Surviving Abandonment and Single Parenthood: An Interview with Jenny Ball

Jenny Ball had four kids under 10 when her husband walked out for his affair partner and then later quit his job. At one point, she was owed $40K in back support. She sold stuff on eBay to survive, had her house foreclosed upon, filed for bankruptcy and needed food banks to feed her children — experiences that inspired her to create a support community for other single moms — The Happy HausFrau Porch.

Jenny was our guest on the latest Tell Me How You’re Mighty podcast. We ask all the guests beforehand to tell us about their mightiness and Jenny answered: “I survived bankruptcy, foreclosure, and solo parenting — and so can you.” Which is pretty damn badass.

Of course the injustice that made Jenny the singular voice she is pisses me off. How can ANYONE abandon their family? To stop paying for your children, to divert funds for yourself and the Schmoopie — it’s sick. It’s sociopathic. And it puts such a burden on the show up sane parent. As if raising children wasn’t hard enough.

As Jenny and I know all too well, it’s not an uncommon story. Jenny not only survived it, but continues to extend her compassion to others going through it. MIGHTY.

“Just love your kids. Focus on getting them through school. Show up every day you can. But I also recommend finding some support. Whether it’s beautiful people you meet online, friends in real life, relatives — it’s super important to know you’re not alone. It’s so isolating and so scary when it first happens. But you will get through it.”

Thanks Jenny! Check out the episode (and rate, review and subscribe, please!)

***

Speaking of mightiness, we had one hell of a Chumpalooza, CN.

It’s always emotional for me to meet people from CN. (Why do I bother with mascara? Why?) You all sort of live in my head, or on the page, so to see some of you in the flesh is a bit disconcerting for everyone involved.

Divorce Minister spoke — DAMN, he’s a powerful speaker! Tempest, an OG member of CN was amazing. But I think the best part of the whole gathering for me, was the Mighty storytelling session, put together by UXWorld. He got nine chumps to do Moth Radio hour sorts of segments, their chump stories, performed on stage.

Everything I LOVE about this site — the absurdist humor, the horror, the resilience and badassery — was on display. One woman talked about sex for the first time after divorce in Brooklyn — and her paramour’s thigh high compression stockings. “I guess this is dating in your 50s.”

One chump’s FW tried to kill her and their son by removing the lug nuts from their car wheels. She escaped.

Another chump gave 32 years as a military spouse, and when her FW made general, he dumped her. “Thank you for your service,” takes on a whole new meaning.

But my favorite was BattlingDancingUnicorn — if you’ll recall, she’s the member of CN whose cheating ex-husband joined her graduate study program. And then spent the next 18 months tormenting her as she tried to finish.

Well, she told her story on stage. SHE FINISHED HER DEGREE. Every person who helped her cross that finish line, who encouraged her, including a BUNCH OF YOU HERE AT CN — she wrote your name on her graduation cap. And I got to sign it too.

Oh, and thanks to her graduate degree —  the school district promoted her. She’s now her cheating ex’s boss.

That’s some MIGHTINESS. Happy Tuesday everyone!

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Attie
Attie
5 months ago

I would have loved to have been there (but it’s a long way from France)! So glad you all had such a wonderful time – and becoming your cheating FW’s boss has gotta be some kind of karma!!!

Stepbystep
Stepbystep
5 months ago

Just wanted to thank the organizers of the successful conference and to acknowledge the chumps who were not in attendance. I think we recognized that we were fortunate to have the opportunity and resources to be present. We were also gratefully aware that Chump Lady and ALL of Chump Nation made it possible to heal and moved forward.

susie lee
susie lee
5 months ago

Another chump gave 32 years as a military spouse, and when her FW made general, he dumped her. “Thank you for your service,” takes on a whole new meaning.”

This is so common it is sickening. Once they get that bar, they realize how unhappy they have been. But, they weren’t unhappy for the chump to spend years of her life focusing on his career. I would say to any chump, do not waive that pension unless you have an equal pension in your name. Also if you have been married for ten years or more you retain insurance benefits, Keep all your paperwork and Divorce decrees. I have known of vets who keep working until they drop dead to prevent a wife from getting his pension. Even better would be to take a slightly smaller portion of his pension as part of the D, then you can invest it as your pension and never have to look at the ass wipe again.

