Are You Living the Life You Planned? Yeah, I Didn’t Think So!


Let me start out by saying this is not a whine-fest, although I probably should be having a wine-fest while writing this post. Rather, this is me taking inventory of my life and sharing it with my readers because, as I always say, there’s no way I can be the only one going through this stuff.

Do you remember the Talking Heads song Once in a Lifetime?

The whole song is kind of my theme song but there’s three lines in particular, “You may ask yourself, where does that highway go to? And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here? And you may say to yourself, my God, what have I done?” Trust me, it should be the Middle-Aged Mom Anthem.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my life would look like it does today. When I lived in Los Angeles, I was arrogant enough to believe I could plan it all out – find a guy to marry that was willing to move back to the east coast, live in a gorgeous house and have two kids and effortlessly juggle the role of mom while continuing to climb the corporate ladder.

Yeah, I really did believe that. I’m even laughing reading it.

Seriously, I had it all planned out. A beautiful dream, right? Okay, here’s the reality. I found the guy in LA willing to move back to the east coast and we’ve now been divorced for a year and a half after being separated for three years. I firmly believe that most of us need “starter husbands” to work out our stupid mistakes.

I had a gorgeous home but because of the starter husband’s aversion to working and his inability to understand that you need to make money before you can spend it, I ended up short selling the home and being left holding mounds of debt in order to get out of the marriage. Rather than the two kids, I had four – the first died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 1997, the second has intellectual disabilities.

Those are the bad parts – let’s get to the good parts that also have some “hiccups.” Life is series of two steps forward and one step back. When I moved back to the east coast, I was working as a senior executive at a major PR firm in New York City. After the death of my son to SIDS, I started to re-assess my mission in life and what I really wanted to do.

Once it was clear that my second son had some sort of disability, I realized that I needed to use my talents – communication – to become an advocate for kids while at the same time re-work my life to allow me the flexibility to be available when he needed me. This reassessment led me to my true passion as a child safety advocate, The Safety Mom, and to the baby proofing company I formed in the New York and Connecticut area, Safety Mom Solutions.

As an only child, having my kids grow up around my parents was a top priority. I must really love my family if I willingly left warm sunny California for the cold, bleak winters of the Northeast. I love seeing the relationship my mom has with my kids and, once again, my decision turned out to be fortuitous, as my dad has developed Alzheimer’s.

At least I can provide some respite for my mom when she needs it. This also prompted me to look at my business and realize that home safety isn’t just about toddlers. I needed to expand to include senior safety and home modification. We now offer safety services for both of these populations as well as physically disabled and autistic children.

I was one of the fortunate single moms who met and incredible man and last year got re-married. He’s kind and loving and our kids blended together immediately. So now, I’m the step-mom to another four kids. On any given weekend or weeknight, we have five kids under the age of 13 running around. It’s chaotic but happy.

But then the next curve ball came my way. Four weeks after we were married, my husband was diagnosed with Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. So now I am a caregiver on every level – as a mother, daughter and wife.

My work as a spokesperson, author, blogger and speaker allows me to speak directly to parents about the challenges we all face. I love what I do and am incredibly passionate about it. And as much as I would give anything to have my little baby back on earth, I’m so grateful that he helped push me along the path I had never planned out.

I wanted to meet an incredible man who loved me and made me happy. No, I didn’t plan on him having MS but it doesn’t change our love, just some of our activities. I planned on being a mom but even to this day when I hear one of them calling me mom, I’m taken aback sometimes wondering how I evolved from this carefree twenty-something living in Southern California to being someone’s MOM.

Bottom line – we might start out arrogant enough to believe we can direct our life but then we grow up and realize that’s nonsense. Life happens to us and we choose what we’re going to do with it. I’ve found all my little coping mechanisms, my religion, inspirational readings, yoga and Lexi-Pro. Fortunately, I’ve made lemonade out of lemons, I rolled with the punches and I created a life that I really love, despite the challenges.

That, to me, is the true sign of a successful life.


About Author

Alison Jacobson is a life coach for women who are ready to move past their fears, rediscover happiness on their terms and courageously transition out of unfulfilling marriages and careers. Visit her at


  1. Alison, I love your story and how your outlook. I’ve recently turned 36 and less than an hour ago was telling an old friend from high school that my life so didn’t turn out how I expected….I thought I’d get married before I found my first gray hair (about three weeks ago). I’m a single mom to an almost 15 year boy and my “life plan” in high school didn’t include any kids. Of course I have my happy stuff too…a wonderful family and have re-entered the dating world and plan on….someday….having my love fairytale. 

  2. Alison Rhodes The Safety Mom on

    Thanks Michelle, keep looking and you will definitely have your happily ever after!

  3. Your blog post found me at the time when I cannot wait to unload the loser husband #2 (some of us need two starter husbands to make the pieces of the puzzle come together:). I am at the bottom, unemployed, penniless, with no car, with fifteen years of SAHM and no professional job experiences, even though I have a BA in English and Italian. My younger daughters are in middle school, the oldest is at UC Berkeley, and I just recently realized that I have lived in an abusive relationship that left me scared to death.
    I am originally from Serbia. My dad was an ObGyn, my mom a German and Art teacher. Did I think for a second that I would be sitting at the Department of Social Services in SoCal filling out the form for food stamps to feed my kids? Never!
    This hit me under the belt, but it is just another experience. I am resilient, and I always rise up from the ashes. My daughters need me to show them how strong women can be (and we can), and if I go out tomorrow and get a job digging ditches to put the food on the table, I’ll dig ditches.
    Your story is so inspirational and for me at this point it can be an anchor. I know my life will get better a little bit every day. Thank you so much for this beautiful, motivational boost! 

  4. Chris Lappin on

    Wow Alison your post really moved me.
    I too am a fan of Talking Heads and yes that song speaks to me too!!
    I’m a plannerholic and my life certainly hasn’t worked out the way I planned it and in my late forties am changing course as far as work is concerned and personally. My starter husband (I love that term and have adopted it myself!) and I have just split up after 20 years together.

    @f347150199a6bae2a2f8e1bd8ceba84f:disqus  I can hear your pain and your determination. Through tough times recently I’ve kept going because of my sons. Keep going, your daughters will be proud of you.

    Thanks for sharing Alison. I love hearing from strong women like you who achieve amazing things.

  5. “I firmly believe that most of us need “starter husbands” to work out our stupid mistakes.” That is an epic sentence that should be turned into a famous quote!

    I love posts from the heart, thanks for sharing yours 🙂

  6. Starter husband!!! Maybe that’s why your first marriage didn’t work because you thought of him as temporary. you don’t just use someone as a learning experience. spoken like a true american women. I am so glad I am not married to an american women.

  7. Thoughtful article , I am thankful for the facts . Does anyone know where I could possibly get access to a fillable My Life Planning Workbook form to fill in ?

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