5yo wants to live with her father. Update - Perspective needed! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 25 Old 05-31-2010, 01:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This is really hard for me to talk about. After our divorce, my daughter's father and I did the 50/50 thing for about a year before I moved away. I've had full custody of our daughter ever since, though she visits her dad extensively throughout the year. Her dad is awesome (honestly, he's probably a better parent than I am), and she loves him very much.

She's been missing her dad, her extended family, and our old town (we're in a new country). Ever since we moved here she's been wanting to go back and live with her dad. I figured she'd adjust, and for the most part, she has - she's a happy kid. But she still wants to move back home. She understands that she would live without me.

I never questioned where she would live (with me, of course!). But now I feel selfish, like I'm keeping her here just for me. Her dad would be thrilled to have her and she'd have a wonderful step-mom and step-sister. I would visit her several times a year, just like her dad does now. There isn't an option for me to move back there at the moment, but my grad program will be done in a few years, and then I may be able to (or at least move a lot closer).

Is this insane? I feel guilty just thinking about it, but then I also feel guilty keeping her here away from her family and, apparently, everything she ever loved (she talks about it constantly - it's hard for me to hear). I just feel like it makes sense, and would be better for her, but at the same time goes against the grain of motherhood - you don't just let your children move away.

Help me. If any of you have children who live with their dads, how did you decide on that arrangement? Did you ever get over it? Do you worry about them?

Thanks in advance...
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#2 of 25 Old 05-31-2010, 01:37 PM
 
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I don't have any really good advice, but couldn't read and not reply.

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#3 of 25 Old 05-31-2010, 01:45 PM
 
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My ex(s) and I all share 50/50 custody and for the most part have made the unspoken agreement to remain within close proximity for the kids sake. I grew up in a situation where my mom moved us across country from my Dad and honestly, I also wanted to be back with him, it was the idealistic unknown. I did have issues with resentment and anger that were related to what I felt like was my mom denying me access to my dad. I have a six year old dd and her dad sounds much like your ex, hes patient with her, a lot of fun and devotes his complete attention to her when they are together. Even with equal time there are moments when she prefers being at his house, where she is the only child and gets a break from our somewhat noisy, chaotic home. I respect her wishes as long as they work out for her dad. There are times when he is busy and we say no, which is no biggie. I think its important to find a way to honor your dd feelings, maybe she gets to spend all summer with him? I found in my situation it is sometimes very difficult to be honest enough with myself to know when I am making a decision based on my selfish desires or because it is in the best interest of the kids. I have failed several times at seeing things clearly because of my fear of losing a connection based on time with them...this gets much easier as they are older and better able to articulate their desires.

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#4 of 25 Old 05-31-2010, 01:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks, frolick. I have the same trouble - I can't quite tell whether she should really stay with me for her well-being, or whether I just want her to stay because she's my daughter. I don't really know how to tell, especially when we're both good parents.
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#5 of 25 Old 05-31-2010, 04:40 PM
 
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Another

I applaud you for listening so well to your dd. In your shoes, I think I'd probably try to honor her wish by making a commitment to locate yourself closer to your hometown once your grad program is done, rather than taking any action that could be construed in a child's mind as "mommy gave me up."

For perspective, my ds was almost five when we moved across the country and were separated from dh for several months (not marital trouble, a physical separation for work reasons). My ds became fixated on moving in with his grandparents who lived down the street from our new place. I had to physically haul him out the door every time we visited. He said that they has a "happy house" (familiar, secure, a place he associated with the whole family being together) and we had a "sad house" (a new and unfamiliar place where we had never lived together as a family). But I guarantee you, he did NOT truly want me to give him to his Grandma - even though he said so. What he wanted was to be able to retreat to a place of security, and he hadn't been able to create that in our new home yet.

You don't mention how long you have been in your new location. A year? Less than a year? Transitions can be very hard for little folks.
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#6 of 25 Old 05-31-2010, 07:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, Smithie. You raise a really good point... we've been here for about a year. Part of it is that I worry whether I can offer as much stability as her father can (I've got a serious inferiority complex about this at the moment), and whether he's just more fun in general, etc. It's clear that the best solution is to move closer to her father as soon as I can, but it's really rough in the meantime.

