I am confronted with a dilemma, and I’d like to know your thoughts.
Our story so far: I’m a 42-year-old father of three children, the oldest of whom is eight-years-old. My wife and I have been locked in a platonic marriage that has been little more than a business and in-house co-parenting arrangement from the outset. Penny and I are both well-educated, entrepreneurial, and otherwise quite compatible, but the lack of intimacy and the constant rejection in our marriage has taken its toll on me. Nobody has cheated on the other; there has never been any physical abuse or intentional cruelty. Penny does not want to remain married to me, but just as she has not participated in our marriage, she has not been actively participating in our divorce, either. I dare say, we’ve both been living in denial for a very long time.
Oh, and I should also mention that our household took a severe hit during the recession, and although our (mostly my) income situation is now better than ever, we fell enough into arrears on our marital house that it is not possible for us to avoid foreclosure without heroic efforts. Given our path to divorce, those heroic efforts would not be well-advised, and so we are about to lose the house and our credit (jointly and singly) is trashed. Penny and I have begun negotiating our divorce via a mediator rather than adversarial lawyers; I’ll post more on how that works out as the situation develops, but there is reason to be cautiously optimistic that we can avoid acrimony as we split.
Yesterday, I reached an agreement with a property management company over the rental of a house in a nearby neighborhood. Today (Friday) after work, I will be signing a lease. The stalemate (or rather, the Mexican Stand-off) of our separation has been broken, and now the dominoes start falling down the line. Soon, I will be building my new household and Penny and I will begin dismantling the marital household. (The homes Penny is looking at are in the same neighborhood as the one where I am going to be leasing.)
Three young children. None of them have any reason to expect divorce is imminent; none of them really have much reason to know what divorce is. Yes, they have friends their same age whose parents are going through divorce, but from what I’ve seen, the topic doesn’t seem to find any purchase in our children’s minds. They’ve never seen Penny and me fight, and we present a united front to them as parents.
Our children do know, however, that our family home is for sale (this is part of our effort to satisfy the first mortgage holder by allowing for a short sale), and they understand that we will be moving at some point before too long, but we haven’t dwelled on what that would look like, either.
But now I am securing a new place to live, and Penny has rental applications out on a house or two, herself. The move is upon us. Since we would both be moving to a nearby neighborhood, a change in elementary schools for the eight-year-old is in order, and it would make logistical sense to make such a move over the winter holiday break. I don’t know, however, if that would be best for the child.
This is where I ask for your help. You may have divorced with children, or may be facing divorce with children, or have friends or family who are going through or have gone through this kind of situation. Again: our kids have no real context for understanding divorce, but they are aware that we will need to move soon.
Oh, and Christmas is two weeks away.
My (our) dilemma: when do we tell the kids? What and how do we tell the kids? And following that, when/how do we start moving the kids into their new two-home lives?
I have some thoughts, but I’d sure like to hear your thoughts as well.