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Surviving Divorce and Unemployment as a Mom of Three

The Secret to Surviving Divorce as a Mom of Three


I was a 40-something mom of three when everything changed: My marriage ended, I lost my job during a company-wide layoff, and then I lost my dad. Suddenly, the perfect little suburban world I’d tried to create and shelter my children in felt like it had been hit by a tsunami. Suddenly, any fears I might previously have had about my kids becoming entitled suburban brats were completely washed away.

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I found myself standing in a grocery store line with a cart full of the food I needed to prepare meals with, and my credit card was being declined. Instead of calls from fellow football moms asking me to host the pre-game pasta party for the team, I was dodging cruel gossip blows on the sidelines. And if it was that humbling and hurtful for me, I could only imagine the comments my kids were enduring on the playground.

But I made a decision: we would not be victims bemoaning our losses. We would be travelers on a new adventure seeking the pieces of our lives we could still be grateful for. In looking at what lay ahead through a lens of gratitude, we would transform the adversity. We would embrace the blessings and simple pleasures coming our way.

Struggling to Pay the Soccer Dues. . . and the Mortgage

That all sounds great, doesn’t it? But how do you tell a ten-year-old that you don’t have the money any more to pay travel soccer dues? Or a tween daughter that she can’t go to the nail salon, when that's what all her friends are doing? And as thoughtful as the albums that I created for Christmas that year were, the ones that showcased each of my children’s lives and strengths, they were certainly disappointing gifts for a five-year-old who was hoping Santa would bring her a new bicycle. How do you create Christmas morning smiles when the person you used to split the bills with is taking you to court and you’re struggling to pay the mortgage?

It wasn’t easy, but I was determined to instill thankfulness for the simple things in life in my children, or as writer G.K. Chesterton says, to teach them about “taking things with gratitude and not taking things for granted.” To get them on board I had to practice what I wanted to teach. If I wanted my kids to face adversity with courage and resilience and to be thankful for what we had in our lives, I had to practice and teach daily.

Practicing What I Preached

Here are the ways I tried to teach the lesson that where there is something to be grateful for, that there is always hope:

Be vulnerable. Instead of playing Pollyanna and ignoring the despair, I acknowledged the stress and talked about the good and the bad in the situation. I let them know that we were going to focus on the positives — the friends and family who were helping us.

Be grateful. I talked about what we did have — our house, our health, our friends. I tried to make the simple moments — like going to the pool or making homemade pizza — special, and to talk about how grateful I was that we could all be together doing these everyday things.

Pray. I sat down with my kids and asked them to think about praying for what they were grateful for. I created a simple statement to inspire their thinking: “I am thankful for…..” At the dinner table, I would try to mention two or three things that had happened that day that I was grateful for, and I asked them to do the same. 

Join forces to do good. We started inviting other families (divorced moms and their kids) over to dinner or on an outing with us. In the words of Circle of Moms member Cassandra S., who also believes that families experiencing hard times should focus on helping others, “Show them people who struggle, teaching them to donate and volunteer. Feeding the poor, cleaning up a rundown neighborhood or volunteering with Habitat for Humanity — things of that nature help open up their eyes.”

Facing Fear

It’s hard not to be pessimistic when the future is uncertain, or when we’ve lost someone we love, but the fear grows if that is what we focus on. That certainly was the case when my family went through the ripping apart of divorce, the loss of my father, and my unemployment. But perhaps because I was a mom, I knew I could not let the fear overtake me or my kids, that it was time to ask myself and my kids what we had to be grateful for. We put one tentative foot in front of the other and moved through the unknown to what was about to unfold. Somehow we attracted all the blessings we have today. And, I am grateful to witness the joy and gratitude my kids embrace daily in the simple things in life. Because of what they went through and how we approached our setbacks with humility and appreciation, they now have a tool they can depend on throughout their lives to help them meet the challenges along the way with courage and grace.

