Recently, my ex and I along with 2 other couples appeared in The Times Magazine on divorce in your 40s. What was interesting about this piece was that each one of the ladies had gone on to work in the area of divorce in one capacity or other.
I continue my work as a Child Therapist but eventually founded The Divorce Magazine, while Nevine Bentley went on to do law and train as a Family Mediator and Suzy Miller created a few products including The Alternative Divorce Directory.
Well, you’ve heard it said once, you’re heard it said twice and I will say it here again – divorce is like a death.
Just like a marriage and becoming a parent, you cannot plan your divorce nor know how it feels or how you will cope (or not) until you weather that storm.
When you go through divorce that’s when you get to know exactly what you are capable off, the good and the bad and the just plain ugly.
You get to see what others have been through and realise that there are indeed something things in life that are very capable of knocking you sideways and propelling you into a land that you never had any intention of visiting let alone residing in.
Yet here you are. In the land of inner pain, anger, resentment with a touch of relief and anticipation for what the future holds. A place where concentration, sleep disturbance and appetite attack are all names of avenues, street and roads.
Welcome to the land of “The Divorced Working Mum.”
20 years later and I still recall how one of my daughter’s nursery teachers came to school one Monday morning looking tired, worn out and red-eyed.
I can tell you that we all noticed because she was always the best groomed teacher of them all. As it turned out, her husband had just left her and the children (2 children under 9) that weekend. She was not the I-am-in-control teacher whom we used to see. That one had left.
Mrs A, let’s call her, stayed on for another couple of weeks but eventually had to leave and take a much needed break. She went to see her parents…and never came back.
So what happens when you find yourself divorced and the main carer of your children? How does that affect your career or work prospects?
For me personally, my divorce experiences steered me to working in a totally different way than I had anticipated. I had two children and no family around to help. I had to drop out of courses during divorce number one and had to quit one job during divorce number two and opt for a part-time position that was paying me not only a fraction of my previous salary but that was also mind-numbingly dull.
In the meantime, my ex-husbands, had the support and help from their work places. They could work long hours if they wanted to because they didn’t have to get home in time to pick up their children from school and look after them.
They were encouraged to take time off if they needed to and they both chose not to opting instead to keep busy, as busy as they could.
But without taking that break and accepting that help, they both ended up burned out and with great difficulty performing at work. Both eventually changed jobs. They too, were steered into another direction by their painful experiences of divorce.
I recently read this quote in Oprah Magazine, an article by Martha Beck:
“If you’ve had a run of horrible luck, you can tell yourself you’re being tortured or punished. Or you can decide you’re being steered.”
So did my two divorces kill my career?
That’s the story I held for a long time. That’s the belief that I carried with me for a long while until one day, I realised that, the divorces shifted me to where I am today, doing what I love.
Remember that mind-numbingly dull job I ended up in? Well if it wasn’t for that job and it’s dreariness, I wouldn’t have taken the huge risk of resigning and working for myself. I had to do something. I just couldn’t stay there.
I am now working with children and families affected by divorce, trauma and loss and I am pursing my other love and passion, which is writing. I work for myself. I control my days and hours. That is what has worked for my children and I.
So is divorce a career killer? Will it be yours?
Divorce will affect the way you work and perform, at least initially.
As already mentioned, there are many parts of your inner world and being that no longer function as you knew them to namely your concentration which can be affected by your emotions which are affected by your thoughts which then play a role in determining your actions.
The one piece of advice I could give anyone going through divorce to do is to take time off. Do ask for help and take it and accept it when it is offered. Ok, that’s more than one but they are all important.
Only when you take care of yourself will you be able to see things clearly as you will be creating the space to do so. This is no time to be warrior woman or warrior man.
If you are employed then speak with your boss, let someone in the office know what is going on in your personal life. If you are now the main carer of your children, find out what work options there are for you.
Divorce encourages you to reassess your current situation to find and discover very creative ways to get time with your children, earn some money and look after yourself.
It’s not easy. We love spending time with our little ones but bills need to be paid.
But here you are. The change has come. You are being steered. Which way will you go? What will you do? What can you do? Know your options and take it from there.
Soila is the founder of The Divorce Magazine and creator of the online course – Helping Children Cope with Divorce
She is known for taking away the pain of trauma and loss in children, adolescents and their families and is the author of “When Love is Broken. A read-together book for children and parents going through divorce and separation.
Soila holds an MSc in Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology from UCL (University College London), is an accredited Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) practitioner and a trained Family Mediator.
Soila is Graduate Member of the British Psychological Society.
You can contact her on 07850 85 60 66 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org