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Your Turn: “Should I Move Away From My Kids?”

In a feature I call “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

I got divorced three years ago from my verbally abusive ex-husband. He isn’t verbally abusive anymore and we remain friends to this day, but he has 70% custody of our children. Now, I am not a bad mother; the court did not give him custody, we agreed that he would have custody since at the time, and still now, he has a better-paying job, a great support system, and he really is a good father.

He’s in the military and we’ve been in a city 2000 miles away from my family and friends for about eight years now. He has just gotten orders to the other side of the country, which is closer to my friends and family, but still far away from them, so m question is: should I move home to pursue my dream of becoming a geologist at a school in my hometown that has that degree, or try to keep my current job, which can be done from home, and move with him to an area that I don’t know anyone and none of the schools have my degree?

As a side note: my children and I have a great relationship, I see them two nights a week and every other weekend, and more when Dad has duty, so we’re close. Their father has expressed that he’ll support me in getting my degree. He and I have agreed that if I do move “home” that my boys will be with me for two school vacations and most of the summer. My problem is that I feel like a terrible mom, like this one decision will affect them for the rest of their lives. Please advise. — At a Parental Crossroads


Comments on this entry are closed.

avatar Addie Pray July 27, 2011, 3:06 pm

No. (This is my answer after only reading the headline.)

avatar Addie Pray July 27, 2011, 3:12 pm

Now I read the letter… and I’m torn. I think it depends on the age of your children. If they are young, then I think you should stay near them. Time will fly; and you’ll have time to move home and pursue your degree when they are older, more self-sufficient, and less impressionable. It’s the sacrifice you make when you have kids.

avatar MJ July 27, 2011, 3:07 pm

I say no. It really could affect them for the rest of their lives.

avatar Addie Pray July 27, 2011, 10:34 pm

Now, how does *that* get so many thumbs downs? I’m confused by all the thums down in the comments. … This must be a really good (and controversial) topic!

bittergaymark bittergaymark July 28, 2011, 10:35 am

The only explanation is that far too many people on here are quite selfish and would simply never, ever put their own kids first. And that’s really, very, very sad.

avatar justpeachy July 27, 2011, 3:11 pm

I don’t know anything about custody agreements, but have you talked to your ex about changing the times you get the kids? I think you should definitely consider pursuing your degree and since it sounds like your ex is trying to be supportive of you and that goal, maybe you can rework the deal so that you get them for more weekends or a big portion of the summer, when you both don’t have school. As long as you remain a large part of your childrens’ lives with phone calls, emails, and skype, they won’t hold it against you.

avatar anonymous July 27, 2011, 3:12 pm

i say yes. it doesnt mean you have to live apart for them forever, just for the time that you pursue your degree. but moving around the country with your FORMER husband, to a city where you dont have great chances to get a job you love? My mom decided to be a stay-at-home mom for most of her life, even though she didnt feel challenged and hated it, for the sake of her kids, and i know it made her really unhappy – now she’s got her own business and is much happier, and so am i. i really think you should do it. it doesnt have to be forever.

avatar Steph July 27, 2011, 3:13 pm

I think it really depends in the age of your children. I think younger children may have a harder time understanding that mom is away to make a career for herself and grow as a person. And while they may seem okay with it they may grow to resent your absence. I am really inclined to say no…

avatar Amber July 27, 2011, 3:16 pm

How old are your children? How far away will you be exactly? What will happen to them when he goes on duty? Will they have family besides their father where they are moving? Do you have plans for skyping/phone calls/etc to keep in touch with them if you were to move? If they’re old enough have you talked to them about this? I feel like there are a lot of details that need to be addressed before anyone can give you a response. Also how do you feel you would do without them? Can you handle the idea of not being there in person to see every milestone? Because even though I’m sure you’re saying of course I’ll be there for everything, distance is harder to overcome at times than it seems in our heads. There will be some events you won’t make it to. You won’t be a simple phone call away, you will be a phone call and a drive or air plane ride away. If your husband is the main provider and you are trying to better yourself and your home for them that is something to consider. As is the fact that when they come to visit they will not only get you but also your family. To me it really comes down to the age of the children and how you think they would handle this. You know your kids better than we do. It’s great that your ex- husband is supportive of the decision, that will definitely help when talking to the kids about this transition and helping them cope with it if you decide to go through with it.

avatar MissDre July 27, 2011, 3:17 pm

Depends on their age. If they are already teenagers, then I think that’d be ok. They are starting to develop more independent lives of their own and I’m sure they’d be just fine visiting you on holidays and over summer.

But if they are in elementary school or middle school, don’t do it! Stay with them! Kids need their mom!

avatar mcj2011 July 27, 2011, 3:21 pm

I’m torn, I see both sides.

I’ve seen what it does when a mother moves away from her child, it can have a devastating effect on children. They feel a sense of rejection and resentment. To not be right there for them when they need you for even the smallest of their accomplishments or hardships. To not be apart of everything they do on a daily basis. Right now you are able to attend school functions and such, you wont’ be able to if you move.

But the thought of moving your entire life and base it near your ex, that seems crazy!!!

But I guess ultimately it’s not about your ex it’s about your children. You need to ask yourself if there are any other options. Couldn’t you go back to school in this new town? Or perhaps move to the mid way point so you can see your children more often.

Good luck!