At what age (on average) can a child decide where she wants to live? Five just seems too young!
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#7 of 25 Old 05-31-2010, 07:19 PM
 
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I think I'd set aside that particular grad program and opt for another closer to 'home'. I gather though, that you can't see that as an option.

I've raised my daughter without her father's involvement for over five years, and I *still* am reluctant to relocate somewhere that would be inaccessible because it just doesn't feel like it's right. If he were involved? I would not move out of the area.

** I just reread this, and I apologize if it came across as a judgment of your life/choices. It absolutely is not. You make the best choices for your child and life, and you know what will/won't work for you. While I wouldn't make the same choice, I can understand doing so for the right once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

FWIW, I think five is too young to make the choice. 15? Maybe.
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#8 of 25 Old 05-31-2010, 07:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I totally agree with you. It was a long and twisty road to get where we are now. Originally, her dad was on board to move here with us, but backed out at the last minute. I would have had to drop all of my plans and my funding to stay where we were, and it wasn't really an option. Sadly, there are no programs close to home that are an option. Post-doc will hopefully present wider choices.
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#9 of 25 Old 05-31-2010, 07:29 PM
 
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#10 of 25 Old 05-31-2010, 07:31 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SoulCakes View Post
I totally agree with you. It was a long and twisty road to get where we are now. Originally, her dad was on board to move here with us, but backed out at the last minute. I would have had to drop all of my plans and my funding to stay where we were, and it wasn't really an option. Sadly, there are no programs close to home that are an option. Post-doc will hopefully present wider choices.
I can absolutely understand. I edited my post when I realized how blunt it seemed. Sorry!
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#11 of 25 Old 06-01-2010, 01:48 AM
 
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Could you arrange for a visit? I wonder whether she's just missing everyone and everything?

DS1 is 4.5yo and although he sees his Dad every weekend and usually during the week too, he will say sometimes that he wants to go live with him, but honestly I just think that it's a matter of him missing him and wanting to see him everyday. Also that I'm 'mean' (you know, because he doesn't actually get to do whatever he wants!). I think if I said he could go live with his Dad he wouldn't really want to, or would want to come home after a week.

It's complicated.
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#12 of 25 Old 06-01-2010, 09:36 AM - Thread Starter
 
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@confustication: No worries! I knew what you meant and, like I said, I agree with you. This isn't quite how I planned it to turn out, but it's hard when life pulls you in different directions.

@Learning Mum: Fortunately we have a great visitation schedule, given the cirumstances. She spends two months with her dad over the summer, a month at Christmas, and this past year he came here for a month over the easter holidays. I think we'll just have to see how this summer plays out and whether she still wants to live there after two months of no mommy-time!

Philosophically, though - are children always better off with their mother (if there's no abuse, of course)? It's my instinct to say that children and mothers should never be separated, but logically I'm not so sure. She has a large and lively family back home that she would get to see on a regular basis, which she loves. She has a stepsister. Her dad is more outgoing, always planning fun adventures, etc. If she truly wants to live with him, is it selfish of me to keep her here?

Thanks again for everyone's responses. They've been really helpful.
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#13 of 25 Old 06-01-2010, 10:11 AM
 
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i dont think children are always better off with thier mother unless they are nursing babies. fathers can parent as well and sometimes better then mothers, she is young if she still wants to stay after the summer i would let her, on the understanding that if she changes her mind she can come back to you. of course you would miss her but if its whats she wants why not let her? shes not old enought for it sidrupt her schooling and you can travel and see her. I do belive it is the hardest thing for a mother to let her child live someone else but you doing it for her.
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#14 of 25 Old 06-01-2010, 11:19 AM
 
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I agree with above poster, and I think the shift within our society and the way a lot of custody agreements are these days encompasses that shift. In my area the court systems are very family friendly and unless there are reasons the father should not have 50/50 custody or does not want 50/50 custody, most couples I know who divorced have that arrangement. In fact the school district even caters its busing to one week on one week off schedules within the district.

