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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

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{ 161 comments… add one }

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.

avatar Princess Bananahammock July 27, 2011, 4:05 pm

I’ll preface this by saying that I personally have some abandonment issues . . . I’ve previously expressed the opinion (usually in the context of a father that moves away for a job) that parents should do anything they can to be near their children. To me, I don’t see how the marginal benefit of going to this particular geology school could outweigh the option of being near your kids and exploring your options for a geology or other degree in their area.

If it weren’t for the fact that your ex has been ordered to move by the military, I’d actually say he was in the wrong for uprooting them. I just don’t see how a job could replace time with your kids. But, I will echo other comments and say that if your kids are nearing adulthood, maybe that changes things.

Budj Budjer July 27, 2011, 4:13 pm

Absolutely move with your kids if they are pre-teens and then work part-time to get through school. It takes longer, but it gets done.

The other option, if necessary, is work full-time and do an online degree. There are a lot of colleges that cater to working adults that aren’t just online. Often there are colleges that actually do meet in person while a good chunk of the course work is online – granted you may have to drive a distance – but they are like hybrid physical / on-line colleges.

I suggest this because I’m guessing you don’t really care about what school…my guess is financially it would be easier to do it from home with your families support…with that in mind…you can do both and it will take a year or two longer, but it will be done and you will still be with your kids if they are at an impressionable age. In most instances, in the science field, if you want to get beyond a technician position you will need a grad degree anyways. At that time your kids will be older and you can have your options for a graduate program.

Budj Budjer July 27, 2011, 4:28 pm

To put more perspective on it when I was 18 I signed up for roughly $150,000 (stupid expensive private schools..whole ‘nother story) to go to school and live on my own for four years and get my degree. I’m paying for it now, but I have the degree to compensate. I’m not saying you need to take out that much money the point is you could work part-time and borrow some cash in the form of school loans to get the rest of what you would need to financially get through it.

This is all of course pending your financial situation and other personal things I could not possibly be privvy to.

avatar Jena July 27, 2011, 4:24 pm

No. Your kids come first.

avatar Schwinny July 27, 2011, 4:35 pm

This isn’t a simple yes or no question. I agree with others — talk to your kids, talk to your ex. Is it possible to do the early part of the degree at community college to keep the costs down and flexibility. Also, what happens after the geology degree? Will you be able to find work nearby? Is he likely to move again with the military, leaving you with another decision about moving later? You really need to discuss the future beyond just this one decision, making sure to leave options open. Also worth considering, will arrangements get more complicated once one or both of you gets into a new relationship?

avatar Maracuya July 27, 2011, 5:06 pm

Yeah, what happens if you meet someone? Would you keep moving from city to city following your ex-husband so you can be with your kids? What a complicated issue.

avatar TheeCoolOne July 27, 2011, 5:04 pm

why doesn’t she stay with them but commute to a school closer? possibly take community college classes then transfer? I think if she stays away too long the kids might hold some resentment later in life. I think she should explore some more options. Maybe wait until your kids are teenagers.

avatar SGMcG July 27, 2011, 5:19 pm

First off, it’s great that your ex-husband will be so supportive if you choose to get the degree, but are you certain that this support, based on your shared history, will last? Personally, I’m more disturbed that you don’t have a written custody agreement, even though the arrangements have been generally discussed and agreed upon. If you get anything from these comments LW, PLEASE go see a lawyer so that the spirit of your custody arrangement is in writing – that’s even more important now that your ex is moving and in the military. Heaven forbid something should happen to him, don’t you want to make sure that you are a guaranteed guardian for the kids?

Although I agree with everyone’s sentiment that your kids come first and that you ideally should NOT move away from them, I recognize that life and opportunities doesn’t always present itself that way. I don’t know if moving away from your kids to pursue a degree would be an absolute detriment to the way your kids grow up though. President Barack Obama’s mom remained in Indonesia for doctorate opportunities in her field of anthropology while he went to live with his grandparents in Hawaii from 5th grade into his highschool years – and I think he turned out all right.

Although the President’s Mom did leave Barack with his grandparents in Hawaii for stability, the President’s opinion regarding his high school education was asked. Have you asked the kids what would be their reasonable ideal? Do they want to stay with their father?

You mention that you will be moving closer to your friends and family should you pursue your degree. Would this mean that the support network that you would have if you pursued your degree is comparable enough to that of your ex-husband in the military? Because if your kids have to move and transfer to new schools due to his military orders, would they like having their schooling in one definitive place for a set amount of time, rather than being subject to their father’s deployment terms?

Also LW, how about first pursuing an associates in a related field, or something that would benefit your dream geology degree first, at a community college before going for the main degree first? Not only will you have the opportunity to be close to the kids, but you can fully assess if this degree is something you want or can handle? There are a lot of options you can explore here LW, so please don’t think that you have to go to one extreme to another to pursue what you want for your career and what is best for your kids.

avatar SpaceySteph July 27, 2011, 5:27 pm

I vote to follow the kids. Your kids have been through alot already- parents divorced, dad gets deployed, they have to move because dad gets reassigned, and now mom moves away? That would be extremely rough.

