October 25, 2010 11:27 AM   Subscribe

My husband is a second year law student in Ann Arbor. We have a 2.5 year old daughter and I'm currently a stay-at-home mom. Next summer, my husband has a job in Cleveland, where we will live after graduation. He has only one more semester of school left after the summer. We have two potential living scenarios, and need help choosing:

1) Rent a place in Cleveland, move back to Ann Arbor after the summer (find a place for 4 months because we won't sublet our current place) and then move back to Cleveland 4 months later. Upsides: we'd be together full-time. Downsides: LOTS of moving and some instability for my daughter- she'd be in one school for the first semester next year, and then we would have to switch-mid-year.
2) Leave Ann Arbor and rent or buy in Cleveland in the summer. Husband would rent a room in Ann Arbor and stay there 3 days a week while we stay in Cleveland full-time. Upsides: Move only once! More stability for us. Only one school, fewer transitions. Downsides: me being a single parent three days a week, and our daughter missing her daddy those days.
Hivemind: what would you suggest?
posted by mrstrotsky to Human Relations (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
2... as a military brat, we often had scenario's like this, and having a more-stable living location, although tough on my mom, was easier on me as the child... even with 3 days a week off, there is skype, and other video chat to bridge the gap... plus, when he is a lawyer, chances are there will be some days when he wont' see you much (leave early, get home late)...
posted by fozzie33 at 11:32 AM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

What I would do in this situation:

Write out a future diary of yourself documenting your day-to-day existing in both scenarios. Which one works better for you, your husband and your daughter?
posted by k8t at 11:34 AM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

As a Clevelander, I say BUY! There are amazing bargains here. You may welcome that distance that make the heart grow fonder. Three days a week for a year does not seem that much to me.
Feel free to ask some Cle questions if you need.
posted by citybuddha at 11:37 AM on October 25, 2010

Speaking as someone who's currently doing the live-apart half the week thing: it really, really, REALLY blows. Very badly. I cannot recommend it. It is a lot more work and a lot less fun than living together. You can't realize until your partner moves out all the ways in which you rely upon them. And we don't even have a child! I vote no on option 2.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:40 AM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

It takes a significant amount of work to deal with living apart from a partner. I know that it was really stressful for me as a parent. I also wanted to say that at age 3, I think the school issue is less of a big deal than it would be if your daughter was say 9 or 10.
posted by Zophi at 11:42 AM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think the live-apart thing is very difficult, but is infinitely more do-able when there is a firm end date. My husband and I did it once for around four months, but at the beginning the end date was ambiguous, and that was the hardest part. If it's really just a semester and he's got a job lined up for after that, I'd say bite the bullet and take the less moving/more stability path. But, yeah, it'll be a period of your life you'll be glad to have over!
posted by handful of rain at 11:44 AM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'd vote number 2. You seem to say this is only for one semester--that's such a short amount of time, it hardly seems worth uprooting your child.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:08 PM on October 25, 2010

Move in next to my father-in-law in Cleveland Heights! He would be thrilled.

No, seriously, there are incredible bargains in the Cleveland area, and some wonderful housing stock going cheap. Also, you'll be saving so much on housing that you can afford to find good childcare (and seriously, if you do go this way, MeMail me for some hookups out there) to help your single-parent stint go more smoothly.

As a pure utilitarian, I would have to say that the potential disruption to a four-year-old in moving twice in four months is going to be bigger than the potential disruption to a grownup in having to do single-handed parenting for four months. But obviously your situation is unique, and since I don't know you, only you and your husband can decide.

You know, a meeting or two with balsamic vinegar hospice Kate Beaton a therapist might help you guys have a more structured conversation together about the pros and cons. (Sometimes I forget which of my Favorite Things to Recommend is the right one for any given situation!)
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:08 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

It seems to me like #2 has less cons than #1. I vote for going to Cleveland in one clean move. Yeah, it'll be a rough few months, but really it's doable. Also an Army Brat here: My mom did it for months at a time with four kids, and that was definitely not with daddy coming home every 3 days. I'm not saying that was good, just that we all lived through it. Also, I was the youngest (imagine me under 4 during this period) and I honestly don't remember it, I just remember the stories. So based on my experience, your little one will probably recover. It'll be hardest on the grown ups.

Like my mom told me before my first semester in college: "You can do anything for 3 months."
posted by purpletangerine at 12:19 PM on October 25, 2010

Oh, and if you don't already have a network of friends in Cleveland, now is the time to start searching for mommy groups, play dates, clubs, etc. You're going to need some friendly support when you can't see your SO everyday.
posted by purpletangerine at 12:20 PM on October 25, 2010

I just want to echo ThePinkSuperhero, it is really awful in so many ways to do the part time live apart thing. Your daughter is young enough that she can be flexible and I think that you'll be so much happier all under the same roof.

Summer in Ann Arbor is amazing. And if you do decide to sublet, its pretty easy to find someone here. In fact if you do, feel free to contact me, I might have a lead on a CPA who is looking for someplace close to town to crash during tax season.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 12:23 PM on October 25, 2010

I would work very, very hard to stay with my partner.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:25 PM on October 25, 2010

I wonder if some of the different opinions in this thread are coming from people's different experiences? I moved when I was a child (when I was four, actually, so apparently that is why I got the OP's daughter's age wrong--projection much?) and hated it, so I am on Team Plan Two. Some other folks here have lived apart from their partner or spouse and hated it, so they are on Team Plan One. My guess is that we all make sense.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:39 PM on October 25, 2010

How much time do you really spend together now? He's in law school. My mom and stepdad have both done the law school thing; it's only marginally more like one of them is there when they're studying quietly in another room versus studying quietly in another state. They both did the out of state weekend law school thing; my stepdad has two semesters left.