Skyblossom Skyblossom July 28, 2011, 9:06 am

When my daughter was three her preschool class had a little program at the end of the year and they sang a few songs. They came out and lined up in front of us and she looked around for me. When she saw me her eyes locked on me and she sang all of the songs to me. Everyone else was irrelevant. That’s how important it is to be there for your kids. It means everything to them.

avatar mcj2011 July 28, 2011, 9:15 am

i agree completely. I said i was torn but I think my answer proves that I think leaving the kids behind would really be devastating for them.

avatar LTC039 July 27, 2011, 3:26 pm

IMO, your kids should ALWAYS come first. No matter what.

avatar lemongrass July 27, 2011, 3:56 pm

I can’t believe people thumbed down you! Who else are kids supposed to rely and lean on if not their parents? It is every parent’s responsiblity to put their kids needs first before their own. Needs, not wants.

avatar LTC039 July 27, 2011, 4:04 pm

For real! I can’t think of any possible situation where a parent should not put their child first. I think it’s sad that I got thumbed down…

avatar bad tempered sparrow July 27, 2011, 5:13 pm

You just seem to be very black and white in your comments often. You come across as not just opinionated but domineering and angry.
It doesn’t seem the kindest way to put your opinions forward.

avatar LTC039 July 27, 2011, 7:04 pm

Well I’m sorry you feel that way, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only “black or white” one on this site, but really an entire posted wasted on attempting to judge who I am, is a little upsetting, not gonna lie.
I usually have very strong opinions on certain subjects & don’t particularly like to sway my arguement because people disagree with me.
I think a lot of people are way over analyzing my comment. I said she should always put her kids first, because, well she should! When you enter into parenthood, you forfeit your right to come first.
Maybe after giving it some thought, her moving away & pursuing her degree will be putting her kids first, but from the information given on this letter, I don’t see that.

avatar bad tempered sparrow July 28, 2011, 4:43 am

I don’t judge who you are- don’t know at all who you are. I’m only commenting on how your commenting style comes across. You asked why you were so thumbed down and I think it might have been your perceived attitude rather than your opinions per se.
I’m not asking you to sway your opinions but I was suggesting you put them a little more gently. People come here for advice not to be lectured and put down however obvious you feel the answer to their question is.
You asked, I answered; I don’t feel this or the last post were a whole post wasted.

avatar Jess July 27, 2011, 4:09 pm

i think it’s debatable about whether having both your parents in the same city is a “need” for children. if so, why so much in this case? because she is the female parent? The reverse of this situation happens all the time.

avatar LTC039 July 27, 2011, 4:27 pm

No…because everyone needs their parents & technically I said “your children should always come first” I never said “you should live in the same city as your children always.”
She, as a mother, should have her children’s best interest as her first priority always (& the dad should as well). When she figures out what would be best for *her children* then she can make a decision.
I can’t believe people ACTUALLY disagree with parents putting their children first. It goes for both parents, nothing to do with gender at all.

avatar MonMon July 27, 2011, 9:26 pm

LTC, I am 100% with you on this one and am also very surprised at all the thumbs down your getting. Maybe this just goes to show how many people DON’T/wouldn’t put their kids first which also may go to show why so many kids/people grow up so screwed up these days :(

avatar LTC039 July 27, 2011, 10:36 pm

That’s exactly what I was thinking, I just didn’t want to cause anymore waves, since I’m so angry & berating, you know?

avatar kdog July 27, 2011, 4:30 pm

I think the issue is that “your kids come first” can be taken to mean you don’t take care of yourself. Ideally, if you are healthy and happy this is true. And I wouldn’t apply this same argument to someone wanting to move for a long-distance boyfriend or something, but…

As much as I get sick of hearing this saying, but it’s true that you can’t take care of someone else if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Seriously. My parents never learned how to take care of themselves, were always miserable and had a lot of resentment about it that they directed at me and each other. I have had to work double time as an adult to learn that it’s okay to go after things for myself to be happy without worrying about what the effect will be on everyone else in my life. That is definitely NOT something I want to pass on to my own children.

avatar LTC039 July 27, 2011, 4:39 pm

But that’s an entirely different arguement. I don’t even want to touch the “You should only have kids when you’re absolutely ready, in every aspect” topic because that’s really not what’s at the table here. Honestly, I’m getting from her letter that she is a slightly selfish individual. It doesn’t make sense that she gave 70% custody to her verbally abusive husband (whether or not he is now, he was at the time she gave up the kids).
I feel she just wants justification for moving away from her kids, to pursue her life, so she doesn’t feel so guilty. I’m sorry, but if you’re a mother &/or father, you absolutely need to put your children first, in w/e regard that may be.
I’m sorry your parents put you through a lot, but as a result you now know exactly what kind of parent you want to be & I’m pretty sure that involves putting your child’s needs first, always, because from what you told me, your parent’s didn’t exactly do that.

avatar kdog July 27, 2011, 4:48 pm

Honestly, I agree with that completely and think that really we probably are on the exact same page. But, while this woman could be looking for justification, it’s also possible that pursuing this could be a way of putting them first, depending on her long-term plans. Just a matter of reading it differently and not being able to know all the details.

avatar Annie1 July 28, 2011, 3:33 pm

LTC039, I never once thought your comments were judgmental or abrasive. I like direct opinions. :-) I just want to touch on something you mentioned about the dad: it’s a little suspicious for LW to say that her verbally abusive husband is a terrific father. The two descriptions are mutually exclusive, surely? What, was he only spewing epithets at and berating the mother when the kids weren’t within earshot? Because even if the comments weren’t directed at her, I bet more than once they overheard their father put their mother down. I suspect his verbal abuse spills out in other areas of his life, and I’d wager a good bet that child rearing is one of them. Usually abusers of any stripe have serious anger issues. That right there was a red flag that LW needs to be near her children until they’re adults.
I’m a mom, and I would move heaven and earth to live in the same city as my kids, regardless of jobs, situations, school, and regardless of what happens between me and their father. Period.

avatar LTC039 July 28, 2011, 3:41 pm

Thank you Annie1, its good to know that you are that type of parent. I know my mom has always told me the same, that’s why I said what I said. I strongly believe that once you become a parent, you forfeit your right to put yourself first. Maybe it sounds harsh that way, but it’s reality. That’s why I don’t intend to have children until I’m absolutley positive I can do that.

avatar tower_of_fair August 1, 2011, 3:30 pm

Maybe one reason people are thumbing down your “you always put your child first, no matter what” statement is because statement like that, while perhaps being of value independent of the speaker, tend to be espoused by people who have an air of righteousness that they find unfortunate and unpalatable.