There can’t be that many more years left of their childhood (even if they’re still in elementary school, that time will fly). Your life doesn’t end at 50 or even 60 or 70… you could go back to school and pursue a second degree when the youngest turns 18. You don’t have to do it right this minute, and as others have pointed out the economy is kinda crap now anyways so you might not even get the job you wanted with that degree.

Is there any prep work you could do online- maybe get your basic foundations (where I’m from they call them General Education- english, math, history, etc) and then only have your degree specific classes to take in a few years? Or maybe even a completely online program- it might be lest prestigious but would give you the opportunity to learn and be with your kids. Then you can feel like you’re moving in that direction without abandoning your kids.

avatar Painted_lady July 27, 2011, 5:43 pm

Okay, LW, quick story. My dad was verbally abusive growing up, toward me, my mom, and my younger brother. My mom started realizing it was NOT RIGHT about the time I hit my teens (my brother is 9 years younger, so he was 4), and she started standing up to him. She’d make him leave and cool off when he was out-of-control angry, she’d call him out on the emotional manipulation BS, etc. Then my brother told her it upset him. It scared him to see them fighting, and God knows no one was going to stop my dad, so he went to the parent who would listen. And she did. She smoothed things over as best as possible, let him say all sorts of awful things to her, and never addressed it in front of my brother. Fast forward 16 years, and my brother has zero respect for women, but most especially her – they recently bought a new house, and while they were looking my brother told my mom my dad was being generous to let her have a say because he makes the overwhelming majority of the income. Wonder where he got that from? So, my point is this: as a parent your job is to look at the long-term, and sometimes you should risk upsetting them short-term for something that will teach them a far more valuable lesson long-term. My mom, with the best of intentions, avoided confrontation with my father to avoid upsetting my brother short-term, while in the long-term, what she did was send the message that talking to women – and my mother – as if they aren’t really people is okay.

Your kids know you hate your job, I’d bet. And I bet they know you’ve kept it to remain with them. So I would go back to school. But I would make sure it happens in a way that sends the message that you are NOT abandoning them. Is there another school you can attend closer to your kids? I know this is stupidly obvious, but people work their way through school and live independently all the time. How far will you be from your kids if you do move home? Is it an inconvenient drive to make round trip in a single day (5 hours) or is it an impossible drive (18 hours)? If it’s inconvenient, see if your ex will help with gas money so you can come see them when you can. My family moved 5 hours away when I was in kindergarten, but my mom and I stayed behind till the end of the school year, and my dad would regularly make the drive there and back in a single day just to come take us to dinner. Arrange your class schedule so that you have some flexibility to do just that if you can. Help them move, and let them help you move. Do things to make sure you’re included in their lives and vice versa, and they shouldn’t feel abandoned. I’m not sure age is as big a factor as people think. Younger kids may not understand, but they tend to accept what you tell them at face value (“Mommy’s got to go away for a little bit to go to school so she can get a better job that makes her happy”), whereas older kids may be more suspicious and resentful, but they understand things on a more complex level (“Mom’s not abandoning you, she’s just off to college and it’s only going to be a few years.”), and once it’s clear you really aren’t abandoning them, they’ll relax on the whole resentment thing. Let them see your school, too, and show them all the things you’re excited about. Include them in this, and ultimately I think they will respect you for pursuing your education.

Skyblossom Skyblossom July 28, 2011, 10:33 am

For a small child a little bit is a few minutes, not four years. Even at the age of 11 my daughter finds a year to be a very long time. Yes, a child would feel abandoned if you were gone for four years. They would notice every time you weren’t at their school programs or activities. It’s especially important to show up if your kids don’t live close to their grandparents and extended family because then there is no one else to show up to see their special moments. When their dad moves around for deployments that probably don’t usually have extended family in the area to take up the slack and so it is more important for both mom and dad to show up if at all possible.

avatar Turtledove July 27, 2011, 5:58 pm

Yeah, I’m not entirely convinced the LW has done all her homework on this one. There are a lot of ways to come up with a creative option that would work better. The letter reads like she’s sick of following her ex around (and who wouldn’t be) and she wants permission to move back home. But she hasn’t lived at “home” for 8 years already. There’s something to be said for growing roots where you’re planted at a certain point. It’s nice to be near friends, but one of the great things about going to college is being in a situation where it’s easy to make new friends. So I have a few questions, concerns and thoughts for the LW.

1. Is there a program with her degree within an hour and a half of where her ex is moving? That’s not a pleasant commute, but she could live and work near her program and still see the kids multiple times a week.

