Who Fares Better After Divorce, Working Moms or Stay-Home Moms?
After separating from my husband four years ago, I was certain that my nearly two decades of being a stay-home mom would prove to be my downfall. It wasn’t that I believed I had developed “mommy brain,” as some mothers self-deprecatingly put it —it was that my identity was so entwined with my husband and children that I didn’t have a firm grasp on who I was when I wasn’t with them.
I had always kept myself busy. I didn’t just join the PTA, I ran it, a position that required me to spend a good portion of the day inside an office. It was a job, albeit an unpaid one, and it enabled me to build a community that was an essential part of the fabric of our lives. I got to know my kids’ teachers and built a network of fellow moms who were like me: driven, educated, smart, and passionate about public education. My kids had a dozen mothers they could go to for ice cream money after school, who would come running if they fell from the jungle gym.
I was still a PTA president when I discovered my husband’s affair. The position was now at my eldest daughter’s high school. My daughter had requested that I not become enmeshed at her school now that she was a teenager, so I had stayed away at first. When no one else stepped up for the role when it became vacant, I was asked to do it. Saying no was not in my DNA at the time, so I apologized to my daughter and pretended I didn’t know her when I saw her in the halls.
A few days after my husband moved out, I took the subway to a restaurant in Chinatown to celebrate the Lunar New Year — an event I had helped to organize for our school community. I sat numbly with a smile plastered on my face, going through the motions I knew so well, until it finally ended and my friend and her husband shut the taxi door they had called for me. I had never felt so alone before or so loved. I was now without a husband, but I had staunch allies — all those fierce, loving moms who had doled out bandaids to my kids were now my own safety net.
As time went on, I observed my friends closely. My path had suddenly branched from theirs; looking at their lives provided me with a crystal ball into the life that could…