I can't tell you much about the spouse thing (he's been a consultant since I was a teenager; he's spent years in South America with us in Ohio, coming back a few times a month, and they don't seem to mind.)

I can tell you that 4 is not the "missing Daddy is screwing me up for life" age, if there is one. At four both of my parents were single, trading me off in two-week increments. I didn't start having issues with the wackiness until I was older and everyone had remarried and so forth. Heck, I didn't even mind napping on buses because we had noplace else to go - 4 is flexible, at least compared with other ages, in my experience.

(I hate the school switching thing, however. Making friends and getting good at being in a classroom environment takes lots of daily effort, and I'd almost rather keep her home for a few months than do two different schools in a short period.)
posted by SMPA at 12:45 PM on October 25, 2010

I've done the long distance relationship thing and the cross country move thing and the travel 5 days a week for business thing.

Moving is far and away the most stressful and expensive. Move once.

Your husband will be home every weekend and for his fall break and for Thanksgiving. You can visit him for a week if you want. A semester is what? 16 weeks? That's 48 days apart. That's nothing compared to hassle and expense of moving.
posted by 26.2 at 12:48 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

How long is the commute between the two cities? Will your husband really be able to make that trip every week while also keeping up with his law school responsibilities, study groups, etc?

The you move to Cleveland early, he commutes for 4 months thing would probably be my suggestion were we talking about damn near anything but the last semester of law school, when the commuting might be a big problem for him.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:49 PM on October 25, 2010

Look, it is tough being by yourself with a young child, but three days a week is not really a lot.
Your husband will have a bit of alone time to really study, and you will only have to move ONCE and you will be able to get all nice and settled and get routines going (which is important for the wee one.)

I vote #2.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:09 PM on October 25, 2010


Another Clevelander here -- echoing the recommendation to buy if you can! It's a LOT cheaper here than Ann Arbor and you'll be able to have a much better living situation, even if you have to live apart from your husband for a while.

Plus, the drive to Ann Arbor isn't too horrible if you find you'd really like to go up there periodically.

Added bonus: he can bring you Zingerman's when he comes south.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:14 PM on October 25, 2010

Are there any decent train options? The only ones I recall were Amtraks between Chicago and the east coast that hit Cleveland in the middle of the night. While I've never done the Ann Arbor-Cleveland commute, that stretch of freeway was part of my drive home from college. Sure it's only 2 hours normally, but when snow hits that section of 80/90, shit can get hairy. There was one Thanksgiving drive back to school that I remember in particular--so many semis jack-knifed in the ditch!

I'm not saying one choice is better than the other (a 2 hour commute is normal life for a lot of people, though), but just to maybe consider that. But then maybe his semester ends before the snow flies.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 1:16 PM on October 25, 2010

I forgot about the Zingermans. Better say in AA
posted by citybuddha at 1:53 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another vote for #2. The main downside to this is being by yourself 3 days a week, and I'll guess (since you didn't mention it) that you don't already have family or friends in Cleveland. But as the fellow mom of a 3-year old, moving my kid twice and dealing with all the transitions would not be worth it. I work outside the home in a more than full-time job, but I would still strongly lean toward #2 if I were in this situation even though it would be difficult. Four months is doable. And you'll have time to get settled in Cleveland before your husband arrives.
posted by chickenmagazine at 2:10 PM on October 25, 2010

Response by poster: Original poster here: the other advantage to Cleveland that I didn't mention is that my parents live there, as do an aunt and uncle and various other relatives. I have a few friends who stayed around, as well. We don't have family or as many friends here in Ann Arbor.
posted by mrstrotsky at 2:38 PM on October 25, 2010

Ah. Well, the grandparent advantage (if your parents are keen on helping with childcare) is a big plus here. A big plus.

We lived with my dad's parents from when I was six months old until we moved when I was four, and I have never been so happy since, because my grandparents were awesome. Also aunts, uncles, etc. Living near grandparents, if they are loving and caring and fun, is such a wonderful joy for a kid.

But as others have said, only you know the potential impact of living apart for a bit on your relationship with your husband, and only he knows the potential impact of living apart for a bit on his relationship with you.

But if I were a kid, being in Cleveland with my grandparents and uncles and aunts would probably be more fun for me than being in Ann Arbor with just Mom while Dad disappears into the flaming Hellmouth of obsessive studying that is the last semester of law school. Ultimately, though, you and he need to do what's right for the two of you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:54 PM on October 25, 2010

The fact that you have family and a larger support network in Cleveland puts me strongly in favor of option 2. Moving is crazy stressful, especially with a 2 year old, and you'll still get some of that lovely single parent experience living in Ann Arbor during your husband's potentially stressful last semester of law school. At least in Cleveland you can arrange grandparent play dates to take some of the midweek stress off of you.
posted by fermezporte at 5:37 PM on October 25, 2010

I would argue for #2, having uprooted my 2.5 year old son last year and having him still pine for "home." Two moves? I cannot imagine the agony. That said, some of this depends on your child's temperament, too. Not all kids hate upheaval.
posted by bardophile at 5:10 AM on October 26, 2010

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