2. Can she go to community college in the new town and transfer the courses? If there is someone she could live with in her hometown while she’s pursuing her degree, it would even be reasonable to take courses at the community college in the fall and at the college in her hometown in the spring. Then at least she’s near the kids in the fall and summer… and she’d only be gone 3 months in the spring.

3. Can she go to community college in the new town and then do a blitz on all the upper level coursework and finish it in 2 years or less? This also shortens the time away from the kids (or if she can manage this for a time when dad is deployed, then it would be reasonable to take the kids with her)

4. And I hate to be a killjoy, but has she researched whether a BS in geology is going to enable her to get a job? I’m just asking. I know, it’s her dream and dreams aren’t always rational; it’s not even a crazy dream and if she didn’t have children it would be another story. But the hard sciences are really suffering right now. My husband is a biologist which is a well-funded hard science with a lot of options in both academics and industry– but there are no jobs to be had for love or money on any level. Nobody is even hiring techs. So realistically, without any graduate work, how viable is this dream? It’s unfortunate, but that’s a consideration once children are involved too. Especially considering the sacrifice the LW might be asking of them in order to pursue it. If it’s a huge sacrifice with minimal payback, then it’s better to wait until the children are out of high school.

5. How old are the kids? If they’re too young to be able to set up a Skype conversation with you without help, then they’re too young for you to leave. Maintaining a long-distance relationship is work– and if it requires a lot of work from your ex for you to be in constant contact with the kids, then you can’t realistically expect to be in contact as much as you or they would like. Not because he’s mean, but because people run out of time when they’re caring for children and a household and have a job and seriously need to get dinner on and the laundry sorted. Older kids need their mommy too, but I think it’s easier when they’re older and more verbal to get more of their needs from digital mommy. Your teenager can text you, your 6 year old cannot.

These are some of the things the LW seriously needs to consider as she makes her decision.

caitie_didnt caitie_didn't July 27, 2011, 9:31 pm

Second the fact that it’s next to impossible to get a job in the physical sciences right now. I’m also in Biology, and a B.Sc is an essentially useless degree- you need *at least* a master’s to be considered for any sort of worthwhile or interesting job.

avatar Christy July 28, 2011, 9:04 am

You need a masters for most jobs, now. Otherwise you generally are just using your “look I have a college degree” rather than any sort of area knowledge.

avatar MovingAgain August 9, 2011, 3:36 am

1. No, there are no Geology degrees available where we are moving to, there is an enviromental science degree, but that isn’t what I want to do. My ex wants to move back to where we are now and I would like to study earthquakes and fault lines, which is perfect for this area ;)
2 and 3. I’ve already finished my general education requirements where we are, I can pretty much get a degree in 2 years.
4. Geology degrees are doing quite well in this economy, most of the jobs are in oil and natural gas, but there are many other jobs in other geology areas. The problem with geology is that most people think of it as just rocks when there is so much more involved
5. Yes we have plans in place, I have internet and a phone, I plan on calling them everyday like I do now. My kids have even asked me why I don’t move “home” and I’ve always explained that I want to be near them. They know I’m not happy where we are, but we are all hoping for a new beginning.
Thank you for your questions. :)

avatar Soup July 27, 2011, 6:08 pm

Have you asked your kids what they’d like? They may wish to see you go after your dream. Otherwise, Turtledove’s got several great suggestions to help with options that are nearby. Especially if there are pre-reqs that can be satisfied (much cheaper!) at a community college. That could give you two more years in the same community as your kids.

Also, apart from researching the likely jobs post-degree, look into whether there’d be jobs available close to most bases. That way, if your ex is transferred again in the future, you’ll know whether there are options to remain close to your kids.

And a final note – why do people get in such an uproar about a mom living farther away from kids, and yet dads tend to get more freedom for that? There are some double-standards that should probably be revisited.

avatar Miranda July 27, 2011, 6:19 pm

Honestly, I would make sure you’ve really looked at the custody agreement. I know that the Army in particular has regulations requiring parents to obey custody orders – if your husband moving your children across the country would violate your custody rights, he may be able to have his orders waived/changed. In most custody agreements, parents cannot change the residence of the children from the metropolitan area without a court’s permission.

bittergaymark bittergaymark July 27, 2011, 6:29 pm

Some people never seem to grasp that once you have kids it’s really truly best to put their needs ahead of yours. I can’t imagine moving far away from my kids just to become a geologist. But then, perhaps people like me actually understand the value of things they don’t have. Whereas those who do have them simply don’t.

avatar LTC039 July 27, 2011, 6:58 pm

Exactly.

Skyblossom Skyblossom July 28, 2011, 10:22 am

The parent child relationship is unlike any other relationship you will ever have. Your children are totally dependant on you to meet their physical and emotional needs and that will never happen with anyone else. I think you have an obligation to be there for your kids because they do so much better if you do. They didn’t ask to be born, you choose to have them and that means you assume the responsibility for them. Sometimes you have to delay your wants to meet their needs.

