It’s one of the toughest decisions a single mom will have to make. Just the idea of leaving everything behind may paralyze you with fear. Almost every single parent I’ve met has had to confront this choice and there are several reasons why it may be a good idea, and probably just as many reasons to stay put. Here’s my take on deciding if relocation is right for you.
When my divorce was final I was faced with a tough decision. Stay in the expensive seaside town that had become my home or move back to Los Angeles to be near my parents and better opportunity. To say I agonized over that decision is an understatement. Sure free childcare and a vibrant dating scene was tempting, but leaving my community and my friends seemed frightening and impossible.
I spent hours weighing the pros and cons. Endless nights were spent studying side by side lists, both in favor and against the move. Many pints of ice cream were consumed over that choice. It was the first major decision I had to make as a single mom and there was no clear course of action.
Eventually I realized moving back to my home city made the most sense. Being close to my family gave me a chance to regroup in a nurturing environment. It also gave my family a chance to bond with my daughter in a way that was impossible before. Now that I’ve adjusted I am so happy I relocated.
Here are the six factors to consider when deciding whether or not to relocate.
This boils down to cost of living and work opportunities. If you are in an expensive area it may be a good idea to downsize and find a cheaper place to live. This is probably the most obvious reason for moving. Consider all living expenses in both places including utilities, groceries, gas, and even insurance costs. Make your life easier and consider using a budgeting program like mint.com or YouNeedABudget.com.
You need to calculate your net savings
Another big factor in the money category is the job market. Will you find better opportunities in your new hometown or are there fewer? What about the quality of those opportunities? Is the average pay higher or lower? Check out the job ads in your new city, what are you going to face after you move? Consider contacting an employment agency. A good rep can give you an inside look at your new employment market.
Remember it doesn’t make much sense to move for a $400 rental savings when you can’t get a well-paying job in your new cheaper city. You need to calculate your net savings before relocating. Add the costs of all your living expenses in each place (don’t forget transportation) and then compare the potential income from new job opportunities.
When you are calculating your net savings, or cost. You will have to look at childcare. This is likely the biggest expense you are going to face after housing costs. Daycare can be very expensive and costs vary from area to area.
Are you moving to be closer to family who will also care for your child while you work? If so make sure to have an honest conversation about compensation and expectations before you move. I know a few unfortunate women who were met with relatives who expected to be paid for babysitting. You don’t want to find out after you’ve moved.
However for most women being near family means free or at least heavily discounted childcare. And this may mean a huge savings for you. Money that can go toward paying off debts, a college fund, or an emergency savings account. Don’t overlook this huge factor in your decision to relocate.
3. Your child’s social life
If you have a youngster this probably isn’t a big factor. A baby isn’t going to notice a move as much as an eight year old. If your child is in school this will definitely affect them and this should be considered. Are they established in a school? Do they have close friends that would be hard to let go of? If your child experienced the break up along with you, taking them away from their friends and family may be the last straw. On the other hand a fresh start may be what both of you need. Only you can decide what is best for your family, but don’t forget to consider the little ones.
4. Emotional support
While we are talking about family let’s consider your support group. Are you moving toward or away from loved ones? Every mom needs a solid group of people to love and support them on their journey. If you are moving away from friends and family for a better financial opportunity consider how this will affect you.
In my case I moved to be closer to family but away from my friends. It was a tough decision. I realized soon after the move how lonely I felt without my friends around. I decided to take matters in to my own hands and joined a mommy group. I now have a solid group of amazing women who love and support me (and my little one).
Don’t forget mommies need emotional support too, whether new friends or old ones, make sure this is part of your plan. Check out my post about how to use Meetup to make new friends.
5. Quality of life
In my old city by the sea I used to wake up to the sounds of barking seals every morning. The marine air was always crisp and clean. Traffic was minimal. The crime was refreshingly low and police responded quickly. My neighbors were cordial and concerned. These are the intangibles that are hard to measure. I can them the “nice to haves”. However they still need to be considered in your decision.
Traffic didn’t matter that much because I wasn’t going to be commuting. But if your new job requires a 20 mile drive, you may think twice about moving to a big city.
I miss my fresh clear air, especially during the Los Angeles summers, but if your child has asthma this may be a big factor to consider.
Crime matters to everyone but if you are a single mom living alone and taking a bus to work you would really want to look at the crime stats for your new home.
My point is quality of life is weighed differently for each family. You will need to take a long and honest look and what you will gain or lose by moving.
6. Baby daddy
I leave this for last because for some moms this is a non-issue as the child’s biological father is MIA. However for other moms the dad may be a big part of the child’s life. In the latter case you will need to consider what a move means for both your child and the father.
Is he so minimally involved that a move would matter little or is he a regular fixture? If he is around a lot you will have to discuss it with him and get his blessing. Maybe he’s the kind of guy who can see the opportunities waiting for you and wish you the best (if he is consider yourself lucky).
Perhaps he is controlling and rigid and refuses to consider your side or compromise. This last factor could be a deal breaker if he is involved and isn’t on board. Being armed with your thorough analysis will certainly help your cause. If needed you may have to petition the court to permit your move. It just depends on your legal co-parenting situation. Make sure to consult a good attorney first.
You must do what’s best for you and your child
let’s be clear, I’m not advocating leaving a loving and caring father in the dust. If he is a good, loving, and dedicated dad it is best to find middle ground. Remember, your child needs a good father, and you really need to weigh if this move really is for the best. However if he’s often absent and mostly unreliable you must do what’s best for you and your child.
Consider everything before you move
This a big decision, so take your time about making it. Don’t let anyone pressure you, this is your life and should be your decision. Consider all aspects and make sure that you and anyone you are counting on are all on the same page. This is definitely not the time for surprises. If you do decide to move remember that this is an opportunity for something better.
Good luck out there mommies!
THE BUSY MOM SUMMARY:
• Relocating is a big decision, weigh all factors carefully.
• Consider your cost of living in both places, don’t forget to look at childcare and transportation expenses.
• Consider your work opportunities in both locations. Look at job ads and call an employment agency for an insider’s look at your new job market.
• Think about who will care for your child. If family is doing it make sure you talk about expectations and compensation (or lack thereof) ahead of time. You don’t need surprises!
• What kind of emotional support will you get if you move? Will your friends stick around long distance? Are you leaving a supportive family behind? Can you expect to make new friends in your new city?
• Think about how your child will be affected. A school aged child will experience much more change than a toddler. Can they handle losing close friends and/or family? Are they excited to move or scared? Will there be more children for them to be around in the new town? No matter what you chose, always consider the effect on your child.
• Consider the quality of life in both places. Think about things like crime, weather, traffic, smog, medical facilities, and your community. How important are these factors to your family?
• Do you need to consider the child’s father? Is he totally absent or involved? If he’s around how involved is he? The more involved the harder it will be to leave him behind. Have a plan before you approach him about moving. Be prepared to fight for your decision if you believe it’s the best thing for your family.
• Don’t let anyone push you in to moving or staying. This is about you and what’s best for your family’s future. Be thorough about your analysis and listen to your gut. Once you make up your mind, embrace it.