For the 8 years that my ex-husband and I were together, I was financially dependent on him.
This wasn't by choice exactly. When we met, he was working but I had recently gone back to college after dropping out in order to be an actress and comedienne. I had many professional gigs and successes, but decided that it was important for me to finish my degree. This meant that once I finally graduated, I was 32 and going out into the work field as a career-changer. I found an entry-level job a few months after graduating.
Since we were already in our thirties, we wanted to have a baby. We didn't think this would keep me from working, but it did. I miscarried our first pregnancy and then with our second pregnancy, I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which landed me in the hospital and on temporary disability for the rest of the pregnancy. By the time the baby was born, we decided to have me stay home during the day and teach part-time and write at night, at least for the first year. But then when we decided to try for a sibling for our child, I had to leave my part-time work because I was sick with Hyperemesis again, but ended up losing the baby. At that point, my daughter was 15 months old and my husband was in dire need for me to get back to work for some much-needed financial relief.
I struggled to find work that would cover day care expenses, as well as my student loan payments. My partner was understandably frustrated and having a hard time seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. And me? I was depressed too. I was a smart woman and knew I had much to offer if only the right person would give me a chance. But that wasn't the worst part.
The worst part was being invisible and powerless because of my inability to earn a decent paycheck. Time and again as my husband and I fought, he would remind me:
"I pay the bills. It's my house."
It didn't matter that I was taking care of the house and our child. It didn't matter that I was making a full-force effort to find a good job (applying for jobs, seeking recruiters, utilizing my alumni connections and resources, etc.) and in the meantime working part-time until I found something.
It was his house. I guess I was just merely a guest.
I understood his stress but not as much as I understand now as an almost divorced mom dealing with our own finances. There were many times that I thanked him for working so hard while I got to bond with our child, but there were also times when I didn't appreciate what he was going through for our family and for that I am sorry. But I felt as if there was a constant reminder that because I wasn't working, I meant zilch.
I felt as if what I did as a mother didn't mean anything. He didn't come home and say, "Thank you for keeping our house so immaculate. Thank you for keeping our daughter so engaged and happy." It's possible he thought it inside his mind because he is a quiet guy, but I rarely heard praise or anything positive about me, his wife.
Then finally, my husband and I separated, and I landed an amazing job. I say amazing because my work is family-friendly, stable, and supportive of mothers. I'm not making bank or anything but I Laura Lifshitz, am bringing home some bacon again. Finally, I had a voice to add into the arguments. Sure, I had spoken up plenty when we fought as a married couple but I was powerless. Now, I have power.
I am broke and struggling, but damnit, I have my two cents and I love it.
I am no longer a guest in my home. I am an equal partner in my child's financial needs and future, and even supply her with health insurance. The woman who felt two inches tall is now standing at her "fullest" 5'1 and a half inches.
This week for Valentine's Day, I am seeing a mediator as my ex-husband and I go through our last few mediation sessions. It's not the most romantic way to celebrate, but it marks the start of a new and happier life for me, my ex-husband, and our child.
At the end of the day, I want us to both be financially stable and happy. My daughter needs that. He is a great dad and we have a 60% (me) and 40%(him) custody split and have to work together. It is hard co-parenting at times yes, but is mostly smooth. But I am in a predicament that many Americans are in. I make too much to qualify for mostly everything, yet with a divorce, student loan debt, childcare, and more, I haven't quite figured out how I will pay rent once the marital home is sold or foreclosed. I simply try to live day by day and plan as best as I can for the future.
After the financial stress of a divorce and feeling powerless in my marriage, I have come to the conclusion that if I fall in love again, all I care is that the man can take care of himself...not me. I never want to rely on someone else's dime again...not for my self-esteem and not for my sanity. I want to handle my own money and make my own decisions. I have a small daughter watching me and so I need to teach her to be independent and if I'm not, what kind of lesson is that?
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