My son is twenty and still sometimes sits down and asks for my advice, especially about college, what classes to take and how many classes to take. He only does that because he has twenty years of experience of me being available and willing to answer his questions and help with his concerns. That’s a result of being available day in and day out.

avatar Kate July 27, 2011, 7:17 pm

Let me preface my comment with: I don’t have kids. Personally, the LW is confusing…she gave her ex 70% custody, and now wants to pursue a dream that can only occur in her hometown? Ok, fine, I pursue my dream every day. I won’t begrudge her that.

She mentions in her letter she has been divorced for 8 years. If she got married at 20, which to me is extremely young, she would be 28. Since she wants to go back to school for geology and that’s a 4 year degree, that puts her at 32, at the earliest. That’s saying she can get into school.

Now, maybe she has a BS already, and she is looking at a grad program, that she can get into after not being in the field for 8 years…good luck. It is TOUGH out there. Like someone stated earlier, there is NO money for research right now, unless you are out working in industry. And they have tightened their budgets as well. LW will be competing against people coming out of school with top notch internships or undergrad research in the best labs.

The point: I have a PhD in science. I love what I do, but it is not easy, and it wasn’t easy as an undergrad. If I had kids before I started, I can easily say, there is NO WAY I would leave them to get a degree in a field that very likely requires graduate work and fairly specific places for jobs. I mentioned her possible age, because like it or not, it DOES make a difference when looking for a position within a pool of younger people. If she could do this in the city with her kids, I would say it was more doable.

I am not saying that she shouldn’t get a degree, but it seems like the dream field doesn’t seem likely.

katie katie July 27, 2011, 8:50 pm

and even further then that- if she does become a geologist- dont they regularly have to go to remote areas of the world to dig up stuff? wouldn’t she be setting herself up to be away from her kids even more?

avatar Kate July 27, 2011, 8:54 pm

Well, not necessarily remote, but most of the jobs available are in the oil and gas industry. The jobs are concentrated in those areas, so I think travel is part of the deal for sure.

katie katie July 27, 2011, 10:27 pm

ah, alright. i think i was thinking it was like being an archaeologist.. I dont really know anything about geology, actually, except that I really didn’t want to take that class in high school because they went away and camped in the mountains for a weekend and I hate camping… haha. i was much more into laser optics

katie katie July 27, 2011, 8:47 pm

ok, all I will tell you is what happened to me when my mom and dad got divorced: my mom left to move to colorado, my dad in minnesota. she was away from us for a couple years while she got situated and found a job and such. during that time, i just kind of had to grow up. as a 12 year old, i was all of a sudden cleaning the house, cooking meals for the family, and doing general housework. we eventually got a maid because, at 12, i obviously sucked. also, my “growing up” included trying to shave my legs, and getting my first period. i never even had a period talk with my mom, or anyone else (i was homeschooled- terrible thing, dont do it to your kids) and i literally thought i was dying. i had to deal with all that kind of stuff -girl stuff- on my own.

i dont know your individual situation, or even if you have girls or boys or whatever, but i would just say to think really hard about the potential implications that being away from your kids would produce. i dont hate my mother for what she did, it was actually the best thing that ever happened to me when I eventually moved in with her and went to school and became a normal member of society and all that, but i know that if there would have been a way for her to do it without being away from me, i wish she would have done it that way.

avatar anonymous July 27, 2011, 11:41 pm

Quick comment — be careful about blanket statements! Homeschooling may have been terrible for YOU in your situation (and depending on the teacher, it absolutely can be). But for many, it’s a lifesaver, and the statistics show that homeschoolers in general do better in college, academically and socially. (Just a shout-out for homeschooling!)

katie katie July 27, 2011, 11:50 pm

oh i totally agree that it can work well for the right kids, but i know that my parents didnt have a clue as to how to be a teacher… i was given a tape to learn math with, and i would literally fast forward the tape and play pac man in my dad’s office where i was supposed to be learning math. i am, to this day, terrible at simple math and need a calculator all the time. i just think that we should let people who actually went to school to learn how to teach be the teachers. it has to be done extremely right in every way- like the parents cant cut any corners or do anything wrong.. but yes, of course, blanket statements are never correct- thats just mathimatically impossible. lol. but i seriously hated my homeschooling days. i had no friends.

avatar kate July 27, 2011, 11:58 pm

I’ve always wondered what the advantages of homeschooling are. The homeschooled kids I knew were from extremely religious families and didn’t approve of our state’s curriculum.

