*Edited to be more concise*
My partner and I are expecting our first child in a few short months. About six months ago we moved to his hometown to be close to his two children where he now shares custody (50/50) with his ex-wife. We have no support here from his family and have had a difficult time making friends or building a community here (being pregnant with no friends is lonely!). When we moved here, we also took a big financial hit giving up our previous jobs and we're now struggling to support ourselves. These things make me concerned for how we will cope with having a baby.
We talk about moving away to be close to my family or to the city where we first met where we have a large community of friends, but the idea of having long distance parenting with his kids or summer visitation breaks his heart. We are truly on the fence about leaving, but see many more positives in going elsewhere such as better job opportunities and family/community support for our growing family. We recognize that his kids have plenty of support here from his ex and her family, therefore it isn't an issue of him feeling like they'll be worse off in that way if we live farther away. I think the most challenging part is that he has a hard time coming to terms with his own struggle of being away from them.
I'm wondering if anyone here has any insight or advice for making the transition from full time or 50/50 parenting to long distance or summer custody. What can you do to cope with the challenges? What are you experiences?
Telling another person how they ought to manage their emotions can be pretty useless. For example, I can appreciate the logic in another person telling me I should keep my house tidy when I'm super-busy or under stress, because having organized surroundings will help me feel like things are under control. But I'm not going to become a completely different person because I heard some good advice. When my life gets crazy enough, my surroundings will eventually become cluttered. That's just how I am, wise or not.
In the same vein, it may be useless to advise you - or your husband - to base your happiness less on having what you want; and more on knowing of yourselves that you will sacrifice your own wants, for the sake of your kids' needs. Maybe - even if you agree with that ideal - one or both of you just aren't wired to live in circumstances you don't like, without getting so mired in depression that it might actually be better for your kids if you lived far away from them, but weren't depressed. No one knows better than you and your husband, how the two of you are wired. And there's no rule book with definitive "rights" and "wrongs" about decisions like this. (Although GOD, I wish there were!)
The essential difficulty is this:
> A person in your situation might decide to move out of state because you realize that your husband is incapable of pulling himself out of his depression, and it's so bad that he's damaging his kids. People aren't perfectly logical robots. We have to do the best with ourselves - and each other - that we can. So, this might be the wisest choice you could make, under imperfect circumstances.
> But a person in your situation might also seize on the idea that "my husband will be a better father if he's happy, and he can't be happy here", as the easiest way out. If you convince yourselves that moving away would be for the kids' sake, you and/or your husband might make less effort to embrace your current circumstances.
So if you do move, think long and hard and make sure it's for the first reason, not the second.
Just from your brief post (I read the unedited version), it sounds like:
1- You and your husband originally decided that moving near his kids was best for them and justified the financial and other sacrifices in your lives. You're rethinking that now - in part, or mainly - because you have a new baby coming. It's natural to want to give him/her a life based on everything you think is best and most wonderful...not a life shaped by his/her dad's ex-wife's choice to return to their hometown; and your concession to follow her, to be near the older kids.
The older kids' need for their dad to be part of their daily life has not changed.
It's unavoidable that every child's life will be shaped by their parents' circumstances. Even if you lived in your favorite place in the world, there would still be things you'd fantasize about providing for your child, but weren't in a position to do. Having loving parents - whatever your circumstances - is so vastly more important than having the ideal circumstances. And growing up near his/her older sisters could arguably be a much greater blessing for your child, than growing up in your favorite city - and only seeing his/her sisters on breaks from school; and being (in some ways) the reason their father moved away.
2- You and your husband hoped to resume his old connections, but have them be better; his family might grow more accepting of you; his old friends might embrace you; his ex-wife might become less hostile and co-parent more nicely.
His family will almost undoubtedly warm up, once your baby is born. Babies have that effect on stubborn family members.
But you can never go home again, as they say. Rather than approaching it as a return to his hometown, it would be better to look at it as you and he having moved to a new place together and having to find things you like to do - and people you like to do them with - just as you would, if, say, you moved to Hong Kong. It's just that, on occasion, you run into people your husband knew in high school, who happen to have "relocated to Hong Kong", too. There shouldn't be an expectation that he resume the same relationships with them, that he had in high school.
My last three pieces of advice in this long post (sorry!!):
- If I recall correctly that your step-daughters are 6 and 8, they'll finish high school in approx. 12 years. That's not the rest of your life. After that, you could move with your younger one, who could attend middle and high school wherever you'd rather live.
- When my step-son was 7, his mother decided it would be better for him if she were happier, and she'd be happier in California. My husband traveled there to visit every month. Nevertheless, he was a special event in his son's life, not part of the day-to-day.
