What is a displaced homemaker?

Displaced dog-lover.

This is a displaced homemaker:

A woman who was once dependent on another's income, but is no longer due to a change in marital status (divorce or death) or a sudden change in financial situation (partner loses his/her job), and is forced back into the workforce.  

Apparently, officially speaking, I'm right on track with my loss of identity, confusion, and fear.  As is my defensiveness and unspeakable desire to run away from it all.  We displaced homemakers have a lot of bullshit going on (emphasis mine):
She must cope with the rigors of basic survival, provide for herself... and get on with the business of deciding what she will do with the rest of her life.  These are no small tasks under the best of circumstances.  Goal setting may appear to be an easy task, but for an individual whose entire life is in disarray, even setting the goal of picking up an employment application is a major activity.  The displaced homemaker, at this point, is usually struggling to make it out of bed each morning, and often feels incapable of more formidable efforts.*
So... now I have another label.  First it was small, like, College Graduate; then a little bigger, Owner of a Masters Degree; then huge, such as Wife and Mother (do they keep getting bigger in life??); and finally, Divorcee and Displaced Homemaker.  

Ok, I'll take it.  I'm a displaced homemaker, a mother, a woman, and struggling.  Really fucking struggling.

I mean, half of my life includes being wrapped in soft, sweet arms; kissed with innocent lips; snuggled with and adored; filled to the brim with purpose and meaning.  The other half I am alone; wholly grown-up; drunk with friends; adrift; empty, terrified, and jobless.

I am thrilled at my freedom to be Me, but also deeply struck down by it.  I don't entirely know who that is anymore.  I am a mother without a son half the time, I am a wife without a husband, an ambitious woman with no job, an animal lover with no animals, a care-taker with no one to take care of, a lover with no one to love.

This separation/divorce thing is splitting me in ways I didn't even know were possible.  Not only have I separated from my life partner, but I have been cracked away from ideas and identities that were integral to who I was as a human being.  I had no idea I would be this shattered, this broken.

I feel dead inside every moment I am away from Hawk without exception.  My heart is icy, downright black.  I care about nothing.  Getting out of bed, being industrious, holding conversations are all becoming feats in and of themselves.   I do it all, every day, but I'll admit it's a struggle.

As I see myself slipping I understand that it's part of the process.  I knew this was going to suck.  -- What?  Did I really think that everything would be peachy?  No.  I knew it was going to get dark, I just didn't know it'd also lose who I was in the process of discovering who that was in the first place.

I think, "If only I had a job.  It'd keep me busy, give me something to do, someone to be..." But it's not that easy.

I had a conversation the other day I wish I hadn't.  I can't tell you how many times people ask me about my job search and how it's going.  I'm getting used to it.  I know that people care about me, but it's like asking "So, how's the cancer thing going?"  I don't really want to talk about it (it's painful and terrifying), but I do because I know friends and family are worried.  But this particular chat struck me to the bone like the others hadn't.  I was asked, "Why don't you just open a private practice while you look for other work?  That's what so-and-so did."

The question is innocuous, I know, but the message I got was, "You're not doing it right.  You're not doing enough.  Look at this other woman, she did it right.  You have no excuse to not be working."

This is a perfect example of my current state of mind, of how goddamned wounded I am.  I don't really know if that's what this person thought about me by their "helpful suggestion," I just have no buffer because I am lost and I am mourning.

My face, neck and chest flooded with heat and I had to fight the tears as I took a deep breath and responded as non-defensively as humanly possible that a) I don't want to start a private practice right out of the gate after a 3.5 year absence from the field, b) I have zero capital to do so even if I wanted to, c) I don't want to be isolated as a new therapist from my colleagues and would prefer an agency setting or other cooperative, and d) I don't think it's as easy as this friend of a friend made it seem; I have friends whose private practices are only just now in the black after a year of work and they had monies in the cache to do so.

I was gently argued with on these points, then given a couple of concessions.

I felt somehow simultaneously vindicated and even more defeated when I walked away.

I'm treading water from technical skill alone, not strength.  I only look normal:  I bathe, put on makeup, laugh easily, socialize.  I don't think people understand what's really happening to me; how sensitive I am.  How hard I'm fighting to keep my walls up and remain protected from the outside world.  What a big fucking deal this all is.

I have lost everything I knew and loved.  Everything I thought I was.  This isn't just some fucking bad mood.  I'm not weak.  I'm not making this a bigger deal than it really is.  This is awful.  And I don't give a fuck if someone else has it worse or it could get worse.  Of course it could get worse.  I'm not so self-absorbed or ridiculous that I don't know that, but really, what good does that line of thinking do other than make me feel stupid?  It doesn't make my feelings go away.  I appreciate some perspective, but I'd really rather skip over the idea that I'm not allowed to feel this way just because some other schmuck has it worse than me.

