I am a 39 year old mother of 4 going through a divorce now for nearly 14 months. I made the choice to live apart from my children in a one-bedroom apartment 10 minutes away.
That is the look I end up getting from people that learn those very few details about me. Come on people! Make an effort to hide your expression! I know you can hide the look of horror on your face when you are confronted with someone that has no respect of your personal space and horrendous breath. All I did was tell you I don’t live with my kids! I haven’t figured out if it is a look of horror, constipation, disbelief, etc… The conversation tends to plummet after that. People either don’t know what to say or they seem to be contemplating their escape route. There is such a stigma in society about non-custodial Mothers. It is expected that in a divorce kids are with their Mom as long as she is fit. When people learn that my kids live with their Dad, I feel that they are automatically thinking I am some crackpot psycho. Maybe that explains the look! Well, my situation was a little different…
I had been married just under 14 years…for most of that my ex was unemployed. We lived in his parents’ home for a total of 12 of those years. That could be an entirely different blog, but I am rising above and leaving it at that…for now. Because we didn’t live in our own home, I had to be the one to leave. It was either leave or stay in a miserable marriage. I didn’t want that, nor did I want my kids to have that as their example of what life was supposed to be like. When I was truly ready to leave, I had a lot to weigh. Did I take my kids with me? Where would I take them? There are 4 of them! I knew it wouldn’t be fair to rip them from their comfy surroundings, friends and routines. I left with no living arrangements set up. I stayed with family for a month on their couch. Every morning I would drive 25 minutes to the house I left to get my 7yr old and 4 yr old girls ready for school/daycare (after my ex left for work and with his father still in the house). I would take them to school and daycare then drive 25 minutes back to work (which was right around the corner from where I was staying). After work (I work full-time), I would drive back to the house to spend a few hours with the kids, give the girls a bath and tuck them in. Around 9pm I would leave again and head to the couch I was staying on. I did this Monday – Friday. I saw the kids almost every day on the weekend, either by going there (torture) or taking them with me. My family put me in touch with an awesome chick that had a room available to rent. Once I moved in with my roomie, I still kept the same routine…only now the trip took 40 minutes there and 40 minutes back. I was definitely guilt-ridden. The kids were holding up pretty well. They felt better knowing I hadn’t “left” them. My teens said “Mom, we see you EVERY day!” when I asked how they were doing. I guess that is a positive response. I was exhausted, but saw no other way to be. I was the one that made this decision. Finally, after 2 months of living with my roomie, I was able to rent a one-bedroom apartment just three days before Christmas. It was ten minutes away from the kids. I wanted to have the kids alone with me for Christmas. It was all I could think about. I busted my ass to move in, get a small tree and make it look homey. I worked it out with my ex that they would stay the night before Christmas Eve, so we could wake up and have our own time Christmas Eve morning, and then I would bring them back so they could wake up Christmas Day with their Dad. I even went to the house early Christmas morning to spend a few hours with them while they shared their Santa gifts with me. It was awkward; but again, felt I had no other choice. I did it for them.
In April of this year my ex lost his job again. So, I stopped making the drive to get the girls ready. He was home to handle that and I needed to make sure I held on to my job. I slowly pulled back my crazed guilt visits and moved into a schedule of picking the kids up multiple times/week for dinner at my place and kept our weekend visits the same…only the visits were at my place now. I refused to put myself in uncomfortable situations again at his place. I actually saw the kids change a bit at this point. They seemed more relaxed. I look back and realize how much my constant time spent at their place was confusing to them. They let loose at my place and made comments about how cozy it was to be there. We hit a new plateau. They were still happy and you could see they were gaining a new understanding of what was going on. I have open communication with my kids and they know that if life had been different and we had our own home, I would have never moved out. They understand why I had to be the one to leave.
I wish that were the case with the rest of the people I encounter. We all have choices we make in life. I still live daily with guilt over my decision, but if I list the pros and cons…the pros for me and my children far outweigh the cons. All I can do is bank on those pros, keep my chin up and ignore those that will never be willing to support or understand the decisions I make. Shame on them, not me.
Being a near 40 year old woman beginning a new life with 4 kids has led to interesting happenings…stay tuned.
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