Divorce, Single Parenting, Dating, Sex, & Self-Recovery

Posts tagged “stay at home mom

Marriage and Money: A Fairy Tale

stay at home mom dreamsMaybe I seemed rich to the first two women who became my wives. Perhaps my downtown condo, and simple lifestyle appeared to be something other than it was. I had/have potential, yes, but the real world has a way of changing the game on you, frequently and with indiscriminate outcomes. Maybe the fairy tale went something like this:

  1. Marry a fine gentleman of money.
  2. Have children in a nice house in a top school district.
  3. Stay home and work on parenting and yoga.
  4. Hire weekly housekeeper and part-time nanny.
  5. Live happily ever after.

Something always changes. And when the plans were reset in both marriages, the “stay and home and live the life” part didn’t work out as planned. I had hopes. I had means, during various periods in my life. I still have promise and opportunity. To hone in on the mother of my children, there was never any resistance to working. In fact, for much of the early stages of our relationship she made more money than me. (Yay!) And we had a coordinated idea of how we would finance the children and give her the “stay at home” life, as much as possible. We both agreed, we would like one of us (Mom) to meet the bus when the kids began going to school. And when they were infants, well, of course she would stay at home with them. That’s how we imagined it.

The fact that my dad died of a 4th heart attack and cancer at the age of 55 is not lost on me. But my dad had problems. Mistakes I learned from. Fears I’ve recoiled from. And a devastating divorce I have striven not to repeat.

For the most part, the birthing and getting to school-aged progeny worked. There were some tumbles, mainly 9-11, but we soldiered through, as a family. And reached the “meet them at the bus” stage without too much damage to our credit scores. But the dream (examples set by so many lucky wives in our upscale neighborhood) was not fully realised.

She did have to return to part-time work. We still maintained the nanny and housekeeper, but mid-day yoga classes would have to wait. (Bummer.) And I was bummed. I thought that the dream I saw paraded in the HEB and at our kid’s schools, the cars, the house, the fit-happy-zen wife, was supposed to be within my earnings. I needed to earn a bit more.

So I travelled the big corporate route, to seek relief, for my suffering and the suffering of my family. But even that wasn’t fulfilling the dream. Sure 20-hrs a week beats 50+ with a 2-hour daily commute, but it wasn’t a competition, it was a cooperation. Still, the dream was suffering. I was suffering. I think the wife was suffering. My suffering had to do with my childhood and my father’s extraordinary success. And through many gross legal stories, 15 years after his death, my inheritance was null and void. But I grew up in the most famous house in our town. While things were never very happy there, the outside world must’ve thought we were living the high life.

While I was hammering away and being hammered from both the job and the wife, she was actually losing money? Tough times, yes, but perhaps her encouragement of my career had just a twinge of self-motivation behind it.

Aspire as I might, I won’t likely achieve the financial riches my father accomplished by the time he was 40. The fact that he died of a 4th heart attack and cancer at the age of 55 is also not lost on me. But my dad had problems. Mistakes I learned from. Fears I’ve recoiled from. And a devastating divorce I have striven not to repeat.

Back to me and the ex-y. So, things change. The big corporate job (which had be getting grayer and fatter by the week) went through a major contraction in anticipation of the 2009-2010 financial collapse.

While I saw this as a golden moment to redefine our lifestyles and priorities, my then wife, was panicked. And the road ahead WAS hard. But I imagined that together we would survive and ultimately thrive again. Of course, the economy was hard for everyone, not just us. And the job market was fragmented and getting more ageist by the year. What had been an asset (we’re hiring you for some of your wisdom) became a badge of failure.

I was heading towards 50 and interviewing with 30 year olds. My gray hair had to go. And on the financial front, things didn’t work out as planned there either. The ex-y was fired just days after the big corporate layoff was announced. The good news: my fat corporate job provided for 6-months at full-pay, with benefits, and 70% of my annual bonus. The bad news: with the ex-y out of work that windfall would be eaten away in three months.

Okay, so the work was set out for us. And it was hard. COBRA payments for child insurance are very high. Occasionally we were paying almost as much for our mortgage. And the job hunt was challenging. At one point, nearing a crisis, I sold most of my music equipment to make a couple of mortgage payments. (It was bit like O’Henry’s story, but I wouldn’t know that until later.) Dark times.

