Deb Weinstein-Single Mom & Breadwinner

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

Here’s Deb after yoga, the way I know her.

Deb came of age just about the time Women’s Lib came on the scene. She has worked all her adult life, 34 years, first at Subaru and now at GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. In fact, she is Vice-President of Human Resources for GSK Oncology, a newly formed global business within GSK Research & Development. She’s corporate all the way!

Just as life is what happens when you are making other plans, Deb had not intended to work full time after her two children were born. Or, at least, she wanted to have the option of not working full time.  Never happened.  After the birth of her son Ben (now 22), her husband became ill and was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a little known ailment in 1988, when it was declared an illness.  So, 16 weeks after the birth of Ben and again, 16 weeks after the birth of daughter Alexa (now 19), Deb was back at her desk.

She did arrange to work only four days each week, a breakthrough arrangement at the time. She was home Mondays and her husband was home Fridays, so the children were in day care only three days a week until they started public school. Then, after being together for 17 years (14 married)  her husband did not want to be with her any more and even though they  went for marital counseling,  that didn’t work and Deb and her husband divorced. She said, “My whole life imploded.”

With an incapacitated husband, Deb became the breadwinner at a time when working moms were being lauded because Women’s Lib changed society’s attitude about working mothers. But Deb never had the option of staying home while her children were very young and she is still working full time, at least until her daughter finishes college. Deb still works four days at her office and one day at home, so she is definitely full time as a mom and a VP.

Here’s Deb as corporate VP

I know Deb from yin yoga class. She “parks” her mat right behind mine, so we chat before class and sometimes after.  She is smart, attractive, and competent.  We talked about how smart women often get the “short end of the stick,” as it were.  If she weren’t such a capable breadwinner, would her husband be more forthcoming with financial help for the children? Maybe. If she weren’t so committed to her children, would her ex have taken on more responsibility once he got well? I doubt it. (Women tend to bend over backwards when their children are involved.)

My personal feeling about this is based on my own divorce. I think my husband was intimated by the fact that I was smart, at least as smart as he was, and in the end, more intuitive about our business, which went bankrupt after I left and had warned him to close before I moved away. Women’s Lib did not necessarily change men’s minds about feeling the need to be smarter than their wives, although my younger brother readily admits his wife is smarter than he is and seems to enjoy that. (I think he is an exception, but then he is my brother!)

Deb seems to have handled her life well.  She has raised two children —-they were 9 and 6 when she separated—- managed to land two very important corporate jobs, and admitted she is not interested in marriage, just companionship. Life doesn’t always deal us the hand we dreamed about, and the reality is that many of us who have been divorced were burned pretty well and now gun shy about remarriage. (I was single for 13 years before I took the plunge with much trepidation.)

Deb is fortunate in the sense that she has had a strong career track to make possible the care of her children through college. But soon I think she will be ready for a change.  She has had no time for a midlife crisis, like her husband did, and she looks forward to being a mentor to women who also need to make choices about family and career.  I was inspired by her story and hope you will be, as well. There is nothing wrong with being strong and confident. If we want to date after divorce, then we need to pick companions who celebrate and appreciate our energy, aliveness, and intelligence. Otherwise, why bother?


Happy Single Mother’s Day! Have a good day, whatever your state of divorce, singledom, dating or remarriage may be.



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