Want not waste
I was working on another post when Just Jess’s comment about maintaining two residences sent me reeling off onto an entirely different tangent: the dread of waste. If you are as waste-averse as I am, divorce is a total bitch, because long after you’ve worked through the emotional toll of dissolving a union, you still have the daily reminder of the piles of discretionary income you might have if things were different.
I’m at a complete disadvantage when it comes to the need for efficiencies, because I come from a long line of New England stock steeped in Yankee frugality. Exhibit A: the fold-out couch that had been the fulcrum of my parents’ first apartment together was still in their house, and used regularly, 45 YEARS LATER until they moved last spring. Sure, there may have been some sentimentality involved, and the thing weighed more than a battleship, but still. We save things. And we’re hardwired to stretch however many dollars we make as far as we possibly can.
Moxie and I were lucky, I suppose, that we didn’t have a lot of marital assets to split up while we were splitting. However, we dropped a lot of cash on couples therapists and legal eagles, plus the usual comfort items to help stave off the trauma of a Life Restart. (My primary vice was DVDs, most of which I haven’t freed from their cellophane yet. Wasteful!) That’s all in the past, of course, but the unavoidable truth lingers on: two households are a lot more expensive than one. And it dogs me sometimes that we’re spending a lot of rent money that could instead be making our lives easier and more enjoyable.
Frankly, I couldn’t care less about eating in more restaurants or seeing more live music. I really wish I could spend more on the kids. It’s hard enough dealing with the hypercompetitiveness of this city, and the parents who invest in luge lessons and harpsichord tutors and casually mention that they took their kids to Florence because you really need to seeeee the David firsthand in order to appreeeeciate it. I’m used to all that bullcrap. But when you have to consider budgets for mundane things like eyeglasses and back-to-school clothes, it’s easy to let your brain think about all the intact households it knows and wonder how things might have been different.
I know there’s really no telling what that hypothetical life might have been. And the kids don’t care, either; they’re mostly happy that they have some reliable structure in their lives and get to see both parents as much as they do. But since no one plans to be Divorced With Kids, part of coping with divorce is recognizing that your life will never be as you envisioned. I like to frame all this “wasteful” extra spending as investment in the overall happiness of the four of us, but my Inner Spendthrift can be a tough sell.