And then another fat corporate job came through, for me. This time with even more promise and excitement than before. The ex-y went through some kind of mid-life work reassessment and fished around for multiple job ideas, considered going back to school to learn coding. I shipped off to San Francisco on my first day on the job, to meet the creative team I would be joining. The relief didn’t really come soon enough.

The ex-y was fighting with me on the phone, during my second day in San Francisco. She was demanding to know when the insurance would kickin, when I would get my first full check, and why I had put the room on my credit card. Sure, she was feeling the heat. And sure, she had been paying the bills over the previous six months, while looking for herself and satisfying work. (That’s what we all want, isn’t it, “satisfying work?”) B

ut the proof came out later, something I was unaware of, being focused on breadwinning and not the daily bread. When we pulled the information together for the last year of our joint tax return she actually had a negative contribution to the family budget. WHAT? While I was hammering away and being hammered from both the job and the wife, she was actually losing money?

Tough times, yes, but perhaps her encouragement of my career had just a twinge of self-motivation behind it. See, if I would just get that big corporate job again, we could return to normal, “meet the bus after school” part-time livin. Except that’s not what happened.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

An earlier run at the Stay At Home Mom story

Note: After an early morning chat with my talky therapist, I’ve come up with a catch phrase to frame the renewed attitude of detachment from my ex-y and her future struggles. “Oh, I’m sorry that didn’t work out for you.” It’s more compassion than I ever got from her while I was struggling, and certainly more than I got yesterday. I guess I have to consider the worst outcome and at least have that in mind. I suppose she could have me thrown in jail for not giving her the money I don’t have. I’m already skating above bankruptcy and just trying to keep a roof over my head and the heads of my children. But I suppose she might do it.

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And a wonderful song about it all from Blur, Country House.

country house from blur

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Breaking Up and Getting Over It: Someday We’ll Know

creative commons useage http://www.flickr.com/photos/34864643@N00/4649142787Tonight was one of those nights when you see your ex, and you think, “Thank god I have been released.”

It’s not that she’s suddenly become unattractive. Or that she’s doing a bad job at being a co-parent. (Hammering me for money is another thing altogether.) But there’s a hardness that I hadn’t noticed before. She’s gotten too thin. And kinda mean looking. (This is not meant to be a rag, sorry.)

She also looks very professional, and I am grateful that she seems to be thriving in her current job. As we no longer combine forces, she no longer has my sympathies, but I respect her hard work. She’s always been a dedicated worker.

But tonight, watching our son perform in orchestra, I was glad she came to sit next to me and then decided, “I need to be closer where I can see,” to move towards the front. I had a nice side view of her intense face. She was staring into her phone. (Seems to have become more and more the mode for her.) Perhaps she was exchanging chats with her lover. Perhaps racy emails with her girlfriends. Who knows. But what I saw was a complete disinterest in what we were doing at the school. It was a check box. A task that needed to be completed at the end of the school year, like so many other tasks. And it was the last event that was keeping her from her night with her lover, before a weekend where SHE HAS THE KIDS.

It really must be odd, and I don’t know the feeling, of wanting to be elsewhere when your kids are around.

I should have been the one working late, not her. If I had been a better provider, she wouldn’t have to work so hard.

My daughter said something tonight, about how there was never any food in the house. “L the babysitter always goes to the store for dinner stuff, and there’s never any left overs.” Now, my daughter, who was saying this, has a tendency to be dramatic. But she was sharing a glimpse into the life that my ex-y has constructed.

I know it well. When she got on the work train, while we were married, there were many times when it was assumed I would feed, read, and put the kids to bed. I was being her “wife.” Well, I was grateful again, that she was employed. And I would do whatever I could to make a nice house, a nice leftover plate for her, and a bunch of smiling (from bed) kids for her to return home to.

And, god knows, there were even more times when she was performing this type of 100% parenting for me, while I was working late. But there was some different tone about the entire thing.

For me, it was more acceptable. Like the man at work, the wife at home making dinner. While I spent a number of years at a large corporation, it was a lot easier for her to work less than full-time, and spend a lot of extra time with the kids, at their school, doing projects at home.

When she was working late, by contrast, it was kind of dramatic. Like there was some great urgency that was keeping her at the office. And some sense that it was quite unfair for her to have to be working so hard.

WAIT A MINUTE!

That was MY INTERNAL VOICE saying those things. It’s dawning on me — right this very minute — the resentment I was feeling was not about her attitude, it was about mine! WTF? Seriously? I should have been the one working late, not her. If I had been a better provider, she wouldn’t have to work so hard.