avatar Painted_lady July 28, 2011, 12:42 am

Actually, I was friends with a huge group of homeschooled kids from two different families when I was growing up. One was pretty religious, one was not overly so, although to be perfectly honest if I hadn’t known the kids were homeschooled I wouldn’t have suspected a thing about them, either with their religion or even the fact that they were all homeschooled. Both the mothers were certified teachers, and that meant they were already familiar with pacing, teaching to different learning styles, etc. The kids were all smart, and they were socialized outside of school because they were heavily involved with the local theatre – that’s how I knew them; we were all running around backstage together. They got A LOT of experience because all the tech kids could come in and work during the day, and then the actor kids could stay late at rehearsals because the mothers would let them sleep in a little in the mornings – not like me; if a rehearsal ended at 11 pm that meant I had 7 hours to get home, do homework, crash a few hours and stumble back out the door for school. So by the time one of the boys graduated, he was working as the master electrician for the theatre when most of the kids I went to school with barely knew how to hang a lighting instrument right-side up. They all had this great work ethic, and most of them are working in theatre or film now. I realize they were unusual, but I think that’s some of the intent behind homeschooling kids.

avatar Christy July 28, 2011, 8:15 am

One of my best friends from college was home-schooled, and the advantage is that you have control over the curriculum. She and her four sisters were home-schooled for religious reasons, so she got a LOT of bible education, which was important to her family. Her parents are also both wicked smart, so she was incredibly well-educated. She could start taking college classes in early high school, and she took lots of outside lessons–in such diverse areas as French and theatre. It’s a lot more flexibility, which can be good or bad, but in her case, it was good. You’d never know she was home-schooled by interacting with her. She’s the (second-)most well centered and grounded person I know.

katie katie July 28, 2011, 9:10 pm

to painted lady and christy- these are perfect examples of what successful home schooling looks like. things like being a certified teacher, actively socializing your kids, and having very smart parents all can make for well adjusted home schooled kids…

my parents bought some books from a catalogue and handed them to me…. lol.

i just had such an awesome experience in high school (the evil, public school kinda, haha) that i just feel like it isn’t needed. what home school children ultimately come out with, in my opinion, is a specific skill or the drive to be very smart… both of those things you can get from traditional school. in homeschool, your mom is constantly hovering, making sure you are being the smartest you can be. you can work as fast or as slow as you want. in addition, you can focus all your attention on specific things. in high school, you can actually have that to if you have the right drive to do it. a girl i knew in school, she graduated 2 years ahead of me, graduated high school halfway through her sophomore year of college. she had that many college credits. i just think that you can get the same results with either option. on the other hand, if your parents are like mine, you can really really suck at math.. lol

avatar Lulu July 27, 2011, 9:03 pm

When a couple divorces they decide to go their separate ways. If the custody of the children is in the hands of one parent they have to go with that parent. As the ex-wife you do not. You don’t say how far away your family is from where your ex is moving to; if it is a several hour drive you could visit every or every other weekend. If you live further from them than that maybe you could make an effort to get into town to see your children’s baseball game; or the performance of a school play they had a part in.

I tell you this out of experience, when I was young my parents divorced and my father decided to live closer to his family two hours away. He never showed interest in my school projects he was never at school events, even though I asked him to come. If he had tried; if he had come to see me in a play just once, if he had called more than just on my birthday (sometimes) it would have proven that he was invested, I would have understood that his hometown had better opportunities for him. But because he did not make the effort (as you would) we grew apart.

So pursue your dream. Just make sure your children know that even though you can’t be there that you love them, support them and haven’t forgotten about them. You have to be in the same city or state for your children to know that you love them.

avatar Lulu July 27, 2011, 9:05 pm

(you don’t have to be in the same city)

fast eddie fast eddie July 27, 2011, 9:23 pm

The most important factor in making this decision is: How do the kids feel about it. If they’re old enough to understand how the move effects them by all means listen to what they have to say about it. Most comments assume that this this would come off exactly as planned. It’s far more likely that circumstances will require adjustments for all parties from time to time. The same can be said for any family even a traditional storybook one.

Especially since she has only partial custody, I think it’s commendable that she’s thinking ahead and taking responsibility for creating a better future for all of them. As long as the whole group is part of that process it could work out quite nicely.

personal note: Crossroads my dear anything and everything you do affects your kids for years to come. Getting an education under less then optimal circumstances is a lesson in overcoming difficulty that is of considerable merit. With today’s digital connections keeping involved with them is easy and possibly more effective then face to face. Your obviously a caring and loving mother and that’s the most important thing. I do hope you’ll let us know how it works out.

avatar Peter July 27, 2011, 9:39 pm

Talk first to the kids, and remember that a happy and fulfilled mother is always a better mother than someone full of regrets, hopfully your relationship with your kids is for life and one day a rough time 40 or 50 years ago WILL BE FORGOTTEN

Skyblossom Skyblossom July 28, 2011, 9:02 am

If she moves and ends up losing her relationship with her kids the regrets may have to do with that loss rather than with her education. There can always be regrets no matter which way she chooses.