Mr Wonderfuls Ex
Mr Wonderfuls Ex
5 months ago
Reply to  susie lee

Hey there! No, you do not retain insurance benefits after 10 years. You have to have a marriage of 20 years or greater which overlaps with 20 or more years of full active duty to be guaranteed health benefits. I have only 15 years of overlap so I will have my insurance extended by 1 year beyond my divorce decree being signed.

At 10 years, you get payment for any portion of pension issued to you directly from DFAS without needing to chase FW for it. And that assumes the FW doesn’t have their disabilities characterized as combat-related (even training for combat on American soil counts!) and screw the spouse out of pension entirely. FW servicemembers conspire to do such things every day. They are on Rally Point sorting out how to leave their ex and family high and dry.

Any military chumps out there… check out Divorce and the Military and Former Military Spouse groups on FB. Anything Bridget posts on there is gospel truth. I found those pages years ago (which led me HERE!) and have researched how things have played out with case law in my particular state. Especially in regard to indemnification agreements which would prevent the chump from losing their marital share of the pension if one can get FW to sign off on it (wish me luck!) by guaranteeing that the spouse will be paid back any portion lost be the FW claiming combat related injury or any other seedy thing the FW does to diminish the pension.

Klootzak is a retired O-5 so I am very wary of this stuff….

susie lee
susie lee
5 months ago

Yes 20, I mis stated that. My husband’s ex got full health retirement benefits etc. which he never argued or fought. But she did waive his pension which was her idea since she was the one who wanted the D. She also got a huge pay out for that waiver, including half of his inheritance from his mother.

It does get confusing. Also after a certain age (can’t remember) you don’t lose the benefits even if you remarry. My dads widow did this.

I still think in any case military or not, it is best (if you can) to get what you can up front, too much risk otherwise.

I was only 40s when I d’d so I waived H’s retirement and he waived mine. His was worth a lot more, but I got my payout in a small property. He gambled everything he had away, so I won that one.

The official military and Tricare sites are excellent for those looking for benefit info divorce info etc. I haven’t looked at them in a while for that purpose. But that info is straight from the horses mouth, and contains all the forms and anything you need to apply.

Divorced Wine Aunt
Divorced Wine Aunt
5 months ago

Thanks again for this event. It was educational, uplifting, and a BLAST! Some of the seminars showed me a few things I needed to still meditate on. I thought I was at Tuesday, but I’m really at Monday evening. (I hadn’t realized beforehand that the SOB was doing financial abuse, but he was!)
And the conference center’s food was GREAT! I’m hoping to come again next time. An extra bonus was having it over the end of Daylight Savings, so we all got an extra hour of sleep Saturday night 😁

2xchump
2xchump
5 months ago

Tracy always says this is not the pain Olympics but these stories give me courage and infuse my anger with purpose. To read about you, write back my story and opinions. Grow, learn not to repeat what you might be repeating. Then you learn from me! When I thought I had Wagu beef on my plate, you told me it was Chopped liver. When I heard on the podcast Jenny Balls story, I wanted to cry. Up from Poverty?? 4 kids, a huge jerk to find out he’s chopped liver and not hand fed beef!!! Shockeroo!! I think we need a day to talk about our biggest shock and how we recovered. Wait! We do that every single day. No rehab for us, we just push forward. Where are the addiction centers for chumps to learn no contact or DONT BE FRIENDS WITH A CREEP? Well we have Tracy,and I keep coming back for more stories!!! You raise me up and I can do this!! I’m 70 now, chumped twice with my first divorce left with a newborn and 6 year old, I 35 years old. Made it then. Now my second divorce Final at 70. This site is GOLD! Thank you CN and CL!!

OHFFS
OHFFS
5 months ago

I am jealous of everyone who got to go, yet so happy for all of you who did. I’ve been having having a new heat pump installed since the crack of dawn today and the trip would have exhausted me to the point that’d I’d need to be sleeping in. Plus, Covid is still an issue for those of us who are immunocompromised, so I decided to forgo it for this year.
Love that graduation cap!

