Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Should I Find a Man Who Will Help Me Move Abroad?”

I’m 32, a single mother (shared custody), and finishing my last semester of grad school. Two months ago I started talking to a man on the other side of the country who has ties to my current hometown. He visits here, and I recently visited him where he lives. Our perspectives on both trivial and major issues are so similar that he often verbalizes my exact thoughts. It’s uncanny. I have been reading your LDR posts, and they inspired me to think deeply not only about this relationship but also about being in ANY relationship right now.

I have started the job search and I have to complete a major project before my May graduation. Additionally, I am undecided if I want to remain in this city, state, or country to pursue my career after I graduate. I have always wanted to live, work, and raise a family abroad, and grad school is a means to that end. But, living abroad is a huge move for me and my son and would be easier with a partner. I also feel the ol’ biological clock ticking. I would prefer to have 1-2 more children before I’m 35, but maybe 36-37 is more realistic at this point! I live in a small town with few dating prospects. Between that and considering a move, an LDR seems almost inevitable.

Should I keep actively and intentionally dating, and hope that this man or another will give me the confidence and support to work abroad? Or should I drop the whole thing to focus on my child, school, and career and just hope that my eggs don’t disappear before fate brings a man to my door? — Trying to Have it All

By all means, continue dating this man whose company you seem to enjoy, but don’t do so with the hope that he’ll give you the confidence and support you need to work abroad; do so because you want to see if your visions for the future align and if you complement each other and make one another happy enough to consider merging your lives. Whether that merge happens where you currently live or where he lives or some place altogether is something you should decide AFTER you build a foundation for a relationship.

It’s really unfair — to a potential partner AND to yourself — to hinge your dreams on finding a mate who will push you to achieve them. That’s not what partner is for. Yes, you hope for support from your significant other, but your success — and certainly your pursuit of success and happiness — should not be contingent on that support. If you need a man to help you get where you want to go, you’re not doing it right. Or you aren’t ready. Or it isn’t the right move for you. Instead of focusing your energy on finding or pursuing the man who will push you to reach for your dreams, focus on cultivating the inner strength and confidence you need to reach for them on your own. Believe in yourself. And if you don’t, for whatever reason — maybe because the dream of living abroad as a single parent seems too arduous, especially if it means separating your child from one of his parents by half a world — own that and change directions. You can be fulfilled elsewhere, surely.

Finally, the deal with your eggs: at 32, you still have about 7-10 solid years of fertility left. You can take a little time to thoughtfully date while balancing school, career, and motherhood, without worrying that your eggs are going to disappear any moment. And, yes, maybe an adjustment of your timetable or number of desired kids is in order (having two more children in the next three years when your current relationship is only two months along might be pushing things a bit), but you HAVE wiggle room. Beyond that, while I appreciate that you are looking at the big picture — family! relationship! finishing school and starting a career! moving abroad! — and how all those pieces fit together, it’s easy to get really overwhelmed by how many things have to fall into place just so for a certain vision you might have to be achieved. Having dreams is a good thing. But so is being open to where life might take you if you open yourself to different possibilities and focus on micro movements toward different, individual goals. Here are a few to tackle in the next couple of months to get you going in the right direction:

1. Work on major project for May graduation
2. Continue applying for jobs in your desired career field in locations you could see yourself (and your son) living
3. Continue getting to know the man you’ve been dating for a couple of months
4. Start discussing with your son’s father potential custody arrangements if you were to move out of city/state/country
5. USE BIRTH CONTROL

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

12 comments… add one
  • Lyra

    Lyra January 26, 2015, 8:52 am

    Totally agree with Wendy.
    .
    But…remember you have shared custody of your son. How far away does his dad live? Is he in the same general area? Is it fair for you to move your son so far away from his dad? I understand that you have big dreams and I respect that, but at this point I honestly think they’re *too* big. You already have family to think about — your son.
    .
    I say this because my fiance’s youngest brother has a daughter and has shared custody of her. He has decided he won’t ever move far away from his daughter in order to be a responsible co-parent, even though they haven’t been together as long as their daughter has been around (they had her when they were 18). He is 100% committed to being part of her life. Since her mom is staying in the area, the brother has decided to stay in the area. It limits his job opportunities and his living arrangements, but he made the choice when she was born to do the right thing. I know it has been hard on him because he had to grow up REALLY fast at 18, but at the same time it’s really great that their daughter can spend time with both parents every week.

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    • Lyra

      Lyra January 26, 2015, 8:58 am

      Not to mention, I think you need to SLOW yourself down. Realize, again, that you have a son to think about. You’ve only been talking to this man for TWO MONTHS. What if you do start dating him and getting serious and your son really likes him…and then you have a bad break up? Because you have a child you have to be careful to have slow introductions — you want to make sure that ANY man you introduce to your son is one who treats YOU well before you bring your son into this mix. Quite honestly you don’t even really know this guy you’ve been talking to yet. 2 months is not a long time, and 2 months across the country is very different than 2 months together, in the same city.