fast eddie fast eddie July 28, 2011, 9:03 am

Rather then forgotten they will have a memory of their mother pursuing an education while dealing with the emotional turmoil of separation. There’s bound to be some resentment but if their Dad takes up cause and supports the kids and her it will end well. I bet they’ll be proud of her and only regret their self serving desire for non-stop attention. Again, if Dad does his best to take up the slack this story will have a happy ending.

avatar L July 27, 2011, 9:48 pm

When I was 10 years old, we moved to the US from a different country. Since my parents were extremely poor, they took all kind of odd and low jobs and worked ridiculous hours every day. They also couldn’t afford to have me live with them, so in order to build up some savings, I lived with the family of one of their friends for two years. My parents called me every day and I saw them on the weekends. I really didn’t like where I was living so after two years I finally moved home, but again, I saw them rarely because they were at work. While *intellectually* I realized that they were doing their best and had no choice in the situation, *emotionally* it was a different response. It’s taken about 15 years to repair our relationship and I’ve had to work through some intimacy issues in my own romantic relationships.

avatar anonymous July 27, 2011, 11:44 pm

It all comes down to availability, doesn’t it? When I was a kid, my dad traveled extensively for work. Even though he & my mom were married, I felt like I never saw him, and she was definitely the main caregiver and disciplinarian. When I was in my 20s, he stayed home more and was obviously trying to create a relationship with me, but my emotional response was, “Well, you weren’t there when it counted. Why the heck are you trying to be in my life NOW?”

So — even in a marriage, availability is key. Of course, in those days we didn’t have skype, email, and so on (I’m OLD — 41). But now you do. Stay available, whatever you decide, and show your kids that you care about them!

avatar anonymous July 27, 2011, 11:44 pm

It all comes down to availability, doesn’t it? When I was a kid, my dad traveled extensively for work. Even though he & my mom were married, I felt like I never saw him, and she was definitely the main caregiver and disciplinarian. When I was in my 20s, he stayed home more and was obviously trying to create a relationship with me, but my emotional response was, “Well, you weren’t there when it counted. Why the heck are you trying to be in my life NOW?”

So — even in a marriage, availability is key. Of course, in those days we didn’t have skype, email, and so on (I’m OLD — 41). But now you do. Stay available, whatever you decide, and show your kids that you care about them!

avatar anonymous July 27, 2011, 11:44 pm

It all comes down to availability, doesn’t it? When I was a kid, my dad traveled extensively for work. Even though he & my mom were married, I felt like I never saw him, and she was definitely the main caregiver and disciplinarian. When I was in my 20s, he stayed home more and was obviously trying to create a relationship with me, but my emotional response was, “Well, you weren’t there when it counted. Why the heck are you trying to be in my life NOW?”

So — even in a marriage, availability is key. Of course, in those days we didn’t have skype, email, and so on (I’m OLD — 41). But now you do. Stay available, whatever you decide, and show your kids that you care about them!

avatar Skybird July 27, 2011, 10:26 pm

This depends on the age of the children involved, of course, but would it be possible for Mom and Dad to sit down and present the opportunity Mom has to the children? If the kids are old enough, and they see that Dad is fully supporting Mom in her decision, and there’s not just a plan for them to keep in touch, but you ask their thoughts, and their input on ways they think they could be in really good communication with Mom, it would give them some stake in it all. The other thing to consider and ask yourself, Mom, is there a place near where your ex is moving where you could apply for school? Then you could have the best of both worlds; pursuing your degree, AND being near your kids. Seriously look into the options where he is being stationed, and if at all possible, follow your kids. They need to see how adults, even (and maybe especially) divorced adults CAN and DO work together to really do what’s right for the kids, and where they can also be happy. Though it’s not a decision I would want to be faced with, personally, I feel very strongly that my kids would come first (and yes, I am a mother, too). I also feel that if you could pursue your higher education near your kids, they can really see that it’s never too late to go after your dreams, and they will be so proud of you when you attain yours. Just not at their expense. I wish the very best of luck to you all! Please update Dear Wendy after you’ve made a decision and things have settled down! I know I would really love to hear how things have worked out for you, and I’m sure the other avid Wendy readers would as well. You are all in my thoughts, and I wish you clarity of thought, and thoughtfullness for everyone considered. Again, good luck!

avatar Lindsay July 27, 2011, 10:31 pm

I don’t think there’s a right or wrong decision here. Yes, it’s good for kids to have both their parents close. But being a good parent also means giving your child an example of a person who pursues their dreams. And I’m not in favor of ALWAYS putting your child first. I’m a firm believer that that is a concept that developed sometime in the past couple of decades. Back in the day, parents’ lives didn’t revolve around their children, and people turned out fine (those people being our parents and those who came before them).

Not to mention, I’m curious as to why everyone expects the LW to move wherever her ex-husband moves. Moving where your current husband is transferred is one thing, but being forced into a cross-country move by someone you aren’t even married to is not fun.

