From Suburban SAHM to Trailer Trash: My Story
I was so excited as I signed the lease for my beautiful home as my 3 children relaxed in the spacious living room. The vaulted ceiling and large windows made the home seem even bigger than it was, and I couldn't believe the landlord had approved my application. The rent was $1200 a month, which was $450 more than my apartment, but I was confident I could afford it - even without child support.
At the time, my children were 8, 18 months, and 2 months old. I was "working on things" with my sons' father, which I would later learn meant that he was seeing other women behind my back while promising we'd all be a family again. I'm finally able to think about that without crying, which is great since it took me years to get to this point.
The Home Was Perfect for My Family
My house was perfect, and we created many memories there. My ex came over several times a week, and I believed in my heart that one day he'd move back in with all of us.
That day never came.
After draining my savings to pay a family law attorney, I was depressed and broke. I started rebuilding my savings about a year into our court case, and I thought that things were finally back on track.
Then I got served with more legal paperwork while I was at the laundromat.
I mistakenly assumed the paperwork was from my sons' father until I reviewed the thick packet. It was from Ex #1, my daughter's absent father who I hadn't heard from in a very long time. Many people assumed Ex #2 was her father since Ex #1 was completely out of the picture.
He Wanted Sole Custody
I was in complete shock when I read the paperwork. My deadbeat ex was requesting sole custody of my daughter, and he wanted me to have supervised visitations with her every other weekend. The paperwork was filled with false accusations, and my mind was completely blown by the fact that someone even let my ex file something so ridiculous.
My lawyer wasn't surprised, though. He explained that in our state, people can file anything they want. My job wasn't to prove my ex's allegations was false. My ex's job was to prove they were true.
But I still needed a lawyer. Thankfully, the lawyer who was handling my child custody case with Ex #2 agreed to also take on my case against Ex #1.
Long story short, judges see this kind of stuff all the time, and Ex #1 was not awarded sole custody of my daughter. I was awarded sole custody, and he was awarded 3 hours of visitation per week at my discretion. I haven't had to exercise my discretion since he voluntarily stopped contacting me after the final custody trial.
Did I Mention Both Trials Were on the Exact Same Day?
Yep, that's right. I had 2 custody trials against 2 different exes on the exact same day, and it was definitely the most stressful thing I've ever experienced.
My final custody trials were in 2013, and I'm still paying off my attorney. I expect it to take 2 to 4 more years for me to pay him off completely, and I'm so thankful I found a skilled attorney who was willing to accept a payment plan.
But I Was Still Broke
I had to pay my family law attorney a hefty sum of cash before I was able to set up a payment plan. He deserved every penny, but it left me completely broke. I don't have credit cards, nor do I have family members I can borrow money from. I paid that retainer fee myself.
Speaking of broke, that word describes most of the appliances and electronics I had at my house. My car broke down, and I couldn't afford to fix it for 3 months. My dryer broke. My water heater broke, and it was still broken when I moved out of the house. I had to boil pots of water on the stove for 2 or 3 hours a day, then rush to fill the tub, so that the kids and I could bathe.
I was working 7 days a week and barely sleeping. I walked 7 miles to pay my rent in 100-degree weather because I couldn't afford to fix my vehicle and nobody could take me to get a money order for my landlord that day (I live in a city that does not have public transportation). My neighbor made fun of me for drying my clothes outside. We didn't have cable TV, and we kept the lights off whenever possible to save money on electricity. I couldn't remember the last time I had enough money to take my kids out for a Happy Meal or ice cream cone.
I was barely surviving, and then I paid my rent late. My landlord charged me a $500 late fee because I live in a state with very little tenant protection. That was my breaking point, and I knew I had to get out of there soon. I was living in an expensive home filled with broken stuff, and I missed taking hot showers and treating my kids to ice cream.
Boo Hoo, Life is Hard Sometimes
This isn't meant to be a "woe is me" sob story. I'm just explaining why I left a nice house to move into a mobile home.
I want to clarify that before we continue. I'm not asking for sympathy. I'm simply asking my readers to refrain from judging folks who live in trailer parks.
Hello, Trailer Park
I cried for a few hours after I paid that $500 late fee. My lease was almost up, and I knew I needed a plan. I loved the area I was living in and didn't want to switch my kids' schools, so I had to find a home I could afford in the same city.
It wasn't easy. Most rentals cost the same as my house, and many of them were significantly higher. There were no apartments available in the school district, and I knew an apartment wasn't an option anyway. My credit score sucked, and my kids were way too loud for an apartment. I used to live in one with my older 2 before my youngest was born, so I'm speaking from personal experience.
I saw a post advertising "the cheapest place in the area" and decided to drive by and check it out. It was for a mobile home. I drove by and looked at it 3 times, on 3 different occasions, before I finally worked up the courage to apply.
I was accepted within a day or two, and I felt such a sense of relief. Rent was only $775 a month, and the trailer park was just a mile away from my house. The kids were going to be able to stay in the same school district and hang out with the same friends.
Not Everyone Shared My Joy
People were horrified when they learned I was leaving my house to move into a mobile home community with my kids. I wasn't expecting such a negative reaction, so it caught me off guard.
My ex, who lived in his mother's basement at the time (and probably still does), called me "trailer trash" and mocked my home.
My daughter's friend was no longer allowed to come over because her mother said my new neighborhood was "too trashy".
I was warned that there were tons of gangs who would attack me and the kids. For the record, I've met zero gang members in the 2.5 years I've lived in this trailer park, and nobody has ever made me feel uncomfortable or unsafe in this neighborhood.
People told me I just needed to try harder to keep my house. If I could just "work a few more hours a week" or "make your ex pay child support like he's supposed to", then I wouldn't have to move to the trailer park. I was already working 7 days a week at that point, and I promise there is no way to force someone to pay his court-ordered child support.
"You should probably get a job." This rude comment came from people who didn't seem to understand that I was self employed and earning a decent annual salary. The problem was that my expenses exceeded my income, even though I was earning wages more than twice as high as some of my friends.
Then there were the comments about how I needed to cut expenses and stay in my house. At the time, I was couponing, using rebate apps, growing my own herbs and onions, driving a 13-year-old vehicle, and shopping for my family's clothing on the Target clearance racks. There was nothing more I could do. I was already living a very frugal life.
For the Record...
I HATE the phrase "trailer trash."
So Much Unsolicited Advice
Everybody was full of solutions about a situation I didn't even realize was a problem. It was frustrating, and to this day, I am still annoyed by the rude comments people make.
I'm still the same person I was before I moved into a trailer park. Actually, I take that back. I'm no longer the person I once was, because the person who lived in that beautiful home with vaulted ceilings was stressed and depressed on a daily basis. I'm much happier now.
This is Not My Forever Home
I don't plan to live in a mobile home forever, but would it really matter if I did? And what happens when I move out of the trailer park and into another home like the one I once had? Are people who snubbed my family going to magically like us again when we're living in a house that society thinks is nice? Or will there be rude comments about how I probably married a man with money or received an inheritance since I'm able to afford a house again?
I can't predict the future, and I can't change the past. All I can do is create a happy, financially stable life for my family. Temporarily living in a trailer park makes that possible.