Help this displaced homemaker figure out what to do for a living now
June 8, 2018 1:47 PM   Subscribe

This is me. Please help me figure out what I can do to earn a living now.

I have a law degree from a state school and a current license, but only practiced for ten years and have been basically a housewife for the last ten, due to some health issues, life circumstances, and mutual agreement with my husband that this was the best arrangement for us. I hate practicing and at any rate it takes years to build up a practice so that's out. I have some editorial experience from before law school. For various reasons, my life would be immeasurably better if I could work from home, and I think I may be able to get support from my husband for a period of time to learn a new skill, but I have no idea what that may be. Do you? I'm not particularly comfortable with business/math/tech type stuff. I need something that will be a steady job, not a constant hustle to drum up work, the way doing legal research and writing for firms would be. Aaaand here's the fun part: I think I need to earn about $60K. Nightmare.
posted by johannsebastianbachpuppet to Work & Money (21 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I think I may be able to get support from my husband for a period of time to learn a new skill,

Wait what no. You are entitled to spousal support, half the assets, half the retirement savings, etc. Where is your divorce lawyer? Please tell me you have one and have not been suckered into mediation by your ex.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:51 PM on June 8, 2018 [94 favorites]

Your husband is the sole income earner? Do you still have access to bank accounts or stocks? IANAL but I have an ex who financially destroyed me. You should get to that account and take out at least 6 months worth of living expenses and put it into a separate account. You need your own money NOW.

You also need to talk to a lawyer because you should be entitled to some type of spousal support and that will all get settled eventually, but for now, you need money. I would not trust your husband to do the honorable thing, so if you can just take money, do it. Don't ask him.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:01 PM on June 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

How much money do you need to make? My assumption here is that there will be some kind of spousal support, I mean woman-who-quit-her-career-after-marriage-and-is-now-getting-divorced is pretty much the textbook case of what alimony is for. So how much do you expect to get, and how big a budget hole do you need to fill?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:08 PM on June 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

Another thought here, though: homemaking is a skill, and some of the sub-skills may be marketable. Interior designers, house cleaners, personal chefs, personal assistants, accountants, and nannies (and more) all get paid to do work that is otherwise often done for free by stay-at-home wives. Do any of those things appeal to you, and do you think you are good enough (or almost good enough) at any of them to make a small business out of them?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:16 PM on June 8, 2018

My mom's third career was technical writing, after about 10 years as a stay at home parent (and a technical career before that that she didn't enjoy). She got her foot in the door with a community college certificate and she has been very successful at it (work she likes, steady salaried employment, flexible work schedule, solid pay, even a pension). I know one of the other options she explored around the same time was being someone who creates indexes for books, or other similar specialized types of writing. I know that much of that is that sort of short-term work, but for those niches where salaried work is available, it sounds like it might be something worth exploring.
posted by mosst at 2:41 PM on June 8, 2018 [7 favorites]

Yes, I have a lawyer and he's the one saying he thinks there's a solid argument for spousal support.
posted by johannsebastianbachpuppet at 2:49 PM on June 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

I don't know your location, I think this is more feasible in some states than others, but could you look into jobs with state and local government, either lawyer or JD-preferred? No hustle, regular pay, public pay bands so you would know if a given job would work for you or not. Are you by any chance still in the same state as your law school? Could you reach out to their alumni relations or career services?
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:00 PM on June 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

You might consider looking at HR roles. Having an understanding of employment law is helpful but not actually required.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 3:09 PM on June 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

I was going to suggest looking into state and local government, too. The hours will generally be manageable. These positions will be more competitive in some states than in others.
posted by praemunire at 3:50 PM on June 8, 2018

(Alternatively, you could look at any nearby larger law firms, in recruitment and development. Your prior practice will seem a natural transition over to them.)
posted by praemunire at 3:51 PM on June 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

PLEASE READ: I can't advise you what you should do because I don't know what you LIKE to do, and though not every job we get is something we like, there's zero reason why you shouldn't be considering what you might enjoy when you look at the mix. You also need to identify all of the skills you don't necessarily consider important because they're so easy for you, you assume everyone can do them.

But I will tell you that your experience with your husband has made you forget who you are, and I say that because you have described yourself as being "basically a housewife" as if that doesn't involve budgeting, juggling multiple priorities concurrently, event planning, project management, and a whole host of other skills essential to maintaining the life you've had up to now.

When my best friend initially left her icky husband, she couldn't imagine what she'd do because "other than being a mom" (her words) the only paying job she'd had since she married her husband was as a retail store clerk and manager. So I reminded her that we graduated from the same Ivy League university, and she was completely discounting the educational credentials she achieved as well as all of the skills she attained during the prior 15 years. I reminded her that she served as treasurer of her PTA and discovered (and investigated and reported) the president had been embezzling, something that took skill, determination, and leadership. She didn't see herself the way everyone else saw her. Once we (her friends) worked with her to remind her of all the many things she had accomplished but discounted, we developed her resume and her biographical narrative for doing interviews. As I type this, she's on a flight to Amsterdam to help her team at a major pharmaceutical company (a medical team, not the unethical people who charge ridiculous rates), and she's received more than a decade of accolades, even though she was insistent that she didn't know how to do anything in math or tech or business or public speaking. She thought she would end up being a waitress or a babysitter (not that there's anything wrong with that) and she's a mid-level executive with good pay, good benefits, and co-workers who value her intellect.

YOU GRADUATED FROM LAW SCHOOL. That means that you have the intellectual capacity to do anything you want (and a bunch of things you probably don't want) that can contribute to both society and your self-growth. You have lots of options, probably too many, and that can be scary. You only have to start thinking about the first step. Later on, you can decide if you want to live in a different city/state/country, or train for a different career, but right now, recognize all the skills you already have.