Anyway, that aside, is it possible to pursue your dream closer to your children? It sucks to be away from your family and friends, but as an adult, it’s easier to take than it is as a child. And you can make your own “family” and friends if you move. If you do decide to move to be with your children, make sure you get out there and find people who can be a support system for you too.

katie katie July 27, 2011, 10:47 pm

i have to say i disagree with saying that earlier generations lives didnt revolve around their kids… many immigrant families went through absolute hell to get to america or the UK or whatever, and took horrible jobs just so that their kids would be able to grow up in those countries, where they would have a better opportunity then in other various countries. if thats not total dedication to their kids, i dont know what is. and going back further then that, when we all farmed our own food, people’s entire exsistences revolved around their kids by toiling day after day in the fields ensuring a good crop. i mean yes, those parents were also keeping themselves alive, but they worked to ensure that their children were able to grow up healthy and thrive.

as to moving where an ex is moving, i would have so much respect for a mother (or father, for that matter) who was willing to move to a different state to ensure relationships with their kids.

avatar Painted_lady July 28, 2011, 1:06 am

I think sometimes putting your kids first – especially if you’re doing it in the short-term only, see my post above – can be detrimental to the kids. My mom was a SAHM intentionally, but given that my brother and I were born nearly ten years apart, I can look back on my childhood and see the point where it must have started looking like a life sentence to her. She was at home full-time till my brother started first grade – that’s SIXTEEN YEARS of catering to our whims. Around the time my brother was a year old, she started fraying around the edges, and even though she never said anything, I knew without a doubt that my myriad activities were wearing her out. Without even really knowing why, I started feeling terribly guilty when she took me to Girl Scouts or basketball or riding lessons, and within a year, I quit all three because of it. She did all of that for me coming from a really good place, and honestly, looking back, it was way, way more than driving me to activities that was making her unhappy, but I took the blame. To this day, anytime anyone seems unhappy or irritated around me, I feel like I had something to do with it and that I have to fix it. If she had just said, hey, you gotta pick one thing you wanna do, kid, I’d probably have fared far better than just feeling this unhappiness and assuming it was me. That’s not to say that’s what’s *going* to happen without a doubt of she stays with her kids, but I don’t think there’s any guarantee that staying close by is going to stave off any issues in future. I’m not saying my mom being up-front would have fixed all my life’s problems. Hell, I’d probably be here saying how mean it was that my mother made me give up Girl Scouts. Just pointing out that, as a parent, thinking of yourself first occasionally is not an unforgivable offense.

avatar Painted_lady July 28, 2011, 1:16 am

Also, I realize I’m coming across as all “Boo hoo, my childhood was TRAGIC” today – I’m not trying to, I swear!!! My parents aren’t perfect, but they’re great, supportive people who’ve grown A LOT in recent years, and I love them! And my brother…well, he’s kind of a dickwad, but he’s only 20, so I figure he’s got a few years to get it together.

Skyblossom Skyblossom July 28, 2011, 8:57 am

When she agreed to give her husband 70% custody she was agreeing to either not seeing her kids after he was stationed in a new location or she was agreeing to move along with him. She either didn’t think ahead or she didn’t mind the idea of losing the kids or the idea of moving around following an ex. This is all part of her earlier agreement.

Chaotonic Chaotonic July 27, 2011, 11:20 pm

As a military woman myself I see how hard of a decision this is for you from a very realistic basis. My best friend “A” lost her kid to her husband when they divorced on the sole basis of the fact she was military and he was not, so he would have been a more structured environment for her to grow up in. Since he lives in Colorado and we’re stationed in Virginia she spends a ton of money every month flying her daughter to and from CO. She’s also been calling the detailer trying to be stationed closer, but our MOS is such a small community that its near impossible. Somehow though every month she makes it work, she goes through her day, talks to her daughter through phone calls and video chatting and manages to take an extremely active part in her daughters life, she even flew into CO for a day or two to look at private and public schools for her daughters first year of schooling.
At this point and time your ex husband has been treating your children well and there’s been no problems in the past three years. He has a fairly well paying job and good benefits while you work at home. Since you know your children are well taken care of maybe its time to start living more independently by moving to your home town and starting college. Even though you’ll be further from your children you can still have an amazing relationship with your children. A lot of military couples have a spouse in a different state and they’re still maintaining great relationships with the kids. It will be hard at first but if its not for you, you can always move to his duty station, and try again later.

katie katie July 27, 2011, 11:45 pm

that is so sad about your friend! the military should start caring about the kids of their members!!