Perhaps it is because it is not surprisingly followed up by the opinion that this LW is selfish and a bad mother for not (succeeding in ) fighting her financially-backed clearly skilled verbally abusive husband for “custody” of the kids, and questioning , given the small amount of time she is able to see them, what the impact on their wellness will be if she doesn’t drop everything in her life to follow the man who has and continues to ruin and control her life where HIS job takes her, to a place she has zero support system and a job she finds unfulfilling and less than ideal contact with her children.

No, this woman isn’t selfish. I’m unsure why you feel that parent must equal martydom. Because if she is in fact obligated to do all of those things — sacrifice her education and chance at a fulfilling career AND happiness AND the chance to be around people who love and support her, instead of people who dislike and devalue her, AND allow her EXhusband to continue to control her life in order that she exchange large amounts of time with her children for small more requent amounts of time with her children– if that is “a mother’s obligation — no exceptions” — then motherhood apparently means unquestioned and unqualified martyrdom to you. And if we were discussing a religion, the term for you would be a zealot, and it applies just as aptly here. You are a “motherhood zealot” — and i mean that with all the negative attributes and none of the positive, pop-culture misapplied positive ones.

I even get the feeling that it has nothing to do what the question was. It was the fact that she dared to ask if it was not horrible if she did something that made her happy which might have some for am an impact on her children, rather than immediately martyring herself to acquisce to the status quo. You were offended that she asked — what about me– may I make myself happy? May I find a way to make both myself happy and my children? Might I sacrifice a smidgen of their unfettered happiness to have a small piece of happiness myself? If I do anything that might negatively impact my children in any way, but the benefit to me is 20-fold, might that be a fair trade off? — No, says the motherhood jealous, and you are already a terrible selfish mother for even thinking it, and especially for asking it out loud.

LW: you are asking a fair question. Asking this question neither makes you selfish nor a bad mother. You are asking IF making yourself un-miserable will come at the detriment of your children’s upbringing and their happiness. Asking this question makes you a GOOD mother. Don’t let the motherhood zealots, the martyr-seekers make you feel otherwise.

avatar ForeverYoung July 27, 2011, 5:06 pm

I didn’t thumb you down, but I think it wasn’t what you said, but how you said it. You’re implying in it that there is no way she could not live in the same city while still putting her kids first. By saying, “your kids should ALWAYS come first” and leaving it there it seems like a slight over simplification of the situation. It’s not in her children’s best interest for her to be unemployed, unhappy, etc. It is possible that by achieving her goals in life she is setting a good example for her children, and if they are taken care of, happily adjusted children..possibly even teenagers about to leave the house anyway, her kids just might be alright with her living in a different city than them.

My Dad moved away for a job 2 years before I graduated high school, and I didn’t want to move (my mom and him were still together during this time) and I was not at all traumatized.

She knows her kids well enough to know how they could handle this. If they are emotionally mature, with a supportive father, they could be fine with their mother moving away for 2 years to pursue a degree. Also how is her moving away for a degree any worse than the father being away for whole year deployments at a time any different? Both are for a career. It’s food for thought since you are convinced you don’t have gender bias here.

I’m not even saying how I feel one way or the other, I just think you might be getting thumbed down for the over simplification of the situation.

avatar LTC039 July 27, 2011, 7:08 pm

I understand what you’re saying, but the reason I was over simplified was because I feel their shouldn’t be much explanation when it comes to your children. My answer was based on the information I got from her letter, we really don’t know how old her kids are, & yeah if they are almost college-bound, it might not be so bad…She needs to sit down with herself, & think like a mother & then her answer should be simple.

katie katie July 27, 2011, 8:33 pm

i totally agree- just as when you get married, the partnership should come first, when you have kids, they come first. your whole life is now dedicated to these little beings that you have created. in her situation, maybe it would be best in the long run to go to college for her kid’s future, but that decision needs to come from the notion that it would be best for her KIDS, not her, to go back to college.

avatar oldie July 28, 2011, 10:46 am

I think this ignores a lot of the facts in LW’s narrative. The kids are not living with Mom, they are living with Dad 70% of the time. The reason she gives for this is that she doesn’t earn enough money to be their primary custodian. Yes, she says her ex is a good father, but presumably she is also a good mother, so the factor tipping the scales is earning power, which seems a little strange in an era of child support payments. So, getting a degree and earning more may allow her to become the primary child custodian. Second, she is not moving away from her kids. Their father is moving the kids away from her. Her choice is to follow to a place where she knows nobody and has no connections and prospects for improving her life or to move closer to home. If she moves closer to her home, she says she will have custody of kids on two major school holidays and for the summer, so she will have them close to the 30% that she does now. Yes, she’ll miss some events, but the chance to live with them for 10 weeks solid over the summer should supply a closeness that two nights a week can’t achieve. Finally, there is the giant pink elephant in the room. Dad is in the military and that is why he is moving. Likely he’ll have to move again within a few years. Likely he’ll also have to deploy overseas. What does LW accomplish in moving with him to be near the kids, if he is going to move again every few years? That is no way to build a life for herself.
I don’t think she can delay getting a geology degree and have much of a career. The sciences really aren’t like that. She’ll be an old degree-getter if she starts now. If she waits a half dozen or more years, that’s really cripling.