In fact, whether or not you plan (or want) to use them, please write down every single skill you have ever had that you can possibly use. Were you on Law Review? Did your friends like your case study writeups for your study group? Do your friends call you when they're trying to make decisions on what they should do next? Are you really good at noticing when something in a room as been changed? Do you remember people's birthday's or their kids' names? Write down every darned thing you are good at. This exercise serves two purposes -- helping you build your confidence, and helping you identify what skills you may want to put to use in your career.

As for jobs to consider, I have another friend who is my colleague in professional organizing. She is a licensed attorney, and practiced for a while. But she left law to become a professional organizer and productivity specialist, but what she quickly found was that she has a superior skill at public speaking about productivity. And then she found that she excelled at teaching other people about public speaking. She's also working on a novel, and blogging about writing. And she learned sign language, and talks to people about that. She's not just one thing. You don't have to be just one thing.

For example, here's a random article I found on 60 Nontraditional Jobs You Can DO With a Law Degree. Personally, if I had a law degree, I'd consider the job as legal recruiter (which is human resources for law firms) or contracts administrator, but those would fit my social and organizing skills. Whatever your skills are, I bet there's a lot on this list that you haven't considered, and it's just one list.

PLEASE take a breath and stop to recognize your magnificence. Ask your friends to join together to remind you of all the interesting, funny, heroic talents you've displayed in your lifetime. Good luck.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 3:52 PM on June 8, 2018 [116 favorites]

Talk to your lawyer before you "get to that account and take out at least 6 months worth of living expenses and put it into a separate account" as that could easily escalate a mutually beneficial breakup into a long and messy battle where only the lawyers win.

As far as work, as you sure you wouldn't consider tech? There are a lot of coding bootcamps now aimed at people without any prerequisites and that offer deferred tuition and income sharing agreements so you only pay if and when you get a job.
posted by JonB at 3:56 PM on June 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

A friend with a law degree who had hit some lousy times ended up working for a large healthcare organization, not necessarily as a lawyer but using some of his legal experience. I think the work has been enjoyable and steady for him in a way that working for a firm was not. Other people have found the same very large healthcare organization to be a good place to spend their careers.
posted by vunder at 4:13 PM on June 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

What kind of law did you practice for 10 years? I think that could help folks think of more applicable related jobs.

If you would consider non-traditional law, some firms have alternative track lawyer positions that work from home, have no business development requirements, etc. If it was employment law and you’re interested in something like that, PM me and I can tell you about my firm’s program (we have folks who solely investigate and draft responses to EEOC charges, for example).
posted by wuzandfuzz at 4:48 PM on June 8, 2018

My mom was in this situation when my parents split. She got a part-time office assistant job through a friend so she could be "in the workforce", found a job in an estate planning firm (I don't know if this was networking or applying cold; it was unrelated to her prior experience) and a few years later moved to working in trust administration and estate settlement at a bank, neither of which required being an attorney, but it was an advantage in being hired. Before I was born, she worked for the state government after hating working at a fancy law firm, so I guess I can be the third person to say the word "government".
posted by hoyland at 5:02 PM on June 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had an estate planning practice. I should clarify that I desperately want to stay in my hometown, which is very small.
posted by johannsebastianbachpuppet at 5:04 PM on June 8, 2018

Start looking here (you can google for a discount for a month or whatever). Also, I memailed you.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 5:47 PM on June 8, 2018

I’m seconding the tech writing idea. I know you said you didn’t think you’d be comfortable with something in tech, but tech writing is more about writing than tech. I have NO background in tech and I’m managing because my writing and people skills are good. 60k would be a LOW starting salary, from what I’ve seen. It’s also a job you could likely do from home, depending on the company. Honestly, if you can practice law, you can do this.
posted by greermahoney at 9:04 PM on June 8, 2018

Yes, I have a lawyer and he's the one saying he thinks there's a solid argument for spousal support

Not career advice and I'm not sure if I'm reading this correctly, but it sounds like you yourself don't think you deserve spousal support - and as someone said above, you actually sound like a textbook case for deserving it. So don't sell yourself short (or don't sell your future self short, if you find it hard to advocate for your own self).
posted by trig at 12:27 AM on June 9, 2018

I just want to encourage you to both tackle this, and slow down. Contradictory advice, I know. I have several friends who have gotten divorced, some of whom either worked in the family business or who were not working at the time. They are all okay and you will be too.

Please remember that this is an economic problem first, and a career problem second. It may be that if you choose to simplify your lifestyle and your home to a cute small apartment (or many other options) and that you receive the proper share of retirement savings and other assets like the family home, that you don't need as much as you think you do. Or you may! But it isn't going to be an income you need tomorrow so you do have some time.

Here are some things my friends have done in the wake of divorce:
- spent 6 months travelling abroad, followed by two years of house sitting and then starting a small business in elder care/advocating
- gone back to school to retrain as a counsellor
- moved into a tiny basement apartment for a few years, saved up a down payment on a two-family home where the rent pays the mortgage and most costs for her
- moved into a pretty high-octane career

What almost everyone did: Get some advice and help from other women. Women get this problem, the post-divorce economic problem, and they find jobs for each other.

The biggest mistakes I have seen are:
- (this is a big one) letting the husband walk with most of the assets. I know it's hard but do not do this. I am really glad you have a lawyer, keep pushing that lawyer to push for every dime. Half of the air miles. Half of every. thing.
- keeping the family home, or an equivalent home, when it was too much house to afford

That's why I say this is an economic problem. Tackle it at both ends and you may be surprised.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:31 AM on June 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

A job selling anything to lawyers or law practices should be in your wheelhouse, and $60K should be easily achievable.
posted by COD at 5:43 AM on June 9, 2018

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