Due to many factors, such as increasing child care costs, philosophical resolve, or stress of managing home and life, many couples make a conscious decision at some point in their marriage to have only one parent work outside the home. When parents make the decision to divorce, one of the many difficult aspects to consider occurs when one parent is displaced as he or she has not worked in the labor force for a substantial number of years but worked in the home providing unpaid services for family members. In the past, mothers who have been in this position were referred to as “displaced homemaker.” Recently due to corporate downsizing, the gender-neutral term “displaced parent” is probably a better descriptor of today’s family experiencing this dilemma. Once one or both parents choose divorce, this decision to continue work in the home might not be a viable option.
Some concerns regarding post divorce life for the displaced parent:
The inability to continue doing their “job” full time
Many home-based parents’ report that they feel “fired” from the work they agreed to assume. Raising children is an honorable and rewarding endeavor but due to some public stigma that can come with “staying at home,” displaced parent’s sense of pride may dissipate as he or she experiences a “double whammy” of divorce. The lack of prestige, incessant work, lack of economic power and intellectual respect by others, associated with a public view associated with being a stay at home parent can add salt to the wound of divorce. Careless individuals who take a “You will just have to get a REAL job now that you are getting a divorce” attitude can make an already difficult situation worse.
Stress of transitioning
When a displaced parent is facing divorce, one of the many difficult aspects is the prospect of having to go from being a home based full time professional to a remote based full-time professional. This career change might foster a sense of abandoning family commitments. Displaced parents report feeling overwhelmed at the thought of how divorce will affect their day-to-day life. Worries regarding logistics surrounding child-rearing activities, finding appropriate childcare, abandonment by community support networks, and loss of parenting status are commonplace when displaced parents are facing divorce and the possibility of returning to the work force.
Worries surrounding financial security
Some families are able to support a stay at home parent post divorce for a time certain while other families are not able to maintain two separate homes on one salary once the divorce is completed. Post divorce cash flow, retirement planning, and having the ability to save for the future are common worries of all parents but especially the displaced parent. Some displaced parents are unsure of the family’s current financial state and fearful of being able to provide for the family long term. Returning to or entering the job market can be intimidating, but it can be the turning point to building personal and financial stability.
A displaced parent might have earned a two or four degree recently or in the past but might experience difficulty in obtaining or upgrading employment. Job skills might need to be updated through additional education or training. Additionally, many unpaid hours will be committed to securing a job while still taking care of the family adding to the overall stress of divorce. For those displaced parents that have been out of the workforce longer than 10 years, processes for procuring a job has changed over the years and can be daunting.
When choosing collaborative divorce, displaced parents should consider the following:
- Work closely with the financial neutral and attorney to create a realistic post divorce budget.
- Be open to creative choices when developing options for the division of the estate
- Consider working with a certified divorce financial analyst or planner to look at ways to meet current and future financial needs
- Research educational opportunities for non-traditional student, certifications, or other job skill trainings to ease reentry into the work force.
- A career counselor can be very helpful when exploring career options and narrowing focus of occupational interests.
- Investigate childcare options with the other parent and the neutral mental health professional to reduce the challenge the transition might pose.
- Therapy can reduce overall emotional distress and provide valuable skill training to modulate mood.
- Reach out to supportive networks, friends, family, church or synagogue.