When I was growing up, my mother had a friend who seemed to have it all, by popular standards. She was a natural beauty, friendly, loving, well-spoken, had healthy children and a rich husband. Her husband’s wealth ensured certain luxuries and allowed her to stay at home with the children. Over the years she became an everyday Martha Stewart and enjoyed an existence in which she was the center axis of the spokes that were her husband and her children. Then, when she turned 40, her husband left her for a younger woman.
Of course, she felt blind-sided. She felt that her entire life was in turmoil as her marriage dissolved, her children separated (one living with her and the other with her husband), and she remained devastated. Not only had she lost her husband, she now struggled with the aftermath of what had been her financial dependence. Her work experience, now 15 years outdated, no longer mattered. Of course, her ex-husband paid for spousal support, but that would eventually run out. Having never completed post-secondary education, she was now forced to return to school and start over so that she could become competitive in the job market for the first time in her life.
But a sudden change in circumstances is not always a result of divorce. One must consider accidents, illness or even death. Nobody foresees these events, nor do they believe they will befall them. I certainly do not. Regardless, it is smarter plan for such incidentals, cover your bases and work to ensure financial independence.
I admit that I have enjoyed some financial dependency on my partner. For the last three years, I stayed at home full-time to raise the kids and ensure a smoother, less hectic life for all of us. This was a choice we made as a family. And on the eve of my return to work, I do not regret a single day I was at home; however, I am also glad to be returning to work where I can enjoy something of my own.
The three years at home was long enough to make a difference in my family’s life, but also short enough to ensure that my work experience did not become obsolete. If I had stayed at home for, lets say, ten more years, I may have risked self-identifying with my children and my husband, while the kids were busy outgrowing me. I am not suggesting that all women (or men) who stay at home risk the same fate, only that it is important to maintain a hobby or a passion of your own – and to stay abreast of the job market to avoid being trapped should something change.