First of all, marriage offers fewer mental health benefits to women than to men, but divorce makes things worse for women – financially speaking.
The fact that it takes men and women five years to recover from the negative financial impact of divorce affects alimony payments too.
Let’s not forget that alimony itself is in the range of a third to a fifth of the spouse’s income, since income that used to run one household must now run two.
Worse, less than 50 per cent of wives see alimony or maintenance in the United Kingdom. Which means in India, where the legal process is inaccessible to many women, and enforcing alimony payments difficult, the figure is likely to be lower.
In other words, the standard of living drops significantly more for women than for men. In fact, the poverty rate in separated women is almost three times that of men.
Not to forget the emotional impact of continuing to depend on uncertain and insufficient alimony payments. You would still be bound to the person you have parted from. If your ex remarries, you will be worse off, since divorced remarried men face more financial hardship, and that can affect payments.
Although remarriage reduces the negative financial impact of divorce for women, I would recommend taking responsibility for your finances from now on.
Married or not, you are better off working even if you haven’t worked before, or if you have taken a break.
Related reading: How to be financially independent as a married woman
Building self-confidence when returning to work
“Fear is the biggest challenge,” says Bindu, who has begun handling digital marketing for a friend, a domain that’s completely new to her, ten years after she left her CRM job in the automobile sector. She is married and is the mother of a teen.
Interview with Bindu:
“It’s like I don’t know anything at all. I must think through something as simple as writing a mail, or facing an interview, things that had come naturally when I was working,” she says.
You may not even recognise the job profiles that suit you. As Bindu says, “Earlier, I was blind to opportunities. Now that I have taken the first step, I am open to them.”
Her advice? “Be yourself and get on to it, and slowly you will regain things.”
Back-to-work for divorced women
Through all this, the question of whether you are employable pulls you back.
The good news is that Indian women have higher employability (even if marginally) than men. And employability in general is rising in India.
Look up job opportunities in companies which offer back-to-work programs for women – Tata, IBM, Amazon, Godrej, HUL, Phillips, Intel, GE – the list is long and it is lengthening. These companies are reskilling women employees who return to work, they provide mentorship, and offer flexible opportunities. You will need the last one in particular if you have children.
Related reading: The best thing about my marriage – my mother-in-law
Even as you approach these companies, review your qualifications (academic), and skills (your experience and capabilities).
If you do not have the basic qualification, which is an undergraduate degree, it is better to complete that.
You may want to upskill or reskill yourself. For example, if you are looking for a teacher’s job, you may want to pursue B.Ed.
If you are working already, reskilling and upskilling can help you move to higher-paying jobs.
But where do you find the funds to educate yourself when you don’t have a job? Alimony payments, family help, living with family while you stand on your own feet can help.
Consider part-time or distance learning while you find work. IGNOU is one of the options for distance learning, and many colleges offer courses with morning or evening classes.
Will you get a job that matches your skill?
“She is more likely to start at the grade at which she had left, or as a trainee, depending on the length of her break, and if she has had any experience at all,” says Veteran Wing Commander Arun Kaul, former Group Head—Human Resources at Arvind Ltd.
Interview with Commander Kaul:
“She needs to have the determination to return to work, it reflects in the confidence she exudes at the interview,” he adds. “She may need to work on her communication and interview skills, and domain knowledge.”
- It helps to have a supportive friend or a recruitment consultant or coach who can guide you through these skills and interview trends.
- You may want to look at vocational training for jobs that match your interests. For example, a course in technical writing can get you a foothold into documentation teams in IT companies. Symbiosis offers one. Polishing communication and presentation skills can get you into customer care or sales roles.
- Look at ways that build craftsmanship, practical experience, and problem-solving. If you are an IT person, working on open source projects can qualify for experience. Working as an intern too helps you get a foothold.
- Don’t forget updating your computer skills, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint at the least.
Related reading: Financial tips for Double Income couples
Childcare for working single mothers
Even if your qualifications, skills and job are settled, how do you work when you have children? Good quality childcare is as important, since child custody is generally given to mothers.
Family-friendly workplaces and having family caregivers for your children will help you work. For me, it was my in-laws. And for Neelima, who is a doctor with two children, it has been her parents. For some, it can be siblings or cousins. For others, it can be a friend or neighbour who would do it for a fee.
If your ex is willing to take care of some parts of the children’s day, or overnights if your job requires travel, work out a schedule with him. After parents divorce, regular overnight stays with dad are best for most young children – all the more reason why you should have an amicable divorce.
For others, it will be childcare facilities. Assess the place for security, adult-to-child ratio, hygiene before you send your child to one.
Finally, in the matter of children, it’s a delicate balance of time and money, one that you will never be at peace with, and that’s life at this point. But return to work, and you will be standing on your feet without uncertainty.