Picture this scenario. You have been a homemaker for years, and suddenly, you find yourself in the midst of a divorce or your spouse passes away.
You might be faced with having to change your living arrangements and/or find a job outside the home. Essentially, you are a displaced homemaker. Business Dictionary defines a displaced homemaker as…
“In general, a man or woman who (1) is at least 30-35 years old, (2) is unemployed and has not worked as an employee for a substantial number of years but has worked in his or her home providing unpaid services for family members, (3) has been dependent on the income of another family member but is no longer being supported by that income, (4) has been receiving public welfare assistance for having dependent children, (5) is underemployed and finding it difficult to upgrade employment.” (Business Dictionary, 2015, para. 1)
This life changing transition can be quite overwhelming. Yet, there is hope. By incrementing changes in small and gradual steps, you can and will get through this.
Take a breath. Although the situation is very stressful, panic will not help you in moving forward. Start by getting a pad of paper and a pen, and find a quiet place. Write down the initial thoughts that come to your mind. Writing these down helps to ease the anxiety and is the initial step in formulating a plan.
Develop a plan of action. Start by writing down any sources of income you have as an individual (unemployment, retirement, disability). Knowing what the least amount you have to work with will help you create a budget. Even though you might be eligible for other income such as alimony, child support, life insurance settlements, don’t include this income until you are receiving it. This will prevent you from developing an unrealistic budget. In your budget, write down only necessary expenses: housing, food, medical care, transportation, etc. While cable TV is nice, you can live without it. Consider staying in you current living situation until you can secure other sources of income. However, if you are in an abusive situation, this might not be possible. Seek help from domestic violence services in your community. Many such organizations offer a gamut of services to help you through this transition.
Get legal advice. While legal advice can be quite expensive, it most likely will be worth it in the end, especially if you are going through a divorce. In many states, divorce laws consider homemaking as a valuable contribution to a family. Keep in mind that in most instances, marital equity is divided equally between spouses. This equity can be cash, property and in some cases, retirement accounts.
Utilize additional resources. Many states have government programs that offer services to displaced homemakers: from counseling to job training. Check with your state to find out what is available. If you are planning to return to the workforce, the skills you have as a homemaker are valuable and can be used on a resume. For example, if as a mother you have juggled your children’s schedules, you have demonstrated time management and organizational skills. Your ability to manage household expenses shows you have budgeting and financial skills. The countless times you settled fights between your children make it clear that you have people skills.
Know that you are not alone! While you might feel alone, there are many who have walked in your shoes before. Reach out to family, friends and social media contacts. Join a support group. Do not attempt to do this by yourself. The lesson someone else learned from a mistake could be the best piece of advice ever.
Baby steps are okay. Now, more than ever, is not the time to make hasty decisions. Keep moving forward, and before you know it, the storm has passed.
Business Dictionary (2015). Displaced homemaker. Retrieved February 27th, 2015 from Business Dictionary.com: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/displaced-homemaker.html.