Sheilah O’Donnel tells herself that her new home, a townhouse in a development in Chevy Chase, Md., just a stone’s throw from a Safeway, isn’t really all that bad. Sure, it’s near a gas station. And the front window, with its cheerily upholstered cushions, overlooks a dreary parking lot. And yes, it’s kind of small — “an apartment,” O’Donnel, who is 44, sometimes says bitterly, when she’s reminded of her former life with her ex-husband in their custom-built, six-bedroom home. But then again, it’s perfectly maintained and impeccably furnished, and most important, it’s rented with her own money, from the first real job she has had in almost a decade.
It’s a midlevel sales job, a big step down from the senior position she held before she had children and quit work. When she was first hired, in May 2011, her salary was just a fifth of what she earned at her peak. But, she said, she wasn’t complaining. All around her, she saw women her age scrambling to find work, some divorcing and losing their homes. She liked to help them, editing their résumés, polishing cover letters, pumping up tearful friends who forgot what they were worth after years without a paycheck.This article was originally published in The New York Times.