LAST year I was sitting in my car in the plaza having a conversation with my sweet friend who had just received news that her husband of umpteen years was filing for divorce. I was taking the time to encourage her, to let her know that she was still wonderful and loved and precious. I also pledged to sow financially in her life and help to make one of her dreams come true.
While doing that, an older lady knocked on my car window. I wound down the glass and said good evening. She said, “Good evening miss, I am 65 years old and my husband has filed for divorce. I have no money to buy food. Can you give me anything?” I felt like the heavens were open and God was speaking. What are the odds that I would be on the phone encouraging a woman who was being rejected by her husband to then have another woman in the same situation asking me for help?
I believe it was a clear sign that we as a society need to figure out what can be done to prevent this level of suffering for women, and indeed the children in these broken families. Yes, people break up and relationships end, but how do we enable women in particular to carry on well after a life shaping relationship, like marriage, ends?
A woman tends to make countless unique sacrifices in marriage – she carries the children in her womb; she usually has to stop from work to have the children and nurse them in the early months of life; she usually is the one to take care of the home; usually the one to do homework with the children; usually the one with most of the parenting burden; usually tends to lose professional traction because of these breaks to have children and demands at home; usually changes her last name to honour her husband; usually changes her last name on several legal and professional documents in keeping with her marital status; usually has a smaller spending power because of all the other non-paying areas of life she is focused on; and in the end, if and when her marriage ends, the woman is still usually the one to still do all of these things with little or inadequate spending power.
A senior development banker, in giving a talk to high school girls a couple years ago, strongly advised them to always have a bank account with their name only. She told them that when they get married, they can let their spouses know that they have this bank account, but it should remain solely theirs. This, she said, as a financial expert and also as woman who has seen quite a few things in her own life. It was and is great advice. Girls should be financially empowered from early, with their own savings account, debit card, investment accounts, etc (boys too, but they are not the subject of this article. Neither are the female gold diggers who try to squeeze a man for all they can get). Girls should also understand what a loving partnership in marriage looks like and it how works to serve both spouses. Women actually need this understanding as well, so that if and when their relationships crumble under the weight of divorce, they are not left at somebody's window asking for help.
Of course, a savings account of her own is surely not a panacea. But it is an emblematic starting point. She needs a habit of saving and to embrace the greater principle of self care before, during and after a marriage ends. That commitment to self care should ensure that she is properly set up financially and otherwise.
Thankfully, in the end, even when a divorced woman gets a raw deal, we know that by faith, better days can be hers. She can be renewed and refreshed and repositioned like the senior development banker I mentioned earlier – who is doing very well professionally, emotionally, financially and is now happily married a second time. As we kick of 2022, let us be kind to each other, especially divorced women trying to steady themselves and their children in these uncertain times.
Shelly-Ann Harris is the author of God's Woman and the Goodies on Her Tray. She is also the founder of Family & Faith Magazine. Email firstname.lastname@example.org