Moving back to mom after divorce

It’s stating the obvious to say that divorce changes everything but for some people everything means literally everything and it can create new opportunities. Nancy is one of those people. She and her husband had been married for twenty-one difficult years and at the time of their divorce, they worked together in his business which he then sold. Their daughter was heading off to college and at the same time, Nancy B’s sister needed help with their mother. Here’s Nancy B:

[contemplate1] My sister and her husband, who live in Minnesota, also have a home in Florida and they go there every winter. My sister takes care of our mom, she’s 91 and even if she didn’t have dementia, she just needs a lot of help doing things. So my sister asked if I would move to Minnesota to take of mom while she went to Florida.

She’ll be back in May, so then I’ll have five months when I don’t know what I’m going to be doing because all my stuff is in storage in California. I don’t think I’m going back to California, at least not for a while, and I plan to be back here next winter.

Some people want to make a big change after divorce I think I needed a big change, I needed to shake things up, even though I was divorced, it was like when does a marriage really end? When you’re so intertwined with someone with having a child together, working together for many years…when does it end?

When we separated, we were still working together, so we talked to each other all the time, we’d have meetings together, I was over at the house. Then everything kind of converged at one time. He then sold his business, and I didn’t care for the new owner. He continued to work for the new owner for some time. I really didn’t care for the new owner, so I said I really didn’t want to keep working for him. My ex’s  girlfriend moved in with him and my daughter went off to school.

Everything kind of happened at the same time. It was just time. Everything fell together. I was needed here, but I also needed it for myself. I needed to make a break.

I had been living in an area that’s very pretty…it’s outside of LA, south of Santa Barbara, twenty minutes outside Malibu, really, really pretty area, lots of great hiking and mountains. I lived right by a lake, but I wasn’t meeting new people. It’s a very family-oriented area and I’m kind of beyond that now. There’s not much of a single life, and it’s hard to meet new people. So it was like, “OK, I’m going to do this, I’m just going to do it, for my mom and for myself.”

Where I am now is where I was born in 1955. It hasn’t grown that much. When I was growing up there were 4,000 people, now it’s 4,300. No real industry, it’s a rural, a farming town, basically. I felt it was such a step down. I’m used to seeing Broadway quality plays, I’m a big museum person. Where I lived we had this incredible library, I’m a big library person. I love to go out to new restaurants. Well, there’s none of that there.

We do have a library, but there are no great places to eat, no really even good places to eat, no great places to shop. We have a Wal-Mart, that’s the big thing. It’s just a very, very small town. Where I was in LA, if you wanted to take yoga, you could choose from probably ten different places within a ten or fifteen mile radius. Well there’s like one woman who teaches yoga, two classes a week here.

I just thought I was going to wither and die but at the same time, I felt like I had to get away and actually it hasn’t been that bad, it really hasn’t. It’s refreshing to not have so many choices, if that makes any sense, does that resonate at all?

In some ways it just makes life simpler and my mom really needs me and it’s nice to be needed. We never had a good relationship, and this is kind of a healing process. I think because of the dementia, she tells me all the time how much she loves me and how much she appreciates me…when she can remember my name, you know. But, I think it’s been very, very good. It’s not really closure, it’s coming to terms with things.


There’s a lot of beauty in this part of Nancy B’s story. There’s certainly an element of “meant to be,”  of natural synchronicity. Taking care of her mom is life coming full circle while at the same time giving Nancy B some time to transition to the next phase of her life. And I love her perspective that being with her mom is about acceptance of what has been. It creates such a calm, a peace.

Page Lambert is another of my guests who after twenty-five years of marriage returned to her home town to take care of her mom. Page says that doing that was probably the most important part of life in the five years since her divorce.

I know my mum hoped she wouldn’t have to endure a long illness – my grandfather had a series of increasingly debilitating strokes and my grandmother had cancer. Well she was spared that, she died very suddenly and unexpectedly about six months after I was married. For a long time I felt she left without saying goodbye. I know that it doesn’t make sense to say that because she had no control over it. She would have said goodbye if she’d had the chance but it is how I felt and I still feel there was too much left unsaid …

Nancy B talks about needing a big change and of course, being an empty nester makes that a lot more doable. A word of caution though … as we know, divorce is one of life’s most stressful events and when we’re stressed we don’t make our best decisions. So be careful about making decisions that involve long term commitments or large investments during this period. Nancy is doing this the smart way – her belongings are in storage so she’ll still have them should she decide to return to LA. She’s living in her sister’s house so she hasn’t bought a house and that keeps her options open. Buying into a business at this time is another example of a decision that it might be best to delay.

What about you? Do you feel you need a big change? What sort of changes are you planning?

Photo credit: myoldpostcards


  • 1bperry

    After my divorce, my mom invited me to move from Greenwich and live with her in Fairfield.  At first I was dead set against the idea.  My daughter was 7, I was settled and had friends in Greenwich, and that seemed like a big move.  But then a good friend of mine challenged me.  “You can stay here and be comfortable, or you can move on and start life in a new place”.  While I didn’t think being at my mom’s was ideal, it did offer a bit of a safety net; I wouldn’t be going to a new place totally on my own.
    Well, this was the best single decision I’ve made in my life.  I started a new life, I renewed a wonderful relationship with my mom, my daughter was now surrounded by people who loved each other and supported each other.  I wasn’t embarrassed to live with my mom, Iwas delighted!  It was just what the doctor ordered and I think 3 very strong women were created during that time–me, my daughter, and my mom.  I’m proud of all of us.  I don’t live at my mom’s anymore, but when I bought my house, I made sure it was only a few blocks away.

    • Mandy Walker

      @1bperry – I hope that neither of my children will go through divorce but if they do or any other life crisis, I would be deeply honored if they came back to live with me.

      Good for you on moving back – you obviously didn’t know how it would turn out but you were willing to take that risk and make that change.

      So good to hear from you,