Re; Jenny’s story- a relative of mine knew a woman whose FW cheated, moved in the OW and started a new family. By his own choice, he never saw the kids he had with his chump again. He had his shiny new victims and the old ones were yesterday’s news to him.
It had to hurt like crazy, but I do think it’s a blessing in disguise with A FW that disordered, who would have only treated his kids terribly and mindfucked them to the point of needing a therapist for life. As for the chump, she started a new career as a divorce coach, helping others to navigate the litigation abuse and other games divorcing FWs play.

Last edited 5 months ago by OHFFS
FYI_
FYI_
5 months ago

Wait — what!?! She’s his boss now!?
Unforeseen consequences, FW! He FAFO.
Can she fire him for being an ass?

BattleDancingUnicorn
BattleDancingUnicorn
5 months ago
Reply to  FYI_

Alas, I do not control hiring and firing.

I’m also not his direct supervisor, since we work at different campuses, but I’m part of the team that includes his direct supervisor, and I get to evaluate his paperwork and work with his students without any direct contact with him unless I so choose. It’s pretty ideal.

Cam
Cam
5 months ago

YESSSSSSSS. This update gives me life. I’m so thrilled for you! I remember your story last year when you were still in the thick of it.

Did your ex even finish the graduate program?

BattleDancingUnicorn
BattleDancingUnicorn
5 months ago
Reply to  Cam

Unexpectedly, yes.

Cam
Cam
5 months ago

Color me surprised, but enough about him. So excited for YOU that you got your degree and promotion! Good for you! And I’m glad we all got to be at your graduation ceremony in spirit.

Formerchumpnowbride
Formerchumpnowbride
5 months ago

Oh how wonderful. Knowing you outrank him and he knows it, but not really having to interact with him. Living well is the best revenge.

susie lee
susie lee
5 months ago
Reply to  FYI_

Unfortunately, he likely is more secure than others. I would think most complies would move him or her to another area, but may not be possible.

ActaNonVerba
ActaNonVerba
5 months ago

I can’t wait to listen to Jenny’s story. First, though, I came straight here to say what a privilege indeed to attend Chumpalooza. Huge thanks to the organizers. I’m sure it was a ton of work, and though there may have been moments of panic, you all exuded nothing but grace. This created such a soft warm place for chumps to land. It was like falling into the longest hug of my life. And what a delight to get to see the faces and hear the voices of CN members; something in me shifted when I walked among you. There’s something about being in the presence of a hundred other empaths that simultaneously made me feel both more grounded and more free. I sincerely hope this was the first of many events, but if it turns out that this was the only one, I’m so grateful to have been a part of it. Thank you to every soul who planned, presented, and attended. A finer assemblage of humans cannot exist.

Hurt1
Hurt1
5 months ago
Reply to  ActaNonVerba

My sentiments exactly regarding the conference. I’m enjoying a sense of peace & contentment I haven’t experienced in a long, long time – the afterglow of being among the mighty it seems.

Viktoria
Viktoria
5 months ago
Reply to  ActaNonVerba

I also look forward to listening to Jenny’s story today. Also I would have loved to attend chumpalooza but right now I need to be careful of the little finances I have for survival, until the divorce is finalized. Would love to have heard all the talks & presentations, especially uxworld, divorce minister & Mr. CL. Next year I hope!

FYI_
FYI_
5 months ago

LOVE her t-shirt in that photo!

NotAnymore
NotAnymore
5 months ago

BattlingDancingUnicorn Congrats on your degree and raise!!! 🎉🥳👏

I was moved to tears by your graduation cap… I don’t have a supportive family or close friends that I could turn to for support – this blog has truly been my only source of community and you expressed that in such a beautiful way, thank you!

BattleDancingUnicorn
BattleDancingUnicorn
5 months ago

I’M FLOORED YALL. As others have said, it was such a gift to be able to speak freely without fear of repercussions.

I’m grateful to have had the resources to join, and I look forward to next year!

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
5 months ago

Yay you and congratulations!!

