One poem I could really relate to after I got divorced was "After a While," by Veronica A. Shoffstall. The author clearly understands the pain of ending a relationship and for a short time, it was the only bright spot in some of those dark early days. It's quite profound.
One of the lines that had always rung true for me goes as follows: "And you learn to build all your roads on today because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight."
I am not suggesting that we follow the current YOLO (you only live once) philosophy that some have adopted. My emphasis is on the latter part of that verse because women in particular need to embrace the idea that futures do indeed fall down mid-flight!
My inspiration for writing this came when a young colleague of mine decided to give up her part-time career to embrace full-time motherhood. Before I continue, this is not a dig at stay at home moms. I took a decade off from my career to take care of my children when they were young. I get how demanding that job is and the sacrifice it takes to make that commitment. I truly do.
And let's face reality. It may not be the 1950's anymore but labor division in the household has not changed much in half a century. For working moms, most of the time it's two hours of getting the kids, and yourself ready before work, eight hours of work and then another four to six hours of chores to do when you get home. Most of us, even when we were happily married, were not lucky enough to have Joe DuBois, from the TV series Medium, sharing our household duties and our bed! Being a working mom is utterly exhausting!
At any rate, I was perplexed and a little saddened by my colleagues decision because the company we work for does allow for some flexibility in scheduling. She also had a ringside seat to my seemingly perfect, white picket fence life blowing up precisely when I thought the good times were rolling in. I thought perhaps the whole sordid affair served as a warning for others, but I guess when you're young you never believe the worst is going to happen to you. That you are going to give up your career and ability to earn a living to only be left 20 years later with no financial security.
I desperately wanted to talk some sense into her but it wasn't really my place.
Her situation started me thinking about advice I would give my own daughters if I had daughters.
5 Tips I'd Give Young Women About Quitting Work And Becoming a Full-Time Mom:
1. If you decide to have children, even if you want to stay home full-time, find a way to continue to build your resume. Check into the possibility of working part-time.
2. Look into contract work or temporary work instead of removing yourself fully from any kind of work at all.
3. If working isn't an option advance your career by finishing your degree or earning an advanced degree. It can be part-time. Actually, part-time is preferable because it's cheaper. Negotiate that with your spouse as part of your terms of staying home full-time.
4. If you work part-time or full-time, make sure you start a 401k or IRA. Open your own savings account, too.
5. Speak openly and honestly to your spouse about drawing up a postnuptial agreement with a lawyer. It's not sexy but neither is being financially dependent on a man who decides to follow his genitals to perceived greener pastures. Postnuptial agreements aren't only for divorce; they also cover death. It needs to be legal in order for it to be binding, but it's definitely worth a conversation.
Here's the thing; when you make the decision to be a full-time mom, the length of time you spend out of the workforce is directly proportional to your earning potential. When I climbed back into the rat race after raising our children I had to start at the bottom again. It took a lot of hard work but in 9 years I built my career back to a place where I earned a respectable salary. When it comes to the ability to be self-sufficient in the event you find yourself without a mate, earning potential is a big deal. It's not a sacrifice that should be ignored by you or your spouse.
Unfortunately, it was about the same time I was reaping the financial rewards from my career that I found out that my ex was having an affair. Eventually, I chose to divorce him, which was sad given the longevity of our union (27 years), but at least it was my choice. The real tragedy is women who are forced to stay with their unfaithful spouse because they can't support themselves. It's infinitely worse when they're abandoned to take care of their children alone and with no financial support.
Growing up, my sister and I were fortunate to have parents, mostly my mom, that emphasized the importance of retaining our independence even after marriage. It was a message delivered to us from the time we were zygotes until we moved out of our home. While most of our friends were being urged by their parents to marry a doctor; mine were encouraging us to become doctors. We were very lucky.
It's time all daughters heard the same message. It could be the difference between a rough landing or an outright catastrophe.
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