Author Topic: Life crossroads  (Read 3984 times)

Bookworm

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Life crossroads
« on: February 07, 2015, 12:39:38 AM »
Here is where I find myself...I'm 42, and I am in the middle of a divorce. At present, my two youngest children (16 and 14 - the other two are adults) and I are living with my parents, at their invitation. I've been married since I was a teenager and a stay-at-home parent since 1994.

I'm receiving support of $1,200/month, and my expenses here run about $600-$800/month, so even though I'm not working, I'm not falling behind. Support will double or more if/when my husband finds a job to replace the one he lost in November. The legal process should also somehow divide our assets and debts such that we each walk away with approximately $80,000-$100,000 in net worth when it is complete.

For right now, I am [somewhat] content to stay with my parents, because my children's needs are best met by maintaining the status quo. We are fairly comfortable here, although a little cramped for space, and because I don't have to work, I can be there for them in the ways each of them needs me (one is homeschooled, now in 10th grade, and doing very well; the other is in traditional school, but has some adolescent emotional issues that have made this last year a really bumpy ride. She is seeing the school psychologist regularly, and I sense that things are improving...I don't want to switch things up right now. I particularly don't want my going off to work to result in her spending a lot of time alone. It would be a real detriment to her mental health. So for now, at least until the divorce is final, the arrangement we have is the arrangement we'll be keeping.

But I need a plan for the next chapter, and here is where I'm feeling torn. My instinct is, as soon as I get the feeling that there's a good job out there for me, and that my children are ready for me to pull away a little, that I should take it. Ideally, this would happen in about a year, just before my parents permanently retire. I have never lived alone (married straight out of high school), never had any sense of independence, other than holding down the fort here and there during my husband's military deployments. I have been someone's dependent for 42 years. Even now, my husband and my parents are, in essence, sharing my dependency. I think there's a phase of personal growth, confidence-building, and development that I'm badly lacking, and it's not going to get tackled until I'm REALLY out on my own.

Now, my mother sees this differently. She thinks I should commit myself to staying here with them for a few more years, even after they retire, and use the money I save by not striking out on my own to go back to school (pursue a dental hygienist or similar program) instead of moving out and working at whatever random job will make ends meet. That means my kids living in grandma and grandpa's house basically until they're adults, and it means me being well into my mid-40s before I even so much as have my own apartment. I'm really not sure how I feel about that. Well, maybe I am...I don't like it.

My mom is very pro-education and literally told me tonight that "there's no such thing as a wasted education." I am really not convinced of that. But she keeps saying things like, "I know you want to be on your own, but I don't want you to do anything stupid," (i.e. go straight to work making $10-$15/hour without furthering my education). I should add that my parents are EXTREMELY spendy folks (who can afford to be), and can't fathom living on anything like a mustachian budget. So I think in my mother's eyes, I'm setting myself up for poverty and misery if I don't follow her footsteps into a "real job" (she's been a physical therapist for 30 years). Honestly, my lifestyle is pretty modest. I could live easily for under $30K, adjusted annually for inflation, for the rest of my life, probably less once my kids leave the nest.

Also, there is a temptation on my part to do what I have always done, to delay taking that growth step I know needs to be taken, and even want to take. Going to school was always easy for me...it would be in my comfort zone. I was always a very good student. Going to work is NOT easy for me. I'm painfully and debilitatingly shy. So going into a real career will be a huge emotional stretch for me, such that I think when I get old and gray (Ha! I'm already gray!), I'll be hugely proud to have pushed myself enough to make it happen.

So...I guess my question is this:

After this period of transition, during which I need to maintain the status quo, living with my parents, in order to make ends meet and meet my children's basic needs while the legalities are underway, should I focus on becoming independent, even though I will have to work a low-wage job with limited potential, or sacrifice independence and continue raising my kids in someone else's house, so that I can spend two years in an associate's program and THEN move out on my own, under presumably more lucrative circumstances.

