From the moment I separated from my ex-husband, when our daughter was one year old, I made the choice to lead a joyful life with no regrets. My ex was a bully, had dominated and controlled me, and had made me absolutely unhappy. At the time I was 26 and believed that a miserable married person would struggle to be a good parent … so I decided then and there to live a happy life for ME so that I had the best chance of being a wonderful mom to my daughter.
Be As Independent As Possible
First things first, I decided to never rely on my ex for financial support. When we were separating I did it because I wanted full custody of our daughter and – knowing him the way I did – I knew that he wouldn’t protest if I didn’t try to demand money from him. As sad as it is to say because I don’t want to hurt my daughter’s feelings if she ever reads this, that continued to be the case. In the 17 years before my daughter became an adult, he paid €300 for three months and then stopped. Of course it was his responsibility to pay 1/2 of her living expenses and education but he said he’d insist on joint custody if I persisted (which I never did because the joy of having her in my life everyday was priceless and I wouldn’t have missed a moment of that!). Oh, and education … get this, he said he didn’t believe in paying for education so when I chose to do that for GCSEs and IB, it was all on me.
Making the decision to be financially independent as a single mom is tough but I will say – from first-hand, going-on-20-years-now experience – it was the best choice I ever made for ME. Sure, over the years we struggled at times. I had to work damn hard to earn money enough money to keep us fed and housed … and of course, HAPPY.
For me, not having to deal with my ex over money stuff meant I almost never had to deal with him, which as you can imagine was a blessing. He continued to be a bully over the years and strangely bitter over our divorce, but I wasn’t. So I successfully avoided having him as a negative impact on my life. Looking back, I would still rather only have that €900 than 17 years of child support, (which calculates to €61,200 at that ridiculously low €300/month amount he offered). Truth is, I make almost 3x the amount of money he does today, I have an insanely fun job, and I attribute part of my success to him withholding child support, which is odd but true.
To this day I pay 100% of my daughter’s university fees, rent, and bills while my ex sends her pocket money (not even enough for food). And while I try to never be angry about this, even when I just learned he bought and is renovating a new house, it’s the one thing that irks me because I know he boasts about her academic success to his friends and family … even though he’s never contributed a cent to it. And my guess is that he doesn’t preface those moments of pride with, ‘Yes [she’s] in the top of her class in uni and Angela has been great, continuing to pay for it all since I refuse.’ 😉
Through it all, through the financial ups and downs, I made a conscience decision to factor adventure into our lives. That day I separated from my ex, my #1 thought was on being a great mom to my daughter and to me that meant staying positive. I wasn’t going to be one of those moms who seemed burdened by parenting or who became bitter because of the constant turmoil with their ex. My daughter was the best thing to ever happen to me and I was going to enjoy each day with my little angel. I made sure I had ‘me time’ so I stayed happy as a person – as a woman – and had a life beyond just being a mom, too, which is important.
What little disposable income we had, I spent on travel and adventures. I can see where that might seem irresponsible to some people but to me it seemed logical. Exploring new cultures is my #1 hobby and when my daughter was seven or eight we started travelling more. From that moment on, she was my favourite travel companion and together we road-tripped alone through Tunisia, spent our birthdays in cities like Paris, Venice, and Marrakech, and even lived on three continents – North America, Europe, and Asia.
Discover YOUR Joy
Staying happy looks different for everyone and it’s important you find YOUR JOY and prioritise it in your life! For me, those travel adventures brought me the most joy … and sharing them with my daughter is what made me happiest. Together we’ve explored 12 countries so far (I’m on country #31 myself), and to this day I still feel a sense of absolute glee at the thought of planning our next adventure together (hopefully Indonesia for Christmas this year).
If you can’t always afford your favourite hobby, please don’t give up! Keep the goal in front of you. Figure out what you need to shift in your career path to climb up the ladder a little bit higher. Somehow, someway you’ll find a path that leads you there. I promise you will … and you’ll be happier for it. And that inner strength that gets you there will shine through in your parenting and the lessons you pass on, too.
© 2016, Angela Carson and Angela-Carson.com. All rights reserved. Do not copy and reproduce text or images without permission.