The following is a guest post from “O.C. Mom”
I’m an OC mom.
There, I said it.
Orange County is essentially the Park Slope of the West Coast. Hyper-competitive parenting, and hyper-stressed (also brilliant, socially-conscious, generally good) kids.
For the first fifteen years of his life, our only son got the best of everything. He didn’t just go to any private school, he went to the private school, the place where everyone else wished their kids were enrolled. He had his own bedroom, of course, but he also had his own ensuite bath, something I swore I would never do until I realized that was just how houses were out in the OC.
He also had a housekeeper to clean his ensuite bathroom, which was theoretically so my husband and I could focus on our work and our son could focus on his studies. (School these days is hard. Did you read the Atlantic article about the dad who tries to keep up with his 13-year-old daughter’s nightly five hours of homework? That was our house. No time to teach my kid about scrubbing grout with a toothbrush; he was too busy with his never-ending schoolwork.)
Anyway, hubby and I were supposed to be focusing on our careers, but then my dear husband decided to focus on someone else instead. Now I’m effectively a single mom, trying to support a teenager in one of the most expensive cost-of-living areas in the country. (No, neither my husband nor I wanted to move our son, not when he’s starting that all-important junior year at one of the best schools in the state. Unfortunately, that means we’ve still got to find a way to pay for the tuition. Divorce, as it turns out, is shockingly expensive.)
Anyway. My son’s now approaching sixteen years old and he’s asking about driving. I know that many teens are foregoing the driver’s license process in order to focus more on their all-encompassing schoolwork, but we live in Orange County. If you want to go anywhere, you have to drive.
Of course, cars cost money, student driving lessons cost money (remember when that was just part of the school curriculum? Not anymore!), and insurance costs money. Kiddo can’t take on a part-time job to pay for his car and insurance because he’s got to focus on that nightly five hours of schoolwork, and the part-time jobs that I had when I was sixteen, like fast-food cashier, are no longer available to teenagers. (Nor is it considered a wise idea, among the OC set, to let your kids deign to flip burgers. Gotta get ‘em started on the unpaid internships instead.)
All of this means that I’m spending every night trying to find an Orange County insurance company, hoping there’s a solution that might work for us on our new budget. California is ranked ninth in car insurance costs, with a $1,709 annual premium. I can’t imagine what the eight states above us have to pay.
In the words of this blog: I am so over this. I’m so over a system where everyone in this neighborhood has to compete for the best stuff just so their kids will look great for their college applications, where parents legitimately talk about how to hype up their kids’ vision problems so they’ll get extra time on the SAT, where I’ve suddenly got to support a huge house with unnecessary ensuite bathrooms on one salary, plus alimony. (No, we can’t sell the house, not during this all-important junior year. Stability is important for all kids, especially ones going through divorce and still knocking out five hours of homework a night.)
And I’m over trying to figure out if I can use child support for my kid’s car insurance payments, or if that’s technically an unnecessary expense. (Don’t ever get tangled in child support. You’re seriously supposed to keep track of all your necessary expenses during your “parenting time” and then take turns invoicing each other. Now my ex-husband and I are having fights about who buys more toothpaste.)
I didn’t sign up to be a single mom, but suddenly I found myself here, and I have to figure out what to do that’s best for my kid. Just like we all do.
So, I’m turning to you, financially-savvy readers: what would you do if you were me? Tell my son he gets a car when he goes to college, and spend the next two years driving him around? Ask the ex-husband to throw in for the insurance costs? Forget about “educational stability” and move to a more affordable neighborhood? (Not like moving isn’t ridiculously expensive, either.) Help me, So Over This readers. You’re my only hope.