It's been more than two years since Kate Gosselin and her brood of eight – twins Mady and Cara, 12, and sextuplets Alexis, Collin, Hannah, Joel, Leah and Aaden, 9 – appeared on their own TV series, and the single mom is decidedly humble about her circumstances. "I'm living very carefully these days," Gosselin tells PEOPLE in its latest issue, on newsstands Friday. Now that her TLC reality show is a thing of the past, the matriarch is making ends meet "piecing and patching together" an income from a variety of projects, she says.
For the former nurse, whose marriage to Jon Gosselin imploded on Jon & Kate Plus 8 in 2009 after a cheating scandal hit the tabloids, "To not have a reliable income is scary," she concedes. But Gosselin is quick to absorb some of the blame herself. "I made so many mistakes, of course," she says, admitting that her own diva-like behavior may have led to her current unemployed state.
Looking back on the heyday of her fame, and the scandal that surrounded her, "It feels like a whole other lifetime ago," she says. "And sometimes I don't even remember much of it. Both when the babies were first born and during the divorce, I was on survival mode. I feel like I've lived two lifetimes already. I'm not the same person I was ... I don't even recognize her. And while Kate says in the new issue of PEOPLE that she still doesn't fully agree with many of the choices Jon – who alternates between working IT jobs and selling energy-efficient products – has made, her ex is as capable of shrugging off her irritation as always.
Jon Gosselin: My Relationship with Kate Is 'Just Transportation and Logistics'
People.com: While Kate Gosselin is still adjusting to life away from the TV cameras, her former costar – and former husband – Jon Gosselin is quite happy outside the spotlight. Living in a small cabin roughly 30-minutes away from the house Kate shares with the kids, Jon is still miles away from the kind of adventure-packed life he used to have. "It's more rural, more of a farm community," he says of his home now. As for his activities with his kids, whom he sees once during the week and every other weekend, he says, "We have backyard barbecues, we go to Walmart."
Though the early days of sharing custody with Kate were fraught with legal wrangling and drama, these days Jon says his relationship with Kate is "civil." "We text. It's moved from email to text," he says. "We don't communicate that well, so it's better with text to leave emotion out of it. Really, all we're dealing with is just transportation and logistics." "I am way more laid back," he acknowledges. "If they make a mess? Oh well. I live in a cabin. It's not like it's an expensive floor. So what? We'll wash it." One thing he does have in common with Kate? Looming money woes. With the bulk of the money they made during the heyday of Jon and Kate Plus 8 either socked away for college or long-since spent, Jon realizes there are big bills ahead.
"Feeding them is going to be super-expensive," he says. "I spent $450 last weekend on food. They ate four pounds of shrimp at a restaurant – who eats four pounds of peel-and-eat shrimp? It's almost comical. But they're great."