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Suburbs and Single Moms

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Guest blogger Kimberly Seals Allers: It is often said that behind every cloud, there's a silver lining. Recently, a very dark cloud came over my children. Soon after adjusting to my divorce from their father and their settling in to a routine of weekend visitation, the "wasband" made the unfortunate decision to move back to his home: London, England.

mother and daughter
I'll spare you his reasons -- none of which were, in my opinion, valid enough to leave two beautiful faces behind. Of course, he says he will visit often and fly them over on school breaks. Whatever. 

It was a cruel blow to my children, who were used to his close proximity despite our divorce. But when he boarded that plane, so went a restrictive court order that for years had prevented me from moving beyond our local county. It was my window of opportunity. With no more legal restrictions, I was free to create my next life, instead of coping with the remnants of my old one. It was my silver lining. 

You see, for some time now, it has been clear to me that the suburbs are no place for a single mom. At least not this one. I have no family nearby. I have no real friendships in the area. After I divorced, my married friends slowly drifted away. I was tired of being the fifth wheel anyway, and there was a new uneasiness about me being around their husbands. It was as if there were a scarlet "D" stamped on my forehead that could only be seen by the ultraviolet light of insecure wives. Memo to the marrieds: Honey, I don't want your husband. I've listened to you complain about him for years.

I'm a social person, and being so far from the City with no real friends and family nearby was terribly lonely. I was too far away for my old friends to just drop by or make casual visits, and being far from the City made it difficult to do the networking and staying-connected stuff that I needed for my business. I found myself slowly slipping into depression. While my kids frolicked in our lovely inground pool and ran all over our 3/4 acre property, I was lonely. I won't even get into the black-single-mother-in-a-nonblack-suburb factor (which, by the way, exponentially increases the loneliness quotient). 

Meanwhile, being so far from the City with no support made it difficult to socialize, meet other single moms or network for my business. Every time I stepped out the door, the babysitter meter was ticking. So all in all, the suburbs just weren't user-friendly to my new divorced status. But for a long time, I suffered in silence, trying to make the best of it. 

Then I did something drastic: I packed up my children, rented out my lovely house with the lovely pool and moved into a spacious apartment closer to the City. It's still very suburban for city living -- there's a farm across the street and a golf course two blocks away -- but I'm back in my hometown, in one of the best school districts, closer to a possible support network and 20 minutes from N.Y.C. 

Before I made the move, I spent many pensive and tearful nights and days weighing the options. Turns out, my kids happen to love the suburbs. They couldn't imagine life without a pool, a big yard and a swing under their favorite tree, and trust me, I second-guessed myself for months, wondering if I were being selfish and pondering what was really best for my children. At the end of the tears, lists, points and counterpoints, and after asking every friend, relative and near-stranger for input, I was clear: When mama is happy, the whole family is happy. 

The move was grueling. But the throwing out, driving off and starting over was oh so therapeutic. So long, suburbs. You served your purpose. But you just do not fit me anymore.


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