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Friday, February 27, 2009

Show Me the Money

I learned something very valuable from my father. Money really doesn't grow on trees. I even tried to prove to him that he was wrong by planting coins in the back yard when I was little. I honestly thought that believing in money trees would miraculously grow one from my coin seeds and was sadly disappointed day after day when I discovered only soil and grass where my tree was supposed to be.

My first job netted me just enough money to realize that if I kept that job, I would soon be owing money to everybody on the planet, because my expenses were far more than my income. I didn't realize that I had to include money the government would be taking out for their share. I found no job where the reverse was true, at least for me. Expenses for raising children far exceeded any income I could have hoped to make with the experience and education I had.

So finding money where none existed was a job in itself for this mom who raised four children virtually alone.

All of my cars had problems so huge that the costs to repair all of them far outweighed their worth. The problems were never anything insignificant – the repairs included engines and transmissions. One day a coworker suggested I look into purchasing a new car since, with that particular car, I was emptying two quarts of oil every day. She was right. I was spending the equivalent of a car payment on oil every month.

But who would lend money to me? When the Consumer Credit Counseling Service tells you that you either work two full time jobs that still won't help and that the inevitability is that you will eventually have to claim bankruptcy anyway, things are very bleak. I used credit cards to buy food and clothes and to pay off other credit cards. I even went to Sears to borrow money from my Discover card to pay my Sears bill. Things were that bad. 

Somehow, maybe because I was desperate and had proof of money I was already spending on oil, I convinced a dealership to lend me the money for a new Hyundai Accent.

I learned to save money on laundry as well when I poured a tiny bit of liquid fabric softener on a rag (the same works for heavy duty paper towels) and discovered it worked as well as fabric softener sheets.

Meals were a problem, too, because my kids refused to eat leftovers. But I noticed that if the food came out of the microwave, the kids thought it was leftovers – if it came out of a pot on the stove, or from the oven, they thought it was new! Sneaking the food from the refrigerator became a game of hide and seek. They ate leftovers without realizing that what they were eating was something I had frozen the week before. Adding a different spice helped too.

More to come...

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Separation Anxiety

My ex and I lived the kind of life that allowed him to go out with friends, to the bar, wherever. I was home with the kids every day, all day, every night, all night. The only time I veered away from them was for a few hours on our anniversary, when his parents would take the children and we would head to the nearest bar so he could drink himself into a coma and applaud himself for "taking me out to dinner." Other than our once-a-year fiasco, where he criticized me the entire time, I was with my kids 24/7.

So the first time my ex took my kids away from me after our separation, I closed the door behind me and slumped in a heap next to the door. Yes, it was I, not the kids, who suffered from separation anxiety. Every minute of those 30 hours was excruciating.

The moment my children returned, I rejoiced, practically smothering them with hugs and kisses. But I returned to my anxiety attacks every week when I envisioned him driving them somewhere in a drunken stupor and killing all of them.

I watched the clock. I slept fitfully. I prayed.

As time passed I developed coping skills for being away from them. During the marriage, everything I did was for him or for them. Everything I  liked was seen through his eyes. I didn't even know what I liked anymore, because my filter was masked with his thoughts, his opinions, and his beliefs.

It was refreshing to learn about myself. I had forgotten who I was. I studied, I spent time with family and friends, and I wrote. Little by little, the anxiety lessened until the day I actually made plans to have fun. It was probably the first time after the marriage that I thought I could.

Bottom line: whether it's the kids or you, time will lessen the impact of the separation. Eventually kids grow up and leave you all over again.

We all need help

As a mother of four grown children, I struggled for years to raise my kids – often in abject poverty and sometimes with little to no child support. Raising four kids was difficult. I can't imagine raising more.

33-year old Nadya Suleman, with the help of assisted reproductive technology, gave birth to eight babies after having already given birth to six other children. Imagine fourteen children wandering around your home.

No question Nadya's decision to follow through with the implantation of 6 embryos was without thought or consideration. But now that her eight new babies are here, she needs help.

As do we all. 

Did we all plan on raising our children alone? Probably not, though I'm sure some, like Nadya, felt they could handle the responsibility. But hard times befall us all. We lose our jobs, we lose our patience, and sometimes we lose our minds. And though we sometimes hate to ask for it, help is all around us if we reach out our arms and hold on.

In this blog, I will impart a lifetime of wisdom garnered from my own trials and errors of raising four children alone.

It wouldn't be fair of me, however, to neglect mentioning all the help I received from my family, all of whom I dearly love, all of whom made life less stressful because of their help. Though I felt ashamed asking for help, I discovered I had to ask, because without their help, my children and I would have been living in even worse circumstances.

From daycare dilemmas to handling bill collectors, I will cover a gamut of problems I encountered, along with possible solutions in my future Help For Single Parents blogs. I hope it helps.

More Help For Single Parents

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