It was never my intent to raise my son from the age of four as a single (divorced) working parent.
But it was how it turned out. Not because I didn’t try to save the marriage through counseling. But because counseling brought to light things about my spouse that were unacceptable for me to continue the marriage.
From my ex-husband’s perspective, he met me at a time in my life when I was very emotionally fragile … seven years later, I wasn’t that person anymore.
And though I thought we had a “modern” marriage of “partners” equally yoked, based on his second marriage, I would posit he wanted a wife more like his own mom. She was a stay-at-home mom until he and his brothers were teens. She made him the chocolate chip cookies I didn’t have time to bake.
So there I was, a part-time local reporter and just graduating Cal Poly SLO student, trying to figure out how to get back to full-time employment and feed my child. My $200 a month in child support only paid for day care, not for the roof over my son’s head, the food on his plate or the shoes on his feet.
For the next several years, I toiled up to 70 hours each week for a twice-weekly newspaper on California’s Central Coast, covering the final protest, earthquake retrofit errors and commissioning of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in the early 1980s.
This led to an eventual opportunity to go to work as a media representative for Pacific Gas and Electric Company in the Salinas-Monterey area and the chance to rent a small condo on my own in a seaside community along the Monterey Coast.
My increase in salary only meant I didn’t need a roommate and not much more. My $200 in child support still went for after-school care. And my son’s soccer shoes were paid for with the credit card I finally had of my very own.
When I left PG&E a little more than five years later for personal reasons, my salary had gone from $23,000 to $44,000 per year. I had been promoted to a supervisory position over others, and I had a company car and a monthly expense account.
I finally bought my own condo, but after several relocations within PG&E, I ended up taking a hit when I sold it. I was a single mother deeply in the red.
Still my child support payments were $200 per month.
To say the next few years at the start of the 90s were financially precarious and lean is an understatement. I moved away from California for affordability, went back into the restaurant management business I had grown up a part of, then somehow miraculously ended the decade in an HR management position in Midtown Atlanta.
Shopping for corporate gifts at Tiffany’s was the most fun part of the job, and I ended that decade $20,000 ahead in salary than when I left PG&E in 1989.
Still, life was extremely modest for me as compared to the CPAs I worked around. I bought a townhouse from friends in real estate in one of Metro Atlanta’s farthest reaches. My car was an older model that looked good but didn’t always run well … but I owned it.
Then I had a chance to move back to California for an HR job with a biotech firm. Those vaccines in your arms? Its pioneering work in protein design was the basis for creating monoclonal antibodies.
While I worked at the firm for only a few years, I was very blessed with my stock options. Having more than one income stream set me up for the better yet still modest lifestyle I have today and let me help my son get through Emory so he could marry and buy his own home.
As a family today, we are neither poor nor wealthy, but something in between. Our homes aren’t lavish, but the mortgages get paid and no one is moving anywhere else for a job ever again.
I have no need for my ex’s $200 anymore.
This story is written in sympathy for other families of all shapes and sizes struggling with the high gas prices and food prices of today. While you wouldn’t know by looking, I have been there with you in your economic struggles. For years I voted for the GOP until they made Trump their nominee. Then I became a Never Trumper, and finally I returned to the Democratic Party of my younger years. No political party is perfect, but I do believe Democrats care more about your ability to feed your families than do Republicans. So stay the course. Turn out to vote. #VoteBlueIn2022
Photo by Marcelo Silva on Unsplash
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