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KimChristopherson1370142484 KimChristopherson1370142484 3 years
My son and I have had a tradition since he was very young to talk about dreams before going to bed. Basically it was prayers, but as time when on it was all about wants. Your post gave me a light-bulb moment, it's not about wants, it's about gratitude. So tonight I am changing the way we talk about dreams. We are going to start talking about what we are greatful for, instead of what we what. Single mom here, never married to my son's father, raising him alone, without visitation or involvement beyond established child support that is sporatic at best. Job loss, home owner, winding down as a full-time student, and now job hunting. Talking about what we are greatful for each night instead of what we what in life, makes all the sense in the world. Thanks for sharing.
William-Leon-HarnsberryII1366576310 William-Leon-HarnsberryII1366576310 3 years
Hello everyone, my name is William. I do realize that this group is for women primarily and I joined because I can relate to some of the stories I've read especially dealing with the topic in this discussion. Divorce is hard and anyone who claims or speak about it like it's not, they must be the sap on the better end of the stick. For me the pain and loss wreaked havoc on everything in my life, and it hurt sooo much that after all the years of being there for who I thought I would be able to spend the rest of my life with had turned out to be a betrayer. It made me question myself as to why should I be the type of man that would be the one that women are looking for in a husband, strong, provider, listener, protector amongst many others that can be mentioned. And yes I paid attention to my mother as to how to treat a woman and be there for her through thick and thin. Now when your world gets turn upside down and shredded, what is a person to do, the pieces definitely have to be picked up, how do you start again after the storm? For me the answer was face it day by day. Loss of family, happiness, home, job along with other things. For me the absolute worse was coming to an empty house that used to be filled sound and not hearing anything at all, just a deafening silence that crushes your inner core. I was never taught to stay down and to always pick myself back up and continue forward so I did just that. Material things can be replaced, trust on the other hand is a more difficult one to do that for. Job, that may or may not be so easy but there are opportunities around and I'm so glad I had been introduced to the company Ardyss and now after going through the fire, I feel better and more secure than ever before. This is openly available to anyone and everyone but for the people that face or have faced what I have gone through, this will bring great change to your life as It will change forever. I invite you to come see what I'm talking about, and I have to give all thanks to God and my mother for being the main ones that have molded me into who I am, take a moment and visit http://ardysslife.com/rwh2 and follow the opportunity tab in the middle of the page and see for yourself how you can change everything about your life as well. Thank you for listening to my story because I mean for it to bring hope to all that may be faced with the darkness. God bless you all.
Chrisdee Chrisdee 3 years
Thank you Mary Beth for sharing your journey. You have provided both inspiration and insight to a fellow 40- something, recently divorced mom with a young child.
mamaof03 mamaof03 3 years
Been there and done that! I to left with 3 children, 3,6 and 9 ,13 years ago! I was a stay at home mom! No college degree an left wondering how I was going to make it! Well we did! I am blesses with 3 amazing children who are better behaved, caring and more giving than many who come from a home with both parents! We are still learning and growing but we are making it !
EllenMcGrath EllenMcGrath 3 years
Have you seen the movie "Pollyanna" played by actress, Haley Mills or read the book? She is exactly as you expressed that you want to do - find gratitude in life. It is such a heartwarming story. I love the story. My condolences to you in the rough time in life you are experiencing. It sounds like you have done some soul searching and found many things to appreciate and are beginning to build new friendships. Networking with others who experience the same trauma is good. I think the children can go without some of the perks they had when there were two incomes. If they see you are struggling they should understand. Maybe your extended family could pitch in and help for special sports expenses.
JanetAvila54751 JanetAvila54751 3 years
how do you get the strength?
Jennifer8096264 Jennifer8096264 3 years
To BeckyBlanksvard I am sorry to hear about your predicament, but this is an excellent chance to think outside of the box. Many women are working online, reselling, opening shops, advertising, and getting paid to link to vendors. I know it sounds scary and there is no guarantee of a stable wage, but it is easy to work around your schedule and you can save on expenses (lunch, gas, etc.). Perhaps involve your son in the work that you do and make things fun. Ultimately all that matters in life is that we strive to be good people, fight for righteousness, and seek faith in God. The rest will fall by the wayside. May God grant you future blessings~
lisalloyd17213 lisalloyd17213 3 years
