Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Life Happens

When you least expect it!

Just when you think life is stable and will run on even keel forever or at least for the foreseeable future, everything changes. For many women, the biggest life alterations involve children and spouses. When a child is ill, or leaves home the balance in the household shifts. When a spouse departs via death, separation or divorce a similar void is created. As women, we tend to respond to these changes emotionally and our first thoughts tend not be about our finances but rather about how we feel and how we can cope with these changes.

Life happened to me. A few years ago, I thought that my marriage was stable and the day my oldest child started college seemed safely far away. This summer, two things happened close together: my husband and I separated and my daughter left for a college several states away. My very busy life took an abrupt turn and changes both big and small started tumbling in. Luckily, I still had my teen-age son and my dog at home but the departure of half the household within a few weeks was noticeable. Here are some of the differences I noticed – interestingly, not all bad, and listed in random order.

- My girl-fun buddy was gone. My daughter and I were in the habit of going together to the movies, shopping, and getting our nails done. Now I was on my own.
- My son eats on a very different schedule than I do. So family dinners that had occurred almost nightly dwindled and I found myself cooking for my son and then grabbing a bowl of cereal or soup for myself at a different time.
- The house was a lot cleaner and tidier. We went from a household of very messy (2), messy (1) and slightly messy (me) people to one very messy and one much neater person (me again). Cleaning up for 2 is a lot easier than cleaning up after 4.
- I had time on my hands and nervous energy to expend. My gym – 3 blocks away – was seeing more of me and the dog was getting more walks. Soon, people were commenting that both of us – me and the dog – were looking svelte.
- Decision making as a solo pursuit. Financial and decisions about the house and kids had been made in conjunction with my husband. Now, since I am the one remaining in the house and am the main care-giver for my kids I began making decisions on my own and to suit myself.
- My net worth was cut and cut again. The separation mentally reduced my net worth by half and then the subsequent sharp market decline cut into it again. In the course of a few short months, I experienced the double whammy of separation and a major stock bust – not an experience I would wish upon anyone!
- Friends and family popped up with offers of help and support. My evenings and weekends began to fill up with activity.

Stay tuned. Over the weeks and months ahead I will be blogging about the impact on women of major life changes such as the one I am experiencing myself currently.

Veena Kutler

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