Figuring out a career after being a stay-at-home mom for many years

As many of you know, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for almost 8 years and have found myself in a position now at 39 needing to start completely over and build a new life for me and my two boys. The thought of going back to work after all this time, on top of everything else I have been dealing with, has been completely overwhelming. If I’m being completely honest, it’s terrifying and something I really don’t want to be forced to do. Not because I don’t want to work, I want more than anything to bring a steady income in and provide for my boys. For years I’ve been dependent on someone else financially that has treated me like a child. I can’t wait to be financially free from his grasp. But I LOVE being home with my babies. Raising my sons is extremely challenging, but I love being their person all day long. I love seeing them grow and help mold them into tiny, amazing humans. I fear all those moments I will be missing. I know so many moms are working moms, and I know that day will soon be mine, but change is scary. New beginnings, especially when it’s not what you had ever envisioned are not without a lot of doubt, fear, and anxiety. 

Give yourself grace

I turned down an opportunity this week for a short-term job, and I was really beating myself up about my decision. When this opportunity was presented to me and after not only interviewing for the first time in 10 years but also being offered the job, it seemed like a no brainer to say yes. I need the income desperately. The anxiety I have on a daily basis of starting over with no funds causes me great stress. So of course, I had to say yes to the first job opportunity I was offered. It’s called being a responsible parent, right? The day I accepted the job we all came down with covid and it hit us hard. First my 7-year-old was the sickest I’ve ever seen him and then on top of feeling like crap myself, my 22-month-old became very ill, so ill that I began to think something was seriously wrong with him. He became violent and distraught in pain and the thought of leaving him in a few days became extremely worrisome. I began having second doubts. 

It wasn’t until a highschool friend I’ve reconnected with had a heart to heart with me that I realized that I had to turn it down. She told me, “Now is your time to be selfish. You spent way too long making others happy. You are in charge of your life and all the paths have different pros and cons. It’s your time to thrive and show your boys what life is all about.” You see, I’ve spent the majority of my adult life chasing someone else’s dreams. I’ve spent the last 5 years making someone else, on top of the selflessness that comes with being a mom, my priority. When I graduated college, I was madly in love. I followed who I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with across the country, because it was his dream, and I was wrapped up in the idea of finally finding what I thought was my forever person. The next 16 years became about him, his career, his timeline for our life, and eventually all the dreams I once had aside from being a mom slowly vanished. Which was ok, because being a Mom was my biggest dream of all, and bringing my two babies into the world was a very scary and difficult experience. Being with them made everything else feel right. With them was where I needed to be. But when he began to manipulate me and abuse me, I began to be left with the scary thought of what the hell will I do if I have to leave him. I suddenly began to question all the possible dreams I would have followed had I not met him so many years ago. 

I’m a firm believer that you can’t go back and question all the “what ifs” in life. Am I where I want to be in life right now? No, not one bit even close. Am I angry at all the time I wasted trying to help him get help? Yes. But do I entirely regret the last 18 years of my life? No. I got the two most amazing little boys out of that life. My boys are my whole heart and I’ve quickly realized that life gave me two little boys to challenge me with raising them into kindhearted men, men that know how to treat women right. I’ve grown so much over the past 18 years, the challenges I’ve overcome have made me into an incredibly strong mom. If I had chosen differently all those years ago, I wouldn’t be a mom to the most amazing boys I could have ever dreamed of. 

But after listening to my friend, I have been quickly reminded that now is my time to figure out what I want to do with my life. I don’t need to feel pressured by life into choosing a job that I know won’t bring me joy.  I’m smart, driven, determined, passionate, and I will have other opportunities. Opportunities that will bring me inspiration, opportunities that will make me want to work and will show my boys that mommy doesn’t settle. I’m allowed to give myself more time to figure it out, and I will figure it out in time. So, for now, I’m holding my youngest extra tight these days, and reminding myself that right now, cuddling him close, this is where I’m meant to be. 

