SAHM No More explores the the ups-and-downs of navigating a new world of parenting, transitioning from married stay-at-home motherhood to a full-time working, divorced motherhood. And there are a lot of adjustments being made—a lot of adjustments and not a lot of sleep.
The other day I noticed that my dog’s pink eye had come back and I felt like crying. I didn’t feel like crying because I was worried about my dog. I love my dog, but I knew she was fine. She’s had pink eye before and I’m sure she’ll have pink eye again because she has the adorable habit of sticking her face in other dogs’ poop when we go on walks in her neighborhood. And, as it turns out, pink eye is what happens when you rub poop in your eye. Good to know!
Anyway, the reason that I felt like crying was because I knew exactly how much the visit to the vet was going to cost, to say nothing of how much the antibiotics would be. And immediately I started calculating how that would impact my grocery shopping budget for the month and how I probably couldn’t afford to take my favorite boots to get resoled for a little while longer and I just felt the weight of everything in that one moment while I stared into my dog’s big, brown, pink-rimmed eyes. And I felt like crying because I felt so alone.
One of the things that makes single parenthood so hard is the economic burden. Everyone knows this, of course. But for me, the decision to get a divorce was an emotional one, not a practical one. Oh, it was practical in some ways, sure. It was practical in many emotional and psychological ways, but not financial ones.
Don’t get me wrong, I knew at the time, and I know now, that I didn’t leave my marriage in the worst of situations—I was debt-free and was certain that my ex-husband would never be late paying child support or paying his share of babysitters and camps and music lessons. But I also had just finished school and was helping take care of my father who was gravely ill and looking for a job, all while raising two kids.
I think that at first I was just so used to getting things done and moving forward that I didn’t have time to think about how hard everything was, how much more of a financial responsibility it would be to take care of everything by myself. But eventually it all caught up to me.
The funny thing is, it’s all caught up to me during a time when I’m not particularly stressed. I mean, I have a job now, one that I love and that is financially sustainable, so shouldn’t everything be fine? Maybe it should be, but it doesn’t quite feel like it.
It feels sometimes like I am walking on a tightrope and any little trip will send me plummeting. And what trips me up could be an emergency visit to the veterinarian or my son losing his cell phone (he has the free one, but it’s not free to replace) or an extra-high electricity bill or my computer breaking or…anything really. And that’s scary. There are many married couples with children who go through the same struggles of living without much in the way of savings, but I just feel so much more vulnerable without having someone else to equally share this struggle.
I think that so many people tend to think of the economically precarious single mother as one who has no child support or father in the picture at all, but that’s not always the case. I know that I could have things much, much worse, and, frankly, this type of canine pink-eye-related stress is an anomaly more than a rule. I have never had trouble putting food on the table or paying rent or anything like that. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a moment of panic when I need to work late and have to pay a babysitter because my children’s father can’t pick them up easily. I certainly knew everything would be hard, but I didn’t always know that it would be this hard.
The thing is though, I wouldn’t go back and do anything differently in terms of my divorce. I feel lucky to have been able to do what I knew was best for my children and for me, emotionally anyway. I just have to convince myself that the rest will follow, maybe more slowly than I’d like—and with a few derailments due to my dog’s medical issues. But it will come and I will feel secure in knowing that I did the right thing for my family and I, even though it wasn’t easy. But, I guess, nothing worthwhile ever is.