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It’s Over: How Stay-At-Home Spouses Can Begin Again

A couple of years ago, I wrote this article (and maintained the rights) and published it in SpouseBuzz Magazine online. I am in a very happy marriage; however, I am child of divorce. Watching my mother struggle to begin anew created in me an empathy for women that never went away. Please, read on; share it with your friends. Also, if you have something to contribute, please be sure to comment. Thank you.

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It’s Over: Twenty Tips on What to Do When You Get Very Bad News

The Article You Don’t Want to Read (but probably should)

A very dear friend of mine was given very bad news by her husband of 5+ years: their marriage was over, and there was nothing to be done about it.  My heart hurt for her, as I could easily place myself in her shoes – those of a homeschooling, stay-at-home-mom.

Becoming a stay-at-home parent is a decision made by two people – a committed couple.  One parent agrees to go out of the home to make the money, while the other agrees to stay at home to watch the kids.  The person who stays at home is trusting that their livelihood will be provided by the working spouse, which is no easy thing, as years of workforce experience are lost when an adult stays at home.

When the working spouse decides that the marriage is over, the stay at home parent has their promised future stolen from them.  But after all of the heartbreak and all of the tears, one thing is clear: a new path must be carved.  But how does one do that?  Where does a shaken spouse look to for guidance?

After agonizing over my friend’s situation, I thought to “look ahead” for her.  I sought advice from the people who might know what should happen next: a psychologist, a human resources professional, a financial planner, and divorced women.  Here is what they said:

 

Sabrina Rios – The Human Resources Manager:

“First off, that is horrible,” said the manager (and awesome first cousin of mine) when I told her of my dear friend’s experience.  I wholeheartedly agreed.  Here was the advice she gave me:

  • Don’t try to hide your absence from the workforce in your resume. We’ll spot that in a hurry.  But know that the HR field is full of women, and all sorts of folks who are very empathetic and understanding of disruptive life changes.  Instead, highlight your college degree (if you have one) and whatever work you did that is related to it during your time out of the workforce.  Put any volunteer work you have on there, too.
  • Work on networking! Get a profile set up on LinkedIn, and find your old work contacts – anyone who can vouch for you in a professional manner.  Consider the alumni network of your college, too.
  • As proud as you are (and have the right to be) about being a stay-at-home parent, do not list: “Looking at going back to work after being a stay-at-home-parent for XX years” as an objective on your resume. Employers want to know about the skills you have that they can use.
  • A great place to start looking for work is at a job placement business such as Office Team. There, you will be tested and can possibly be placed for a temporary position.  It is a great way to beef up your resume and work towards a permanent position.
  • Somewhat easy-to-attain skills are proficiencies with Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint. While waiting to find a position, work hard on dominating those software programs.  Managers like me look for those AND test our candidates in those areas.

 

Maria Siconolfi – The Financial Professional:

“This is a very good idea,” said the financial professional (and my tax preparer) when I told her why I wanted this information.  Here is the advice she gave me:

  • The person who has the children more than 50% of the time is entitled to the Head of Household deduction, which is not an item both parents can claim. You do not have to take the child as a dependent to be head of household, though that is solely based on days with each parent.
  • Whoever claims the child as a dependent also gets to claim daycare/college expenses as well as the tax credit. Make sure the divorce decree says who will get to take the child as a dependent during college years.  Most decrees only go to age 18, but there is a deduction up until age 23 if the child is a full time student.
  • Alimony received is tax deductible, but child support is not. Family support will be classified as alimony or child support depending on circumstances, so get in writing how much is allocated to each.
  • It is better to receive higher child support than alimony given the choice.
  • The IRS has a publication for divorced parents; I hope it helps: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p504.pdf

 

Maria Lozano – The Psychologist:

 

Maria, a psychologist with a practice of her own (and my former sister-in-law) had great points for me.  They made me all teary eyed.

  • A rupture or an act of abandonment is a loss. It is very possible for one to go through the stages of loss as described by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: denial, negotiation, anger, depression, and acceptance.
  • Do not isolate yourself. Activate your safety net, or your support group.
  • If you feel as if you might be suffering through clinical depression, seek the help of a mental health professional.
  • Redefine your life! Look for new goals and aspirations.
  • Look for a way to attain closure. For example, burn a break-up letter or delete a voicemail that delivered the bad news to you.

 

The Subject-Matter-Experts: Divorced Women:

 

My divorced friends are some of the biggest supporters for this article.  They are the best cheerleaders and some of the happiest people I know.