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  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite January 26, 2015, 9:07 am

    What does your current custody arrangement look like? Is there any local laws that would make it difficult for you to move? How far away is the other side of the country that you live on?

    I like Wendy’s idea of taking baby steps. You’re on the verge of numerous possibilities right now. Focus on your project and figure out where you want to live.

    Take your son’s needs into account too. It’s one thing to pursue your dreams and betterment but it seems like it hasn’t been broken down at all. Like how old is he, will he be leaving school, trusted caregivers, his father, extended family, etc. It’s a difficult balance that single parents (& parents in general) have to face when making these major decisions to stay/leave.

    A move shouldn’t be dependent on a partner. It makes it extremely difficult to explore your options once you are there and puts a ton of pressure on the relationship. You don’t want to end up with the wrong partner just to have more children as a single parent. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to focus on your school/career but at the same time that shouldn’t stop you from dating. There is grey area to explore in the dichotomies you’ve created in your head.

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    • Lyra

      Lyra January 26, 2015, 9:23 am

      I think also she needs to lose the timeline. I understand why she wants to have a certain number of kids by 35, but at the same time, like Wendy said, she has some wiggle room to think about it.

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  • avatar

    SasLinna January 26, 2015, 9:29 am

    I guess what stands out for me is that LW’s focus is not on what might be considered the most immediately relevant objectives (like finding a job and a good place for her son and herself to live) but on dreams like living abroad, committing to this guy and having further kids. It almost sounds like a savior fantasy where a guy sweeps in and takes LW with him to his castle in a faraway land. I very much agree with Wendy’s concrete list of things to do – focus on the basics first and then add more things later on. And I definitely agree that if living abroad is her dream then she should start pursuing it on her own and probably focus on where exactly she wants to go.

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  • avatar

    RedroverRedrover January 26, 2015, 9:32 am

    The trouble with counting on someone else to help you get the life you want is, what happens if that someone else leaves? Where does your life go? You need to build a life yourself, not be pushed into it by someone else.
    .
    And I echo what others have said about your son and custody arrangements. You have to prioritize him over your dreams. Of course you can’t be miserable just so he can stay near his dad, that won’t work either. But there needs to be a balance. You didn’t even mention his needs in your letter. Think about him first, identify his needs, and then try to figure out the best way to meet both his and your needs. Also, his needs and your needs aren’t on the same level. You are an adult, you can deal with some disappointment. He is at an age where a huge disappointment (like being taken away from his dad, or having his mom move away) can completely change the person he ends up being. If you don’t have any more kids, I’m sure you’ll be sad, but you’ll make it through. If he effectively loses a parent, that’s a blow that’s hard to come back from.

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  • avatar

    Essie January 26, 2015, 9:57 am

    Because she says she’s been “talking to a man on the other side of the country”, I get the feeling that she hasn’t actually met this man. It’s an online thing, maybe?
    .
    Also: “….hope that this man or another will give me the confidence and support to work abroad…” LW, a man can’t give you confidence. That’s something you have within yourself, or you don’t.
    .
    There’s something that strikes me as a bit…..mercenary….about this letter. “I want babies and international travel, so I need to find a man who’ll give me those things.” I mean, most people decide to have kids because they and their partner decide that they want to raise a child together – it’s an outgrowth of a pre-existing, strong, loving relationship. Otherwise, why not just get a sperm donor?
    .
    The same goes for it being easier to move abroad if you have a partner. There are people you can hire for that.
    .
    This just all seems terribly unfair to this guy that she’s talking to. That he’s just a means to an end, to get the things the LW wants.
    .
    Or maybe the snow is making me cranky. I dunno.

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    • Lyra

      Lyra January 26, 2015, 10:15 am

      She did say that she’s met him, but yeah it’s only been 2 months. I think she needs to think of things one at a time.

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      • avatar

        Essie January 26, 2015, 10:32 am

        I completely missed that, thanks. The snow is also making me stupid, apparently….

        But yeah, two months is WAY too soon to be thinking about moving out of the country and making babies.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom January 26, 2015, 9:57 am

    Most Western nations have signed agreements that prevent one biological parent from taking a child out of the country without the permission of the other biological parent. The odds are very low that you will be able to live abroad with your son. His father would have to agree to let him go and since he isn’t a deadbeat dad that isn’t likely. Your option will be to stay where you are with your son or go abroad without him. If you are in the US you have to get permission from the other parent to move out of the area. Even across the state can be too far and requires the permission of the other parent. You have to have the signatures of both parents to get a passport for your son.

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  • FireStar

    FireStar January 26, 2015, 10:31 am

    Count me in with everyone else – your son is your first priority. If his father is in his life then you have to factor that relationship in first before any dreams of living abroad or across country.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie January 26, 2015, 3:05 pm

    It isn’t what you want but what you have, namely a child that comes first. Maybe you could leave him with his dad while you go play.

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