A recently-divorced family friend came over a few nights ago. He was going through a rough time and needed to vent/cool off. The night started pleasant enough but as the booze continued to pour, he began discussing his breakup – and things got somber… pretty fast.
According to Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s “Five Stages of Grievance,” my friend is still in the angry stage of his divorce. Though I can’t speak from personal experience, I believe that when it comes to divorce, the anger stage is the most detrimental and hardest to get over.
Anger and resentment are toxic to your mental state and those around you. I’ve witnessed many families make crucial decisions in the throes of anger that had long-term, consequential ramifications. Anger is like an explosive – everything it touches turns to ashes and carnage.
What anger also does is not allow the prisoner of the emotion to think clearly. Everything is convoluted, and decisions and actions pass through rose-colored glasses. Or, I guess in this example, blood-colored glasses.
Our friend was angry in that way you can tell he’s teetering on the edge of dissolving into tears or punching holes in the wall. It’s the kind of visceral emotion that anyone in proximity can feel. Divorce is messy, ugly, and devastating. Anger, while not helpful during a massive life change, is certainly understandable and probably unavoidable.
But as I listened to our friend drunkenly berate his soon-to-be ex-wife, I started to get a little irritated.
To be fair, I don’t know his wife. I don’t know their history or what got them to the point where they decided they could no longer be married. But those details aren’t important to me, and it’s not what got me fired up as I listened to this man discuss the terms of the divorce.
“She wants the house, full custody of the kids, alimony and child support. That selfish b**** never worked a day in her life and now she feels obligated to take all my hard-earned money. This is crap, man. Why do women have to be so damn selfish?”
To be honest, it wasn’t the lack of respect he showed for the mother of his children. It wasn’t the fact that he used offensive, crude terms or that this woman wasn’t there to defend herself (after all, if there’s anything I’ve learned in life when it comes to a breakup, it’s that there are ALWAYS two sides to every story.)
What got my blood boiling is the sentiment that “because she was a stay-at-home mom, she never worked or contributed in any way, and as such, she was leeching off HIS money and had no right to do so.”
Unfortunately, I’ve heard this argument (or something along this sentiment) more times than I can think to count. It’s such a common “dig” at women that it seems to be par for the course.
So, because this seems to be an all-too-common problem, I want to shed some light on the issue. So, I’m going to need all you husbands out there to put down the pitchforks and listen up because there are a few glaring problems with your argument that you seem to overlook (whether purposely or accidentally).
- I assume when you two decided to have children, you as a partnership weighed out the pros and cons of one of you staying home and taking care of the children.
- If you both decided that she (or I guess in some households he) would stay home while the other worked, then it should be incredibly clear to you that this arrangement is one in which you both gave up something. You took on the financial burden so she could be a great mother to your children. She gave up her freedom and a source of income to take care of your children.
- I was a SAHM for the first two years of my child’s life. We were blessed to have the ability for me to do so. However, the change was scary and not just because I was suddenly in charge of keeping a human alive and happy; being a SAHM was particularly nerve-racking because I no longer had full control over my life. I went from making my own money, paving my own way, and paying my own bills to suddenly being COMPLETELY dependent on someone else. Think about that for a second, especially you men out there who worked hard for your money and are proud of your career. Imagine suddenly having to relinquish that. Imagine losing everything that made you secure and gave you your identity for the sake of your family. How scared would YOU feel if you relied solely on another human to make sure you got fed, had a roof over your head, and had the means to take care of your kids. Think about going from being an independent person to suddenly relinquishing that and leaving it in the hands of your loved one. It’s rough, no matter how much you love being a stay-at-home-mom and a wife.
- Now, I want you to think about how much it would cost you if your wife had worked. If you opted for daycare, the cost is about $1,000 a month. What about a maid? Someone has to do the laundry, cooking, cleaning, toilet scrubbing, etc. Maids go for about $25 an hour so, even if you needed a maid once a week to do a good cleaning, it’s probably another $400 a month. You’ll need to pay for swimming class lessons, someone to mow your lawn, shuttle your kids around, go grocery shopping, and take them to doctor appointments. Oh, and toddlers are notorious for getting sick ALL. OF. THE. TIME. so I hope you or your wife can leave work at the drop of a hat because I promise you, you’ll be getting a phone call from daycare at least once every two weeks. These are all the things you have to think about if you don’t want your wife to be a stay-at-home-mom.
- Now, let’s fast forward 15 years, and this woman has been a stay-at-home-mom this entire time and is now getting divorced. You think YOU’RE freaked out? At least you have a means of income. Your wife is now thrust into a world she isn’t used to, suddenly having to do all the things she did before but also being forced to find a job or means of income on top of that. How many employers do you know who hire people who have been out of the workplace for fifteen years? Would you hire a stay-at-home-mom who hasn’t held a corporate job for over a decade? More than likely, the only places that will hire her are on the level of something like The Dollar Store – and such jobs are not going to provide enough for her and the children.
So yeah, guess what? You actually DO owe her half your money. You actually DO owe her alimony and child support. I know it sucks. I know it’ll put a burden on you and I am empathetic to that. But guess what? You signed up for this. 15 years ago when you two agreed she would be a stay-at-home-mom, you should have known that you were putting her in a vulnerable situation and the possibility of divorce would lead to this. You have nobody to blame but yourself.
You can’t ask your wife to be a stay-at-home-mom, praise her for being a wonderful role model while you love her, then, when you decide you hate her, decide it’s unfair that she asks you for half of your earnings. Her survival has hinged on your for year after year after year. I promise you, as much as you are freaked out about how all of this will transpire, so is your wife.
Sell the house and split the equity. Give her what she and the kids deserve. Be a man and stop complaining that she’s out to get you (unless she really is, in which case, refer back to my “anger never helped anyone in life” retort).
I’m going to need you husbands to try and put yourself in your ex’s shoes. I’m going to need you to try and understand that you can’t simultaneously ask a woman to give up her independence and financial security and then get angry when she asks for her fair share later down the road. I’m going to need you husbands to stop referring to you exes as selfish witches because you refuse to take responsibility for your part in all of this.
I’m going to need you husbands to start acting like real men, not little boys.