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#15 of 25 Old 06-01-2010, 01:20 PM
 
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I have to say that I moved my daughter a 35-45 minute drive (and hour subway ride) away from her old school and neighborhood and for the first year and a half she was miserable. We realized that her school and friends and neighborhood were the most secure things in her life; they were the constant through the big changes of divorce, new stepdad, etc. My daughter is super-attached to me; my ex is not as great a parent as I am (though he loves her) and she has a really hard time being away from me. Nonetheless, she has agreed and has been living with her dad during the week in order to have that old life back and it's made the world of difference for her. I don't know that kids do always adjust to big moves- and a new country away from all family is a pretty big move.

I guess I'd lean towards reversing the custody schedule. She could live with her dad during the school year and be with you all summer and all the breaks. That's still something like 1/3 time. And you could skype daily or near daily. And send letters and care packages back and forth. And have an understanding (written if necessary) that you will move back in a few years (anyway to make that sooner? do dissertation research from back home?) and resume a 50-50 custody schedule. I can't imagine how heartbreaking that would be and I don't think it's about whether you're a good enough parent; you sound like an amazing parent and you don't need to be an extrovert to love a child. But I think this isn't just about whether it's better to live with mom vs dad; it's about whether to maintain the whole continuity of her life with a loving parent and extended family or move and start over with just one parent. This is even more true if you plan to move again after grad school; because then you can't even say she's sinking roots for the future; she'll have to relocate again.

I think you should feel NO GUILT about letting your daughter live with her dad. Dads have the capability to be just as wonderful parents as moms. It'll be hard for her in a lot of ways because almost everyone has a mom they live with as many people don't have dads. But it sounds like she has a lot of support. And if she's 5 and has been continually asking for this - and handles the 2 month separations well - then I think she should have a say.
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#16 of 25 Old 06-01-2010, 09:11 PM
 
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I also don't think kids are better off with their mother than with their father. It absolutely doesn't make you a bad parent to consider having your daughter live with your husband. In fact, it makes you an AMAZING mom for considering making a REALLY hard choice to put your daughter's needs before your own.

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#17 of 25 Old 06-01-2010, 09:16 PM
 
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My niece lived with me for 2 months when she was 5 yrs old and for 1 1/2 years when she was 7/8 yrs old. We had a wonderful time and she spent winter holiday, spring break, and summer with her mother. She missed her sometimes but they kept in touch a few times a week on the phone. You'll also have skype or a webcam to keep in touch with your daughter!
Why not try the summer out and see how she feels?
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#18 of 25 Old 06-07-2010, 05:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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First of all, thank you everyone for your replies. They really soothed my mind and gave me something to think about.

So, I need to know how you feel about this, whether I'm completely off-base given all that's been said above and how I handled this:

First of all, I've changed my mind. Or rather, I've clarified my position. I was hurt before, and not thinking very clearly about my own capacities as a parent and I certainly wasn't giving myself enough credit. I'm a good mom. He's a good dad. But regardless, she's five, and not yet old enough to make her own decisions about something so major. Secondly, we've only been here for a year and another major move would only add further instability, something she doesn't need. A sense of continuity is good for young children, and so long as my home is happy, healthy, and stable, I don't think that she should have ultimate say about where she lives. When she's older and better capable of making her own decisions - that's different.

However, I ran the idea past her father to get a grasp on whether it's something he would want (he would). When I wrote the email (we communicate best by email), I was careful to put in clear thoughts like, "It's something I'm willing to CONSIDER" (yes, "consider" was in all caps, just to be clear). Afterwards we chatted online and explored how it would actually work, etc. I never, ever said that I had made up my mind or that it was a done deal.

And now... I've changed my mind, and he's upset. And I totally understand - I would be heartbroken if I thought she might get to come live with me and then I found out she wasn't going to. But I'm trying to find out if his anger is justified. I feel that I couldn't know what to do or if it was even a possibility if I didn't discuss it with him beforehand. And, as I said, I made it super clear that it was ONLY a possibility. But, knowing him, I know worry that he went out and told everyone - his partner, his parents, everyone - that she was definitely coming. And I'm just kicking myself for even bringing it up without letting myself come out of my hurt little shell and thinking it through more thoroughly.

