[If you like this IHTM contest entry, comment to that effect below and that will help the writer win big money. Feel free to critique below too, so we can weigh that in our decision. ]
When I decided to divorce my husband, I fully believed with all my heart that the road ahead for my children and me would never be as difficult or dark as that day.
My journey moved us forward, to freedom, to endless possibilities, to happiness and security and life full of breath and hope. Even though I understood divorce would bring confusion and sadness to their hearts and would alter their lives forever, I knew it was the only way they would ever be able to experience life beyond the controlled parameters he constructed around us.
Over 3 years have passed since that day the divorce was granted. Today we are currently involved in the court system over custody. He is also involved in the court system for failure to pay child support. Although he was employed during our marriage, after our divorce he has been scarcely involved in the workforce.
Did you know that there is no infrastructure to protect women and their children from financial deterioration at the hands of an ex-spouse who decidedly refuses to contribute to the financial life of their children? I guess that’s not truly accurate, there are child support enforcement agencies and prosecuting attorneys that work on recovering child support, but their timeline is not in real time, and real life in real time requires real support.
Since the divorce, I have had interactions with law enforcement, debt collectors, and case workers in various circumstances related to my financial problems and efforts to regain a positive financial path for myself and my children.
Shockingly, the message I’ve received over and over again goes something like this: “Well you married him so you are gonna have to figure this out." Followed by, "We will send him a strongly worded letter advising that child support payment has been assigned to him” months/year after the judgment for child support payments was issued.
This process can break a spirit that was once strong enough to pull herself and children out of the depths of the blackest place of control and launch them all into the bright sunlight of hope and freedom.
I’ve lived in fear, knowing I’m not surviving financially. There are no frills, nothing extra at all ever. We have nothing for savings, nothing for emergencies, no vacation not even “staycation,” not enough for food and meds in a month for all of us. My income disqualifies me for state assistance.
We’ve been blessed with donations from our church and from people in our lives with clothes and food. My mother has supported us with food and supplies I simply could not afford over the years, and I am acutely aware financial support from her comes directly from her current living funds or her retirement funds.
The structure of our society demands, nay forces, me to cover financial obligations assigned to my ex that he simply refuses to pay. Because my mother doesn’t want us to starve, go naked, or lose our housing, she has taken on financial burden as a direct result of his choice to dismiss his responsibility.
How do you live life everyday in an everyday way when a problem that has no solution incessantly consumes your inner conversation? I am constantly worrying if there will be enough food this month, or if I can afford essential clothing even with donations and thrift store shopping, or how I will find the money for absolute basic toiletries, or what will not be paid without disconnection in order to pay for co-pay and medicine for one of my children.
I have found myself standing in the most economical grocery store with a finite amount of money, frozen in place at the sight of all that we need but cannot afford. With the work “finite” reverberating in my head maddeningly while I attempt the math and the groceries with the goal outcome of exactly enough food for an exact number of days.
All while knowing there is no plan on what to do on the day after that plan ends; understanding there will be nothing left over to roll into the next hideously small food budget you will work with next.
Normal everyday conversations take place around me, but I hear them in terms of money, how much food, clothes, activities, services cost that people discussed and how amazingly mind blowing the knowledge was that I could afford none of it and there is no real finish line to cross into this everyday affordability.
This is not a case of “keeping up with the Joneses,” this is my experience in a life that is void of financial security, mostly due to the ability of my ex to ignore all responsibilities for the family he created with me, not only ignoring the children’s financial current needs, but future needs, and ignoring the financial responsibilities assigned to him by our divorce decree, which were given to provide a foothold for me to center and build security for our children.
Without it, I’ve been dancing as fast as I can but slipping every time my feet meet the floor.
I know my story is not rare, and I know there are many who have harsher struggles than my children and I do. My question is, why is this okay? And if we don’t believe its okay, then what can we do? What should we do?
Women and children are brilliant shiny beacons of hope and love and amazing beauty, why does our word insist on quelling them? Who will help? Where is the change? I feel like shouting out all the time, “I am a person, I have value, I have worth, I have contributions for this world, I matter, Please allow me to be me!.”
I already know all of those things about myself, and I do fight to come through and to be more than my struggle. I love my family and give to them endlessly, I work to be present in the world, to work for change and to help the world because it is in my heart. While this is my truth, I feel like so very much of me is consumed by the injustice of our situation.