Dear Harry and Louise:
I put all my eggs in one basket, as my grandmother would say. My husband of ten years died several years ago. I was a single mom for five years; my kids are late elementary age to starting high school age. I met someone wonderful who was a few years (seven) younger than me, who has two preschoolers. I moved my family from Northern Virginia to Baltimore to be with him more than a year ago. It seemed to make the most sense at the time, because he could not move to be closer to me because of his custody arrangement. I can live anywhere because I work from home, and I am more financially independent than he is. He needed to stay near his secure work position.
Fast-forward a year, and we are over. There was no trauma, but I realized he was not someone I could depend on, and I did not want to marry him and spend the rest of my life with him. I have worked hard to find great schools for each of my children, and they seem happy in school. I, however, would like to move back home to my old friends and support system. I go back and forth between guilt for having uprooted my kids to loneliness because I am in a city that is not mine and does not feel like home. I think my kids would be okay with another move, but I can’t get past the guilt.
What could I tell them to make it all better?
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Tell them the truth: You had hoped things would work out differently, that you could make a life with Mr. Baltimore, but you realized you’d made a mistake. Pick an explanation and stick to it. Keep in mind, children don’t need chapter and verse about adult relationships, especially their parent’s. They are more fascinated by their own personal traumas, which is as it should be.
Then be honest with yourself. Why would you move your children, uproot them from family and friends and force them to create new lives, just because you fell in love—for a second? I know that sounds harsh, and one could accuse me of 20/20 vision in hindsight, and you might have married and lived happily every after, but really—don’t you want to get pretty close to a commitment before you involve your children in a major move? Marry first, then move might be the lesson learned.
Adults make mistakes. Own up to yours and move on—back to Virginia. And limit the potential damaged to your children next time around.
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You won’t get any finger-wagging from me. You thought you had found a reliable love, you made the romantic gesture of moving to make it work, and it didn’t work. What’s done is done. Your children left the home and environment that was comfortable to them, and they adjusted, because kids are often more agile than we adults. They will adjust again. As a teacher, I have seen students leave for one reason or another and then return. They are invariably greeted by their classmates with open arms. If you are unhappy and cannot envision yourself making a new life in Charm City, then go back to your support system. You will all be welcomed back into the fold.
One addition to the easy suggestion of returning home: Talk to your high-school-age child. He has reached the stage at which he’s aware Mom is not infallible. He does not need to know the details of your suffering and sadness, but he can understand that you are considering moving back. He may be happy to discuss the pros and cons of this decision. He also may be happy that you are not taking his adjustment for granted. Help your oldest child feel a part of the moving process.
When another man eventually comes into your life— and it will happen again—think about keeping it a long-distance relationship for much longer than a year. Hopefully the next man will make the bulk of the adjustments since you will not want to move your entire family again. Good luck with your return. You can go home again.
And one more thing to consider: Children are more able to adjust to a move than they are to a truly unhappy mom. They need you to be secure and stable. If that is more likely if you return home, then that may help you make your decision.
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HARRY SAYS: A secure and stable mother might not have moved the children on a wing and a prayer. Sorry…
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LOUISE SAYS: Sorry that my husband is such an all-knowing curmudgeon—in hindsight.