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From Suburban SAHM to Trailer Trash: My Story

Updated on June 28, 2016
Copyright M. Nolan, 2012
Copyright M. Nolan, 2012

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.

Copyright M. Nolan, 2015
Copyright M. Nolan, 2015

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.

Share Your Thoughts About Living in a Trailer

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Here's what I know about life, summed up in one sentence: we do what we have to do to survive, and we always keep moving forward. It sounds to me like you are doing exactly that. Thank you for sharing an all-too common story in America today.

    • ThatMommyBlogger profile image
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      Missy 12 months ago from The Midwest

      Thanks for your kind words, Billybuc. I agree with your one-sentence life summary. :)

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 12 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      I'm sorry you've encountered so many people willing to give you unsolicited and unwelcome advice. Sadly, many people only see your value in terms of how much money you make and equate poverty with immorality. I hope they are able to get the emotional help they need to behave with compassion and decency someday.

      I hope you've only called yourself trailer trash to make a point and that you haven't internalized it. You are a human being and a parent doing the best you can for your children and yourself. Don't let the words of cruel people color your feelings about yourself if you can help it.

    • ThatMommyBlogger profile image
      Author

      Missy 12 months ago from The Midwest

      Thanks, Kylyssa. Yes, I only used that phrase to make a point. I actually hate that term. I also hate how often it's thrown around on websites, TV shows, etc. Folks often make comments like "That celeb just bleached her hair, and now she looks like trailer trash" or "These reality stars would all be trailer trash if they hadn't been discovered." It bothers me.

    • profile image

      Victoria 12 months ago

      They say that when you are down that is when you find out who your real friends are. I am a single mom of three as well and I have had my share of ups and down. If it came to a point where I needed to live in a trailer park, I would and wouldn't care what anyone else thought about it. Your kids are happy and loved so that's all that matters.

    • profile image

      Jeremy Green 12 months ago

      Great piece, I have felt the same judgement for being self-employed. Just keeping doing you and the rest will take care of itself!

    • bowlins profile image

      Sandra Bowlin 12 months ago

      It's all too easy to judge a situation that you aren't living. The first several years of my life my teenage parents lived in a trailer park. For several years after that, and after my parents bought their first home, I went the babysitter in the trailer park. When my brother was born, that's where he went as well. They still attend the little church next to the trailer park as well, and are very engaged in the community - even though they now live in a beautiful home in the country on several acres of land.

      Unless asked, it is always best to keep our solutions to someone else's "problem" to ourselves - for the exact reason that you mentioned above - because to them it may very well not be a problem! And it isn't our business to decide that it is.

    • profile image

      Corinn 12 months ago

      I lived in a very nice trailer, with a big yard, during my first year on my own after college. Financially, it made a lot of sense. Now, I have been married for over a decade, we live in a nice neighborhood, with our daughter, but we are financially tight, and I coupon (as a matter of fact, I write about couponing on HubPages). It is hard to find the time to do that with even one child, so I say don't worry about what others say. Your true friends will always be your friends. The ones who judge were never your true friends anyway.

    • Jennifer Mugrage profile image

      Jennifer Mugrage 12 months ago from Columbus, Ohio

      It sounds like you made a very wise financial decision.

      That little trick that your ex pulled sounds like it came out of the Abusive Ex Handbook.

      I don't understand why having a lower standard of living should have so much social stigma attached to it. But it's certainly a deeply ingrained attitude with many people. Thank you for this article. People need to know that it's possible to be hardworking and frugal and still be struggling.

    • KCO profile image

      Katy 12 months ago from Denver, CO

      Thanks for sharing your story.

      Honestly I think I probably did judge folks in trailer parks when I was a kid, because that's what everything around me told me to do. And I was raised with the idea that money was scarce and I needed to provide for myself, which oddly enough turned me towards the idea that folks that didn't have as much money as myself weren't trying as hard and weren't worth as much. I think most confusion or scorn you've been getting from people in your life about your living situation comes from a place of fear. Their own fear about not having enough money to provide for their family and being judged by their community.

      But you have it figured out. You put your family and reason before any stupid pride. Your kids are lucky to have such a great mom!

    • txthorn profile image

      Wayne Carlisle 12 months ago from Manhattan

      I agree whole heartedly with you. My wife and I live in one now that we bought for a dollar. That's right a dollar. I fixed it up and it works for us. All our children are grown and gone. We have some really great neighbors and we watch out for each other. It's not like the house we had but it works and helps save money since I was forced into medical retirement and savings all used up. We are happy and glad we went this route. Others who snub their noses do not understand nor even try to. Your true friends are those who stick with you no matter what. The others only want what you have and that is happiness. Your an amazing Mom and I applaud you for that. Not to many women would have stepped up to the plate like you did. You are a true proverbs woman in our book.

      Thank you for sharing.

      Wayne

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      Jaime 8 months ago

      I am now a disabled single mom of 4 living in the projects. This after living in a gated community. And I wouldn't go back. My ex is a sociopath narcissistic sexual abuser dv cheating scumbag. Don't let people get you down. I know that feeling of being judged and poor.

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