 

  • Lisle: “Just keep going.  Keep going no matter how strong the urge is to get in bed and pull the covers over your head.  Lean on your family and friends and let them help you!  From a practical standpoint, seek legal counsel and protect your assets.  And most important for me was to pray.”
  • Jennifer: “You will get through it and learn something from it.”
  • Karen: “For the first few days, I think that I just held tight to knowing that if I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, accepted and let the shock pass through me, trusted my instincts, that clarity would come. Priorities snapped in line very quickly.  Also, don’t agree or do anything until you are clear headed!”
  • Sheree: “Get a really good attorney, and don’t “be nice.” I’m not saying be nasty or anything like that, but you future is very affected by every decision made now.  Try and maintain your routine, too.  It helps.”
  • Tabatha: “When I left (because it was over), the shock and depression had me sleeping most of the day. But I then found a job in a field that I love; I stayed busy with church, friends and family.  Hope was all I needed to get through the first few months, and even to this day.”

 

At first, I reached out to strangers for their “professional” advice, but got a lot of rejection and non-answers.  Then, I thought to reach out to my friends and family.  They did not hesitate or delay to lend me assistance, which is telling.

When in trouble, we should look to our family and friends first, and strangers second.

However, sometimes we are far away from our homes and our family, and that cannot be helped.  What you can do is look to the people we speak to everyday – our neighbors, the people at our churches, the parents of our children’s friends, or even someone we speak to on Facebook.  I know that I’ve been wonderfully surprised at the places where I’ve found friendship.

But if you are someone who needs help right now, please don’t hesitate to comment in this article and ask me (or my friends) for help.  We’ll be happy to listen.

 

Cyndia Rios-Myers

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A New Outlook on Loss

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1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

John  9:1-3

Those were the verses omitted by Father Edmund during last Sunday’s mass.  Father Edmund’s homily following the scriptures had something to do with a blind Jehovah’s Witness, who used his disability as an asset while professing God’s word.  It was a good sermon, I’m sure, but I couldn’t say for sure as I’d gotten lost in the verses of John 9:1-3.

The scriptures were an answer to a question that I’d asked various times over the past twelve years.  Why did no one tell me of those verses when my daughter was losing her battle for life?  Why did every religious person I encountered (save for the priest who gave Kiley her last rites) tell me that if I prayed hard enough and that if I had enough faith that she would or could be healed?  Was it the sight of my ailing, three year old daughter that stayed the words of “God’s Will” in their mouths?  Was I talking to the wrong people?

I did pray for Kiley, as she’d been my savior.  She’d converted a depressed and lonely woman into a happy single mother.

However, I could feel what was coming.  Kiley wasn’t coming back from the one way road that her neurologically degenerative disorder had put her on.  Then there was the voice in my head that told me that I had to enjoy her good times while I could.

I knew what was coming.  It came. It took her with it, but not before I could hold her in my arms one last time.

During her final fight, though, I had a couple of questions for God.  When she was on hourly morphine to deal with the pain and could no longer do anything for herself, why didn’t he cure her?  Why didn’t he take her?

I didn’t get an answer.  I gave it a few days thought and then came up with a better question.  “What lesson am I missing here?” I asked of God.  That time I got an answer.  “The lesson is that she was the teacher and that you were the student,” said the voice in my head.

That sounded right and true.  Kiley passed away days after that.

I learned so much from her.  I learned that my mistakes did not mean that I was unworthy of being a mother, and that being a mother was the best thing in the world.  I learned that if I embraced that vocation, that everything else would fall into place, and it did.  I met my husband when Kiley turned two and was still relatively healthy.  He walked into my heart and into my life with open arms, and never let me or Kiley go.  I learned that I must live life for the people who cannot finish theirs.  I learned that I have to walk and talk in a way that is gentle and kind, as I don’t know the battles that others might be fighting.

And then God graced us with another child – a healthy one, and I was so happy.  I work hard to get everything right.  I am loving, I feed him well, I take him to mass, I teach him how to win and I teach him how to fail, too.  I think about where he might be in one hour, one day, one year, and one decade.  But the most important thing that I do is to tell him how much I love him and how much I love spending all of my days with him.  We don’t take any moment for granted, either.

I wonder if our lives are the works of God.  I haven’t gotten an answer yet, but I pray that my happiness has to be God’s way of saying, “It is.”

