VERY interesting read. I truly feel for you. At 38, you are at the crossroads of your working life and have important decisions to make for yourself and your family. As a former hiring manager, you would be an ideal candidate for me (except that lack of degree)—20 years of experience and 20+ years to give. Your situation is far from hopeless but you CANNOT continue with your current attitude or it will poison your life. All of it, home and work. So, you MUST resolve to do something about it, for your own well-being and because you have chosen to make your wife and child dependent upon your success. Your lack of degree is a killer in terms of mobility within the workforce. It will allow you to escape your current situation, either within your current company or outside it. My guess is that you have developed significant value in yourself that is not being realized by your current employer—which is natural. You have to understand that they invested in you to create this value-add and now, they are entitled to profit from their investment by paying you less than you’re likely worth on the open market. That’s not anything bad on their part—that’s how capitalism works and how companies become profitable. But that doesn’t mean you cannot cash in on your own development on the open market.
I have much more to say to you about this and would be happy to discuss things in a more private forum if you’re interested. But here’s my advice: make a decision that you will NOT accept the current state of affairs. You can be a much better provider for your family and much happier with yourself. Put together a game plan to “escape”. Once it is fully developed, sit down with your wife, explain everything to her including your vision for a better, happier life for all of you. Explain the very difficult path you must traverse to take your family there. Then, go get your degree. You will stay motivated by your investment in yourself and the potential it will create for you and your family. Your current company may even pay for it. Then use that degree as your magic carpet ride to a happier, more satisfying life. You can do it! Get moving!