Eva (43): “Seven years ago I decided to leave my husband, Ella’s father, after five years of marriage. My ex is a nice guy and a loving father, but he was struggling with a gambling addiction, which I gradually found out. In addition to guilt and sadness, I especially felt an enormous relief that we could move on with our lives. I knew that from that moment on I had to pull the cart alone, also financially.
Article continues after the ad
During our marriage, I had always provided a modest income. I earned between 1000 and 1500 euros a month and also had some savings. My ex made a lot of money, but a lot also disappeared because of his addiction. After the divorce, I knew I could expect little from him financially – I had to take care of it all by myself. And that was not going to work with my old income, because the rent for my new apartment alone amounted to 1000 euros. In total I lost about 1900 euros in fixed costs, including my pension accrual of 250 euros per month.
Mapping money matters
It was high time to map out my financial affairs. I took Ella to my parents for a few days and, with the help of a financial expert, I listed all my income and expenses. The conclusion was that I had to earn three times as much if I wanted, in addition to all the fixed costs, to have some money left to save and to be able to lead a pleasant life. To achieve this, a lot had to change in the field of work.
I decided to do my trade as an illustrator and designer in a different way. Previously I mainly worked for magazines, now I found work as a teacher at a university of applied sciences. In addition, I started giving training in the business world, as a business draftsman. Nice work is great, but above all it had to pay well. Teaching turned out to be good for me and it offered me more security, and with the training I earned very well, sometimes as much as 1000 euros a day.
It was a win-win situation, but I really had to struggle to get it done. My average day consisted of working, shopping, racing to the nursery and home, cooking, eating, playing, putting my daughter to bed, cleaning up, doing some more work and then hanging up the laundry, moaning with fatigue, and then going to going to bed and getting up too early. On Wednesdays I was off and took care of Ella, and the one weekend a month that Ella was with her father, I continued working undisturbed. It wasn’t a ball, but it had to.
At first I was very scared: what if it didn’t work out, what if I ended up in a gribus flat somewhere, or worse, on the street? For the first time I felt extremely vulnerable – as a freelancer, uninsured, without a safety net and with a child. But once things were on track and I turned out to be able to earn more than enough on my own, I felt super strong. I now know that when the shit hits the fan, it will be okay in the end.
‘At the divorce I got two chairs and a lamp’>
Although I am now in a relatively luxurious position – I earn an average of 7,500 euros gross per month – I have a hard time letting go of the reins when it comes to my work. Because I know that everything in life can change just like that. I still work a lot and hard, while in the meantime I could take it a bit easier. My financial affairs are in good order, which gives a lot of peace of mind.
I have saved up a buffer of 20,000 euros, already built up before the crisis, when things as an illustrator and designer were still going well. It acts as my disability insurance: I never got that money, not even when I just started living alone. Half is now in a special self-employed pension savings account. Since I am seriously afraid of blue envelopes, I have also opened a separate tax account, which has an amount of 9,108 euros.
I know what it feels like to have very little money and that makes it extra nice not to have to pay attention anymore if I want to eat somewhere, if I want to buy a pair of shoes or if I need something for Ella. I set aside 50 euros every month for her. In terms of shopping, I have also become easier. I regularly have meals delivered and feel free to buy bags with pre-cut fruit and vegetables. A bowl of sliced mango for three euros is of course ridiculous, but I allow it myself because I work so hard, and because I really am a nicer person and a nicer mother if I don’t just have to take care of it.
A nice man
In the first few years alone with Ella, I hardly had time to meet someone, but after two years of being alone, I started dating over the internet. Terrible, but oh my, what a nice man I bumped into there. Jonathan really watches and listens to me and enjoys taking care of me. In my previous relationship it was completely the other way around. Jonathan is a gentleman, very gallant and charming, he has a sense of humor and he is strong in life. As a partner in a law firm, he has his affairs in order.
When I unexpectedly got pregnant with Miles, we decided to buy a house together. Even if I earn less than Jonathan, I would never want to live on his pocket. In addition, I think it is way too much fun to work. I also want to give that as an example to my children, that work is nice. And because Jonathan and I work so hard, we can afford to get off the track every now and then on a weekend away with just the two of us. Then we just spend 2000 euros or more on a nice hotel, shopping and good food. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to act ‘responsibly irresponsibly’ at times.
My previous relationship and the period after the divorce taught me that it is extremely important to always remain financially independent. Fortunately, I never had to make use of social security benefits, but during that period as a single mother I hardly had to pay tax and I was reimbursed for a large part of the childcare, that made all the difference. I think the Netherlands is great in that respect. Now that my situation has changed, I see paying taxes more as a contribution to society and I honestly do so with a good feeling. ”
This article has previously appeared in Kek Mama.
More Kek Mama? Follow us on Instagram.