‘I was wheeling a vast suitcase out of our house, full of my clothes for the week, when I caught sight of the Dubai sticker from our last family holiday and I felt a stab of pain. Then a neighbour cheerily waved at me across the street and called over, “Off anywhere nice?”
I’ve lived on the road for 10 years, it’s where I’ve pushed buggies, traipsed thousands of school runs, and put out annual pumpkins and Christmas lights. Now, it’s the place where my long-term relationship crumbled.
On Sunday nights, I kiss the kids goodnight, and trundle into another family’s home, where I will lug my things upstairs, sit on a strange bed, and have a little sob.
I’ll change the sheets, hang my clothes in the tiny wardrobe, and light some scented candles.
”I have a framed picture of the kids smiling, and my daughter’s drawing which reads ‘Goodnight’ by the bed. I find it comforting. Jerome must too, as they remain unmoved.”
To make it feel more homely, I bought a large rug, while Jerome’s must-have purchase was the TV. Other than that nothing personal lives here. The room is clean, comfortable, and has wifi as we both work ‘from home’.
Seeing Jerome’s left-behind toiletries in the bathroom and favourite chocolate in the cupboard feels sad. He leaves milk in the little fridge, and a meal for one. He’s always been better at food shopping.
The kids never need to come here, that’s the benefit of nesting. They are settled at home and the inconvenience is only for the adults. But when the boiler broke in our family house, everyone piled over to use the bedsit shower. I worried they’d be upset by the rather alien little place, but they said, “Cool,” and loved climbing into bed to watch the TV (the room’s so small it’s the only place to watch it).
When I’m at home with the kids, life feels normal, as though Jerome is out playing football or with his mates. If the kids ask where Dad is, I’ll remind them he’s at the bedsit – but they’ll see him at ‘family dinner’. It was important to me we still shared a meal, but I know he struggles.
The bedsit is a step to a new, independent life. We didn’t officially ‘ban’ bringing other people back to it, but it would feel disrespectful to do so as we share the space.
We’re both open to dating, even tease each other about it, but we don’t pry. I doubt either of us will be ready for a committed relationship yet, but having a neutral place with the freedom to come and go makes dating an option. Under the same roof would have felt wrong.
When – if – one of us meets someone we’d want to introduce the kids to, the dynamics (and living arrangements) will change. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
It feels bizarre, (though not unpleasant!) not getting the kids up for school, and the time gives me headspace. But each week I am desperate to return to the home I nurtured over the years. Wheeling the suitcase back through the front door and hugging the kids when I return to them feels in every sense like coming home.’