I’m currently obsessed with the show “Parenthood.” After my work day is done and my kids are in bed, I binge on Netflix as I join the Braverman family in all their adventures in parenting. I watch as they celebrate life’s joyous moments, mourn life’s tragedies, help each other with problems big and small and stand by each other unconditionally.
And with every episode I watch, every theme song I sing along to, I have the same thought, “I wish I had that.”
I love my family. I have the best family in the world. And while we're able to do all that celebrating, mourning, helping and supporting, it's usually over the phone. Unlike the Bravermans who live a stone’s throw away from each other, my family is spread out all over the country. I can’t drop the kids off at my parents’ house when I attempt to have a social life. My mother can’t swing by with chicken soup when I’m sick. My kids can’t have sleepovers with their cousins. I can’t go over to my brother’s house with a bottle of wine. My closest family is a 14-hour drive away. We are not the Bravermans.
I left home when I was 18 to go to college. I never moved back. Always proud of my independence, I never doubted that I would succeed on my own. I knew my parents would support me and welcome me home with open arms if I ever needed a soft place to land, but in the last 20 years I never needed it.
I didn’t expect divorce and single motherhood to be easy. But after being a military spouse, I was already used to doing most things on my own, and I figured it wouldn’t be much different. Throughout our separation and for the first several months after the divorce, my ex and I maintained a relatively consistent custody schedule that the kids came to view as normal. If emergencies came up, such as our dog almost dying, my ex was around to take the kids so I could nurse the dog back to health. If he had scheduling issues for work, I kept the kids on a weekend that usually would have been his. I may not have had family nearby to help, but I wasn’t doing everything on my own.
That all changed 4 months ago when my ex moved to Hawaii.
Since he left, I am solely responsible for my children. Sometimes I try to view this as a deployment. I’ve done this before, right? But this is not a deployment. He’s gone for 3 years, and there’s no guarantee he’ll come back to this area once it’s time for new orders.
The second question most people asked me when I announced my divorce (after "What happened?"), was, "Are you moving closer to family?" But it wasn't until the past few months that I started seriously considering moving back home. Between the stress of single parenting, the appeal of my children being closer to both sets of grandparents and my parents’ ability to help me, recent health issues, the fact that my job travels with me and my old military spouse mentality nagging me that it’s time for a change of scenery, signs are pointing me in that direction. Throw in the added plus that the high school reunion I attended over the summer reminded me that I would already have an established circle of friends once I got there, the pro side of the debate is pretty hard to beat.
But my fiercely independent side can’t help but view it as a sign of defeat. I worked really hard to create a new life for myself. I moved to an apartment complex a year ago that I chose primarily because it’s in the best school district in the city (and, of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s in walking distance of the beach). My kids don’t want to move again, and now that I’m not a military spouse and the Navy is no longer forcing us to move, I feel fortunate that my kids can say they’ve lived in the same city for a whopping 6 years. In fact, my daughter, who was only 10 months old when we moved here from Japan, doesn’t remember living anywhere else. Why would I uproot them again? Why would I uproot myself again?
It’s a tough call.
I have days when I’m ready to call a moving company and tell my parents to clear out my old bedroom. And I have days when everything falls into place and I can’t imagine leaving a city I’ve grown to consider the closest thing to home since I left home 20 years ago.
Right now those days seem to balance each other out. So I guess I’ll just continue to take life day by day, lean on my local friends for support and appreciate the times when my parents visit me and I visit them.
And maybe live vicariously through the Bravermans.