avatar Suzanne July 28, 2011, 11:05 am

IMO, the question is not whether or not she’s putting her kids first. The question is whether or not moving away would harm them.
And she’s basically the only one who can answer that question. I mean, her being unhappy and feeling unforfilled would harm them, obviously, but moving away might harm them also. Age is important in this matter, and personality also. Aaand: can she be happy whilst away from her kids?
I guess I’m trying to say stating the obvious (of course kids should always come first) is not really a helpful answer at all, in my opinion.

avatar Christy July 27, 2011, 3:26 pm

I feel like you’re missing an important piece of the puzzle: can you afford to quit your job and get this degree?

avatar evanscr05 July 27, 2011, 3:28 pm

When I was 10, my parents divorced. They lived about 15 minutes from each other for the next 6 years until my father was given an incredible job opportunity that, unfortunately, was located 650+ miles away. My dad and I have always been incredibly close, even though once my parents separated, we only stayed with him every other weekend. He’s always been a supportive parent and never missed a softball game, a marching band competition, a concert, birthday, or any other major event in my life. He came to my mom’s house one day and asked to take a walk with me; he had something important to discuss with me. He didn’t want to move if it would cause any issues for me in any way (I have no idea if he did this with my brother who is two years younger than me, though I’m sure he did). He never laid it on me to guilt me into letting him go, either. I knew he was miserable at work, and it was an opportunity that I didn’t want to pass him by, so I told him that no matter how far apart we would be, I’d be supportive of his need to grow just as much as he has been supportive of me. That was 12 years ago and I’m still a total daddy’s girl.

In this situation, I think the only way for you to determine if this is a good idea or not is to have a conversation with your kids. However, I do recognize that it’s much easier if they are older. You have to do what is right by them, but never forget to do right by yourself, either. Unfortunately, there are many factors in this decision that we, the readers, will never know, and because of that, it is not something we can easily gauge for you. It in no way makes you a bad parent to move away from your kids! You are not abandoning them! If you decide to move closer to your family, make sure you do a few things to make it easier on your kids:
1) Call them multiple times a week. Find out what they’re up to and how they are doing with their friends, hobbies, school, etc.
2) Make sure you and your ex are a team when it comes to discipline. He needs to keep you in the loop so that your children know that you are not divided. Children like structure, and knowing both parents are on the same page curbs the desire to pit you against each other.
3) Visit as often as you can, and allow them to visit you as often as you can. It may be expensive, but your children are worth it.
4) Make sure to be present for the big things in their lives. Kids need their parents at big events.

Best of luck to you! I know this is a tough decision.

avatar Addie Pray July 27, 2011, 6:21 pm

But if I do the math right, you were 16 when your dad moved away. I think a mature 16 year old, especially one with a good relationship with her father who can have a good conversation about it – like you guys – is in a better position to have his or her parent move away. But if you were 10 when he moved, I’m sure you would have a very different, and worse, relationship with your dad. I think it boils down to the age/maturity of the kids.

avatar evanscr05 July 28, 2011, 9:03 am

I completely agree, Addie. I mentioned that there are factors we don’t know, and thus we are not in the best position to advise her on this. It truly does depend upon how old her children are, their maturity levels, and whether or not this situation would be worse than just missing their mom.

avatar kerrycontrary July 27, 2011, 3:33 pm

I say no. Although I am all for education and single mothers educating themselves so that they can financially support themselves and children, you should not move away from your kids for that education. A B.S. will take you 4 years, 3.5 if you are quick. Plus, you may need addtional graduate-level work on top of that to find a job or persue research interests. Pursue an online degree or find a short-term education program that can give you a better career and improve you and your kids lives. I think its great that you have dreams, but giving up on some dreams is a sacrafice you make when having children. I also disagree with everyone that your kids will be “ok” if they are teenagers and you leave. Yes, they will survive, but do you really want your kids to just be “ok”. Teenagers may push you away to have their own lives, but its your job as a parent to be in their lives, ask questions, and stick around even when they shut you out. It sucks that your ex’s military base isn’t near your friends or family, but that’s the choice you made when having children, thus connecting you to this person, with someone who is active military.

avatar El July 27, 2011, 4:20 pm

Given the current economic climate, I’m not 100% convinced that going back to school is a smart decision, especially considering the fact that the LW seems to have a nice employment situation as it is (work from home? I wish!).

If her goal is simply to better herself on an intellectual level, than I’m all about it. But if her ultimate goal is to find a job and make more money…well, that’s not exactly a guarantee anymore. Even with a Bachelor’s degree.

avatar kerrycontrary July 27, 2011, 4:47 pm

So true!!! I just finished grad school and Im still having a hard time finding a job.

avatar Maracuya July 27, 2011, 5:03 pm

Well, in fairness, she said she wanted to pursue her dream of being a geologist. You can’t do that without a degree.

avatar MiMi July 27, 2011, 6:37 pm

I agree – NO.
I’ll catch hell for this but you’ve already managed to slough off a good portion of your responsibility for their everyday care onto their father and it would be completely self-serving to excuse yourself from the rest of it so you can run back to your hometown for your “dream degree” and the love and support of your family and friends. You sound incredibly immature.
Your children are not going to have the benefit of living near friends and family are they? No, they are moving to an unfamiliar place where they know no one, so pull up your big girl panties and do your job and be there for them.

avatar savannah July 27, 2011, 10:44 pm

Going to have to pull the gender card here and ask if you really believe you would give the same advise and more importantly in the same way to a father i.e. with such distain. And it’s their father that is taking the children away from their home, and “moving to an unfamiliar place where they [will] know no one”.

avatar kate July 27, 2011, 10:51 pm

True, but the father is in the military and the mom gave up most custody to him. She knew they might move.

avatar tower_of_fair August 1, 2011, 3:47 pm

“gave up” is such a loaded term. (not to mention that there is physical custody and legal custody (and then there’s “visitation rights”) which are not always broken down the same way — thus she might have 30% physical custody because their dad has a bigger house and a better school district, but still have 50% legal custody — what to do in case of an emergency, etc). You say that like she just signed her kids away. “giving up” implies she had it in the first place. “give up” could mean decided not to engage in a legal battle that would have crippled her financially to the point that she would have received 10% physical custody, but did not feel horrible about it because her children were taken care of.
And she knew he was in the military so he might move? sound exactly like the pro-lifers whose argument is that you “knew” you might get pregnant if you had sex, so you should “suffer” the consequences of pregnancy. (no mention of men and their commitments)

Do you like Women even a little?

avatar Kate August 1, 2011, 4:13 pm

I like women. I am one. I also didn’t have kids with a verbally abusive man, so what do I know?

