Before moving out of my ex-husband’s house, the anticipation of having my own space and living apart was partly exciting and partly terrifying.
I was nervous about finding an affordable apartment and had no idea how I was going to afford all the necessities to fill it. But I was thrilled finally to be starting a life in a separate residence after 18 months of being separated-but-not-living-separately.
I spent a lot of time researching and visiting potential apartment complexes, scouring Goodwill stores and watching Craigslist and Freecycle to secure furniture and small appliances and other necessities for a new apartment.
I’m grateful that my new place was the least expensive apartment complex but the one I most wanted to move into. It’s a wonderful bargain for the square footage, the woods behind the apartment gives me more of a sense of privacy, and I love the layout. I’m also proud of myself for being able to get the furniture and supplies I needed as frugally as I did.
The first aspect of moving out and establishing my own apartment that scared me was my notorious lack of ability to stick to a budget. I’ve continued to rely heavily on Goodwill, Dollar Tree, and WalMart to stick within my budget, and determine what are true necessities. I stick to my shopping list, too.
I cook full meals when the kids are staying with me, but conserve food while they aren’t. I’ll eat more simply and try not to use many resources. I don’t do unnecessary driving. I make sure my bills are automatically drafted from my account. And if I’m going to eat out or get coffee, I use my part-time job earnings for that.
The second aspect that scared me was how the children were going to react to and adjust to living in two separate homes. Our custody agreement is joint, and their dad has them every Monday and Tuesday, I have them every Wednesday and Thursday, and then we alternate weekends.
So far, none of the four kids have cried for their father when they’re with me and they don’t behave as if they resent the changes. Only one of my children has had sleep issues (at both homes) as she’s adjusting, and their teachers have reported no unusual behavior or school performance issues.
They all brought their favorite clothes, toys, artwork, books, and stuffed animals to my apartment. They speak to their friends more in terms of living with me and “staying” with their dad. So far, the transition has been far more smooth than I could have imagined.
Something that really surprised me was how much I enjoy having time away from the kids when they’re with their dad.
I’ve been a stay at home (and often homeschooling) mom for 12 years. I’ve rarely held part-time jobs, and before our separation started last year, I had rarely been out for a girls’ night or ever taken a long weekend away by myself.
It was often grueling and exhausting, and I spent a lot of time in survival mode. There was no real balance or time for me to do any self-care to feel like I had much to give to my kids. As a result of that constant presence and interaction as their caregiver, I had expected to miss them terribly when they are with their dad.
That’s not actually the case. I get much better sleep, I schedule my part-time job hours and my writing/virtual assistant work for when the kids are with their dad, too, so I keep myself busy. I have just enough time to actually watch the tv shows I record, and continue to unpack and organize. I’m rarely bored or lonely.
I’m enjoying having emotional and mental space to work on healing my heart, reading, praying more often, not isolating myself from friends and the community, having conversations that probe deeply and help me regain true perspective without being concerned that my kids are going to overhear.
I know I need to have the time to regroup and refresh so that I can be a hands on, attentive mom when they’re with me. I struggled so much with not losing my temper or modeling severe depression symptoms in front of them, constantly having a wall up and pushing aside my big feelings because I couldn’t allow the kids to see those extremes. Now I have that time to deal with stuff. I feel much better about my parenting now that I’m on my own.
I’m very satisfied and content with the transition so far. I’m doing better than ever, and the kids seem very happy when they’re with me. They speak their minds, and confide in me about how they feel. They speak frankly about “at daddy’s house, I have this..” or “when we’re with daddy, he does this differently than you..” without seeming angry or resentful about the fact that we don’t live together anymore.
The older two are in counseling, and with their healthy modeling of emotions, I’m hoping they can help their younger siblings feel safe and have a positive outlook on the “new normal”. The kids are much closer than they’ve ever been, and that warms my heart and gives me great hope for our future as a family.
When you have moved to a new home/apartment, what have you been most nervous about and most surprised by?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our recently-divorced, highly-resourceful, single-mom of four, Frelle, in North Carolina.
The photograph used in this post is credited to Mishelle Lane, a personal friend of the author.