Your post only asserts the truth of how strong and superior women are. That somebody could even dream of leaving a negative message leaves me stunned. I've done the sole parent thing and you are so right. The 'happily' married ones don't understand at all. I've been so broke I've had to push my son in a pram 5 miles to a daycare centre that I knew gave them 3 meals day. (I just went hungry). The difficult part is undeniably the facade we have to keep up. The reward of course is seeing the compassionate and kind people we manage to create in our children.
Terry8096161 Terry8096161 3 years
@TeresaBoyles, Your "thought" on forcing happily marries couples into your situation is asinine. So your married friends don't understand your life? Guess what...you don't know theirs. All families have their own hardships. What you see on the surface may not reflect reality. To have the desire to force hardship on someone else because of your own poor life choices is disgusting.
TeresaBoyles TeresaBoyles 3 years
This story is a good one. It brings me back to the thought I had years ago that all happily married couples with children should periodically be forced to each spend a month without any help from the other parent. I have been a single parent since I was 20. I am familiar with all of this. It is second nature to me. All of my happily married parent friends do not understand. Cannot understand. I hope this opens the eyes of those who take for granted all that they have.
VictoriaLancaster69946 VictoriaLancaster69946 3 years
Thank you for this. For those of us struggling with loss, this article is very helpful. Blessings to you.
EricaForbes EricaForbes 3 years
I have a five year-old son and I'm currently pregnant (catagorized high risk) and constantly ill. I do have a full time job that, thankfully, is pretty secure. I thought I had a stable marriage until my husband decided he wanted to drink, smoke and be unemployed rather then be a supportive, productive husband and father. I'm excited about moving out on my own, thankful that I have a support from family, friends, coworkers and his family but my fear is what this will do to my precious son. All his life he's known his mommy and daddy and living next door to his grandparents. I'm forced to move nearly an hour away (which isn't too far in the scheme of things) but for a five year old who has always had security and comfort with this family image, I don't know how he'll adjust. We have yet to tell him about the divorce; we're trying to be friends and making this amicable. But any advice on how to break this to a kid his age would help. When my second child is born, my soon-to-be ex will not have visitation or custody rights- he knows that I find him very irresponsible and that the evidence and facts I have would certainly uphold my decision in court- I've asked him to also sing over custodial rights so I could have legal authority of the second baby. While sharing custody of my son, I know this will confuse him- why his baby brother/sister is not visiting daddy and his grandparents like he is. Advice is welcome.
NancyDonaldson NancyDonaldson 3 years
My husband and I had a dream marriage of just over 10 years. We met in our 50's and created the marriage we wanted by taking our hopes and our lessons learned from past marriages. On April 3, 2012, our plans were shattered. He was diagnosed with terminal stage 4 lung cancer. My amazing, handsome best friend and husband died on July 19 at 63. Neither of us were familiar with death that came slowly. Heart attacks, car crashes but not a slow extended death where you keep nervously asking doctors and nurses "how long, how will I know". We just held hands and faced an unknown enemy. I had become disabled so I had my SSDI check. He had a good income so we were ok until he got sick. Since he suddenly couldn't work, his wages stopped. While he slept during the day, I was in another room pleading for our creditors and the utility companies to help us. I didn't know how much time to ask for. We borrowed from family and friends. When he was awake, we talked constantly. There was very little life insurance so we planned a budget for it. We talked about how we met, memories we had made, how he wanted his service and we prayed. He surprised me one day by having the Hospice chaplain come and marry us again. The nurse took pictures. My birthday was July 9 and I was praying to spend it with him. I was up at 2 am preparing his morphine when he began singing Happy Birthday to me in this wavery frail voice. I've never heard it sung so beautifully. I held his hand and talked to him during his final hours. At the end, he rolled this eyes to me and squeezed my hand do softly
Rebecca8095126 Rebecca8095126 3 years
Hi, To all you struggling Moms who had to leave a difficult relationship..please do some reading about Narcississtic Personality Disorder (just google and start reading!). A little education about it can go a long way to helping you heal and also helping you avoid the traps of relationships in the future with other Narcississts. It is one of the more powerful gifts I give my therapy clients to help them heal. Good Luck to you all, keeping moving forward.
obonnie obonnie 3 years
Good for you! That is a lot of adversity to overcome. Your kids are lucky to have a mom with your fortitude. And if there is a bright side, it helped clear petty people and things out of your life so that you can focus on who and what really matters :)
LauraScibetta LauraScibetta 3 years
