Before I can tell you what I need to forgive myself for, let me give you some background on how Mr. Monkey and I ended up in Iowa.
Mr.Monkey actually lived here before, about 10 years ago. At the time he was married to his first wife (D.) and they had two young sons (M. and B.). Mr. Monkey was in a good tenure track position and was on track professionally. After being here for a few years Mr. Monkey and D. got divorced. They shared custody of the boys, who were about 5 and 8 at the time, but she had primary custody. She eventually decided she wanted to move back to Arizona (they had lived there while Mr. Monkey was in grad school) with the boys. Mr. Monkey decided that he too would move back to Arizona even though it meant giving up the tenure track job and moving to a place where the job prospects were not nearly as good. He felt strongly that he wanted to be able to be a daily presence in the boys’ lives so it was 100% the right parenting decision. Professionally, it was less than ideal.
Flash forward about 5 years and we meet, fall in love, and get married. While there are the initial growing pains associated with becoming a blended family, we make it through and continue to have the boys about 3 days a week or so. Mr. Monkey and I sometimes discuss our future and whether we’d like to move from Arizona someday but always agree that we’ll wait until M.(the younger boy) is finished with high school. So certain are we of this plan we buy a house, thinking that we’d be in Arizona at least 5-7 more years.
Mr. Monkey and I both work in higher education and as the economy slows down things start seeming really grim in each of our fields. There are hiring and salary freezes and talk of lay-offs. I’m in a good position but start hearing rumours that things are changing. I apply for other jobs, higher up the food chain. I am a finalist multiple times but never get the offer. I hear my graduate school advisors voice in my head telling me that you have to be willing to move out to move up in our field. But I can’t move out where we are, there is no where else to go (Arizona has very few colleges and universities).
At the same time, the dynamics of our relationships with the boys are changing. They are teenagers now and so busy that we hardly ever see them. B. is getting ready for college and is working part-time and doing school. M. is busy with activities and high school as well. They rarely spend the night with us anymore. Partially this is due to the new baby and partially this is due to the fact that their mom’s house is within walking distance of their friends, their school, their jobs. They are, of course, also teenagers who given the choice between spending Saturday night at home with their dad, step-mom and infant brother or going out with friends will choose friends every time. Who wouldn’t at that age? We miss them but understand that the dynamic of parenting changes as they get older.
One day I see a job listing for my current job. Although we were both worried about the long-term prospects of staying in Arizona I hadn’t really considered applying out-of-state until I see the posting. It seems like the perfect next step for me but M. still has three years of high school left. I apply for it anyways, interview and get offered the position.
Oh, dear readers, I can not tell you how gut wrenching it is to decide to take this job and to leave Arizona without M. and B. We knew they wouldn’t want to come (B. was already planning to start college in the fall) and we knew we’d try to bring them out to Iowa as often as possible but telling them we were moving was one of the most heart breaking things I’ve ever had to do. The night we said goodbye to them before we left is a night I literally can’t think about without crying. I’ve never seen my husband or my step-sons cry as much as they did that night.
We’ve been here almost 2 years now and have enjoyed having the boys out to visit. We text them and use Skype but it isn’t the same as being in the same town of course. I struggle with a lot of guilt about that. I feel guilty that the older boys don’t have their dad geographically closer. I feel guilty that the baby monkey won’t grow up seeing his brothers more often. I feel guilty that I’m happy here.
I didn’t make the decision to move by myself, of course. Mr. Monkey and I chose this together and it has been the right step for us in a variety of ways but I need to forgive myself for making this step.
I don’t know if the boys ever read this blog (it isn’t a secret that I have a blog but I don’t know that they are all that interested in it) but if they do I want them to know that their dad and I love them and miss them every single day.