Mehitable
Mehitable
5 months ago

IMO, we need to reinstate punishment for people who abandon their families like this. It’s bad enough just devastating and leaving your spouse, but leaving your children is inexcusable. This is criminal behavior and should be seen and punished as such. For one thing, in case of adultery and abandonment, no fault divorce should not exist. People who leave their families like this should receive NO CUSTODY RIGHTS AT ALL. EVER. NONE. Nor should they receive any monies from the marriage other than what they brought in in the first place, but their should be no “split”. It should all go to the abandoned spouse and family. And if an abandoning spouse will not pay up and plays tricks like Jenny’s rat bastard did, THEY SHOULD GO TO JAIL. If we took the deliberate destruction of families, which not only devastates a spouse and children, but ultimately wrecks our society, there would be a lot less of this bullshit. We need to become a serious people again.

Elsie_
Elsie_
5 months ago
Reply to  Mehitable

My kids were in college, but he still basically went off the beach to do his thing and pretended like we didn’t exist. He only contacted them a handful of times in the first year of separation. Their childhood years were already a struggle because of his chaotic mind, and that was the end of it. The morality of that is horrific. The distance did allow us to process it though.

Of course, he tried to flip that as parental alienation on me when he abandoned them as a parent. I was that stuck around to try to pick up the pieces and keep us going.

The legal system is a mess and grossly unfair. As my attorney said many times, there’s some morality left, but not nearly enough. I had a friend in a divorce group who TWICE had to call 9-1-1 because his wife had beaten him so badly that he needed an ambulance (she then took off). One of those times, he was hospitalized for a week. And STILL, the judge awarded 50/50 in the divorce. Last I knew, he and his attorney were regrouping after going back yet again before a judge and once again being told to “play nice” and accept 50/50. And yes, the wife was beginning to neglect the daughter, but not enough in the judge’s eyes.

Last edited 5 months ago by Elsie_
Mehitable
Mehitable
5 months ago
Reply to  Elsie_

I think the powerful people in our society who make the laws are frequently cheaters – that kind of Type A personality….also so many media people/celebrities are disordered people who cheat, so this kind of behavior is either minimized or….in some case…promoted or even lauded. It’s so destructive and unfair especially to the innocent children but we no longer seem to be a society that cares about things like that. It’s all about money, getting ahead, getting your own selfish way. Arrrggghhhh!!!!!

Elsie_
Elsie_
5 months ago
Reply to  Mehitable

I agree with that. Laws are not made by ordinary folk. They just aren’t. Family law doesn’t reflect the reality that most of us face when our marriage needs to end, much less the morality of it all.

My attorney was almost seventy and retired the day after the judge signed off. He had announced his retirement several months before that because of a medical scare. He talked about how it was all much more black-and-white when he started in the 1970s and how frustrated he was with how complicated it had become for his clients. Yes, tell me about it…

BigCityChump
BigCityChump
5 months ago

We all know how powerful the blog is, but hearing, seeing, and feeling these stories in person was a whole different level. Whether on stage, bar, elevator or buffet line—the stories were flowing! What an amazing group of mighty! Thank you to the organizers and speakers! And a special shout out to UX who had some timid forest creatures to bolster so they felt empowered to stand on that stage. No easy feat! And Tracy…I hope you took a moment to bask in the glory of what you created! You are going to need to summon that feeling at some point when you run out of steam. Keep going bc this group is manna!

Formerchumpnowbride
Formerchumpnowbride
5 months ago

I love to see the mighty coming through the hard parts. It can be very, very hard. I went through bankruptcy and having to utilize food banks when my son was very small. I remember crying when he was overjoyed when we brought home groceries and filled our tiny pantry, and he cheered. I never wanted that for him.

But now? We have our own home, my credit rating is awesome (took me 10 years to get it back to where it is now!) and my son is in high school and flourishing. FW is still FW and is completely unreliable, but I’m proud of how I’ve raised my boy and how he approaches relationships and life. Seeing someone with four kids make it through and succeed, and others too, it really helps keep one from succumbing to despair.

Single parenthood IS HARD. And with society trying to pin all its problems on us as well, it is extra rough. But every challenge was worth it. It wasn’t easy but it was so much easier than dealing with being what amounted to nearly single parenthood and dealing with a FW and his immature BS at the same time. Hindsight tells me it was absolutely the right decision.