hold your babies tight

Meal prep for the busy mom: Stay-at-Home Mom side hustle

Whoa, life has been BUSY these past couple weeks. With the start of school for my oldest, family visiting, birthday parties and more, it’s been a minute since I’ve found the time to sit down and write about all that’s going on in life. I’m feeling pretty stressed these days, trying to find some balance in my life with all that’s going on. I’m trying to make a new life for my little family, trying to find a job after 8 years at home, and it’s not easy. But, in the midst of all the chaos, I also have a new opportunity that I began this week that I’m pretty excited about! I’m looking forward to sharing this new journey with you as it grows, evolves and becomes whatever it may be ;-). I don’t have a name yet for this new side gig, but I’m thinking something on the line of, “Meal Prepping Momma for all you Busy Mommas.” I’m not so great with names, so by all means, if you have one, help this momma out ;-).

new beginnings

A couple weeks ago a friend I grew up with connected me with one of her mom friends who was looking for some childcare help. If you’ve been following my journey, you probably know that my ex has left me any boys with no financial means to stand on. I’m actively looking for employment opportunities, but with no money at all for childcare, and no car, well it’s been challenging. I’ve been extremely frustrated these past few weeks with the legal process. It’s been almost 6 months and I still have not been granted rights to the proceeds from our home, assets, accounts etc. The legal system is so maddening at times, but I’ll save more on that part of my life for another post.

Embracing new opportunities

Today I want to talk about something exciting, as I haven’t had a lot of that in recent months! As I was chatting with this mom, we began talking about health and wellness and how I love helping other moms get fit and healthy. She told me that having healthy family meals and prioritizing nutrition more for her family is a priority, but she finds herself having little time and motivation to cook. When she asked me if I would be interested in being paid to meal prep for her family one day a week I jumped at the opportunity. Not only do I love helping other families eat clean, but it also has forced me to explore and try out some new recipes for my family as well. It’s a work in progress and we’re still trying to figure out what will work best for both of us, but yesterday was my first day and I feel like it was a success. She sent me an email end of last week with her wish list for this week. I took what she was looking for, researched recipes, came up with a food list and sent it to her. She stopped and got any items that she didn’t have on my list before I got there yesterday.

Clean eating for the whole family

This week she was looking for a healthy breakfast to have on hand for the week, protein balls for the kids, a healthy veggie dip, chili, and a stuffed cabbage recipe. We discussed things like reducing sugar intake and staying away from processed foods. Over the past few years, I’ve worked with a lot of moms and families who find it challenging to find easy healthy meals that everyone in the house will eat. I love a challenge. I love trying to find recipes that will not only be good for you, but also be loved by both grownups and kids. Eating healthy, nutrient dense food doesn’t have to be extremely difficult. It doesn’t take hours in the kitchen each day, but if you put a little work in one day a week it can make a huge difference. Mornings with kids for me are difficult so I personally like to have a couple healthy breakfast items prepped for the week. I also find when my kids eat a nutritious breakfast it really sets their mood and energy for the day, so making sure they start their day off right is a priority for me. After my oldest got on the bus yesterday I headed over to her house and got to work. She has a beautiful kitchen which was fun to play around in. It took me a little while to figure out where everything was etc., so I think next week will go much more smoothly.

I’ll be sharing my recipes that I prep for this family each week under my fitness tab! If you’re looking for some yummy, healthy family recipes be sure to check in there weekly to see my latest finds. I’ll give you my honest feedback, which recipes were a keeper, and also ones that I would adjust and how!