I was divorced 2 years ago after my ex and one of my daughters kicked me out of the house. I lived in two shelters and a transitional housing place till I met my current husband. When I learned that I could live closer to my college, I had to pack up within 4 hours and move to shelter #2. I told my then 10 year old "we are like Abraham in the Bible...we dont' know what adventure is in store, but we will trust God that it will be better than what we left!" She agreed and we had a BLAST through the rest of our time in the shelter and housing place. She joined groups that did fun things like going to the zoo, swimming, and other fun things. The adjustment with the new father figure has not been easy for my now 13 year old, because he has some issues too, but I have always taught my children to be positive and it makes a huge difference in how they cope I think. ~LauraBeth
BevWhite46229 BevWhite46229 3 years
Brings back memories...I was 44 with a 2 month old and a 16 month old when I left my very abusive and dangerous hubby. Life was a huge struggle and he took all the money.....they are now almost 21 and 19 and have grateful hearts..and say the nicest things about their lives.....my hubby's rights were terminated so I raised them as a sole parent and even taught them that their dad should be loved....it has been a struggle but it has been worth it.....good for you!
BeckyBlanksvard BeckyBlanksvard 3 years
I'm a mother of two a 12yr and 10 yr. I plan on filing for divorce pretty soon from a husband who is very verbally and mentally abusive. The scary part of it for me is the financial part. My 10 yr old has multiple disabilities and health issues and makes it vey hard to find help. I average about 4 hrs sleep every night because my son gets up 1-4 times a night. I end up changing wet diaper pjs and sheets. I can't commit to a 40 hr work week. Right now I work in our school district but only 3 hrs a day during school days. They allow me to work around him and I have same days off. Because the Medicaid program and the disability waiver benefits in our state are one of the better ones I'm told not to leave the state with him from the lawyer, doctors, and his caseworkers for these programs. I have no family here. The state has paid to modify my house to make it safe for my son. If I buy a cheaper house I have to pay for those modifications out of my pocket, they only cover once. If I rent I can't modify. I'm told I need to try and keep the house because of my son. The thought of not being able to financially take care of my kids and the thought of possibly having to put my son in a home so I can work to take care of them scares me. We live in a small town and job options are limited especially to one that will allow me to work around my son. Because of the diabetes if he gets sick we end up in the ER that's 200 miles away and has had to stay in the hospital for at least a day and the longest was a week. What job will allow me to work around my son? Any insight or suggestions would be appreciated.
Shetuck Shetuck 3 years
Thanks, Deb. Your situation sounds similar to mine. Hopeful to see further on down the road.
DebNOhio DebNOhio 3 years
MaryBeth, you have shared some very good down to earth advice. I was divorced 18 years ago. At the time my children were 12 (dtr) & 10 (son). My son was heartbroken and begged me not to break up the family. Today at 28 he will tell you IT was the best thing that ever happened. :) At the time, I had never, ever put myself first. That time I did. I was in talk therapy at the time. I could not decide IF I wanted to end it or stay and keep trying to deal with a verbally abusive husband. My therapist left me with this one question.... "How are your fears preventing your forward progress"? The answer.... 'IF I was not afraid to be out on my own, I would never stay with him.' The love was long gone... it was only fear holding me in place. One thing I did tell my ex.... It was something I had read someplace along the line.... "We might have failed as husband and wife, but we will not fail as parents." We did a good job on the parenting together, even though we were divorced. My prayers for all who are going through a divorce. My children and I did about 2 years of talk therapy. That certainly helped us all.
GloriaJandrew GloriaJandrew 3 years
I am recently separated from my husband. I live with my Mom and sister. I have my almost 8yr old daughter with me. My 15yr old son decided to be with his father. I had him, hoping things will change. He would be better with me. I don't make alot. I am going thru custody/visitation stuff. Then I want to get a divorce. Don't know what is out there for help. Any suggestions would be greateful. I live in Norwood, NY. --MamagloV
marybethsammons marybethsammons 3 years
Thank you to all of you for your comments. I am sorry to hear others are going through this, but I hope if anything this helps you know you are not alone. I think that is one of the hardest challenges is the feeling of isolation and the fear of trying to hold it all together to help your kids survive. I do know now, a little down the road that the gift is having our kids and the rest becomes so unimportant.
elizabethpotter82358 elizabethpotter82358 3 years
You've taught your children the true meaning of happiness - it's family not material things. I have to say that when I read this it was a page from my own life, death of my marriage (divorce) death of my father, and the decision to move across country to survive. Four years later my family is thriving and although it was a tough road to go, it all worked out in the end. Courage to move forward - massive change is what is necessary. :) http://thedivineedge.wordpress.com/
KristinSwitzer55390 KristinSwitzer55390 3 years
Any is supposed to be many
KristinSwitzer55390 KristinSwitzer55390 3 years
This made me think of any people who are facing this same challenge and hope this inspires them to be able to hold their head high and know that things will eventually be okay
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