your name, that he does not know about…..” That was what enabled me to get out of the marriage 10+ years later. Good advice. From a Man!

    1. candidkay says:

      Wow. He said that about his own son? Yikes. But so very glad you took the advice!

  24. I’ll never understand dads who fight to not support their children. While I feel that the courts are often unfair to dads in custody cases, I think a dad should always be forced to help support their children, both financially and as a parent.

    For what it’s worth, not all men are threatened by strong women. Some of not only admire them, but are attracted to them. I’ve heard my wife described as a feminist, a ball-buster, etc. But I see her as a partner in this life we’ve created. Wouldn’t have it any other way. You, and other people, not just male or female, who are strong and independent, should be celebrated, not criticized. 😊

    By the way, I was raised by a single mom, if you couldn’t tell. 😃

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, that last sentence brought a tear to my eye. I do think boys raised by strong women grow up admiring and loving strong women. I see it already in my older son–the girls he takes seriously versus those he doesn’t. I love that you see your wife that way–it’s empowering! I know some wonderful men who aren’t threatened at all by a woman who shows strength. I just wish they were more vocal!

      1. Hahaha! They’re out there, I’m certain of it. You should be proud of what you’re doing. I know it’s hard, but you are teaching your kids that all odds are surmountable, it’s ok to be a strong and hard working person, and that their mom will always have their backs. That’s priceless stuff right there. Keep kickin’ ass. 😊😊

      2. candidkay says:

        Thank you! Kickin’ ass continues:).

      3. Right on! 👊🏻😃

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