I am getting a giggle out the comparison to a pro-lifer. Nice one!

And YES, if someone is in the military and you marry/procreate with them, you know a move is likely. Just like if you marry a first year law associate or a medical resident, you KNOW they will be working 100 hrs a week.

kaluu kati July 27, 2011, 7:20 pm

agree with kerry!
and my own thoughts…
i guess money might not be an issue for you but a geology degree does not sound like a great investment (given the state of the world and the us economy, and the fact that you might need to move away from your kids again or travel frequently to work in the field) i get that its your dream. why dont you save the goal for when you dont have to move away from them or they are older?

of course it is a double standard, but moms should be with their kids when they can. dads do not replace moms

avatar Christy July 28, 2011, 7:56 am

Every geology major that I met in college is currently either in a funded Masters program or a funded PhD program, except for one who just got a job (one month after graduating with her Masters). Come to think about it, geology majors have had the best success of anyone I know.

And thanks for acknowledging that there’s a double standard at play.

avatar kdog July 27, 2011, 3:36 pm

I think the other commenters are right that you need to take their age into account. However, if they are old enough and mature enough to understand you aren’t abandoning them, I really think that you should go for it. So often women feel so much pressure to be mothers in a very particular way. Let me tell you, my mom (who was a SAHM) was not happy when I was growing up and I really believe that affected me far more than it would have if she had moved away from me to pursue her dreams. Especially since it sounds like your ex is a good dad.

Also, I am wondering if there is a possibility that you will pursue additional custody once you get situated? It is possible that being with you, in one place, around their extended family would be better for them then moving around a lot with their father (I say possible because I know some army brats are grateful they got the experience and your ex sounds like he’s doing a good job.)

The truth is that pretty much everyone has something from their childhood/parents that screwed them up some. You get to figure out the terms that you would best like it to happen. I don’t mean that in a pessimistic way, but more to maybe help you see that you have choice in this and that if you decide to pursue your goals you shouldn’t feel guilty. This is absolutely the kind of thing that some time with a good therapist could help you with.

avatar Greebo July 27, 2011, 3:40 pm

I don’t think you’re a terrible mom if you take this opportunity. Depending on your kids’ ages, you could revisit the custody arrangements, stay in touch by Skype, email, phone, etc. If you’re making more money, you’ll have more cash for visits back and forth. I’ve had friends who grew up with parents states away from each other and they turned into functional adults with stable lives and decent relationships with both parents. It sounds like your ex will be helpful and supportive either way, and I think that’s key.

Incidentally, you said your options are to “try” to keep your current job in a strange community without a support network or to move for your dream opportunity. There really aren’t any other options here? You can’t keep the kids and give him visitation while you’re in school by your family? You can’t stay put and reach another custody agreement? Can you take junior college classes and then transfer, giving you all a couple more years to work through this?

Now mind you, if you think you’re be hagridden and haunted by guilt, unable to balance work and family or enjoy your life…well, you’re the one who has to live with that.

avatar Akmilly July 27, 2011, 3:41 pm

I agree with many of the other comments – it really comes down to age. I say this not because I have children, but because I was a child in a similar situation. My dad had a great job and my mom was struggling as a musician. When I was 11, my dad was offered a job six hours away and he and my mom agreed it would be best for everyone if he took the opportunity. Growing up, I saw my mom maybe a handful of times a year and spent a summer with her once. I didn’t resent her absence because I understood that I had better education options/etc living with my dad. However, sometimes when I shared benign details of my life, like going to the movies in the evening as a teen, she became harsh and critical of my father, stating how he wasn’t raising me right, I was too young, etc – I think because it was difficult for her to understand I was years older than she remembered because she wasn’t really around to see me grow & mature. Our relationship now is not what I typically see in my friend’s and their mothers. I see my father as my “parent” and my mom is my “mom” – I’m not really sure I’m conveying this as clearly as I’d like.

LW – I was separated from my mother at 11. Our relationship is good, but I don’t think it’s what anyone would call ideal. She did miss many little moments: my dad had to teach me how to put my hair in a ponytail, he was the one who zipped up my prom dress, etc. I guess you need to ask yourself is bettering yourself right now worth missing out on some of these moments? I certainly can’t answer but if you decide to go I would give myself a time frame to finish my degree and return to my children (if they’re young enough). If they are teens I’d suggest waiting it out until they have graduated high school and started becoming adults.

avatar Greebo July 27, 2011, 4:05 pm

I think so much of this depends on what the kids are told. My brother in laws both left for a while for career training while the kids were young. Their kids were told “Daddy loves you and can’t wait to see you again, but he has to go away to school now”. Young children accept things very easily when they’re presented right. I’m always amazed at how resilient children are.

And the flip side of this would be all the kids who grew up sensing resentment from parents, who grew up in 2 parent “in name only” households, etc.

