Divorce can be overwhelming. It is perhaps one of the most challenging experiences a woman will ever face in her lifetime. When a marriage ends, a woman may feel like she is falling, with nothing solid to stand on.
Most women aren’t prepared for the emotional turmoil and the financial impact that comes when a marriage ends. If there are children involved, everything seems magnified.
Barbara Pesce, a mother of two from Levittown, had been married for almost 16 years. When her children were very young, Barbara was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, requiring numerous surgeries and radiation treatments. Some couples who have a spouse who is ill may grow closer, but not in Barbara’s case. Though she survived, her marriage did not.
To complicate matters further, Barbara and her husband had their own business. Not only was their marriage ending, but their business partnership and subsequent income was dissolving as well.
After Barbara’s friends and neighbors learned she was getting divorced, they began sharing their own marital stories with her—and they weren’t all positive.
Raising a family in Levittown, a blue color community, meant many of these women were stay-at-home moms who were financially dependent on their husband, making the process of getting a divorce even more difficult.
“They were stuck,” she says. “They had no way out.”
Barbara was fortunate to have the support of her family, both emotionally and financially.
“I had someone to help me,” she says. “I was lucky.”
The group of neighborhood women grew to more than a dozen. Then an idea for a local support group began to take shape.
“These women needed someone to help them,” she says. Though Barbara couldn’t give them financial assistance, she could offer them an alternative.
“We wanted to help each other, so we started watching each other’s kids when we had to go to court,” she says.
With Barbara as their de-facto leader, the women began a grassroots informal co-op, which offered babysitting, transportation, shopping and other errands, as well as lending a hand in other ways.
“We would say to each other, ‘This is what I need and this is what I can offer.’”
Because these women all lived in the Levittown school district, their children were on the same schedule. The group became so organized that their kids would have the same visitation weekends with their respective fathers, allowing the women time to socialize together every other weekend.
They began meeting informally at Barbara’s home, which became a safe haven for their impromptu gatherings. Once there, they voiced their concerns, but Barbara said that no “man bashing” was allowed, and added, “We keep our support positive.”
“Some were staying in bad situations because they didn’t know how to get out,” Barbara says. For those already in divorce proceedings, there were other issues. “The courts are slow,” she adds, “which can make it difficult for women who are trying to make ends meet.”
Barbara’s goals are simple.
“I want to educate women on how to protect themselves and help them in their immediate situation,” she says.
While she waits for her own divorce to be finalized, Barbara continues to advocate for women going through divorce. She is a member services representative at Nassau Federal Credit Union (NEFCU) and a board-certified hypnotist. Recently, Barbara was named director of the Long Island chapter of Over40Females, a new venture offering women business and social networking.
“Our motto at Over40 Females is: ‘Connect, encourage and inspire,’” Barbara says. “The group gives women a boost to promote their own business or to just have a fun girl’s night out.”
On Barbara’s immediate agenda is finding a meeting space outside of the Levittown area to establish a support group in another neighborhood or school district to help those women cope with the travails of divorce.
Barbara advises women to do some research before they begin any divorce action.
“If you take steps when you are able, you will be a little prepared,” she says. “Find out how the process works. Everyone’s experience is different.”
These days Barbara is healthy and enjoys an active lifestyle.
“It’s the lasting effects of thyroid cancer that gets you,” she says, “but I manage it well now.”
Barbara is committed to helping women on many different levels, whether they are going through a divorce, or looking to meet and network with other successful women and though Barbara may bring them together for different reasons and in different venues, her message stays the same:
“Let’s help each other out.”
In every issue of the Long Island Press and our sister publication, Milieu Magazine, the Fortune 52 column brings you stories of dynamic women who have made a significant and unique contribution to Long Island. To acknowledge their success, Beverly hosts tri-annual networking events that are attended by hundreds of LI business professionals, non-profit leaders and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in learning more about the Fortune 52, or know a super woman who deserves good Fortune—and a profile—email Beverly at firstname.lastname@example.org.