When my divorce was final at last, I would have given anything to have had more freedom. I would have loved to pack up my two kids, in elementary school at the time, and followed my heart – all the way to France.
That isn’t as far-fetched (or selfish) as it may sound. I’ve lived in France, I’ve studied in France, I’ve traveled back and forth to France and other parts of Europe, and done so over the course of several decades. My children are half-European and citizens of two countries; virtually their entire extended family was in Europe at the time – and still is.
Relocation to Paris, Anyone?
Had I been able to make that move to Paris? It was far more than a pipe dream, and here are just a few of the advantages not only for me but my children.
- My boys would’ve had a relatively short train ride to the homes of their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and first cousins. They would’ve received better schooling and in two languages or more.
- I would have had more options for a little time to myself, options I didn’t have in the States, as my ex lives roughly 1,000 miles away, money was extremely tight, and I was losing my network of married friends and mothers as a result of divorce.
- I would have been living in my favorite city in the world, and since I speak French (and my kids, even then, spoke some), it was a reasonable destination. I previously had an international career, I have friends in Paris, I knew I would have professional opportunities and greater workplace flexibility than I did staying where I was.
The professional setbacks following divorce can be far more significant than we imagine, especially with money problems, continuing hassles from the ex, and the resulting disruption to the way we make our living.
Single Mothers Starting Over in a New Place
Frankly, if I had been able to move to another state, I would have had more professional opportunities, not to mention a fresh start that I dearly needed. I had started over before – it’s not always easy, especially as we grow older – but eventually I achieve my “reinvention” in steps.
I knew I could manage it – domestically or internationally – but it wasn’t just about me this time. And while I was convinced I could likely make a good life for my sons, it wasn’t that simple.
My ex had already relocated, he traveled constantly in his profession, and while there was a visitation schedule, it was a bit fluid. His once every four weeks sometimes slipped to once every five weeks, and occasionally six. There were also times when business trips brought him to the area and he appended a day. Naturally, I changed my schedule to accommodate him so he and the boys could spend a weekend together.
But I had my children 95% of the time, with no help, and no certainty that his schedule wouldn’t change and leave me holding the ball. I adore my kids, but it was hard. The option of family an hour or two nearby – his – would’ve been most welcome. It would’ve been good for the kids, good for his family, good for me. And my ex generally traveled to Europe several times a year, and could’ve seen the children then.
Reality When a Single Mom Wants to Move
That all sounds reasonable in theory, right?
However, I knew that if I wanted to move anywhere, I’d have a fight on my hands – because I always had a fight on my hands over almost anything, and if not initially or directly, at a later point in time and in opposition to prior agreements.
In other words – skirmishes, background maneuvers to keep me off my game, and foreground disruptions that I couldn’t predict, though I could count on the fact that they would come.
Mind games, you say?
That’s one word for it, and I daresay there are millions who enjoy playing them.
But my ex wasn’t the only reason I decided to postpone thoughts of relocation. It was about my children, their response to the divorce and subsequent healing process, their sense of stability, and what I saw as the highest priority needs – for them.
A single mom who wants to relocate? Whose opportunities mean moving to another city, state or region? Finding the best place to live when you’re a single mom isn’t just about a great spot with a decent job, good schools and datable men. The single mom’s factors in relocating are many.
- If kids are feeling as if their world is shattered, do you really want to add to the instability by undertaking a relocation?
- What if you know that one child is highly adaptable and the other is not?
- What if you have a special needs child and your service providers and facilities are difficult to replicate?
- What if your children are at a critical juncture in their education – for example, sophomore, junior, or senior years in high school – and they’re planning on applying to college?
Many other factors may be involved – their friendships, the costs of raising them, and so on.
Dads Count, Too, and Let’s Not Forget That
For all of the issues I continue to have with my ex, and for all that I will never understand about him, his motivations, or his actions, I still believe that my sons deserve to know and love their father. And while I may not like him, I understand the ways in which he has taught them, and the fact that they love him is crystal clear.
Fairness matters to me, and I believe, to my sons. I did my best to portray the good in my ex, and hold my tongue on what was less than admirable. And of course there was good to relate – or I would never have married him in the first place.
Moreover, a few years back I knew a great guy, father of two boys approximately the same ages as my own, and he was embroiled in a legal battle for five years in order to finally obtain 50-50 custody of his kids. His ex-wife promptly moved within state, but so far away from him that practically speaking – it was impossible for him to exercise his custody rights, and by that time, further fighting in court was financially impossible.
She had remarried, was living a nice life, and he had little access to his sons with no real recourse.
Should he have moved?
He worked in a specialized field, and was newly hired in a job that he had to keep in order to pay child support. But what that remarried mom did, putting so much distance between her kids and their dad for no reason except she could get away with it? Then making things difficult for him when he could arrange to see his kids? Wrong, wrong, wrong – by any stretch.
While my situation was entirely different from what I just described, I nonetheless recognize that we should try to do right by our kids no matter what our ex-spouses do. How we solve that puzzle, certainly, is an individual choice. And our children will live with the consequences.
Is it Ever Too Late?
As for my desire to move overseas or even relocate to another city, though I’m now an Empty Nester, it remains a conundrum. Starting over is tougher as we get older, though I like to think my adventurous spirit is alive and well.
Beyond the practical issues (selling a house, choosing a great place to live, the move itself, getting established in a new community) – for me, our messy little home is not only mine, but “home” to my sons, though they may still have memories of the home we shared as a family of four. And because this little post-divorce place is so much their haven, it’s hard to imagine leaving this place with its warm memories we’ve shared here through some difficult years.
I’m a writer, and theoretically, I can make my living anywhere, so Paris isn’t entirely off the table. But there are other considerations – money of course, where my sons will eventually make their homes, not to mention a good man in my life, and the fact that he is here, his job is here, and his family ties are here.
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