I agree your kids come first, but physical presence 24/7 isn’t always putting your kids first. Sometimes you put your education or career first for a short time because long term that’s the best way to take care of them.

avatar silver_dragon_girl July 27, 2011, 3:47 pm

Not to play the sexism card (again), but if a man had written in with this question, would we all be giving the same advice?

I feel like, if the situation were reversed, everyone would advise a man to go finish his degree. And that’s the advice I’m giving you, LW, not because I think your kids don’t need their mother, and not because I think you wouldn’t be letting them down, in a small way, by doing so.

I think you should do it because moving across the country with your EX husband is just a horrible idea. I know your kids need you. I know you have a good relationship with your ex. But come on. If he wasn’t in the military, and had just decided to up and move for a different job, would you even consider it? No.

I feel for you, because most women in your situation do have full or majority custody of their kids, and they keep them while their exes get sent around the world. Your situation is reversed from the norm, and that’s always tough. But I do feel that, in this situation, you need to do what is right for you in the long term. Moving across the country with your ex-husband and staying in a dead-end job is NOT a long-term plan.

avatar MJ July 27, 2011, 4:06 pm

I thought of that, and no, I would absolutely expect a man to stay nearby for his children. We can disagree on whether or not it’s right, but I am not answering based on some kind of double standard.

avatar silver_dragon_girl July 27, 2011, 4:27 pm

Well, I’m not trying to be accusatory, but it did come to mind.

Anyway, some of the comments below were asking about other geology programs and online schools, and I think that might be a great way for the LW to go. You can easily get all your gen eds out of the way at a local community college or online, and then you cut your time at the university to 2-2.5 years. Possibly less, depending on how you schedule things.

avatar Kate July 27, 2011, 5:56 pm

Online geology? That’s science…impossible to do online.

avatar Amber July 27, 2011, 6:21 pm

Actually there are a number of science degrees you can get online. You don’t get the lab portion like you do when your going in person, but they do have them. One of my co-workers got her masters in environmental science/geology not that long ago.

avatar Kate July 27, 2011, 6:27 pm

How good are the schools/degrees? I have a very good friend who has an MS in geology from a Top 5, Tier 1 school. He has had a difficult time finding a job. He just found one after a year of looking. The bulk of geology jobs are in Texas, from what he told me.

And no offense, but you CANNOT do science without laboratories, whether in the building or in the field – that’s what science is. And how did your friend write a thesis…how did she do her research?

avatar Maracuya July 27, 2011, 6:52 pm

Probably a professional masters, then, wouldn’t it? You pay out of pocket for those (like MBAs) and they’re non-thesis.

avatar Kate July 27, 2011, 6:58 pm

It would have to be.

avatar Amber July 27, 2011, 7:03 pm

Not really sure about the details, I know it was through University of Florida and that’s about it. I know it was a thesis program but it seemed to me to be more like a research project versus a thesis where you collect and analyze data. But, once again I’m not completely sure of how it worked. As to the rest of your questions I don’t know either. You would definitely have to do research, and I’m not saying it will gurantee her a job. And I agree science with labs isn’t the same, I was just saying people do get degrees that way.

avatar Kate July 27, 2011, 7:20 pm

A research project leads to a thesis, which is the write up of analyzed data.

And I am sure people get those degrees, there are plenty of degree mills out there. Florida is not one of them, though. :-)

avatar beans629 July 27, 2011, 9:05 pm

>>That’s science…impossible to do online.

Not impossible at all. Welcome to the new world of technology in education. I have taken several science classes in the online environment and loved it. It’s not for everyone because it takes A LOT of discipline to read/learn the material and be prepared for the exams and labs.
I’ve taken several chemistry classes online in which all of the homework and lectures were online and I showed up twice a month to do the labs and take exams.
I’ve also taken a physics class online in which the instructor handed the class a packet of labs at the orientation meeting to be turned in at the next exam time.
And there’s a new concept hitting the market in which companies (packaged with your books, I think) are providing ‘lab kits’ for students to do the lab portions in their homes.

avatar Kate July 27, 2011, 9:14 pm

I still say it’s impossible to learn lab skills online or out of a kit. How can a person have a real chemistry lab (gen chem, orgo, physical) in a kit? Or biology?

Lectures online? Sure, I’ve taught them. Do I think it’s the same as being in class, learning with your peers? No way. I think it’s very difficult to learn the material, and you’re correct, it takes a lot of discipline.

I understand people taking a general ed class online, even a lecture portion of a science class. But an entire science MAJOR? Nope. You sure as hell wouldn’t get into graduate school or any tech job. And a school that claims you will is doing the students a disservice.

My school spent millions in trying to develop full online degrees. It failed miserably. I think online education is very valuable in SOME cases, such as continuing ed for working professionals for research updates, including science areas. But not for an undergraduate degree in science.

katie katie July 27, 2011, 9:25 pm

i hope that isn’t true in all sciences… im hoping to one day get a degree in food science, and i am hoping to get it online so i can keep working full time.

what are you thoughts on an online food science degree? it is from Kansas State

avatar Kate July 27, 2011, 9:31 pm

Kstate is a good school, I have 2 good friends there in Animal Science. I am not familiar with their Food Science online program at all.

If I had to guess, not all of the classes are online. It would impossible in Food Science, since you do a lot of micro and processing stuff. I think it depends on what you really want to do. I have lots of friends in the food science area, but they all did traditional degrees and they all have MS or PhDs. But they love their jobs!

