Seven years ago around this time I decided to move away from my big extended family. After going on an interview vacation and getting the job I drove back down to Florida to make arrangements for the move. At first my mom did not believe me and that somehow I was just playing a joke after our last blowout fight. You see, I had moved in with my mom 6 months earlier after being evicted from my apartment. I , with kiddo in tow, moved in with my mom and my sister and her two kids. It was a recipe for disaster. My mom and my relationship up to that point had been complicated to say the least. I had not lived with my mom before that since I was 15 and any attempts after that had been met with much drama. Our last fight had us in a heated screaming match and her demanding I move out as soon as possible. At that point I started looking for places locally and unknown to her also looking up north. I had this romanticized idea that I would move back to where I grew up and things would just work out. As with most fairy tales it was an illusion.
I had to make the hard decision to leave the child behind so she could finish out the rest of the school year. Two weeks after I made the announcement I packed my car with what I could fit and drove off. I was headed to unknown territory. I had never been on my own completely without any safety net to protect myself or child. I was scared out of my mind. I had no where to live and for six weeks lived in old boyfriends place with him and his pregnant wife, kids and mother-in-law. It was an experience riddled with occasional awkwardness. The wife and I actually got along pretty well until she got bigger with her pregnancy and insecure.
After six weeks of sleeping on their couch and out of my suitcase I moved into an apartment closer to my job. It was the easiest move because I had no furniture. I moved in and for the first few weeks slept on the bare wood floors. Eventually through estate sales and generous co-workers the apartment filled up with the essentials. By the time my kiddo made her first visit it had a resemblance to a normal apartment. That first summer she spent a lot of time with her dad, who lives 4 hours south of where we live. She came to live full time with me just before school started.
I made a conscious effort to make all weekends count. I planned extensively things for us to see and do in and around the NJ tri-state area. I adopted the motto, “have wheels will travel.” I was rediscovering my old stomping grounds and my child was adjusting to the new surroundings, people and weather. Since she was 2 we had lived in FL where the seasons consisted of hot and hell with a dash of fall. She hates NJ and will move to where her dad lives once she graduates H.S. in June. She has commented that my parenting style has drastically changed since our FL days. Apparently in FL I was less involved than I have been in NJ. I attribute that to the fact that in FL I had a huge extended family to help with the responsibilities and in NJ it is just me and I have as a result overcompensated for the loss of the extended family.
My life in NJ has been anything but easy. If I could go back I might not have moved until she was older or would have moved earlier to ease the transition for my daughter. The move did help me grow as a parent and a person. I learned I could resolve problems on my own and that I was a planner by nature. There is something empowering about knowing and having the confidence that you can accomplish things with minimal help. It is nice to have help but it also nice to know you can do this.