This is mostly a rant, but I am absolutely open to any advice or suggestions.
This is going to be pretty long, sorry.
I have been a single mom for the better part of the last 15 years. Two kids (B, almost 16, and E, 14, with special needs) from a previous relationship – dad is basically non-existent. I was married for a short time and had a third child (C, 11, with special needs) with my now-ex-husband who lives far away and does not contribute financially or with any parenting responsibilities. He did provide financial support while we were married, but he hasn’t sent a dime since the divorce. He is dealing with several mental health issues, but he has a friendly, virtual relationship with our daughter. We get along fairly well, and I understand that he is not able to contribute in other ways. I want him to focus on his mental health, and I don’t expect any assistance from him now or in the future. I have child support orders in place for both fathers, but they don’t pay it.
I have been working tirelessly all these years just to make ends meet. Despite only having a GED, I have managed to triple my salary in the last 8 years and significantly advance my career in HR without additional schooling.
When I got divorced 6 years ago, I was working four jobs and relied on Medicaid, food stamps, and daycare assistance through the state. With my current income, I no longer qualify for daycare assistance, which means I had to give up additional employment. At that time, we were living in a very small mobile home with two bedrooms. Each year, I found that the children were getting bigger, and the house was getting smaller.
So I worked hard to improve my very bad credit. I paid off debt, including debt that was in my name but allocated to my ex in the divorce. I also obtained a couple of secured credit cards and managed them diligently. Over the course of two years, I raised my credit score from 419 to 640. Additionally, my income increased significantly. Last year, I was finally approved for a home loan. We now have the space we need, and each child has their own room and some privacy. However, a bigger house comes with higher mortgage payments. I have a strict budget that I stick to, and I can afford the current bills, but I can no longer save money like I used to before buying this house.
Around seven months ago, I started a new job after being with the same company for 8 years and being promoted multiple times. The company underwent changes, and many people left. Upper management informed me that there were no opportunities for further advancement as I was already at the head of my department (HR Manager). Additionally, with the new management, I lost some of the flexibility I had with my previous boss, who understood that I am a single mother. My previous boss trusted me to do my job, even when I needed time off for sick kids, appointments, school functions, or the ability to work from home. The final straw came when I called my new boss one morning to let her know I wouldn’t be in because I suspected appendicitis and was going to the emergency room. Her response was, “Okay, let me know when you get into the office this afternoon.”
The new position pays more but involves less responsibility. I also feel very supported by my colleagues and the leadership team. I am allowed the flexibility to work from home as needed and take time off for sick kids and appointments. However, I am a contract employee, paid hourly, with a poor vacation/sick day plan, so I rarely have a full 40-hour paycheck. The higher pay hasn’t done much to improve my financial
situation. Moreover, our corporate office recently announced that they will be restructuring the HR department in the next 2-5 months, which will likely result in downsizing. As a contract employee, I probably won’t be asked to extend my contract. I have already started searching for new job opportunities, but I’ve noticed that 90% of the positions I see posted require a bachelor’s degree. The few positions that don’t require a degree offer lower pay compared to what I was making in my previous job.
We live outside the school district because I couldn’t afford a house in that area. Changing my kids’ schools is not an option since it would disrupt their progress, especially for my two children who receive special education. Being outside the district means the school cannot provide transportation. I really wanted to buy a reliable car for B to drive when they get their license this summer. It would not only allow them to get a job, but it would also help with transportation to school and appointments, relieving some of the burden on me. However, with the higher mortgage payments and other expenses, I am completely strapped for cash. I can’t afford to spend a cent more than what I’m currently paying in bills without dipping into my already extremely low grocery budget. A few weeks ago, I had to pay a plumber $200 to fix a clogged bathtub, and that wiped out my entire monthly grocery budget. I already rely on food pantries to make ends meet.
Although my income has improved, the financial strain is still overwhelming. We have had to give up luxuries like Amazon Prime and Netflix, and I now shop at thrift stores. I have learned to perform my own home and car maintenance to save money. I am on a budget plan with my electric company, but I don’t qualify for a similar plan with the gas company. I receive a major discount on internet services ($25/month!!), and my cell phone is provided through my job, although that might change soon.
I feel like I am being pulled in a thousand different directions between work, school functions, extracurricular activities, and therapy/medical/dental appointments for my four children. I have no luxury, no comfort, no social life, and nothing to look forward to except the college tuition that I can’t afford.
On top of everything else, B has started getting into trouble at school. They have been suspended three times in the last eight weeks for fighting, skipping, and vaping.
I am incredibly stressed, anxious, and uncomfortable. I feel lonely, not in the sense of wanting or needing a romantic partner, but because I don’t have any close connections or deep friendships. There is no one to help me carry the weight of all the burdens I bear or share in the responsibilities. I have no one to lean on when I just need a moment to rest before continuing the endless pursuit. I have my therapist to talk to, which provides slight relief, but it doesn’t alleviate the overall burden.
I am at my wits’ end. I feel hopeless and like there’s no way out. I try my best to maintain a positive outlook and enjoy time with my kids when I can, but there is no true relief, only temporary distractions.
I am fully aware that my situation is the result of my own decisions and responsibilities. I have made choices that have led me here, and I am doing my best to accept the consequences.