It's tough sometimes, but do-able. If WXH didn't pay CS or SS, I certainly couldn't have stayed home.
But when my kids were little I taught preschool so they could come with me. In that an option for you?
I did leave with the kids, I moved them 1.5 hours away from ex. I live on SS and CS. I downsized my house by 3/4 and sold my car and bought a piece of crap cheap car.
I wanted to make sure I could live well within my means, and I have been very successful. I buy second hand, on sale, or friends and I trade clothing. My Mom does buy me "big" things. I am using my savings to pay for grad school…which is scary…but in the long run I know it will come back to me in spades.
First thing I would do is find a lawyer…look for free legal advise…and see what you can expect in a settlement. It was cheaper for me to stay home with my kids than for us to split full-time child care. Use Food Banks, churches, friends.
I had a friend who walked away with 2 small kids. Her parents bought her a trailer and put it on their property. She didn't even have a TV for a few years. She took out school loans and went back to school and lived on practically nothing until her kids were in school. Then, she got a job based on her degree and bought a cute little house for her and her two boys. She actually had her ex's parental rights terminated. She received NOTHING from him. Ever. 6 years out she has a great job, a boyfriend, a cute house and a good life.
Just takes tenacity and perseverance. You can do it.
I didn't leave and my kids were older. But I got the house and the mortgage.
When the kids were small I did in home daycare, I had my 3(under 3) and 4 others 1-4yo. I also offered saturday day care... the staff at a local hospital LOVED me and didn't mind paying extra money for competent weekend coverage.
When my kids were in school (and he left) I got a job at the local school as a teacher assistant. I also worked transcribing for a local Urgent care...I did have to invest in equipment. But it did pay as I was able to work evenings, nights when I couldn't sleep, mornings before I went to work, and weekends. The only hours I couldn't work was 8am-5pm when urgent care was NOT open.
Other than working at their school, my kids never knew I was working as a transcriptionist I did it off hours.
I know so many women who live frugally, and do this... it isn't easy, but filled with lots of blessings.
one of the biggest blessings was not being able to afford cable TV in 2004, I had it turned off. I used the $80 month to pay for something else. And my kids 13,13,11,and 9 at the time did not like it. Eventually their grades went up....way up and stayed there. 10 years after divorce.. I have 1 college graduate, 3 in college with lots of scholarship money and on track to graduate with out any money from XH or I.
Teaching kids how to tighten a belt and make do has given my kids a creative edge on their school mates. They can make something from almost nothing. Some of my kids favorite holidays/birthdays were when we had no money and had to get creative with our celebrations.
there are many places to go for help-food banks, community action agencies, churches, even your local utility company. people are willing to help if they know about you. Its humbling, and restores your view of humanity in so many ways.
I definitely dont live like I used to, and I worry about money, but its still better than being M!