Did I totally screw up by discussing it with him? Or is this one of those things where he's just upset and I just need to be understanding? I feel really, really bad about disappointing him, but again, I repeatedly said it was only a possibility.

Mrrrph. I went from feeling rotten to feeling good to feeling rotten again. I hate upsetting other people.

ETA: For the record, there's been no history of waffling on my side. He's changed his mind about several things (moving here with us, for instance), but I've never done anything like this before.
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#19 of 25 Old 06-07-2010, 07:44 PM
 
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I think you've made the right decision. Deciding where to live is way too much responsibility for a 5-year-old.

I also think that it was perfectly reasonable of you to discuss the possibility with him before reaching any kind of decision.

And, I think that it is perfectly understandable that he would be disappointed--extremely disappointed--about your decision after getting his hopes up. And how could he not get his hopes up, no matter how clear you were that it was only a possibility you were exploring?
It is also understandable that he would feel angry now, as many people do when faced with a big disappointment.

Even so, you did not "screw up". He is not irrational. It just is what it is--understandable feelings on everyone's part, given the situation.

He'll get over it. You'll be more careful in the future to not discuss similar "possibilities" before they are closer to "probabilities".

If, when it's time for you to make another major move (after your grad program is over), then you can still re-visit the question if she has not adjusted and still wants to move "back home with dad" in function of where you can move (closer or not, etc.).

Adjusting the modalities of your custody agreement could be something that needs to be done anyway then if you are moving closer...
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#20 of 25 Old 06-07-2010, 08:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ione, thank you so much for your response. It's hard to see things in perspective when I'm feeling like this. Part of the problem, at least for me, is that he harbored so much anger towards me after we split up, and it's only really been the last six months or so that our relationship has gotten to great place. I really don't want to do anything to mess with our relationship now that it's on a solid footing. That and I have a serious problem with trying to please people, and I absolutely loathe disappointing them.
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#21 of 25 Old 07-05-2010, 03:56 PM
 
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i let my two older dd's go live with their father when they were 6 and 8. they really wanted to and he wanted them too. it allowed me to finish school and for them to remain in the same school and neighbourhood that i was having to leave.
they came to visit every summer for extended periods and i drove down to see them every two weeks for the weekend and on all long weekends. and any other times that they were out of school. it stayed that way for nearly 7 years. it wasnt always perfect and we didnt always agree or get along, things werent always smooth, but in the end my girls felt empowered to decide which parent they wanted to live with, they wanted to be with their sbrothers and their smom also. i dont think that they liked my second dh very much and that might have had something to do with it. but in the end of things, it was fine.
i dont think that children inheirantly belong with their mother, not even as nurslings. fathers are completely equal to be wonderful nurturing parents as much as any mother out there. there have been many reports on line that i have seen where fathers have even been known to produce and nurse their children. dont know how true that is, buti wouldnt be so quick to discredit it either.
i think that mothers sort of feel as though there is a little bit of a different bond because we carry them and they come from within us, we grow them, we suffer to birth them, they are ours... lol that is how it feels anyhow, or has felt for me in the past. but the older i have become and the more children i have birthed, and mothered as a step, the more i have seen that fathers, if truly given the chance, are completely equal in their love and caring for children, infant to fully grown.
children know what they want, especially by the time they are five. if she has been asking for a year, then she is sure of what she wants. i would give it a go, see how it turns out, like another poster said, she can always come back. it doesnt seem a situation of "grass being greener at dad's" but a real desire for being where she wants to be.

it would give you so much more time to fully concentrate on your schooling, to get where you want to be, whether that involves moving closer to where her father lives or staying where you are now or moving anywhere in between.