It’s very difficult to work full time and complete an undergrad degree. I am just being honest.

katie katie July 27, 2011, 10:53 pm

no- i need honesty, lol. I dont know anything about online schools.. i just know that i now have finantial responsibilities, and so i wont be able to just quit everything and go back to school, you know? i only got into this food science thing about 2 years ago.. i was originally in baking and pastry, got an associates in that, and decided against getting my bachelors because i wanted to do my bachelors in food science instead (better money, better hours, less stress). ive been out of school now for like a year, and i just really really dont want to go back! haha

Skyblossom Skyblossom July 28, 2011, 10:45 am

I agree! Kids need their dads to stick around and raise them as much as they need their mom to stick around and raise them.

becboo84 BecBoo84 July 27, 2011, 4:10 pm

Actually, I’m pretty sure my advice would be the same regardless of whether it was a mommy or daddy who wrote in. Depending on the age of your children, you should NOT move away from them. Also, it is baffling to me how you think someone who was verbally abusive you would never do that to your children. What kind of counseling, etc. did he receive to ensure that he was no longer abusive?

Regardless of whether my children’s father could provide for them more financially, I would never consider anything below a 50/50 split.. Considering moving away from your children doesn’t make you a bad mom, but it might be indicative of the fact that you weren’t actually ready to be a mom. It’s hard enough being away from my kids for a night, much less moving far away from them.

I am sure this seems overly harsh, but as a mom, I found it incredibly difficult to empathize with the LW’s position.

JK JK July 27, 2011, 7:56 pm

My thoughts exactly, what guarantee is there that the father is no longer verbally abusive?
Plus the financial argument doesn’t hold much weight wither… isn’t that what alimony/child support is for?
I have 2 daughters and there’s no way in hell I would live far away from them, no matter what… I know there are plenty of women that can and do that, but I’m definitely not one of them!

katie katie July 27, 2011, 9:07 pm

i agree- i dont have any kids, but i have a cat, and i cant even stand being away from her. im gonna be such a clingy parent lol

avatar Sarah July 27, 2011, 4:41 pm

To be honest, I think we would be harsher. How does it look to have a man move far away from his children so he can pursue a degree he could easily get close to his kids?

avatar silver_dragon_girl July 27, 2011, 4:52 pm

She’s not moving away from them, though. HE’S moving THEM away from HER. She can either stay where she is, move with them, or move somewhere else. Those are her three options. And people can say all they want that “oh, it’s the military, he doesn’t have a choice.” Well, actually, he does have a choice. He could have gotten out when they had kids, but he didn’t. This is his career. He knows it involves lots of random moves and lots of deployments, but it’s OK for him to choose to leave his kids for a year at a time? Why is it okay for him to choose that path and not her, for her career?

That’s where I think the double-standard comes in.

avatar Maracuya July 27, 2011, 5:04 pm

You think that with him being constantly deployed, she would want/get more custody, or that they could come to some sort of arrangement.

avatar Sarah July 27, 2011, 5:12 pm

She made it clear she only had two options: move with her kids and ex, move home with family. She’s moving no matter what.

I’m pretty sure they don’t just let you leave the military just because you have kids. Even if he could, he’s working at a job that pays well for his children, if the LW were leaving to do the same thing, my answer would be much different towards her. Mothers work in the military all the time, I am certainly not opposed to that.

I can guarantee you that if a man came on here asking for permission to move away from his kids to get a degree when he could get one close to his kids that I would also tell him to stay near his children while earning his degree, and so would a lot others, I think.

avatar sleepy July 27, 2011, 5:30 pm

Thank you! I know the kids are hers, but it she really supposed to move every time HE moves, and have no life now that they are NOT married. It is a shame that some assume that she GAVE up custody. She maybe just wasn’t the better parent, we don’t know. I think she should do it so maybe she can earn more money and gain more custody of her kids in the long run.

Skyblossom Skyblossom July 28, 2011, 10:48 am

But she agreed to give him 70% custody so she agreed to having them moved all over the place and away from her. This is all the result of her agreement. With a 50/50 agreement he wouldn’t be able to move the kids away.

katie katie July 27, 2011, 9:23 pm

i wouldn’t tell a man to move away from his kids to finish a degree. i grew up from around a pre teen into an adult without my dad being there all the time, and i would never advise another father to do that.

anyone who would tell a mom to stay and a dad to leave shouldn’t be allowed to comment on parental issues.

bittergaymark bittergaymark July 28, 2011, 10:55 am

The fact that so many people thumbs down logical points such as this, only proves that they themselves will undoubtedly be lousy parents. The Thumbsdowners won’t agree with me on this, obviously. Sadly, their kids, though, will.

katie katie July 28, 2011, 9:03 pm

only more evidence that we need some sort of screening process/ application to become a parent. i actually wrote a law like that for my high school’s mock congress. we had a hell of a time trying to figure out how to enforce it, but the idea still stands.

avatar Sarah July 27, 2011, 3:48 pm

I am very confused about a couple of things. So, you gave up 70% custody of your children because
A.) he makes more money than you
B.) he has a good support system
C.) he’s a good dad.

A.) Wouldn’t he give you child support even in 50/50 custody or even more child support if you had them more? The same amount of money would be given to the children either way, right?
B.) isn’t his support system (I’m guessing that means like, family that can watch over them and visit the kids, right?) the kids’ support system? Meaning that they will support the kids no matter who’s custody they’re in? And if they’re support in the way of watching the kids, didn’t you say you had a job you could work from home at, and in that way, almost ALWAYS be able to watch your kids?
C.) Lots of good dads have half custody, and you said you are a good mother, so why does he deserve more? Especially seeing as he has a history of verbal abuse?

So, that is all confusing to me. Anyway, moving on. You want to know if its ok to leave your kids and give their dad most (like 90%? I don’t even know anymore) of the custody so you can pursue your dream in your hometown. Like commentors above, I’m going to ask, are your children old enough that they’re are just about to leave the nest as well in a few years? If your kids aren’t all like juniors and seniors, then the answer is no, I absolutely do not think you should leave them. Even if they are I think its puuuushing it, but if you worked with them they might understand.

