Mommy Wars: Being A Stay-At-Home Mom Bankrupted Me

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When I was 13 years old my mother gave me this advice: “always earn your own money.” Because when my dad left she had been a stay-at-home mom for 11 years.

I had been married for eight years and at that moment was seeking employment. To keep busy I did the administrative work for our home-based business.  After several months of fruitless searching, I found myself pregnant with my mother’s words ringing in my ears.  I dismissed them as I had a great marriage, or so I thought.

There were two aspects of my marriage that always bothered me: 1) what was important to me wasn’t important to him and 2) we could never agree on money.  I was a saver and he was a spender.  Not to say I won’t spend money.  We just allocated it differently based on our priorities.

For some reason it was OK that we didn’t have any real common interests.  I read, he gamed.  I baked, he watched baseball.  I yardsaled, he slept.  So what did we do together?  We ate out, went to the movies, travel led.  We were TV buddies and occasionally we would play Scrabble.  I thought it was normal that we each had our own lives and only shared a small part.

I also did most of the household chores: cooking. cleaning, groceries, garbage, laundry, gardening, etc. and the season tasks: cleaning out the garage, decorating the house for Christmas, etc.  I rationalized his job was more important than mine and he needed more downtime than I did which is why I didn’t ask, or demand, he be a real partner and participate in managing our home.

I knew no marriage was perfect so to ensure our marriage would always be strong, I read every self-improvement and self-help book out there.  I figured if I did everything just right, we would grow old together.

The real disintegration of our marriage began after our daughter was born.  I had no help from Charles.  I was responsible for 100% of the childcare so much so that if I went out, even if he was home, I had to get a sitter.  Plus I was still doing all of the above mentioned household tasks and beginning to build my own home-based business.

Slowly all the shared pastimes disappeared, the sticking points grew larger, and I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t have time for Charles when he wanted it and vice versa.  We grew further apart to the point where I was all alone in our marriage.

When I had finally had enough, I asked for a divorce.  When Charles asked why, I gave him a myriad of reasons — most of which he couldn’t remember.  He said he would stop drinking.  It turns out he was a high functioning alcoholic and his alcoholic spending was one of the major contributing factors of our financial woes.

I wanted to move out right away, but after spending 10 years at home running our business and offering a very niche service coupled with the recession, finding full-time employment was proving to be difficult. A month after he began his path of sobriety, we declared bankruptcy.  It was less expensive for us to live together until the process was over than separate.  Besides, I was still looking for work.

Twenty-two months later I am still living with my “ex.”  After 20 months of seeking employment I work full-time as a marketing consultant and still run my own business part-time.  I have yet to move out because we cannot file for separation or divorce until after both the bankruptcy and the tax year is over.

I wish I had heeded my mother’s words.

(photo: Shutterstock)