Maybe she played into my shame, a little. I don’t know. But I can now see this was MY SHIT not hers.

In the discussions with women, of our age, about who they are meeting in their dating lives, what I get is that most people our age are cynical and bitter.

I’m wondering if my scoffing at her taut looks tonight is also a product of my shame. I’m asking myself, “Sour grapes?’

I don’t think so. BUT, she was the best thing I’d ever had up to that point. She stayed with me through the toughest times in both our lives. And then she gave up on me.

No, for that I won’t be forgiving her. For the release from a sexless and joyless marriage, I have to thank her. I won’t be putting up with that again either. Ever.

And that’s the wonderful thing about the story. Even if I don’t know the ending, what I do know is the possibility is out there. GF #1 showed me what it feels like to really be adored. I CAN HAVE THAT AGAIN. And I actually deserve it.

In the discussions with women, of our age, about who they are meeting in their dating lives, what I get is that most people our age are cynical and bitter. I am always complemented on my POSITIVE ATTITUDE. “You’re so positive.” or “So much positive energy.”

It’s not exactly the same thing as irresistible, but I’ll take positive right now. And that’s the side I’m showing my kids.

The ex-y also asked me if I would let the kids know about the money shortage as well. As if she needed me to fess up to my own contribution to whatever struggles they were having about “stuff.” I spoke to them tonight about my current situation. I said we could not go to the BBQ place for dinner, because I didn’t have the money for it, and I had plenty of food at home.

“Why don’t you have any money?” my son asked. It was just a point-blank question, no real emotional inflection.

“I have three clients that owe me money right now. And it’s not like I don’t have any money, it’s just that when things get low, I really don’t spend money on stuff like eating out, when I have food at home.”

That satisfied both of them. My daughter, who has become somewhat obsessed with Starbucks, was quiet.

I am positive. I am certain I will continue to dig out of the financial hole the divorce and my subsequent low-times wreaked on me. All systems are go, the work is ahead, the clients are happy. (Affirmation: no low-times this summer.)

And I am positive I will find a more compatible mate. Now that we have this kid thing sorted out, there is only the relationship between me and this new person to sort out. I don’t need anything from them but adoration and the opportunity to adore them back.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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image: creative commons usage – medusa

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Someday We’ll Know – The New Radicals


Sittin Here on Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day confustionSittin here on Valentine’s Day, watchin the comings and goings in my local neighborhood up-scale coffee and wine bar. And I notice her, getting out of a white 535i. She’s wearing her yoga pants, has her dark hair in an athletic pony tail, and bounces out of the car and heads for her sandwich pickup. There is a “guest” sticker on her warmup top, where she’s just come from her kid’s Valentine’s day party. She’s proud, happy, pretty, and it’s a sunny day. All good.

Except there’s something stuck in my craw. What’s the path that creates these young entitled goddesses? And why when I am walking the grocery, in same up-scale neighborhood HEB, do I long after their rocket bodies and astral attitudes? I think of the Mathew Sweet song, “But does she talk?”

So I long for them. But I also have a bitterness about them. And I want them. And they represent the affluence I aspired to when I was married. But there they are, and here I am. And something about their entire life path seems trivial to me. AND… Truth is, I know nothing about them, their marriage, their career, their path in life. I know about things.

  1. They are young and beautiful. (is this the rub?)
  2. They have ample money and ample free time. (Don’t we all wish for this?)
  3. They love their children.

What is it about this culture that has me lusting after these young bodies and beautiful smiles? And what same culture has me bitter (just a little) about my path in life and the fact that I didn’t get to accomplish the financial prowess of my father. (Yeah, but how did that end up for him?)

So, this sweet young thing, hops back to her $50,000 BMW and buzzes off to what’s next in her life. And I know nothing about her. But I want to be her… what? Her husband? (Um, a bit too worried for that.) Her lover? (What would I do with her once the sex was done?) I want to be her… DAD? I’d love to be able to provide the life for my daughter that I would’ve hoped to have provided for my now ex-y.

There is some double standard going on, that has many of us a bit confused.

If they are too pretty or too successful or too… something. They are either spoiled brats or kept trophy wives. It’s MY sickness. It’s our culture’s sickness.

