You could call it post-divorce money madness, or simply bad memories and recurring dramas.
Maybe I should call it as I really see it – crap that keeps coming back to haunt me, serious issues that I can never entirely sweep under the rug, feelings triggered when I least expect and others that are predictable: anger, resentment, fear. The worst among them, momentary hopelessness.
The hopelessness doesn’t last, thankfully. But when I come face to face with powerful emotions that originate in the years during and after divorce, I’m occasionally surprised by the force they retain. And all the calming words I use on myself, the walking, the journaling – hell, even the chocolate – none of it eases the intensity of these exasperating echoes.
What has improved is the amount of time they hang around.
Still… I may want All Divorce Remnants to exit stage left… but I remind you that “moving on” is a myth for some of us, because the past isn’t past – it’s still part of our present.
Angst, Agita, Anger
Recently, in my annual angst and agita over financial reporting required for my college-going son – pouring through the year’s records, documents, and accounts… then moving on to digital entry of the necessary numbers… I feel fury all over again: I am outraged at loopholes in “standard support agreements,” livid at the reality of enforcing what is little more than a promise on paper; desparate at the pervasive fear that I set aside as quickly as I can.
I know the futility and folly of allowing myself to stay so upset for long; I accompish nothing except a spike in blood pressure.
Part of my resentment is the number of hours of productive (potentially paid) time I am required to expend in order to compile this information. On the one hand, I’m glad to do it; on the other, I feel disgust when I revisit the numbers. Moreover, I feel blame, turned almost entirely on myself, when I see how long it has been since my divorce and that I still haven’t been able to dig out.
Sure, we’ve suffered years of a bad economy. Yes, I have a kid still in college. Uh-huh, there was a decade of specific monies not paid and my borrowing to cover them. Yup, I’m of a “certain age” and that makes me less employable in the traditional marketplace.
I know all these factors. I try to stay measured. I shrug off what I must and keep my nose to the grindstone. While I’m delighted when I nab a great client, I continue to face myself (unhappily) in the mirror, seeing no end in sight to the squeeze of financial stress.
The Way We Were?
I think back to the way money was handled in my marriage. To say that I was a fool seems insufficient; damn fool is more fitting. Both my spouse and I made decent money and roughly the same amount, but I carried the larger proportion of expenses, I was the “owner” of any credit card debt, and I never opened my mouth to protest. Somehow, absurdly, I felt like that would be anti-feminist.
Like I said, “damn fool” fits.
Of course I was also responsible for the kids, for scheduling (i.e. downsizing) my career around their needs, but I was still expected to bring in the bucks. Once again, I didn’t speak up. Frankly, I adored being a mother though I also needed the stimulation of the working world. Yet I wanted our boys to get the lion’s share of my attention, especially with a traveling dad.
As I think about the way we were… and were not… I also realize how dreadful we were at real communication. And let’s face it, marriage cannot thrive when communication bites the dust.
Of course, our troubles can be traced to far more than an absence of adequate talking and listening. Our values were out of synch, with money and education two of the “biggies” on which we didn’t entirely agree. And I say that, with a nod to my ex as a brilliant man in many ways, though one who wasn’t willing to shell out the green when it came to learning opportunities for our sons.
Managing Negative Emotions that Linger After Divorce
Don’t get me wrong… He was all for engaging their minds and encouraging their talents, but when he was around and when it suited him, which isn’t so different from many parents. But if it required going an extra mile? If it required digging deep into the pockets?
His attitude was “I’m not going to pay,” and consequently, I did… Money makes the world go ’round, right?
And women and money? Our need for it? Our discomfort with it? Our (frequent?) inability to fight for it?
That left little old me picking up the tab. And that’s how it went throughout the marriage.
Ironically, I told myself it was perfectly okay. He shouldn’t have to pay for something he didn’t think was important, so I would pay… because I did. Hello? Sanity? Earth to Oblivious Working Mother?
In the years post-divorce, both of my kids knew that their education would be dependent on earning scholarships. Naturally, there would be loans, too, but the college countdown for this divorced mom was a hair-raising experience. Thankfully, both kids worked hard, and we were also lucky.
Money Madness: Single Moms Financing Kids College
And so for the sixth year in a row, I find myself cleaning up the papers and neatening files on my laptop, having inched my way through another FAFSA and supplemental reporting required by my son’s university. This is the stuff of a single mom financing her kids’ college. Number 1 is through (at last!); Number 2 has a pair of years that remain.
Like his older brother, he’s a scholarship kid, a loan kid, a great kid and I’m appreciative. Furthermore, the administrators at his school have consistently been professional and understanding.
Like millions of other college students, he works his butt off to maintain his grades, he will graduate in two years carrying a pile of debt, but I also fear he’s absorbed some guilt.
Guilt over what this has cost me – in time, in worry, in opportunities.
And that concern – mine for him – triggers guilt for me.
So I do my bit with the figures and facts and forms. I count my blessings that I won’t have to do this forever. But my fury returns in full force each year.
While an anniversary may still trigger a muddy mix of emotions, this money trigger is clear-cut: unfairness that I carry the burden, disappointment in myself that I haven’t dug out, worry for both my kids for a variety of reasons – including what they have and haven’t learned about Finance 101 – for lack of a better model.
Then again, I remind myself of all the good that has been modeled, and I set aside the negative emotions as best I can, and get back to work.
You May Also Enjoy
- How to Divorce-Proof Your Marriage
- Women and Money: Are We THERE Yet?
- The Myth of Moving On After Divorce
- The College Countdown