Please stop torturing yourself about your former girlfriend. She sounds very insecure and immature to me. You were right to be concerned about the age difference. At 23, she is just figuring herself out as an adult. She wanted to be your everything and you, being in your mid-30s, had taken on other responsibilities. The timing just wasn’t right for the two of you.
I don’t think it would be wise for you to revisit that relationship. It’s time to move on and to find someone who is interested in sharing you with the rest of your family. Believe me: There are mature women who would be delighted to be with someone who is as responsible as you are.
I admire your willingness to take on helping your mother raise the children. But it also sounds like you and your mother didn’t think things all the way through. I understand why your mom didn’t want to live where she had lost her husband. But by moving west, she also separated herself from other supports and friends who could be helpful right now. In your good intentions, you did the same. I don’t know if that move can be undone or even if it should be, but it does explain why you are both feeling like you don’t have enough emotional or practical support and are perhaps leaning on each other too much.
You are right that you gave up some of your freedom. You have taken on a co-parenting job and giving up freedom is always part of the parenting package. But it also sounds like you and your mom aren’t doing all that you could to make the many transitions you are going through work better for both of you.
It’s time for a calm, rational, “let’s figure this out” kind of talk. You need to be meeting other young people and having a life. Your mom needs some help. How can you keep both needs in balance? Can you, for example, alternate nights “off” from child care? If you have a clear schedule, you can each commit to doing some new things outside of the house.
Although going to the gym is a healthy start, you need to also be joining in some activities where you can meet people your age and stage of life. That means getting involved in something that truly interests you where there are others who share those interests. Yes, it takes effort. But it also takes a kind of effort to be depressed. Trying out a volunteer job, or participating in a political campaign or joining a team or taking a class will get you further than being at home every night wishing you were elsewhere.
Please remember that thousands and thousands of people relocate every year. Most adapt to their new surroundings and make new friends. If you and your mother decide to stay there, you can too. Look around. Commit to moving forward and finding a niche for yourself in your new community. Don’t quit until you do. Not only will you be happier, but you’ll be a better role model for the kids and more helpful to your mom.
I wish you well.