You'll probably tell me it's my own emotions driving this, and it is. I feel like my life is stunted, and my mother's ideas will keep me dependent even longer. She says I want immediate gratification and shouldn't think short-term. I admit part of the reason I am thinking short-term is that my son is 16 now and my daughter 14...the days are ticking away...and I want them to see me get independent and succeed before they grow up and move away.

I sure hope this post made sense!
« Last Edit: February 07, 2015, 12:45:51 AM by Bookworm »

MarcherLady

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Re: Life crossroads
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2015, 05:40:54 AM »
Is it really an either/or situation?  Can you start to build independence while still living with your parents?  Can you study and work part time?  I sense that you feel that living with your parents is  not showing maturity, or not setting an example  of success for your kids, but three + generations living together is/was actually pretty standard for most of the world, for most of history.  Divorce  is tough, and  I can understand you wanting to demonstrate that you can manage alone.  But you don't have to.  See Chippewa's journal(s) for how tough being  a single mum with a full time job and school work can be.
One thing you don't mention is what your relationship with your parents is like, and what the kids' relationships with them are like.  If you all get on, then I would take this help while it's available.  Good  luck, you've got a lot to deal with at the moment, be gentle with yourself.

begood

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Re: Life crossroads
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2015, 06:46:09 AM »
It sounds like you're in the midst of huge upheaval, and I think your instincts to not make big changes while you're still in the middle of that are good ones.

It sounds like maybe you're worried that while you're living in your parents' house, you are still being treated (or even see yourself) as a child, despite having teenagers of your own. I know there are times when I still feel like I'm a teenager on the inside, and I could see that feeling being exacerbated by living in your parents' house.

But I also see some tremendous advantages to continuing to live in a multi-generation household. Instead of just you being home (or not being home, if you were working full time) when your teenagers get home from school, are your folks around as well? Do they take an active interest in your children without undermining your parental authority?

Could you use this transition time to take some community college classes to see if something sparks your interest? You say you're homeschooling one of your kids - could you take community college classes together? If you went to work full time, what would your homeschooled kid do?

As the parent of a 13-year-old, I do see these teen years as fleeting and precious (and frustrating and occasionally torturous!). If you do not have "make your own way" until the kids are finished high school, maybe use this breathing space to work on your own plans and aspirations while still appreciating and benefiting from not having to sink or swim on your own? That would be four years or so when you'd have support - financial and emotional - to prepare yourself for whatever the next step would be.

I imagine your parents are hoping to provide you and your kids with a firm foundation. If everyone gets along and you're contributing to the household expenses, it could be a win-win situation.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Life crossroads
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2015, 09:16:37 AM »
Following this, I'm curious about the feedback from others.

etselec

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Re: Life crossroads
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2015, 10:02:27 AM »
Here's a different way to look at this: you definitely want to get out on your own/out from feeling like a dependent. That's where you're coming from. But what are you going towards? As a few other folks have suggested, these years are a great time to start exploring what kind of work you might want to pursue, and what, if any, degree or education you would need to make that happen. Put another way, you've had a career/job for your whole adult life: raising kids. In a few years, that job is going to scale back significantly, and you will need to change careers - so it's smart of you to think about planning for that in advance.

So even if right now isn't major upheaval time, you can start making small changes to work towards your goal. Maybe that means starting to take a community college class or two, or a part-time job in a field you might be interested in. Even just taking on odd jobs for a few hours a week might help you get that immediate satisfaction that comes from earning money. I think you can be a great role model to your kids by figuring out what you want and making a sensible, thought-out plan to achieve it.

2ndTimer

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Re: Life crossroads
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2015, 10:08:24 AM »
You parents are offering you a tremendous chance to get start the next phase of your life ahead.  There is a huge difference between the kind of pay you can expect with no education and what you can get with the right two year degree.  Unless, you really want to work at Walmart for the rest of your life, take the opportunity and thank them.

mozar

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Re: Life crossroads
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2015, 10:29:16 AM »
I tend to agree with the OPs mother. I don't know what the relationship is like, but if it's generally livable it looks like a great situation from the outside. I think you should start applying for those low wage jobs, which will help you realize that they are not so easy to get. And you definitely won't get a stable job making 30k with no degree.
Those low wage jobs you will be competing with people with no gray hair, ageism is pretty harsh even on people with college degrees.

