Understanding the White Knight

The Sole Wage Earner

A public letter to my ex-spouse, who supported me financially for more than 10 years.

I didn’t know how hard it was to be my knight in shining armor – the sole wage earner of our family.

As the stay at home parent, I was consumed by my world of kids and had blinders on about your world. I didn’t understand how much this hurt us.

Forgive me for making this public, but this is important.

Our story is a common one, and perhaps learning about ours, will help others navigate theirs.

For 10 years, you were the sole wage earner, the provider, who kept a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and ensured that we lacked for nothing. Our three children and I relied on you entirely to earn enough money to take care of us all. I took you for granted, just as our children did. In addition, I resented you on many levels:

  • Your personal success
  • Your control of our finances
  • Your level of involvement with the children
  • Your lack of communication

In 2011 you wrote a blog referencing the Talking Heads song “Once in a Lifetime.” In it you told the world that I was having a mid-life crisis, that I was waking up and thinking:

“This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful wife” husband.

In my mind, this public proclamation was beyond mean and indicative of your tendency to think you were perfect and I was flawed.

I didn’t understand.

Over the next several years, the question “How did I get here?” and the answer “Letting the days go by.” ran through my head on a regular basis. The Talking Heads seemed to be my own talking head. My seemingly perfect life as a stay at home parent felt like it was killing me slowly.

“Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.”

A beautiful thing happened shortly after I turned 40. I become aware of my own mortality. Questions came rushing at me, unbidden:

Is this it? Is this all there is? Have I achieved my full potential? Is it too late to find out?

It is this awareness of the tenuous nature of life that kick-started my desire to change, grow and learn again. I recognized I was not happy where I was and I hadn’t been for a long time. I blamed you for my misery, but I knew I played a role; I just couldn’t see what it was.

In 2014 we divorced. I became financially independent, re-launched my career and started finding me again. I assumed roles that once, only you had held: sole wage earner, provider for our family, leader, part-time parent and debt owner. Each role has brought a new perspective and shined a light on moments in our lives together.

I have learned a lot about myself and have had to face some pretty harsh truths.

Realizing you were right when you said I was having a mid-life crisis, was one of the hardest.

Like all major shifts in perspective, this has been a long journey and has involved a lot of destruction before something new could be created.

Today, I understand, and I am sorry for what I could not see. Today, I know that I blamed you for more than your fair share of our struggles.

Today, I understand how hard I made it for you to be my shining knight.

I Didn’t Recognize Your Personal Success

I was not empathetic to the stress on you to financially support a family of five. Today, I understand the weight you feel because of that responsibility. When things are going well in my career, this weight is light. When things feel unstable or threatening at work, this weight is suffocating.

I Didn’t Work with You on Our Finances

I was not supportive of your drive to save so much money. Today, I understand that this was your cushion, your release valve, the escape hatch you needed to know was there, just in case you weren’t able to hold it together all the time. Should your work diverge from your interests and values, you didn’t want to feel trapped in a soul-sucking job.

I Didn’t Make Room for You with Our Children

I failed to see your need, nor recognize your ability to be an active partner in raising the kids. Today, I understand that if given the chance you are very capable, and a wonderful influence on our children. I see that letting go, and sharing the reigns has brought new experiences and opportunities for growth. We are all better for it.

I Didn’t Make an Effort to Speak Your Language

I was not aware of how narrow my focus had become. Today, I am humbled by the awareness that I used to easily talk for an hour about a slight I had received playing my sport, or a bad experience one of our children had on a playground. Today, I also would struggle to speak with the old me for more than 90 seconds. I now understand that conversations would have been different had I opened my mind beyond the borders of my small world.

The divorce and my return to my career has allowed for a shift in perspective and roles. I stepped back in my parenting role, allowing you space to find your own rhythm with our children. I stepped forward in finance and business and have found increased understanding, greater empathy, endless curiosity, opportunities for growth, and a greater sense of balance and purpose in life.

Today, I understand, and I am happy.
Today, I am grateful. Thank you.

I celebrate you, I celebrate my Dad, and I celebrate every provider (male or female) who puts their heart and soul into financially supporting a family. Thank you for making stay at home parents possible.

It is so much harder to be a shining knight than many understand.

Please share and join me in recognizing your shining knights.

“The path to growth and fulfillment is the path less traveled, for it requires courage to be honest with yourself, bravery to break from expectations, and humility to examine your own self-limiting actions.”

– Julia Freeland, Founder, REvolve YOU