I learned to rely on my friends more, accept that life won’t ever be perfect and it never was, and to relish the good bits as they came. I no longer look at “intact” families with guilt or jealousy. I enjoy my family and look forward to the next chapters in our lives. I also relish the day I never have to coordinate a damn thing with my ex. That day is coming soon. Already my son manages most of the arrangements himself, and has learned that he has agency over how his life is going to go. Life was not at all what I thought it would be, not even close, but I’m loving how it is going now. Thanks Chump Lady.

hush
hush
5 months ago

So MIGHTY!!!! 👏👏👏👏”I enjoy my family and look forward to the next chapters in our lives. I also relish the day I never have to coordinate a damn thing with my ex. That day is coming soon.” YES!!! That day is only 10 years away for me & counting. Freedom! Thank you, Chump Lady!!!

Formerchumpnowbride
Formerchumpnowbride
5 months ago
Reply to  hush

As my son got older I found that more and more, he was managing his relationship with his dad and making arrangements. Now, I was always available to him when his dad would screw up, but I don’t have to micromanage my ex. When ex asks me about school stuff now, I refer him to his son. I mean, he has the exact same access to school stuff I do, and I’m not his damn secretary. He misses stuff like parent teacher conferences a lot more now, but not my problem.

It has also given my son the ability to manage his expectations with his dad. I hate that he cannot rely on him for anything, but better to learn now who he can depend on. I will always be that sane parent for him and he knows it. I will also lose my shit if he forgets to turn in his homework again this week! Heh. He is a well adjusted (as much as they can be) teenager despite his dad imploding our married life when he was 3, almost 4. Now my son cannot even remember what life was like before his stepdad came into the picture. So their normal will be what we give them. It is reassuring that he doesn’t remember the chaos, pain, torment, and upheaval. He remembers camping with me and his stepdad. 🙂

Mehitable
Mehitable
5 months ago

What frequently shocks me the most is not only the abandonment….but that it so often happens when a spouse is pregnant or has a baby or small toddler. Why make children you don’t want with someone you don’t love? Why do they keep making children? Even if it’s an ego thing….technically they still have to support them, it would be easier not to have them at all. One of the mysteries of the cheater to me.

hush
hush
5 months ago
Reply to  Mehitable

I have a theory that FWs make babies with Chumps so they can have the Chump under their thumb for at least the next 18 years after the last child is born. Having children with an abuser keeps us permanently tied – unless we have epic boundaries, that is.

Mine intentionally set out from the get go to use me to have 3 kids for him, then planned to discard me eventually when the youngest is 18. Too bad I found out his plan and filed 17 years early, messing up his big plan to be with his secret boyfriend. Lol So now all he can do is 50/50 custody with a Stepmom Appliance doing his parenting for him, and playing the victim, as all FWs do. Last I heard he was bragging about being fired from a job, and courting bizarre kibbles for not being his “bEsT sElF” during our divorce 7+ years ago. 🤣

Last edited 5 months ago by hush
Mehitable
Mehitable
11 days ago
Reply to  hush

I think this is very true. I’ve come to realize that when we think of “babytrapping” we usually think of a woman trapping a man into marriage or a permanent relationship by becoming pregnant but I’ve come to realize that MEN DO THIS TOO by encouraging their wives to become pregnant to trap them into the marriage. They figure that with a baby or small child, wife is “stuck” and can’t leave. So both sides do this, only it’s more obvious with the women, and it’s just the worst thing possible, using children as hostages. So evil.

Elsie_
Elsie_
5 months ago

It was truly such a thought-provoking and yet hilarious weekend. Driving home, I realized the mix keeps me coming back here. I’ve been involved in other divorce/abuse groups, but NONE of them go as deep as Chump Nation while being FUN! I’ve been at meh for a while, but I realized that I still have some polishing to do. THANK YOU to everyone for being willing to try something so unconventional and meaningful.