 

Cyndia Rios-Myers

 

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Scary Reading: James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Just yesterday, I posed a question to my FB friends. I wanted to know if they thought that a reading on the Triangle Factory fire of 1911 was a bit too heavy for my 8.5 year old.

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For the most part, they thought that it was fine. So, we’ll read it, as it is a very important lesson in American history, as well as a lesson in safety in public places.

But then, I read two chapters of James and the Giant Peach. Jiminy Christmas! Talk about dark!

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Yes, I’ve only read two chapters of it, and I am already judging the book. What kind of lesson are you trying to teach a kid when you tell him that parents get eaten by a rhinoceros? What kind of lesson is the fact that two aunts physically abuse and neglect that orphan?

I know, I know; I probably haven’t yet arrived at the “lesson.” However, I’ve read two chapters already. If I’ve already formed an impression, I am sure that kids have, too.

Yes, horrible things happen in real life. However, not every horrible thing that happens has a lesson to it. Not every scary story has to be shared.

I know. I’ll wait and see what the “lesson” is. I hope that it is as lease as useful a lesson as the ones learned in the Triangle Factory Fire.

 

Cyndia Rios-Myers

 

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The Money of Values

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For three weeks this money has sat here. Where? On my dinner table. Whose money is it? My son’s. $0.90. Not a king’s ransom by any means, but not nothing either. Especially for one who has no income.

I keep reminding him that it is there, and he keeps not caring. The thirty-eight year old in me thinks he’s being silly. The eight year old in me is pissed off, though.

We did not grow up with much. As a matter of fact, growing up, my sister and I had to pick out roach babies from our cereal. As we hit our teen years, our financial status improved slightly. While going to university, my sister worked at KFC; during my senior year of high school, I worked at Discovery Zone as a birthday party hostess. Her earnings gave her enough for gas and entertainment; my minimal income gave me enough for makeup and Vogue magazines. I was alright with that.

I am now in a financial position that allows me a bit of freedom. I don’t go crazy with it, though, as I know that fortunes can change overnight.

But it makes me wonder about my son. I now realize that he’s in a different social class than I was when I was a child.

While making me feel proud and relieved, it concerns me. Do you have to grow up poor to value money? Do you have to grow up poor to work hard to have more? I don’t know.

But maybe he’ll be okay, as what he holds as valuable is politeness, health and a good amount of family time. I didn’t care about those things while I was growing up.

I did tire of seeing the coins on the table, though, and made him put them in his piggy.

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The red piggy is called the “right now” piggy, while the clear one is called the “short term” piggy, and the brown one is called the “long term” piggy. These are independent of his bank accounts.

In inspecting his piggies, I am reminded that while trusting, my son has a calculating mind. It makes me feel better. Maybe he won’t need desperation or fear to succeed.

Cyndia Rios-Myers

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All By My Selfie

Look At Me

Do you see

how I want you to see me?

Pretty, happy, goofy…

All of these things are me.

Alone in this selfie

Am I happy

Maybe I’m a mystery

Don’t hate me

Mock me

Or roll your eyes at me.

Help me

See me

Be with me

I am lonely.

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First, let me apologize for the punnish title to this blog post. I love puns, and I love Eric Carmen.

Now, onto the meat of this. While I am not lonely, I have been before. I’ve been scared. I’ve been in need of reassurance. But this poem is not about me. It is a result of my ruminations regarding selfies. At first, I thought that people who sought such attention were vain creatures. However (and as a vain creature myself), I know that vain folks do not usually need the assurance of others.

What did that leave? Loneliness. I think that maybe, the folks that take the pictures want their cameras to not be cameras, but to be the eyes of someone else. They want to frame their bodies and their smiles into something that they think someone else might like.

I don’t have an answer or a suggestion for those folks. Perhaps all I’d ask is that we be kinder to them. I’ll ask myself to be nicer, too.

Cyndia Rios-Myers

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To Continue Walking

I don’t know if my obligations are what make me want to hike away and keep going. I’m sure that they are, though. I would love nothing more than to take my husband and son with me and hike the Appalachian Trail, straight through.

There are two realities to contend with, though. My husband doesn’t want to go, and my son can be a whiner. The only one who can hike, hike, hike and keep smiling is me.

I’m hoping to get to it one day, though; perhaps when my son has left for college. Perhaps when my husband will be excited at such a venture.

But maybe, I’ll just go and do it by myself.

 

This is me, taking a hike.

This is me, taking a hike.

One day.

 

Cyndia Rios-Myers