Aspire to a woman with a great body and a great mind. Pray, exercise, work, improve. But when you seen HER, the IT GIRL. We are angry with her, not desirous of them. HUH?

Sittin here on Valentine’s day, I’m sitting in judgement of other peoples lives, wives, successes, fortunes. And I’ll drop it here and rise above it. But I wanted to express and capture a moment of my own confusion, and acknowledge the conflicting culture we live in. And then I can clearly state, I DON’T LIKE JEGGINS.

So happy single day, to my single friends. And happy Valentine’s Day to those who have significant others. And I’ll focus on my 10 yo daughter today and get my mind out of the BWM and LuLu Lemons. But I’m aware there is a problem.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Trying to Talk About Sex: Texting In Bed

trying to communicate about sex - before the divorce

this conversation happened in bed in the form of a poem we wrote back and fourth between us

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i’m having sex, 90% of the time alone
so financial crisis moments appear and go away
and I too feel fatigue when my trustworthiness is raised again and again
not a crisis
more of a chronic situation of the relationship
weariness of wanting to go in to it

now you have to put some stuff in.

also weary of the dialogue around sex – frequency
my time is so spoken for
i don’t see that changing
if we could actually put every moment spent on considering the vectors of the situation of not that much (together) sex
in to crafting a situation where it could happen
we would create actual sexual encounters.
i get weary of focus on my not meeting your needs for sex
pretty much feel like your framing of the issue is you want more sex
so what can we do to get me available for more sex
and that this framing is in your mind
not expressed so much by action

In my (quite open to possibility of distortion on my part) world, I am a)working, b)sleeping, c)doing a mission-critical thing for kids, d) doing some other mission-critical thing (house, etc). Not really spending any bandwidth researching the dynamics of things you are doing or not doing that don’t meet my needs. I do speak up with clear asks, but that’s all I can muster.

so it is frustrating and feels wierd that you have this thing going on where I continue not to meet your needs

at the same time I have no bandwidth left to meet any other needs period.

so do YOU have sexual desire?

yes.

and are you happy with your sex life?

in the context of reality – other real, now dynamics of time etc – sure

then we have a mismatch in desire, wouldn’t you say?

And that is a critical path issue for me. As much as money or housekeeping or kidkeeping is for the WE.

Yes. It is a critical path issue for you to __________________?

Discuss with you what’s missing. What’s wrong with this situation. Evaluate what’s going on. Is it desire? Trust? Money? Work? Housekeeping?

My TXT last Sunday saying, “I’m thinking about masterbating… but I’d rather have sex with you was a good opening.” and we were successful in connecting.

We need more casual wins.

What I am curious about is… how things have changed for you from what I imagine our SEX life was like 3 years ago.

I do not buy the house, work, sleepy idea. Something else perhaps?

What has changed for me is… The “connection” that you were speaking about say 2 months ago
to me the miss or lack is due to lack of contact and intimacy.

Sex doesn’t seem to be a part of that equation for you. Now, of course I am telling you it is. (grin)

Definitely it is a critical path issue for both of us, because you are materially unhappy (altho not in a crisis way) with the frequency and ____________ (connection?) of our sex (intimate?) life and therefore it makes the WE.

The txt was notable to me. so direct.

The not buying about sleepy and house…it’s like the conversation we had where you were asking me: what do you need? And I told you. “To see the numbers.” and that that was really what I needed was so out of range of believeable to you – you didn’t buy it – that it never occured to you to do the numbers, or engage with me to say OK, lets do the numbers now.

But it was true. I needed to see the numbers. YOU never actually need to see the numbers for that particular kind of situation. But I do.

So you ask what would help….per sex….and I nearly always come around to: house (a visually peaceful – that sensuality for me), sleep or workout (that’s body – a key to my sensuality). But you CANT BUY it. Because it’s not your experience of the world, I guess.

I’m empathetic with NOT BUYING another person’s experience. Certainly I miss on this more than rarely.

On the mismatch of desire. Maybe we have a mismatch in the desire for genital rubbing and intercourse v other sensuality. I feel like I live in a world of visual sensuality, and touch, and working out – exertion, and some kinds of foods – beautiful, fresh foods. And then there is sex, like, in bed sex.

And ? for you the sensuality of life stacks up differently. Sex straight UP gets more brain cells – loving the clean curves and surfaces gets fewer. Fresh pinapple, not so much. Ice cream – a lot!!

