I was raised by a single mom in the swinging sixties. She never graduated from high school and life was very difficult for us or to put it bluntly, we were poor. My mother seemed to have been fashioned after Blanche DuBois from A Street Car Named Desire: she was always relying on the kindness of strangers and never on herself.
So growing up we never had enough money to fix the things that needed fixing. Emergencies always decided which bills we wouldn’t pay in order to pay for the new ones that constantly came up. I knew from a very young age that I didn’t want to make the same mistakes my mother had. I promised myself that my adult life would be different. I would become more than self-sufficient, I would have a career!
I found my role model while watching my favorite TV show: Bewitched. Not Samantha the beautiful stay-at-home witch but Darren her mortal husband who just happened to have a career that looked enjoyable and made enough money to support his family. So I decided to work hard toward my goal of a career that would at the least, pay bills. I became the first person in our family to not only go to high school but graduate from college as well. I started working for a company and planned to use my college degree to move up through the ranks into the position I desired.
My career was important to me. I thought I had planned so carefully, I enjoyed my work and the friends that came with it. What could possibly go wrong? Then I met the man who would become my husband.
He seemed very supportive while we were dating but after we were married his attitude changed. He wanted to move to another city and I remember asking why we couldn’t pick a place that would be beneficial for both of our careers. My request didn’t matter and it fell on the deaf ears of my husband who didn’t utter a word. There was no conversation and I didn’t receive any explanation as to why my career was no longer important.
We moved and every time I started another job that could possibly lead me onto another career path, I was pulled away to help him achieve his. Then we had children and he told me that helping him “earned my keep” such an old fashioned statement coming from a supposedly modern man.
I felt gullible that I had abandoned my dreams for his because, in the end, he didn’t care. He didn’t appreciate the sacrifice I had made because he didn’t think of it that way. My life was not important to him. Then he found someone half his age and I was replaced. Just like that, after 24 years I lost my new “job” and my husband at the same time.
As an older woman away from the job market for so many years, I knew it was too late to go back to my prior career. A vocational counselor confirmed my fears. I also knew that if I hadn’t given up my career I wouldn’t have felt such anxiety when he decided to leave. I would have still had something I loved doing and money to support my family.
Like my mother relying on the help of strangers, I had to rely on attorneys to ensure I received enough alimony to survive. Even worse I felt like I had become my mother even though I had tried so hard not to.
I don’t believe in looking back for too long. I lost my career but gained two amazing kids who hopefully will turn out to be smarter than their mother and for that, I will be eternally grateful!