When I visit Hawk and his dad, Rooster, at my old house my heart clenches.  I see the plants I painstakingly put in the ground, the wall colors I spent weeks debating on, the old friends from across the street, the hopes I had sunk into those four walls.  When I look closer I see nail-holes from removed pictures, rearranged furniture, a masculine feel, a new smell; Rooster feels different.  He doesn't need me.  Hell, he doesn't want me. -- But of course!  It's all (say it with me) part. of. the. process.  The mother fucking process.

I feel like that house and its inhabitants are my ghost arm.  I'm limbless and I can still imagine I feel it, but it's gone forever.  What I had is gone.


And in case you were all wondering, I'm actually ok.  I'm just hurting.  An ok, hurting, displaced homemaker.

*I did a search for the psychological definition of "displaced homemaker" and stumbled across this paper written in 1981. 


  1. Ditto. All of that. Me too.
    xoxo love you.

  2. I cannot believe I have been so fucking out of the loop that I didn't even know you were divorcing. I am so sorry, babe. It's a lot to deal with.

    Poeple will always have something to say. There will always be those who make it sound like they would do so much better if they were in your place. Fuck'em. They are NOT in your place and they have no right to judge or be patronizing. I think the mere fact that you are keeping it together is awesome. You'll be fine, I'm sure - but it takes time, and you have a right to take time! You are not a damn robot. HUGS!!!

  3. Give yourself a break, be kind to ypurself, you're allowed to feel like this x

  4. I could say so much about this post. But the thing that leaps immediately to mind is this: any time anyone says, "Why don't you just [whatever]?" THAT IS NOT HELPFUL! "Why don't you just?" is not a helpful thing to ask, ever. Because it entirely misses the emotional component. Yes, if it were JUST a matter of, say, opening a private practice - and all your problems would magically disappear - you'd've done that already, wouldn't you? "Why don't you just" (and statements like it) imply that the person on the receiving end of the advice is stupid. That somehow you were completely blind to the fact that the solution to your life is RIGHT OVER THERE. Well, guess what: it's fucking not. If someone else was able to just open a private practice (or "just adopt" or "just take it one day at a time" or just whatever), great. Good for them. But everyone's situation - financial, physical, emotional - is different. NOTHING is One Size Fits All.

    But I didn't come here to rant in your comments. I've been thinking about you (and your sweet little guy) often since the separation. And I think you're doing a fantastic job balancing everything on your plate.

    Also, I really, really resonate with that "I'm OK, just hurting" feeling.

  5. Maybe it is part of the process but it still sucks. Much love and hugs to you.

  6. When my kid was in the NICU, and really doing quite well for a preemie, people constantly reminded me how much worse it could be. I knew that. Of course I knew it. I also knew they were trying to be helpful. But honestly, it's not a good thing to say. Just because other people have it bad doesn't mean that you don't have a right to handle your crappy situation in your own way and time.

    Which, I guess, is my way of saying I hope that the process is as easy on you as possible. Because I can imagine it really sucks.

  7. To begin, I have to tell you that I just love how well you articulated some of own emotions.

    Loved your Blog Space, and even though I never met you up front and personal, I feel your pain.

    I too am living the "Emotional Roller Coaster" and the changes that hold you hostage to your own self loathing, while you sort through the myriad of questions that follow, knowing quite well, they don't exist. I listen to friends and the fanciful remedies they afford me, and I do all that I can from screaming. Yes, this is a very "New" feeling, when you realize that your just one spec of a person of who you thought you were, you look about the same, but inwardly your ALONE, I'm begining to think that once you overcome the feeling of being "alone" it becomes a bit more tolerable, and you awake for brief periods of time to know, if you don't do something to "wash" the memories of who you once saw in that mirror, you'll fall victim to more brutality of self.

    I can't find the right words to say, as they become jumbled as I write, my mind races over the many memories of who I once was, while producing a sense of anger for allowing myself to fall victim to circumstances. And if I am sure of anything, it is, you are alone, and you must provide yourself some love while this is all happening. Take a walk, clear your head of the revolving thoughts, if only for an hour, remember yourself as a child, visit schools you attended, visit your homestead, and try to recall, how you became who you are today. Take a step at a time, don't think of yesterday's, when they appear, just embrace them and then let it go, cry, scream, shout at the trees, and know they cannot challenge what you are feeling, then go home fix yourself a healthy meal, play music and dance with yourself, rely on YOU, YOU are who makes YOU, try loving that person first before you love another and become who they are. You have my heart..Deborah

  8. OMG! I just stumbled upon your blog because I just discovered the term "displaced homemaker", which is pretty much me in a few weeks or months or whenever I have the courage to leave this impossible situation. I am terrified and distraught, I feel like ten people I love have died on the same day. I don' know what to do. Please keep posting.