Sooo, you do know there are other programs for geologists in other places besides your hometown, right? I know moving with your family puts things up in the air..but uh…looking up geology programs near your kids would take like, a day. Not even a day, like, an hour. And seeing is how your ex will support you anywhere you go, wont it make much more sense for your kids for you to pursue your dream near them? I mean, I could throw a rock (lol rock) a hit a school that offers a geology degree. If they don’t have them in the town you’re going to, look one town over and find one there.

Geology may be your dream, but your kids are your priority. You love them more than anything in the world and that should be enough to change, but not stop, your pursuit of geology.

avatar kerrycontrary July 27, 2011, 4:12 pm

Yeh I feel like the LW is using the geology program in her home town almost as an excuse. Like she wants to move home for other reasons such as being closer to her family and friends.

avatar Sarah July 27, 2011, 4:24 pm

Yeah, I couldn’t shake that feeling either. It was something about how she made it so black and white. “Either I go home to my family and pursue my dream and everything is perfect or I go with my kids and nobody offers anything for my dream ever and it dies.”

This isn’t like a single job opportunity that she only has once chance and location to accept. Hundreds of schools in the country offer geology degrees. It would not be a hugely difficult compromise to get her degree close to her kids. That is, if she wants to compromise.

Budj Budjer July 27, 2011, 4:33 pm

I viewed it as it is probably more financially feasible for her to do it at home.

avatar Colleen July 27, 2011, 5:18 pm

I wonder if she’s going for a graduate degree, not a B.S. That program would be much harder to find.

avatar kali July 28, 2011, 2:20 pm

The geology program will be there when the kids are grown.

avatar AKchic July 27, 2011, 3:49 pm

I am the opposite of you and your ex-husband. I am in AK with the kids while he is in NJ (by choice). I have spoken on the subject of my 2nd husband and I before, and we have a great relationship (after our divorce), and I am going to give you my advice, and my thoughts on this subject:

Each divorce and relationship is different. Your ex supports your decision. You didn’t mention how old your children were, or how close/far away you would be living from them. You didn’t say how you were going to support yourself during your schooling. These things do matter.
My kids are 11, 9, and 7. My ex and I have been separated since they were 7, 5, and almost 4. My ex visits whenever he can – school breaks, holidays, etc. I fly with the kids one way and travel back by myself, and he flies them home, or vice versa when it’s time for him to have them for a summer or for a holiday break.

The age issue will be important, and how you plan to keep in contact. For a while, when we could afford it (before money got too tight), we had a big phone plan with Alaskan phones (so people in AK could call my ex in emergencies without calling long distance, or could allow the kids to call at anytime without long distance bills) so we could do free mobile to mobile calls. We still call every night he has off (he works nights as an EMT and is in school many nights), we Skype video chat every night/day he can (weekends, nights off, holidays he isn’t with them, etc).

You aren’t a bad parent for wanting to further your education so you can get a better job to help support your children. That is a worthy goal. Yes, there is a stigma because you are the mother, but honestly, that just means you’ll need to work harder to be the top of your class, and visit your kids as much as possible. Be as interactive in their life via phone, email and internet as possible. Unconventional relationships are still relationships.
If you want to know more on how to help make a long distance parent/child relationship work, please let me know – I might be able to help you. Either myself or my ex would be able to give you some pointers.

avatar honeybeenicki July 27, 2011, 3:55 pm

When my husband and I began dating, I was all set to move to Arizona (I’d been accepted to a new school, had a job lined up, had housing lined up, and was starting to pack). Once I realized how serious my husband and I were getting, we had to make a decision together. At the time, his kids were 5 and 7 and even though I wanted to move (my lifelong dream) and even he wanted to move, together we decided that it wasn’t right to leave the kids. Now… I’m not saying this is what is right for you. We would have been many states away. Actually, we would have essentially been on the other side of the country (WI to AZ). And that was not something either one of us wanted to do and we knew it wasn’t what was best for the kids. Now, we still plan to move, but not until well after they have graduated (they are 11 and 13 now).

The point to my post is this… no one but you can decide if this is the right decision for you. How far away will you be from them? How will they react and how will you react? To be honest, I don’t think you should and I’ll tell you why – the fact that you had to write this letter tells me that there is enough doubt in your mind about the idea being best for your kids. Is there a way to find a school closer to where your kids will be to get your degree? Do online courses to, at the very least, get any general education courses under your belt before deciding if you want to move away from them (thus also giving you less time that you’d have to be away)? Ultimately, you need to keep their best interest in mind.

avatar JennyTalia July 27, 2011, 4:03 pm

I don’t have kids so maybe I’m not in a position to give advice, but I say go. “should I move home to pursue my dream of becoming a geologist at a school in my hometown that has that degree, or try to keep my current job, which can be done from home, and move with him to an area that I don’t know anyone and none of the schools have my degree?” It sounds like you already resent your ex for halting your dream, and could end up continuing down that path and possibly bringing the kids into that.

You also say you can do your current job from home – so is it possible to keep that job and go to school? Further, is it possible to find that degree elsewhere or even online so you can be closer to your kids? What about reversing custody for a few years, since you’ll be closer to family who can help you? Are the living circumstances likely to change again in the near future, where you could possibly wait and go later? And like a previous commenter said, if you work hard you can finish in less than 4 years – I did mine in 3 and could have done it faster if I had absolutely no life.

If it were me, which it isn’t so take this for what it’s worth, I’d go. I know myself and I know I’d end up regretting it if I don’t – it’s a short-term plan that could lead to a lifetime of personal satisfaction. Also alluding to posts above, the children’s age would be a major consideration. Kids who are too young to understand what’s going on may be a bit more sensitive. Yet kids who are a little older would understand and respect you for following your dream – you’d be setting a great example.