i can see her dad being disappointed and feeling let down, he almost had his hearts desire there for a minute and now it is being taken from him. i dont mean that to sound snarky, but i imagine he feels sooooo let down. it happened with my dd's to me a few times when they were with their dad and i felt that way every time.
if you have truly changed your mind and want to keep her with you, i hope you have really separated the reasons why, whether it is your need to have her with you, which isnt a terrible thing, or your truly feeling she is too young to make a decision of that nature, or what have you... then try to explain it to him openly and honestly. tell him you are sorry to have gotten his hopes up, but you were just thinking out loud so to speak, not actually talking about it happening right here and now. and give him some time to get over how he feels. he will probably grieve a little bit, the same way he did when you first split and he had to face not living with her daily. that is a hard pill to swallow.
if you have made enough peace to get along so well in the past six months or so, you will get to that place again. be gentle with the whole situation and all the people involved, you included.. i imagine or at least it sounds from your posts that you feel badly about hurting his feelings and have opened this whole can of worms without thinking it through. i dont think you have done that, just opened up a dialogue that will come up many times until she is old enough to leave home for good, : and part of thinking this sort of situation through does involve finding out what the other party feels, and that is all you were doing. if he chose to see more to it than that then you arent really responsible for his responses and what he says or does. hopefully he will get over it and 'forgive' you quickly.
if you arent really sure, then keep the dialogue going until you both agree on something that works for your family situation. for you, for your daughter and for her father too.

the things that we never expect/consider when we divorce always catch me unawares,

hth~ viv
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#22 of 25 Old 07-07-2010, 05:14 PM
 
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i come from a place that a 5 year old is NOT too young to make up her mind.

i liked your original plan.

if after two months of summer - or even a month - if she still wants to stay with her dad, i would let her stay with her dad. if i was in your shoes - which i will be next year - i would let her stay with her dad. mainly because my extra social dd would much prefer the 'family and sibling' dynamics than being just her and me. amongst all the other things.

give her a chance to understand what she is asking for. the only way you can do it is by allowing her to do what she wants.

s: i know how hard that is. i coparent too. but i want my dd to feel that SHE matters. that mommy will do anything to take her needs into consideration.

if she changes her mind, hopefully her dad will be open to letting her return home.

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#23 of 25 Old 07-08-2010, 06:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Vivvysue, meemee, thanks for your input. I'm open to letting her choose where she wants to live as she gets older. My daughter is slow to adapt to change and we've only been here for a year. If she were to move back to her father's, that would mean another major upheaval, and I don't think the amount of rapid change would be good for her. As she ages, of course--it will be her decision.
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#24 of 25 Old 07-09-2010, 03:37 AM
 
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SoulCakes, can I just add that while I believe it perfectly reasonable, even necessary, to take her input and desires and especially the reasons behind them into account increasingly as she gets older, I don't believe that it should be her decision until her late teens.

When I was 17 my mother let me decide if I would continue to live with her or live with my dad (well, stepdad, but that's too long a story for her). Even then, and even though I had good reasons and ultimately think I made the right decision, the fact that it was my decision did a number on our relationship for quite some time.

Your daughter is too young to make that decision now. When she's older, there may come a time when she has the maturity to strongly influence *your* (and her father's) decision, BUT I really believe--very, very strongly--that it needs to by her parents' decision until at least her late teens.
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#25 of 25 Old 07-09-2010, 09:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Ione, that's a really good point. A child shouldn't have to bear the burden of choosing where to live, even if that's a choice made with excitement. I still hear stories from my mother about how I was such a difficult child, and she couldn't care for me properly because I insisted on drinking nothing but grape juice and wouldn't go to bed at a reasonable time, etc... point being, I hear these stories and think, "What, you're still blaming this on me? I was a toddler! OF COURSE I didn't want to eat healthy foods, go to sleep on time, or whatever."

This is why children have parents. They can't handle that sort of responsibility. If I were to send my daughter to her dad's, she's not going to remember (most likely) that she made the decision (or, like my own mother, I'd tell her later that it was "her decision" and she'll wonder why I let a five-year-old decide such things). She doesn't know what's best for her. Again, I'll definitely let her have a say in where to live as she grows older, but now is not that time.

My ex, by the way, got over his disappointment by the next day. I think he was more upset because he thought he had the right to be... difficult to explain. We have a strange dynamic.
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