The financial shaming of single mothers

Blue sign with arrow pointing right, directing traffic one way

Blue sign with arrow pointing right, directing traffic one way

This post isn’t directly about narcissism, but it is about the consequences so many of us face when we leave the narcissist. Narcissists practice financial abuse and blackmailing. If the narcissist knows you want to leave, they will threaten to drain your finances, (or they will actually do it,) they will threaten you and say they will never pay child support, they will remind you how hard it is for a single mother to get by alone, and they will try to scare you into staying with them by playing on fears of poverty. When you do leave, nearly all of them will do whatever it takes to avoid child support, to avoid alimony, and to hide their income. You WILL carry the financial burden for your family even if it isn’t equitable or fair. Many single mothers will struggle financially, but when you divorce a narcissist, you are far less likely to get any child support. (I’m always stunned when I see women who divorced nice guys and get tons of support! It’s a miracle!)

It’s a fact of life that on average, women earn less money than men. There are some exceptions, but typically, we are the ones who suffer after a divorce. As a result, many single mothers rely on social assistance. Childcare in particular is a huge expense. It’s fine with a two income family, but when more than half the income goes away, but the childcare expenses stay the same, things get difficult. If you are a single mother who reads political posts on Facebook, you may have noticed that there are a lot of folks out there who still hate single mothers. You’d think that taboo would have gone away, but it is alive and well. Every time I see posts about childcare assistance, child tax credits, food stamps, or things like that, the comment sections are FILLED with people raging about single mothers. (They never ask why the dad isn’t helping to support the kids, right?)

The comment that annoys me the most is “you shouldn’t have had kids you can’t afford.” That comment is filled with ignorance. First of all, I’m not a fan of “should have.” It’s a waste of time. None of us can get in a time machine to do what we “should have” done, so just get over the should haves. We are going forward the best we can. Second of all, most of us COULD easily afford children while married. I seriously doubt any of us said, “hey, I think I’ll marry this guy knowing he’s going to abuse me and I’m going to be a single mother living in poverty.” Most of us probably thought we were in a fairly good financial situation. My narcopath ex and I shared a six figure income and I live in an area where housing is lower than the national average. We had no financial worries. I was pricing houses in the best school district in our state, thinking how wonderful it was that we could get into that “rich” area for the best education for the kids.

When I knew I needed to divorce the abuser, I knew I would be losing 70% of the household income. I knew my dreams of living in the best school district were over. But, I also knew that we would be safer physically and emotionally, and that was more important. My income went down even further because I couldn’t keep up with my overtime job demands as a single mother. I would get in trouble any time I needed to call off for a sick child, any time I needed an appointment for a child to go to the doctor, and when I had to ask off for ongoing court dates. I had to put my life and my children first, and I got fired for needing too much time. My income went down to 15% of what it had been while I was married.

So when someone ignorantly rants that single mothers shouldn’t have had children they couldn’t afford, I roll my eyes. I could absolutely “afford” my children. Most of us could. Finances are so much easier in a two parent home. Either both of them work, or one works while the other takes care of the kids so no childcare is needed. I¬†personally get childcare assistance. Without it, I literally cannot afford to work, but I have to work because I am the only one earning money in the home. It’s a Catch 22 that affects many single parents. You have to support your family, but your cost to put the kids in daycare so you can do it is outrageous. Whenever someone shames me for taking childcare support, I ask them if they would rather I sit at home and take full welfare. Aren’t they relieved I’m at least out there trying to earn a living?

Those of us who have been there know better than to financially shame a single parent, but for those who don’t have kids, or do have kids and have people who shame them, I hope people gain some perspective. The kids are here, the single parents are trying, none of this was planned and LIFE HAPPENS. No one can predict the future. No one can predict that their financial situations might go bad after the children¬†are born. Someone could lose a spouse to death or disability and find themselves struggling. Some of the people who shame single parents might just find themselves in a hard place one day….

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