During this time of year when most of us are filled with festive thoughts of sharing the holidays with those that we love. However, there are a lot of people that are still experiencing the everyday challenges of life while trying to balance careers, families, financial obligations and a host of other issues. Even though mentoring relationships are typically of the professional nature, there are times when personal challenges arise and need to be addressed. I was reminded of these challenges during a recent meeting with my mentee Sandra. She is newly divorced and raising her two sons alone without any child support. However, she is continuing to live in the home that she once shared with her ex-husband and he is footing the bill. This living situation was supposed to be a temporary one, however she has continued to live in the home a year and half after the divorce has been finalized.
On this particular day, we were talking about some major issues that Sandra was facing. She is in the home health care business and works through an agency. She has been working over nights, as well as, twelve hour days. Sandra had recently been assigned to an overnight shift that begins Monday morning through Saturday morning. Although, this schedule pays well, and helps her to fulfill her monthly obligations she has not had any remaining funds for savings.
Sandra is fortunate to have her parents living close by who are able to help with her two boys while she works. She was raised by her father and the two are extremely close. Her father has remarried, she and her step-mother do not get along for many reasons. However, she has learned to deal with it, as she needs help with her kids.
During our conversation, Sandra shared that her ex-husband wanted to move back into the home that she is living in. When he called her, he initially stated that he wanted to know if she was over her “temper tantrum” and was ready to get re-married. She told him no, as she divorced him after being hit by him. Now, that her ex-husband insists on moving back into the home they once shared, Sandra has to move out. This is where the dilemma for her starts.
She is facing the following:
1. Where does she move to? If she moves to her father’s house, she has to deal with her step mother on a regular basis. They usually only make it when they live in two different places and only around each other for a short period of time. She doesn’t make enough money to afford a place on her own.
2. Although her husband has been paying the house note, she informed me that her name was on the title. Oh no, now she is impacted, from a credit perspective, if he doesn’t pay the bill.
3. Her oldest son is having a hard time. He told her that he understands she has to work. However, he doesn’t like it. Her son works odd jobs to make extra money. So, he told Sandra that he had 300.00 to give to her, so he could buy her hours. This way, she could take the day off and still get paid, as oppose to not getting any money. Sandra was touched and cried her eyes out. She proceeded to tell her son that she would take one day, but that is not how it works. She must be dependable and reliable to the agency, so she would continue to have a job and work.
As we discussed each of the above issues, we began to break down each situation separately. She knows that she can’t go back to her ex-husband and she can’t let him “guilt” her into doing so. She has to move and have a stable environment for her kids. Does this mean that Sandra has to put her feelings aside regarding her step mother? Does this mean that she has to make sure that her kids have a roof over their heads, food, clothes and the ability to concentrate in school? The answer to all of the above is yes. Yet, maybe she could talk to her father about her feelings and gain some insight and advice from him. Maybe, she could have a conversation with her step mother and discuss the problems or issues she has with her and come to some solutions.
The second issue, Sandra knows she must get her name off of the house note. She talked about the fact, that she had this conversation with her ex-husband. Unfortunately, he said that he would do it, as long as she went out with him again. Should she go? What does she do? How does she handle this situation so she is not exposed? We discussed that she could go to the mortgage holder and let them know that she is divorced and discuss the options to remove her name or the accountability. We also discussed going to her attorney to handle this situation from a legal standpoint. This would ensure that he could not bribe her or hold this over her head.
On item number three, Sandra said that she has quality time with her children and talks to them about homework daily. She spends all weekend with her kids most of the time. The real problem is that since she knows she has to bring in more income, she has been taking jobs on the weekends to make extra money. She is now having to decide whether or not the extra money is worth the time away from her children? If this is a must, how can she help the boys understand by knowing that it is short term and she will be able to stop working the extra hours in 3 months? This is how much time she will need this second job. What should she do and how does she help her kids understand? Maybe, she can talk to them and let them know it is short term. While she does that, she can begin to put “feelers” out about a new opportunity. Looking for a better paying job.
Sandra was so frustrated and all she could say was, “the bottom line is that I need a new job that can pay me more money”. I could understand her pain and need to do more, as I have been down that road. However, it was important for us to put an action plan together, so she can work towards getting her life back on track. After much discussion, tears and planning, Sandra decided to move in with her father and have a conversation with both he and her stepmother. She did call her attorney and the bank. She started her plan of action to remove her name. Lastly, we put together a network of individuals, whom she could meet to help with her job search. Sandra and I looked up opportunities with her qualifications. At the end of our session, she began to feel like there really was hope again. She just needs to stay focused.