You and two retired grandparents watching teenagers will be wonderful for them. Teenagers need all the support they can get.
Your kids will be impressed to see you get serious about a degree. If you just go out and get a Walmart type job now, you will teach your kids that low wage work is acceptable to do.

Noodle

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Re: Life crossroads
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2015, 11:36:40 AM »
I'm going to differ and say that it's not obvious that the best course is to continue staying with your parents, even if it is most financially prudent. Emotional needs are real too. Life is short, and it may be that what you really need soon is independence. Among other things, when it comes time for new romantic partners to enter your life, how comfortable are you going to be with your parents monitoring your comings and goings?

But you also don't need to decide anything right now, and you need a lot more data to work with. What kinds of jobs are really out there? Go out and interview for a few. Maybe even take a job that is a few hours a week, since your kid who needs more support is also in school for a good part of the day. Or sign up with a temp agency, so you can try out lots of different kinds of workplaces, but also choose whether to take an assignment if it isn't a good time family-wise. Look into where you might actually be going to school, what it would cost, and what courses would be available. At this point in your life, are you up for full-time school? As others have suggested, take a course or two...it's been awhile since you've been in school. Find out what it's like these days. In a year, the answer may become obvious (you and the kids are DONE living with Mom and Dad, or you've settled into a good groove, or you've realized you'd hate the jobs you could get at the moment.) I'm sure that having a plan right now would be very comforting since life is uncertain...plan that this next year is the "foundations and planning year." It's OK to decide that X date is when you will choose the next step, and feel free to tell anyone nagging (other than maybe the kids) that you're not deciding anything right now.

Plus, these decisions aren't irrevocable. You can also decide that you're going to spend a year on your own, and then evaluate whether to come back to Mom and Dad, or continue in your path. Or decide to try college for a year.

Bookworm

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Re: Life crossroads
« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2015, 12:30:40 PM »
Thank you all for the input so far. It's given me so much to think about, and you're right, I do have the time to think.

Living here is nothing to complain about...I was extraordinarily fortunate in the parent lottery. They are actually nice to live with, and we've done some projects together since I've been here and actually had a good time (e.g. one of their tenants vacated, and we did all the repairs, move-out clean, junk removal, etc. together over three weekends). I think it might get a little more "crowded" next winter when they both retire, so that is something weighing on my thinking. My mom is an extremely high-energy person and is constantly moving and talking and planning and worrying and unintentionally interrupting herself and everyone else, and going from this thing to that thing like a hummingbird. I think she is going to drive my dad and me a little nuts when she's home doing that ALL THE TIME.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Life crossroads
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2015, 05:43:58 PM »
Thank you all for the input so far. It's given me so much to think about, and you're right, I do have the time to think.

Living here is nothing to complain about...I was extraordinarily fortunate in the parent lottery. They are actually nice to live with, and we've done some projects together since I've been here and actually had a good time (e.g. one of their tenants vacated, and we did all the repairs, move-out clean, junk removal, etc. together over three weekends). I think it might get a little more "crowded" next winter when they both retire, so that is something weighing on my thinking. My mom is an extremely high-energy person and is constantly moving and talking and planning and worrying and unintentionally interrupting herself and everyone else, and going from this thing to that thing like a hummingbird. I think she is going to drive my dad and me a little nuts when she's home doing that ALL THE TIME.

One year when my parents separated, we moved between a few rentals owned by a friend. We lived there for free in exchange for updating the homes, keeping them from breakins/copper robbery, and "staged" them for potential tenants to tour (a couple were being sold instead, same idea). Just an idea, but is there any way your parents or another property owner you know would need that service? It could give you some independence while still letting you get your legs under you a bit.

Spondulix

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Re: Life crossroads
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2015, 12:22:58 PM »
Are you seeing a therapist? It sounds like you are the rock to a lot of people in your life, and it's hard to get advice on independence when those are the same people who depend on you.