More pragmatically, there is a cycle we are in that at least does not help. I can’t sleep next to you. When we are spooned, the snoring is so loud – some just because of what spooning does, put your mouth in my ear, I wake up. Then, if I am awake, I have to go to another room. This was not the case 3 years ago.

I don’t have a point of entry in to that situation. Not sure.

You have not told me recently about the snoring and that is the reason you are leaving the bedroom so frequently. I am always happy to apply a breathrite strip. They seem to help. And I need to lose weight. I am actively working on that.

Back a the discussion about what you needed, it was not that I didn’t buy your experience. In fact, we agreed that restarting money discussions was probably critical path.

We didn’t DO the financial plans again until we were reminded by Rick of the critical WE in everything.

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I used to say “It wasn’t my idea,” about the divorce. And in my divorce recovery group I was definitely self-identified as the dumpee. But what was different is I was beginning to express my dissatisfaction with the status quo. Her money-house-tired story had reached the end of my accepting it. I was tired of having sex alone 90% of the time. I was demanding we talk about it.

What didn’t know was she was already in the process of figuring out her options. Probably, in terms of her critical path issues, house and money she was beginning the process of trying to figure out what she would get if she decided to go for a divorce.

When she admitted in therapy that she had already consulted with a lawyer, I was stunned. “Well,” I said. “I guess you are a lot further down the road than I am about this.” And she got motivated to find full-time work and basically created a job within a few months. And then, I suppose she saw the potential for escape from her private hell.

I remember saying to her, once the “divorce” was agreed to, “So you think it’s me that’s making you so mad all the time? And you think I’m going to walk out that door and you are some how going to transform into a happy person? Wow. I think you are wrong.”

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Stay At Home Mom: A Dream Unfulfilled

mother staying at home
I wanted my wife to be able to attend school functions, meet the bus after school, provide the stay-at-home lifestyle that was so common in our neighborhood. And for the first 5 years it was almost so. I went off to work with the expectations that she could provide a nurturing landing pad for them in and around school activities.

We lived in an upper-middle class neighborhood with plenty of affluent families who could afford the one-income lifestyle. And again, we were close. But for some portions of that time she was a part-time working mom. Booking any where from 10 – 20 hours a week.

We could’ve lived across town. We could’ve decided that our time with our kids was more important than the great schools we were affording them. But we didn’t. I soldiered on with my big job with big benefits while she went to mid-morning events at the school, and chummed up with the other less-than-full-time moms. And perhaps that was a sore spot for her too. We were surrounded by couples that had made it. Our’s was a different path.

And she was much better at school events. She handled proctoring the table of first-graders much better than I did. She was never short of ideas for kid-friendly activities. She never passed up a kid’s request, “Can we paint?” It was one of her gifts. She was fearless with the kids.

So it was a slightly dogged dad that I had become trying to support this selective imbalance. And for the most part I was fully on-board and supportive and happy that she had the extra time to be with the kids. But there was a sadness too.

I was sad somewhere deep inside, about not being able to provide as well as my dad did, making the nice home, nice neighborhood, nice stay-at-home wife. And sometimes when I would visit the school in place of my wife, I would feel guilty, like SHE was supposed to be there not me. And somehow it was my fault that she was having to work and I was filling in.

But the reality is this: I deserve time with my kids as much as she does. I gave up my ability to proctor classroom activities for a shot at allowing her to be there. There are plenty of families in our school district who have two working parents. And we had certainly achieved an agreeable fit. At least that’s what I felt about it.

Today I visited my daughter at school for lunch. She didn’t know I was coming. I didn’t really plan it out, I just looked at the schedule and noticed that her lunch was at 12:4o and off I went. She was delighted to see me. She proudly quizzed me about her friends names and laughed with them as I couldn’t remember any of them. And we sat and chatted with the group while she ate.

Looking around the cafeteria there was one other man in the room. I was in the realm of women and children. But the sad tone did not creep into my thoughts. I was happy to have the time to visit, I was happy my daughter was doing well with the divorce, and I was happy to be able to know that the value I provided was over and above any income bracket or nice house. What I provide for my daughter is a solid male example.

I left before the lunch was completely over. The table was getting excited at the anticipation of going out for recess. I high-fived my daughter and said, “I’ll see you after the bus today, at your mom’s house.” I was picking up my son and my daughter was choosing to stay at home with the very cool babysitter. And we were happy with the arrangement.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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