You are amazing, Jenny Ball! I am thankful that my scary financial place was short-term, but the panic was real. I had three basically minimum-wage jobs for two years. It was better once we sold the house, but my income remained the same, and I determined to wall off the house money as much as possible until I was more stable financially and divorced. My ex cut off support late in the divorce process in exchange for something much better long term, but it was a leap of faith to agree to that. A friend mentioned how I could get expired/damaged food from Trader Joe’s, and that was how I got most of our meat and vegetables until I was post-divorce and finally had an uptick in my income.

As my attorney whispered in my ear during his final tight hug (he was a big hugger), “Be brave and make good of this.”

It Is What It Is
It Is What It Is
5 months ago

Chumpalooza was one of the best conferences I have ever attended! The comradely alone of likeminded souls was so comforting. I met so many amazing, mighty chumps. Sharing my story on the stage was nerve-racking, but I got through it (with a bit of encouragement from the wonderful audience) and I was proud that I pushed my comfort zone to do it. Having been a Chump Lady follower since 2012, I have been hoping to meet her someday. She was just as I had hoped, mighty, caring, funny, and genuine! All my fellow chumps of Chump Nation who were in attendance couldn’t have been nicer. Everyone at different points in our journeys to meh, encouraging each other. Thanks to all the organizers. Such great speakers. I even got a wack at the unicorn piñata!

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
5 months ago

There was a unicorn piñata? Now I’m really bummed I missed it! 😀

Hurt1
Hurt1
5 months ago

Two unicorn piñatas actually!

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
5 months ago
Reply to  Hurt1

Damn, I’m suffering from FOMO LOL

RecoveringHopiumAddict.
RecoveringHopiumAddict.
5 months ago

I wish I could have been there! Tracey (and Sarah too), it’s a long way to come but if you’re ever visiting Aotearoa New Zealand, I would love to meet you. Any other kiwi chumps out there?

Velvet Hammer
Velvet Hammer
5 months ago

As I was reading the names on the cap,I was smiling as I recognized everyone who has also helped me. And then I read…..MY name?! For real? I come here drowning every day and post something hoping to save myself and help someone else. It is an extremely humbling compliment and an extremely high honor to be on that graduation cap.

I must say that without my two amazing therapists, AC and LD, who have been my guiding guardian angels since October 1985, I would not be here to give away what I learned from them. I let each of them know; if anything I have said here has helped someone else it is because of them.

Big hug and lots of love to all.

❤️

Last edited 5 months ago by Velvet Hammer
GoodFriend
GoodFriend
5 months ago
Reply to  Velvet Hammer

Until I read Velvet’s comment, I did not think to read all the names on the cap. It was a pleasure to see the names of so many who have shared their wisdom, and I too was stunned and grateful to see myself there.
BattlingDancingUnicorn, thank you so much for that, and for the time you clearly spent compiling the names and adding them to your cap. I am so thrilled for your accomplishments, and with appreciation and a work ethic like yours, it’s clear that you’ll be a terrific manager. I wish you every joy and success.

BattleDancingUnicorn
BattleDancingUnicorn
5 months ago
Reply to  GoodFriend

So often we don’t even register the things we say or do that impact others in profound ways. It was a tear-filled joy to go back through the comments on the original post of my angry rant of a letter.to see all the encouragement, the horror, the humor, and the solid bits of advice.

I seriously would not have made it if I hadn’t felt the mightiness of CN holding me up every single day. That’s why you all had to walk with me at graduation. Y’all earned it too.

hush
hush
5 months ago

Just listened to the this excellent episode. Jenny Ball, “The Happy Hausfrau,” is a total gem! I had found Jenny’s wonderful blog years ago before I found Chump Lady – I remember Jenny had a post back then on “what to do when your husband walks out” & the things she wished she had done. A key takeaway was get it in writing! If he initially (fake) promises to pay for anything for the kids, you, etc retain documentation of those written promises, like indefinitely. That advice alone saved me a bigger court battle than I otherwise would have had, had I not followed Jenny’s sage advice. Thank you, Jenny!!!

I have really enjoyed her journey over the years, especially her dating stories from years ago. There was a nice man who had wanted to marry her and she ultimately noped out of it, for good reasons. I felt like that was a badass move, too. Jenny’s kids are super lucky to have her. 💕

Last edited 5 months ago by hush