You couldn’t save your marriage. Now you’re worried about saving your career.
It’s not only that you need the money, that your family needs the money, or that you have legal debt you’ll be paying off for years.
You need the stability it brings to your life – or has – until now. Your career is about emotional sustenance as much as it is financial survival.
So what happens when the complexities of divorce leave your job or career in a shambles?
You’re expending energy and time with attorneys. You’re pouring over tax records, asset inventories, and disheartening household budgets.
Your children need you now more than ever. You’re spending as much time with them as you can – extra hours once devoted to work – but you know it’s vital to help them through this confusing transition.
Your job is getting whatever is left over.
You show up. You do the best you can. You do it well – and you’re surprised you’re managing. At least you think you’re managing, and maybe you are. But maybe your boss and your coworkers have other ideas about your performance.
Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst?
One of the greatest helpers during divorce? You got it. The understanding manager. But that’s a temporary fix, and not enough. Not if you’re in a high conflict divorce. Not if you’re dragged back into mess even after divorce – custody issues, visitation issues, support issues, manipulations you’re hard-pressed to describe, but that are nonetheless real… and disruptive.
Just as my marriage was unraveling, I was officially laid off in a major restructure, granted a “reprieve” by another department head, but ultimately unemployed as my divorce dragged on… and on.
I was back and forth to my attorney’s office, in and out of court, the only adult to deal with two kids on two schedules in two different schools, I eventually found myself out of a job… going broke and broker, still stuck in marital limbo.
Time and energy to care for kids on zero income? To prep for the next legal maneuver? To simultaneously look for work?
Uh-huh. And I earned each and every one of them.
If you’re in a specialized field as I was, and positions require at least some travel, you’re seriously out of luck if you find yourself bound to court dates, subject to Ex maneuvers, or with children who are having an especially rough time as the divorce (or aftermath) skirmishes continue.
If your adversary is making use of delay tactics to wear you down, puppeteering from afar which impacts your work schedule, again, you may find yourself in an untenable position.
Mental Toughness, Dogged Determination, The Faces of Our Kids
I’d like to tell you that everything fell into place in a matter of a year or two – or even three. I’d like to give you a “happily ever after” story of reinvention. I’d like to tell you that 10+ years later I have, indeed, recovered – financially, at the very least.
But that wouldn’t be true.
I will say simply that we lost a great deal and it was painful. We lost our home, I lost my savings of some 20 years of working, most earned before the marriage.
I lost my ability to trust. I lost my blind faith in our institutions.
I also learned that mental toughness can serve us well – and would wind up using it when I was dealing with teenagers! Dogged determination is never to be underestimated, and the motivation of doing right by my kids kept me going, going, going for as long as it took to get them raised and off to college.
Stay Open to All Options
I did restart my professional life, though a different one, by taking risks and spreading my wings. I also, albeit slowly, came to see the inequities in my marriage, professionally speaking, and I hope this clarity is useful to me in the future.
Some of my post-divorce professional experimentation was dreadful, and some of it was amazing. There have been new directions that I’ve loved, experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything, and lessons acquired along the way.
- I interviewed for everything.
- I wasn’t too proud to try anything.
- I kept multiple pokers in the fire at the same time.
- I focused on retooling old skills and gaining new ones.
- I worked every possible connection – including via online dating.
- I regularly asked myself: What are you good at?
- I learned to ask for help, which admittedly, I still struggle with.
- I came to understand that “reinvention” isn’t a one-time deal.
I mastered the “gentle” positioning of my family situation – but only when necessary. Otherwise, I kept mum. At times, it was important to explain that as a solo parent I wasn’t free to travel other than on an exceptional basis.
We CAN Survive Career Devastation, But It’s Tough
My old career?
Long gone. And in the years since, there have been compromises to sleep, health, friendships, and lifestyle, but never to the quality of love between myself and my children. If anything, I believe they could not be more certain of my devotion, my tenderness, and my respect for the young men they’ve become.
If I had known 10 years ago what I know now, could I have stabilized my professional situation more easily or faster?
Sure, but hindsight is always 20-20.
The main take-away is this: Be creative, resourceful, retool, and reach out. Plan for the worst. I wish I had. It would’ve served far better than “everything will be alright.”
I also recommend you hang on to your friendships, your family, your online communities, and all your support systems. Treat your network well! Their assistance is powerful.
And do seek help. If money is a problem – it certainly was for me – you can find skilled counselors who will offer services on a sliding scale. These include services for you as well as for your children.