[Bella’s intro: When I set out to learn how people are living now – how they are finding their places, their spaces, and their people, and redefining home and family, one of the inspiring people I met was April McCaffery. Like some of the other people I interviewed, April’s journey to redefining home and family began at a time when, as I explained in my new book, “she had tremendous responsibilities and frighteningly few resources.” Her story is on pages 135-140 in the chapter, “Not-So-Single Parents.” I was impressed by how April created community for her daughters and herself, while also protecting her own need for time alone. Also similar to some of the other people I intervewed, April thinks big. She looked for a way of living that was meaningful and rewarding for her family, all the while thinking about how thriving communities could be created for other single-parent families on a broader scale. Now that How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century has been available for a few weeks and readers have had a chance to learn about April’s story, I asked April if she would catch us up on what has happened over the past few years. Happily, she agreed. I hope other people in the book will also tell us how their lives have unfolded since I interviewed them.]
Not-So-Single Parent Redefines Home and Family: Guest Post by April McCaffery
It was a pleasure to speak to Bella DePaulo two years ago and I’m honored to be a part of How We Live Now. Honestly, I found our story the least remarkable as I read these incredible stories of others seemingly moving mountains to make their dreams of true homes come true. Still, it’s quite something to have this snapshot of our lives in print, and my girls loved it.
While the bones of our story remain the same, a few things have changed in the two years since Bella and I had lunch together.
We fit another grouping now. My oldest daughter, Sylvia, has graduated high school and is still living at home. She’s a dancer, and while she has a job at a fast food restaurant, her “career” is auditioning to hopefully land a cruise ship gig or tour or theme park show. We’ll see how that goes for a few months at least before she enrolls in community college. As others in the book have mentioned, it doesn’t make any financial sense right now for her to move out (especially in L.A.), and continuing to give her shelter is the least I can do to support her dreams.
It helps a lot that we are past the tumultuous teenage years, and I can say quite happily that Sylvia is one of my favorite people to spend time with. We talk about theatre, current events, my work, celebrity crushes, her work, our friends, pretty much anything and everything. And she is more understanding now when I say, okay, that’s enough, it’s time for my ‘alone time.’
My younger daughter, Riley, is a sophomore in high school. Our relationship has always been less dramatic than that of me and her sister and that continues to hold true, but there are more ‘downs’ at this age. I think the main reason it’s easier with the second child is once you’ve been through it with the older sibling, as a parent, I’m better able to see the long view and am less concerned that one particular moment is a “make it or break it” deal. And speaking of the long view, she really is a great kid and I know she’ll be okay.
We have moved so that my commute is not quite as daunting, even if we live further from my workplace, but Riley’s school is now on the way to work. I like our new place because even though it is still an apartment, the building only houses 5 units and it has more of a townhouse feel. And, most exciting of all to me, we now have our own washer and dryer inside the apartment! (We still keep our neighbors at a polite distance.)
I have stepped down from the non-profit boards I was serving because I find myself, well, exhausted. One friend jokes that I’m leaning out, but I feel like this is a necessary period of hibernation in order to replenish my reserves. I am focused on helping my daughters get through these stages before they’re ready to fly solo themselves. Once I am sure they’re okay, then I can concentrate my efforts outward again.
I was inspired by the stories of the women who have created communities in How We Live Now. My dream of a single parents’ community is stronger than ever, even if it remains only a dream right now.
The book has also made me think about how the community needs to be able to evolve and meet different needs as its residents mature; something I hadn’t really thought about before. It’s particularly relevant as my parents are getting ready to move into a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC).
As Bella stated in one of the later chapters, as truly remarkable as some of these stories are, I find myself content with the way we are living now. We have created the bonds with our theatre friends, our work friends, family and others, but they remain outside. The girls and I each appreciate the sanctuary of our home. We come together, and enjoy our solitude. Sometimes, we’ll each have on our own headphones: Sylvia learning a dance routine on YouTube, Riley watching a tv show or movie, and me listening to a podcast. Sometimes, we’ll throw a dance party in the living room or break out in song together. We each have our dreams for our future, but we’re soaking up the pleasures of the present.
About the Guest Blogger:
April McCaffery is a single parent of two daughters, paralegal, blogger and author of Balancing the Single Mom Budget, an eBook currently available on Amazon. Her personal blog is It’s All About Balance. She lives with her daughters (currently 14 & 17) in Los Angeles.