The prevailing belief is that divorce somehow grants us freedom – freedom from a life of unhappiness with a horrible spouse. But there are new culprits ready to tie us down.
Freedom isn’t really free. There are days when you’ll feel down and under pressure. Here is a list of innocent looking balls and chains:
Once you are alone, you realize sickness is no longer an option. You have to be at peak physical and emotional health to handle the role of a sole provider and single parent. There isn’t anyone around to watch your back and bring you soup, unless your retired mom lives next door. Taking time to recuperate is a luxury you can no longer afford.
Now you are the sole breadwinner. That job that you sort of, kind of, didn’t really love is now more precious to you than all the gold in Ft. Knox. Getting let go (for any reason) would be a blow to an already tight budget. And you may have become competent in your position where functioning on auto-pilot is a life-saver for those days when your head is wrapped up with court dates and parenting pressures. Looking for a new job requires time, commitment, and concentration. Sometimes sticking with the Boss Devil you know is preferred to starting out as the New Kid.
Sure, you love them more than anything… but sometimes you need to rest and just “be” for a while. Even the best mom requires some downtime. Life as a single parent doesn’t allow for time alone, especially if you have little to no involvement with the other parent. Kids don’t care if you are sick or have to work overtime, they still require feeding, rides, and help with homework.
All of a sudden you went from retirement with two Social Security payments to a long uncertain future with one. You no longer have a second person to help with the income contributions, or you were planning on saving less because your (ex)spouse had a pension. Either way, you find yourself behind the Eight Ball. Maybe you have a long time frame and can somehow make up for lost retirement funds or you’re in the midst of a gray divorce and come to the conclusion that retirement is no longer a dream you can afford. Getting old is a big ball and chain.
That house you live in? It’s going to be a drag on you at some point. The household upkeep and tasks that you might have relied on your husband/wife to handle, they are now 100% your responsibility. That means mowing the lawn, replacing the roof, making the payments, handling the power outages, and shoveling a long driveway. It also means figuring out what that weird noise in the night is and hoping like crazy that your aging furnace doesn’t fail before you’ve saved up enough cash to get it replaced.
Believe it or not, child support is a chain that securely binds you to your ex-spouse. Like Oliver begging for more gruel, you are dependent on the timely payments of another, especially if you really need that money to make ends meet. Nothing, and I mean nothing, will make you feel more humiliated than calling your ex to find out where a missing payment is while you hear checks bouncing as they hit an account that should have been credited on such and such date.
And if you are on the paying end of child support, it’s a constant reminder that you OWE someone big time, no matter how cheerfully you pay your fair share for your children’s care.
Ah, the double-edged sword of visitation schedules. On one hand, having scheduled visitation is a boon. You always know when you’ll get a day off to do some of the less kid-friendly tasks and activities that come with being an adult. Grocery shopping, a visit to the gynecologist, a car tune-up while you wait at the dealership… artful planning lets you take care of things that might tax the attention span of your toddler or teen.
But on the flip side, it also means you have less flexibility when it comes to vacation planning, parties, and emergencies. You may not see your child on their birthday, Halloween, or Christmas morning. If you’re big into time together, these weekends apart will tug at your heart strings. That trip to Disney World that you envisioned with your children? It may be the same vacation your ex treats them to before you’ve had a chance to pull together the funds. And if either of you has non-traditional employment, you may find yourself a slave to the calendar.
In the words of Janis Joplin, freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. Sometimes these responsibilities of ours may feel like a different cage that confines us, but I don’t think we’d want to lose a single one of them.
It’s still OK to feel overwhelmed.