Financial abuse: Getting out and resources available to victims of domestic abuse

So let me begin by saying, if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, and financial abuse is part of that equation, it is extremely hard to find your way out. I stayed far too long in my marriage for this reason. If you have a friend or loved one that is in a toxic marriage, and you often find yourself wondering why she/he is still there, I ask you to remind yourself that you can’t possibly know what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes unless you’ve walked in them yourself. Financial abuse is one of the most powerful methods of a survivor trapped in an abusive relationship and makes it extremely difficult for she/he to financially survive after leaving an abusive relationship.

surviving domestic abuse

Signs of financial abuse

These are some of the tell-tale signs of financial abuse: Putting you on an allowance, not having your name on the bank accounts, getting angry at you for spending money on yourself, hiding money, spending tons of your marital money without consulting you, giving you only just enough money to buy what you needed (example grocery money for the week). If you feel like monetarily your spouse or significant other is treating you like a child you are most likely being abused. I tried for years, even brought it up in therapy, to get my names on our bank accounts, but he always had an excuse. He was self-employed. He didn’t want my name attached to the business in case something happened. He didn’t think I could handle the monthly cash flow. I never knew how much money we had in the bank, or where our money was being spent. We were living a very comfortable life, with lots of privileges so many don’t have, and then we had nothing. It was always so unsettling to me. It comes down to control. He/they, they want control.

Leaving

When I was forced to leave my home with my boys almost 6 months ago, I had nothing. My name wasn’t on the bank accounts, and even if they were, my ex had depleted most our funds during his downward spiral the last couple years. Furthermore, my ex tanked my credit the last time I tried to leave by telling his office manager to stop paying all bills in my name. Thankfully I had amazing friends who helped me sell personal belongings and furniture and gracious friends donated cash on hand for me and my boys to temporarily live on. It saddens me that it took a night with the police involved to finally find my way out. But my home, my neighbors, my friends, a life I built for 15 years, it’s so hard to leave all that behind. I won’t lie, it was extremely sad selling all my things. If you are forced to do this, I recommend asking a friend to help you. Have them just do it for you, it helps it sting a little less.

Resources for domestic violence victims

When I moved to MA, I was very fortunate to have my mom’s house to move into. Although not my first choice I know so many aren’t as fortunate as I to have a family member to turn to. If you have nowhere else to go, I recommend calling your local Hubbard house. If you are not sure where, who to talk to, call your local DV line. I did meet with the local Hubbard house, but after discussing my situation as a whole they agreed that relocating to another state since I had family to stay with was the best option for me and my boys. If you are in a situation where you have nowhere to go, call your local domestic violence hotline. They can tell you what your options are. Furthermore, if you are in a relationship where there is a history of violence, you can get an injunction against domestic violence and be granted full use of the home. You can have them legally kicked out. I have an injunction in place. This was the first thing I did after the incident. You can either file it online or go to your local courthouse and ask for the DV room. However, our home had been destroyed during his violent rages and it was no longer secure and safe for me and my boys, so staying there really wasn’t an option. You have options to stay if that is what you want. Document, document, document. Keep a log, nothing to little is not worthy of writing down. And lastly, and this is one that was incredibly hard for me to do at first, until it wasn’t, do not hesitate to call the police. You need to put your abuse on record. I know it’s hard; To call the police on someone you once loved, maybe still do, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Since being in MA, we have received zero support or access to assets, accounts in almost 6 months. I have a lawyer, and she is diligently working on this, but it is absolutely mind blowing that it takes this long legally for a woman and mom in my shoes to be granted rights to assets and funds. It’s been extremely frustrating, and I’ve been forced to take advantage of aid I never imagined having to use in my life. I still feel like there should be more resources for woman in my shoes. I want so badly to start over, to earn a living, to build a stable life for my children, but it’s so hard to even know where to begin without a car and money saved for childcare.

In MA they have what’s called DTA, Department of Transitional Assistance. And this is the place to qualify for food stamps, cash assistance, and daycare vouchers. I’m not sure what it’s referred to in each state, but if you call your local domestic violence hotline, they can give you the numbers to call for all of this. At first, I felt so ashamed, I was embarrassed to have to ask for help. But without a car (he stopped paying my bills so had to turn that in) and having been a stay-at-home mom for 7 years and have a little one not in school yet, and no money yet saved for childcare, finding a job has felt near impossible. Friends and family have reminded me that these resources are there for a reason, they are there for people that truly need help, to help people get out of a bad situation. So, if you are trying to find your way out, let me tell you, it’s not a time for pride, accept all the help you can. If a friend wants to give you money, take it. If a family member wants to take you in, go. If a family member wants to get you a lawyer, do not hesitate. People that love you want to help you. And if you aren’t as fortunate as I am, reach out to your local resources. If you are here in MA, feel free to send me an email and I can point you in the right direction. If you aren’t in MA, I can still help you know where to look. It’s not easy, it’s so hard, but there are resources available, don’t hesitate to use them.

