When married couples get into their 60s they say, “We’ve saved all our lives so now we can spend money!” A single mother usually says, “I’ve lived my whole life and now I can save.” That’s my story anyway. When I became a single mother after 13 years of marriage, my 2 children were 4 weeks old and 4 years old. When I entered this world of “single parents”, I took a deep breath and said, “Right! You have this Karen. You don’t have a choice anyway! “
Single mothers and retirees
What I didn’t realize was that all of my income and financial stability would be required to raise my young family on my own. The $ 300 and change per child for support wouldn’t go far, and it took all of my income to get the job of householder, with home ownership being the biggest cost. No wonder there! I live in Southern California.
When our children were both born, we were ready to start this family. We were married for many years before we had children. But when my ex-husband decided to leave the family a few weeks after the birth of our second child, he threw that plan on its head. Immediately the cost of the diaper and formula for the newborn was strongly felt. The preschool costs for my 4 year old were also felt immediately. And then throw in the mix that we were in the middle of a house remodel, paying a mortgage and rent on an apartment while construction was done. I have no idea how I didn’t jump off the next bridge. But I heard my own voice say … “Right! You have this Karen. You don’t have a choice anyway! “
Understandably, the pressures of home remodeling and the arrival of a new baby would weigh on everyone. But inevitably and logically you know that at some point the house will be built and the children will grow up. But with that pressure, my ex-husband felt the need to leave the scene and left it up to me to finish the work at hand. What made him so sure I could handle it? When I look back on the poor girl who had to stop all of this … well, it brings back the feeling of that hole in my chest where my heart was broken and my head ached all of a sudden. And it was cruel.
It was cruel to leave a young, vulnerable family to fend for yourself. It was cruel to have an affair. It was cruel to turn a blind eye to what was so open to us; two little babies. And now they just looked up to me for all of their safety.
Make everything better
Leave me. Fall in love with me I can recover from it! But don’t rob your babies of their safety. But he did. So I wanted to do what I always did and still did. Do everything better. Or at least try.
If you can’t come back, you need to worry about how best to move forward.
The real price of his departure is felt deepest when I am now 60. To add serious salt to my wounds, he made me retire all those years ago. In my blind trauma, I had no idea what I was signing. I just wanted the craziness to stop. I wanted to breathe again. I wanted my life to look familiar again. Another act of cruelty.
And now that he is approaching retirement safe and rich, I am just starting to save. I couldn’t participate in an austerity program because I needed every nickel to raise this family on my own. Life in Los Angeles doesn’t have much value when it comes to child alimony to raise a family unless you don’t want to let them partake in something a little fun. Those little scholarships ended up going away anyway. But the cost to the kids didn’t stop there. The questions no longer come from me. They come straight from our children now. And that in itself is liberating. I’ve waited a long time for them to find their own voices. To this day I don’t try to ask much of him. I don’t like interacting with him. If my expenses keep my nerves calm, it’s worth it.
You cannot make sweet wine from sour grapes. Thomas Fuller
The silver lining
So here is the silver lining. I may be 60, but I have the energy of a 40 year old. I don’t have a choice! I am in good health and encouraged every day to be the best that I can be. My children continue to support my spirit! As long as they support my spirit and efforts, I will be fine. I will work hard for many years to come so that they don’t support me financially as well! As I once noticed, my accountant told me I had to work until I was 75. I laughed and then realized that he was absolutely serious. So I took another deep breath and said … “Right! You have this Karen. You don’t have a choice anyway! “
My boy who was once 4 years old at the time of my divorce is now 25 years old. His car battery died yesterday. He was discouraged to bother with it because he was so busy at work.
He turned around and said to me, “Mom, how did you do that? How did you deal with so much and still have a full-time career behind you and raised us? I can barely find time to look after my car, so it has no impact on work. I now totally see how difficult it must have been for you now. “
In a strange and affirmative way, I smiled, thinking that the circle of his experiences as a child raised by a single mother has really come full circle. All the nights I went to bed with the weight of a heavy globe crushing my chest, I wondered if my kids would ever know how much it cost me to be the only parent to them raised alone. And at that moment I was probably recognized.
I once wrote an article called. “Don’t forget to pay yourself”. I’ll tell you again what I said in this article. Budget budget budget! And stick with it! But I would also add Fight Fight Fight to protect and nurture your financial future as well. Indeed, you can remarry. But live the way you don’t want to. I say that with all the kindness in the world too. Because you need to make sure that you protect and care for yourself as much as you do your children. THEY ARE TOGETHER TOO! And never sign out on his retirement unless you are sure that you are safe. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or be bullied. It makes forgiveness almost impossible when you reach my age. But I try anyway.
I can’t change what I did right and what I did wrong. I can’t help that I just gave in and went into debt to pay for anything that his support couldn’t mitigate. I don’t have the luxury of time like many of you younger divorced mothers. So be good to yourself and speak up if you need help from the man who was there when the order was placed for the children. My ex-husband will soon be retiring and living a very comfortable life. I don’t think he thought I wasn’t going to get married again. I’m sure he hoped I would be happy too. But I made different choices and lots of sacrifices, which mostly felt like the only choices I had to make. All of this hit me deeply financially. My friends are all retiring. I will never be able to retire. But I’m lucky enough to still be relevant in my career and also have the extra energy dollars to be a life coach to single mothers.
So love your kids and spend them if you can. However, take part in as many retirement programs as you can and make sure you get the support you need. I live the results when I take the lion’s share of the financial responsibility for starting a family alone. I wish I hadn’t been put in that position. I wish I wasn’t forced to be the brave one. But I was. I always have been. And I still am.
When I see how wonderful and honorable my children have turned out, the financial worries that have run through my body almost 24/7 for 20 years seem like a fair price. It’s just a shame I was asked to do this.
And I will continue to say… “Right! You have this Karen. You don’t have a choice anyway! “
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