Inside Stories

Best of Brick: I share two apartments with my ex-

By S.  | August 4, 2011 - 1:09PM

My husband and I were married seven years when we decided to get a divorce in 2008.  We had always been great friends and we still are, but we just didn’t manage to make a good husband and wife.  After going through marriage counseling, we decided to split up before things got really bitter and angry.

At the time, our daughter was 3 years old. My father was dying of cancer, and my husband and I were both really concerned about how losing her grandfather and dealing with our divorce would impact her.

In order to provide some sense of stability, we decided that we would each rotate between staying in our Tribeca condo and in an apartment that we rented in Chelsea, a five-minute subway ride away. We picked Chelsea because it was easily accessible to Tribeca—we couldn’t afford Tribeca rent—and to our offices.

When we initially split up, we sat our daughter down and tried to explain it to her in 3-year-old terms:  "Sometimes mommy and daddy don’t get along—we fight a lot—so we decided to try something new. We’re going to take turns taking care of you.  You’ll always be with one of us and we’re both always going to love you."

She was okay with it and for her it seems to be working. She is still such a happy kid. Even two years later, the teachers at school had no idea that we were divorced.

I have no doubt it’s the right thing to do for her, but for us, it’s exhausting.  That’s the bottom line.  Basically every Monday and Tuesday her father stays with her, and every Wednesday and Thursday I stay with her, and we switch off every other weekend.

So every two or every five days I go back and forth with a bag of clothes. I have to think about my outfits for meetings for work, and the weather in case I need my rain or snow boots.

The apartment in Chelsea is a cookie-cutter, no-frills one-bedroom rental that we deliberately make feel like an extended stay hotel, a neutral zone.

It doesn’t feel like home by any means.  By the time I get there his linens are gone and packed in the closet and I take mine out.

We each have toiletry boxes there that we keep in the closet when we leave, and I pack away my toothpaste and toothbrush and anything else remotely feminine and personal to me.  We have one set of dishes and the refrigerator is mostly empty except maybe some water and diet Coke.

He takes care of all the groceries for the Tribeca apartment and I take care of supplies for the Chelsea apartment.  I clean the night before I leave.  He’s great when it comes to decluttering but in terms of dusting the floor and stuff, I mostly do that.

I’m still getting used to the whole world of dating and the only people I invite over are my friends. I don’t really think about him bringing people back to the apartment, although I know he’s actively dating. I’m happy for him.

In the Tribeca apartment we have the same separate linens situation but that space feels very different. We agreed not to introduce our daughter to a significant other unless it wasreally significant, so I know no boyfriend or girlfriend has come into that home.  All my stuff is there—my clothes, my pictures, my books and everything personal and sentimental.

It’s been two years now and we are fortunate that we have been able to make this work. But it’s not sustainable financially or otherwise in the long run. We’re both so exhausted and the rent on the Chelsea apartment is $2,500. Meanwhile I’m paying for my mom’s mortgage since my dad died.

This summer we’re going to put our condo on the market and rent two separate places that our daughter will split her time between.  Ideally we’d like to live close to one another and the school she’s in now, but I don’t know if we can afford it.

We’ve gotten her excited about selling—we told her that most kids have only one apartment but you get to have two.  And she’s at an age now where she realizes that mommy and daddy aren’t together.

But living somewhere permanently is going to be a mixed bag. This is the only home she’s known, and I know how everyone says children are so resilient, but I’m concerned about how she will take the shuttling back and forth.

Divorce is probably one of the most difficult things one might have go through in life.  Parents have to remember that it's hard on children as well.  I would recommend to people who are going through an amicable divorce to do what we did.

It's not easy and it's financially brutal.  But to me, it was completely worth it to give my daughter a sense of stability and security.  Even the child psychologist we met with recently said the divorce didn’t seem to have had a negative impact on her – she’s such a bright, happy kid.

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