Lastly, I’m going to be 100% honest. I was petrified to leave. I kept trying to create a plan. I kept telling myself I need to find a way to save money first, I need to leave when there is more money, I needed him to keep paying my bills to restore my credit. None of that happened. I told myself that I could just live my life with our friends and neighbors and ignore him. It was no way to live. I was living a lie and I was living a life walking on eggshells in my own home. My boys did not have a happy mom at home. I was petrified to leave, but I was even more petrified to stay. If you want out, just get out. You will figure it out, people will help you in your time of need. You deserve so much more. And when you leave, you will feel FREE.

Gaslighting from afar

Have you ever been hurt by someone physically or emotionally and then awake the next day to them pretending or denying it ever happened? Have you found yourself questioning your own reality? It makes you feel crazy when someone can blatantly deny they’ve hurt you. Welcome to the horrible world of gaslighting. And if any of this sounds familiar, I’m so sorry you are dealing with this too. 

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation in which someone makes you question your own reality. It happens when an abuser tries to control a victim by twisting their sense of reality, aka, doing something horrible to you and then telling you that was not the way it happened.

Gaslighting red flags

Being a victim of gaslighting has been my entire world the past 5 years. And if I was to look back at the entire course of my 17-year relationship, I could probably find signs of it along, which was then exacerbated by substance abuse and mental illness. I constantly felt like I was walking on eggshells. And when we had a fight, which became more often than not, he would completely disregard my feelings, and find a way to make me feel guilty, as though I was somehow to blame. He was always playing the victim in all aspects of his life. 

When I finally worked up the courage to leave 5 months ago with my boys for good, I thought I was finally breaking free from the hurt, from the constant manipulation. I thought I was finally breaking the cycle. Unfortunately, I was wrong, and he is still finding ways indirectly to hurt us.

Even without contact, he is still finding ways to try and manipulate me. From harassing those that have helped me and my boys in our times of need, to slandering my name to family and friends, the distance between us somehow hasn’t ended the hurt. It amazes me, that even though his family has seen firsthand his violence, his sickness, that they are still not only enabling him but believing his lies. Lies that are not only hurting me, but substantially affecting the financial future of their grandchildren. 

It has been a hard month and so many of the bad choices he’s made are directly impacting the life of me and my boys. It’s disturbing how even though you are the victim you still can be left feeling like you are the one being punished. It wasn’t until I was chatting with a dear friend of mine who has also been a victim of abuse that I realized that his family is gaslighting me too. My friend made a significant point, that he was probably brought up with parents that used this manipulation and that is probably where he learned it. 

That right there was another reminder of how important it is that I got my boys away from him, the reason why I’m fighting with all my power to not let him near us until he gets the help he needs. Another friend keeps reminding me, I’m in the HARD part right now. Leaving is only the first step. Now is when the real healing begins. I’m trying to allow myself to be angry, but I’m also trying really hard to let go of those things I can’t control. One of my best friends gave me a necessary kick in the butt and said to me,

“Just keep looking forward Ashleigh. There are a lot of what if’s, just focus your energy on moving forward. He has not ruined you.” 

And that is exactly what I’m going to continue to try and do. They can continue to try and beat me down, I will overcome. I know the truth. 

  

The Legal Headaches of Divorce

When you’re thinking about getting a divorce, you think about the emotional turmoil it’s going to cause you, and the lifestyle changes for you and your kids, but you don’t realize the amount of time and stress you will spend on legal documents. Not to mention the crazy amount of money every text, email, phone call, and documents ends up costing you.