- Now we have a 5-year-old. If my husband were still making those monthly visits, it would be very disruptive to our little one's life. Not to mention, the two brothers would have a relationship more like cousins who spend part of the summers together at Grandma's, rather than siblings.
- My step-son came back here, to live with us, when he was 8 (long story). Now he's 14 and a freshman in high school. His life (in his mind) is starting to revolve around his friends. He loves his mother, but resents that visiting her takes him away from what all his friends are doing on school breaks. It interferes with his chance to have summer jobs. His summer visits with her get shortened, by summer school or summer training for his sports team. It is harder and harder for his mother to be any meaningful part of his life...and at a time when kids really need the guidance of both parents, as they navigate all the risks and emotional ups-and-downs of teen life. Sooner than you realize, long-distance parenting of your oldest step-daughter, in particular, will be a whole different ballgame than it used to be. (And even as it used to be, you and your husband still decided it was best to move closer to her.)
Thanks for your reply. It is a lot to consider. Like I said, we're truly on the fence.
My hope here is that we can find a way to make our lives a little more stable for his kids and our child-on-the-way. Financially, emotionally and otherwise. It doesn't have to mean moving, but it does mean that there will have to be changes.
I would try to make it work near your stepchildren. I don't say this to be harsh, but imagine their perspective, realizing that dad moved to be closer to them, but now is having a new baby and doesn't mind moving further away again and only seeing them for vacations, while the new child lives with him everyday. Of course, it's not that simple, but to children it will seem that way.
It's only been 6 months in the new town, which isn't that much time to adjust, especially since it sounds like you got pregnant during that time as well, which is a lot to deal with and focus on! I've heard the advice to not make any big decisions while pregnant or during the first year of your baby's life, and I think maybe that could be useful here-wait until your new baby is around 1-year-old, then reassess the situation. Not only will you be able to look at life with a clearer mind, but you may find that you make a lot of connections having a baby of your own, at nursing groups, play groups, music class, story time, etc.
I was really young when ex and I got together, and felt really out of place at a lot of school events etc. because I wasn't a "real" mom. It was easier once I had dd because I felt like I fit in and could do the mom chatting, plus I made more mom friends of my own and didn't feel like I was competing with dsd's mom as much.
My dh and I moved out of state almost a year ago for work reasons. My dsc are still in their home state with their mom (and dh's family). It definitely was not an easy decision, but we made the choice that we felt would be best for my dsc long term. Dh's support pays for 100% of their living expenses and bills, so keeping a job that allows him to continue supporting both them and our family is pretty important. Their mother has also been at war with us for years and it was at the point where we were in an almost constant state of conflict with her because she'd email us almost weekly with some silly drama or another. It wasn't a good situation. In addition to the work reasons, we also hoped that the distance would allow her to focus on them rather than us. My particular dsc also do a lot better with longer periods of visitation than they do weekends. When we were doing weekends, everyone would be hyped on up Friday night and by the time we were settling into a routine it would be time to take them back. He had lived out of state immediately following their separation and things were surprisingly more peaceful then.
We had them for two weeks in the summer this year and will have them for the week of Christmas, but we're also still stuck in the negotiating phase for a permanent long distance schedule because bm has stopped answering her lawyer's phone calls, apparently, so that was the visitation we had on the old schedule. Ideally, we'd like a lot more summer time and at least the option to see them during week long school breaks. She doesn't want to give us any more than the two weeks we already had, so I have a feeling it will need to go before a judge for a final decision. We've tried to be fair with holidays and with allowing her time in the summer, as well, but no dice. While not everyone is as combative as my dsc's mom, I think it's always tough to negotiate a schedule for long distance visitation when there are only so many holiday weeks available.
We still aren't sure if it was the right decision - the cost of living difference is tough, my dh is not as thrilled with his company as we hoped he would be (it's the same company he worked for pre-move but they've made some company direction changes and the leadership in this area is not great) and it IS hard to be away from family and my dsc - but we carefully considered every option and hoped for the best. OTOH, there IS less craziness and drama now that we don't have to interact with bm on a regular basis and we're closer to my family (it's still about an 8 hour drive so we aren't close, but considering we were about 14 hours away before...). We'll see. :)
Good luck! It's definitely a big decision!
Happy mama to our sweet pea (08/25/13), loving wife to my brilliant gentleman (09/10/11) and lucky stepmama to five
Breastfeeding, babywearing, and promoting natural health one day at a time!
Thanks for your thoughts. I really appreciate the input! It is the same here - lots of little dramas all the time with his ex. The decision hasn't gotten any easier here and we aren't even close to feeling clear about what to do. I'm beginning to think that we should just stay put and focus on having the baby, then reconsider moving later when things are more settled. It is tough feeling so unsettled and so pregnant! I want to nest and relax.