Lexie, I’m a So. Cal native. All my family and my husband’s is still there. We left in the early 90s because of our kids. The cost of living there is impossible. We are two college degreed people, hubby’s a PhD, I’m a BA in Business. Together we were pulling in well over $100,000 a year and we were barely making ends meet for us and our 2 kids. The daycare and student loans were sapping my income. Living expenses (food, utilities, rent, auto insurance, gasoline, homeowners/life insurance) took the rest. In order to draw the income we did we had demanding jobs which kept us away from home from 6:30 am - 7:00 pm most nights…later for others. That just freaked me out because I was missing my babies so much (they were infant/toddler at that time) and there was no way I could stop working to stay home with them if we wanted to pay off the school loans and own a home someday. Renting was killing us at year-end tax time!
Anyway, we prayed about it and decided to apply for work across the nation. If something came through, we were ready to pack it all up and leave. If not, then we were ready to sit down to redesign our future, to make drastic changes all around so that I could spend more time with the kids without throwing us into debt. Within weeks of the applications going out, hubby got a call from a university in the midwest area. They flew him out immediately after a phone interview and within two weeks of that made the offer. They flew us both out for the followup interview so that I could shop the neighborhood real estate market, schools, churches, medical facilities, etc. The cost of living here was such that I could afford to drop my $60,000 salary, he could afford to drop $20,000 off of his, and we still would be able to pay off our loans, buy a house, pay for living expenses and set a little money aside for the future. It was a no-brainer. We left and have no desire to live in CA ever again.
We fly home almost every summer to visit family. If hubby and I can’t go due to work obligations, we send the kids without us to be with their aunts/uncles/grandparents/cousins for 6 weeks straight. If anyone in my family were to offer to move in our direction we’d LOVE to help them find the right place, but no one in our families want to leave CA. You are so blessed to have family who would be willing to come closer to you.
I concur with the other posters…now is not the time to make such a major decision, but it really is good to keep your options open, to think ahead like that. Since we left, housing and all other cost-of-living expenses in So. Ca. has soared. If we weren’t cutting it on $100,000 combined and getting that $100,000 kept us from the kids, then I don’t know how a single mother would do it. You have one advantage we never had - our family was never close enough to us to help with child care so we had to rely on private nannies or expensive low child-adult day-care. I don’t know what the job market for someone with your anticipated degree is like where you’re looking to go, so that’s the other thing to consider. You will be financially responsible for your children from here on out and the wages in CA are not on par with living expenses, especially with housing costs these days. The medical system out there (Southern) is not the greatest either, but you have your family to help you gage that. Schools - while I’m not impressed with the public system here, it’s been the same, academically as my kids would have had back home, but the social pressure is much lighter and the faith base here is strong so no one needs to be ashamed of being Catholic or Protestant in a public school (our high school even offers a bible study class in the morning before school). You already know what the school system is like from your nieces and nephews, I suppose. I compare ours to the ones my nieces and nephews attend and those of friends who still are in the city we left.
You’re a smart lady. Not so wise in her choice of men, but wise enough to fix that through counseling. You love your children, you want the best for them, you’re willing to do what it takes and you have a supportive family. You’re going to be ok and the decisions you make for your children will be the right ones. I’ll keep you in my prayers anyway, so that you can feel the energy of my prayers along with everyone else here as you sort things out. May they sustain you as long as you need them to.