Moving Homes & Blending Families: A Recipe for Stress!
Everyone knows that moving is considered one of life’s most stressful events… Right up there with bereavement, losing a job (been there, done that), wedding planning, and divorce (both which I’m lucky to say I have also experienced) - moving at any point in life pretty much blows. Add moving with a small child in tow and WHAM, you've got yourself a good case of "holy crap, how am I going to do this?". Add moving in with another human who is not said child’s biological parent nor a random roommate and DOUBLE WHAM, you’ve got yourself a heavy load o’ stress.
When my boyfriend and I decided that we were ready to take the next step in our relationship, the decision came with a lot of... well, decision making. In addition to the typical “how to merge” conversations that goes on between a couple on the verge of cohabitation (i.e., “So…. I’m thinking MY couch probably works better than your couch…” OR “Honey, have you found a friend that might want that glass table of yours?”), we had to navigate through a completely unchartered territory: telling my son we were moving!!! HOW would I (or we) explain to my son what was happening? How much should he be involved in the moving process? What if he hates me? What if he hates him? Do I let him pick out Transformers decals again and toss the stuffed animals I’m convinced have forests of dust mites in them? Or do I keep everything the same and reassure him that nothing (but everything) is going to change?
I thought my head was going to explode.
The biggest stress inducing factors for me were how I was going to tell him we were moving and how I should respond to any fears or questions he might have.
I received some wonderful recommendations from friends, teachers, school psychologists and even experts like Lifetime Moms' Lori Gottlieb, MFT who offered some wonderful tips. I was told to start by telling him we were going to move when he was calm, and for it just be two of us (we’d “invite” my boyfriend over after, to share the fun news). I was prepared to answer any questions and address his deepest fears and concerns. In fact, our school psychologist recommended creating a “same/different” chart that would help my son concretely grasp what was happening and reassure him that in general, things WERE and WILL be the same. Well, minus our sh*tty, stained couch. That was a goner.
For example, the same list should be general and true: "Mommy will still make pancakes on Sundays," "Mommy will still tickle you at night," "Mommy will love you all the time, etc." The different list should be light and easy to follow: "We will be on the second floor instead of the first floor," "We'll have two bathrooms instead of one," "We'll have a red door instead of a black one."
With less than two weeks to our move, it was time to tell him. Pen, paper, and his favorite fruit roll up in hand, I was prepared to tell him and prepared to quell a handful of fears:
Me: Sweetheart, will you come sit next to me, I would like to talk to you about something.
J: What is it, Mommy?
Me: Well, have you noticed that I’ve been pulling some stuff out of the closets and putting them in boxes, so that we can have a garage sale…?
Me: Well, that’s because we…. We… we… are moving.
Me: Yes. And as you know, P is my boyfriend, and I love him, and he loves me and really loves you, and so he and I have been talking about what a wonderful opportunity it would be for all of us to live together.
J: We’re moving?
J: With P?
J: YES! (Fist pumping) This is going to be so much fun!
Me: I know! I’m so excited.
J: And do we get to take his video games too?
He jumps off the couch.
J: When are we moving?
Me: In 11 days from now.
J: That’s so long! Let’s go tomorrow! Want to play Candyland?
And that was that. No questions… no concerns… no worries. For now.
Of course, he did tell all his teachers later that night at a school function that he had great news: “Guess what?! Me and my mommy are moving in with her girlfriend!!!”
I suppose not everything is so clear.
Girlfriend and all, I am relieved about his excitement and know that there are bound to be some issues that will naturally come up as we share our home with another person who will be sharing my attention.
We’re only a few days in now, and so far so good…. I never thought I’d say this, but thank god for men and their video games. It almost makes a cheesy glass table bearable. Well, kind of …