I just finished once again working through another deadline. I feel like I’m constantly buried in paperwork, scrambling to find the time with two little kids to fill out yet another document.  I swear, going through a divorce, even with having a lawyer is like having a full time job. Granted, my situation is a lot more complicated than some, but it’s so unbelievably stressful going through all this. Not to mention all the time on Google you spend trying to understand all legal verbiage. I think by the time I’m done, I will have learned enough to be a paralegal, lol. 

I feel incredibly blessed to have an amazing brother and mother that are helping me with my legal fees. There is no way I could have gotten a lawyer without their help. My ex has left me and my boys with nothing. My heart breaks for all the women out there that are living in similar shoes, that stayed far too long in a horrible situation due to financial reasons. 

It’s so scary and difficult to leave when you’ve been financially abused and a stay at home mom for so long. There should be more financial resources available for women out there needing legal representation. Perhaps there is, and I’m just not aware. I’ve connected with so many others walking similar paths to mine over the past couple years and it maddens me how hard society has made it for women and moms feeling scared and trapped to start over. 

Change needs to happen. These issues need to be talked about more. Victims of abuse need to have more avenues of help. 

For all you women out there giong through this with me right now, I feel for you. For all you women out there trying to come up with a plan to get out….I feel for you. You are not alone in this, even though I know it feels that way. 

If you are going through divorce, a victim of abuse, or have lived with someone who suffers from mental illness, I would love to collaborate with you to let your voice be heard. I know it’s scary to share your story, but if you are suffering from any kind of abuse, I guarantee someone else out there needs to hear it. We can make the post anonymous. Too often are we silenced in an abusive relationship. Let me help you state your truth.

Taking off my Wedding Rings 

It is such a weird feeling to take off something that has been a part of your hand for almost 8 years. And to be honest, it took me weeks after I left to finally take them off. I felt naked without my rings, some days I still do. I still remember the day I finally got engaged, I had been patiently waiting for 8 years for my now ex to put a ring on it. It was a week before Christmas. We always celebrated our Christmas a week early as we traveled to see family the actual week of Christmas. And there in the bottom of my stocking was a little black box. And when I opened it, I thought all my dreams had finally come true.  I remember that moment all so clearly, as well as the day we stood up and said, “I DO.” 

wedding rings

I pulled them out for the first time in 3 months today. They’ve been sitting in a box, in my nightstand drawer, and the tears immediately started pouring out. 

What to do with them… Sell them? I desperately need the money.  Keep them in a box? That makes me feel like I’m not moving on. Turn them into something else? Not sure what I would turn them into. Wear my wedding band on the other hand as a statement ring? I purchased the band myself. He didn’t think I needed one that fancy. RED FLAG. 

For now, I’m putting them back in the box, and reminding myself it’s ok to give my heart some more time. One moment, one day at a time. 

Accepting Divorce

DIVORCE. The seven-letter word I never thought would become my story. When I was a little girl I dreamed of meeting that forever man, creating a family together, chasing our dreams as a united team.

When you’re growing up you always think of these big life dreams. Having a family, building a home, going through life together. This was always my dream. All I ever thought I wanted in life was to get married, become a mom and have a family.

I can’t tell you the amount of times over the past five years I thought about divorce, finding myself thinking, this can’t be how it’s supposed to be. But accepting that reality, accepting that the man I fell in love with was no longer that same man, was an entire different story. I asked myself hundreds of times… Is it harder to stay? Or is it harder to leave? And still, it took a life alternating night for me and my sons to finally say ENOUGH.

For the past five years I’ve been trying to help someone that clearly doesn’t want help and for the first time in 17 years I’m choosing me. I’m choosing to put my own mental health first. And it’s hard. It was hard to stay, and it’s been hard to leave.

It’s easy to look from the outside in and judge someone’s situation. It’s easy to look at someone’s life when you’re not living in their shoes and ask yourself why they are still there. Everyone’s story is their own. Everyone’s journey to divorce or deciding to stay is their own. If you’re finding yourself asking, should I stay or should I go, know you’re not alone. It’s only your choice to make, your choice to say when enough is enough.

You’re not alone.