One Job Loss, Two Households Devastated.
by Vicki Larson
Money, sex and household chores — when it comes to marital fighting, that’s the perfect storm. So you’d think that once you get divorced, you’d be over and done with the bickering. And, you are — sort of.
Strip away the sex, which you’re now (hopefully) enjoying with someone else, and the chores, which you’re now doing all by your lonesome (leaving you to question why you ever complained about the way your ex cleaned things; it may not have been perfect but at least it was something!) and what’s left?
Divorced couples can’t stop kvetching about it. Someone’s always feeling that he or she is getting screwed by the other, even if the divorce is a so-called “good” one (and I don’t mean in the “she divorced well” way).
Then along came the recession, and with it a whole new set of problems.
I’d been feeling pretty fortunate despite all the economic shenanigans; I still have my job and, despite guaranteed weeklong unpaid furloughs that have caused me to eliminate almost all my unnecessary expenses and take on as much freelance work as I can handle, I have been able to keep it together financially — ever so barely.
And then, reality hit.
It all started with an e-mail, or rather unanswered e-mails.
When my former husband hadn’t responded to a few e-mails I had sent him about upcoming and important shared expenses for our two boys, I felt frustrated. So I wrote yet another e-mail; this one wasn’t as emotionally “neutral” as the prior ones.
“Sorry I didn’t respond earlier,” he e-mailed back. “I’ve just been laid off.”
The news wasn’t all that shocking to me; we’re both journalists, and even if the world at large wasn’t tanking, newspapers surely have been. As hordes of our co-workers have gotten axed as publishers struggle to keep their papers afloat, we few remaining employed journalists have reluctantly come to accept that it’s only a matter of time.
Still, my former husband is a multi-award winner, a well-respected photojournalist. I was surprised.
After I absorbed the news, I sent him a genuinely empathetic e-mail: “I’m so sorry.”
As I thought about how his life was going to change and what that might mean to our boys — one starting community college in the spring with dreams of culinary school, another two years away from graduating high school and with plans to be the next Steven Spielberg — I suddenly thought, holy crap — what does this mean to me? As in, what about my child and spousal support? Granted, it isn’t much; in fact, it’s pretty little. And I felt awfully ashamed to even be thinking that way; after all, he’s the one who’s lost his job — it’s devastating. But we are 50-50 co-parents, and I count on the support to keep my own household afloat. Now, he may, too.
We’re not the only ones facing this reality.