Six years ago, after being divorced from my son’s mother for about a decade, I found myself at a crossroads that would come to define how I made decisions involving my kids.
Although we both remarried, her second marriage had also recently ended in divorce. She called me up one morning and said she needed to talk. I had no idea what was coming because she was always rather unpredictable in that regard. I took it in stride and agreed to meet with her to discuss whatever was on her mind.
She came right to the point. Once again she found herself a single mother trying to live in Southern California. But the cost of living was killing her financially and she said she had to move because she just couldn’t make it work anymore.
Then she asked if I’d consider moving as well.
A number of thoughts went through my head, but I immediately knew there were only two options:
1) I could say no. She would be forced to stay out of guilt and, more importantly, by court order. We had stipulated neither of us could leave the county, much less the state, without the other’s consent. All I had to do was refuse and she would have no choice but to stay and go bankrupt. After getting fleeced in the divorce, I admit it was a tantalizing proposition.
2) I could say yes. I would have to quit a great job, one that allowed me to pay the kind of child support I was already providing. I would also have to sell my house and move to parts unknown to find new work in a new city. All of this in addition to convincing my current wife, who would have to do all of the same things, that this was a good idea.
The latter was clearly the tougher road less traveled.
She knew she couldn’t just up and leave with my son, so I’m sure she briefly contemplated the impossible choice to leave without him. She was also well aware it wasn’t feasible to take our son away from his father either. So she did what she knew was right and simply asked if I would consider going too, for the good of all.
I chose number two.
It was actually a pretty easy decision, because there was only one plan in which my son didn’t suffer. Even though his mother had succeeded in ruining me financially years before and the opportunity to pay her back in spades was there for the taking, I realized no one really wins in that situation. And when it came to my son. I wouldn’t allow my own feelings to impact his well being. As soon as I put my son’s needs ahead of my own, the answer was obvious.
Once I agreed to consider it, we scheduled time for all of us to sit together and discuss the idea. Including my new wife was obviously an important part of the process, and I made sure she had an equal say in the matter. We came up with a short list of cities based on climate, family, city size, environment, etc. Then, once we narrowed it down some, it really came down to locating the best school system.
All that mattered in the end was what would give our son the greatest benefit. Once that goal was in focus, everything else just fell into place and that allowed us to all feel good about the decisions we had made. It has been six years now and none of us has any regrets about the decision to leave SoCal.
Life is full of tough decisions. But if you always remember to put your child’s wellbeing ahead of your own and base your decisions accordingly, everything will work out fine.
Best of luck.
—Photo greg westfall/Flickr