avatar Christy July 28, 2011, 8:25 am

Honestly, don’t you think the military has more important things to worry about? Like, I don’t know, defending our nation? Joining the military involves sacrifices. “A” knew that when she joined up, so did Chaotonic, so did my stepbrother, and my uncles, and everyone else who enlists. (Enlisting also comes with benefits, including for example the GI Bill.) The military does its best, but let’s be serious. If they’re giving up an hour of planning combat to figure out how someone can keep their kids, I’d rather they plan combat. Enlistees should know what they’re getting into.

fast eddie fast eddie July 28, 2011, 9:23 am

The military does consider families but only secondarily and children get conceived therefor must be cared for. Those GI bill benefits are good but not wonderful. To be eligible for them I had to risk my life for years which paid the paltry sum of 22 cents an hour, so put a sock on it Christy.

katie katie July 28, 2011, 9:15 pm

you know, i guess your probably right because even if they did start considering kids, their members would just start having kids for the sole reason of getting to stay in a certain place, or whatever. ugh i just hate the way the military operates… just all of it.

avatar Debbie July 28, 2011, 8:42 am

No, don’t move away from your kids. I think it’s a tragedy when kids have to grow up away from either their mother or father. And email and Skype are no substitution for them having you there next to them to hug them, kiss them, help them with their homework, meet their BFs and GFs, be there for the big events, be there when they succeed and when they fail, and make sure they stay on the right track and make good choices.

You chose to make children and now they need you and you have to put them first. It may feel like you’re waiting forever to reach your dreams, but there will be time to do that after the kids are grown. Your kids didn’t choose to be born, they didn’t choose for their parents to divorce and they didn’t choose to be moved across the country. These are choices their parents are making and it’s your responsibility as their mother to be a parent. And I disagree that it depends on the ages of the kids — if they are young, they need you there, and if they are older, goodness, why can’t you wait a couple more years until they are adults!

I know a few people have said it was fine when their parent moved away and they are fine and still close, but I have to say, that has to be the tiniest of minorities and in the vast majority of situations, it doesn’t work out that way. In the situations that I know of (where the father had moved away), the best-case scenario is that the grown kids now have cordial but distant relationships with their dad, in the worst cases, the kids feel resentful, rejected, neglected and either ended up down a bad path becuase of it or have a totally non-existent relationship with their parent.

The likelihood of hurting your children and losing them in your life outweighs any potential benefit you might get from the unknown experience of pursuing your dream career. The risks here are too great to take the chance of hurting your children. And my response is exactly the same for a mother or a father. Be there for your children, they need you!

Skyblossom Skyblossom July 28, 2011, 8:51 am

You feel that this decision will affect them for the rest of their lives because you know it will affect them for the rest of their lives. You have a good relationship with your kids now because you see them regularly. I think this entire decision comes down to how old your kids are, what their attitude about your move is and how much of a relationship you wish to maintain.

Studies have shown that one of the things that kids hate most about divorce is getting shipped around from parent to parent. The younger the child the more traumatic they found long distance travel to be. Many kids dreaded having to fly between parents by themselves. How would your kids feel about traveling alone? Would they have to make connections? I know airline personnel would help them but that doesn’t mean the kids feel safer. How would your children handle ending up in a large airport and then having their next flight cancelled? It happens during bad weather, especially in the winter around Thanksgiving and Christmas travel. Who would pay for their travel? That needs to be in writing. The other problem with long distance visits is that if they spend alot of the summer with you they miss out on alot of activities. Band camp is this week here at our high school and you have to be there or not be in band. Football practice starts next week and so does cross country. Swim team goes through the summer. Baseball starts in the spring two months before school is out and just finished last week. If they are required to spend most of the summer with you then they are not allowed to do these activities because they would miss too much. What activities do your kids enjoy and would those activities have to be skipped to visit you?

At the very least you need to get everything in writing if you decide to move home. You need the new custody agreement in writing and it needs to state the days the kids would spend with you, how they would travel and who would pay for their travel. You also need an agreement in writing that tells how much he would pay for your education and for how long. Is he thinking $100 per month while your thinking he’ll pay tuition and fees. Make sure you get four years of academic support.

I have to wonder if this isn’t an attempt to remove you from the lives of your children. If you don’t get all of this in writing you would give the appearance of abandoning your children and he could easily go to court and declare just that. You would live far enough away that you would have trouble showing up at hearings and that would prove his point that you abandoned your children. He could have your parental rights terminated and then move on without you and probably wouldn’t be paying for your education either. At the very least he could get 100% custody even if he didn’t get your parental rights terminated. You might never see your children.

avatar MovingAgain August 9, 2011, 3:18 am

Thank you for your comment, I really liked this one

avatar BGD July 28, 2011, 11:05 am

Stop being selfish. You have an amazing life and you don’t seem to appreciate it at all. You have a terrific relationship with your boys, a good job, a supportive ex? Do you know at ALL how lucky you are? I think by no longer having your kids full time you have forgotten that right now it needs to be about them. Why not start taking college courses that can be applied towards your degree? What about online courses? There are so many options these days to have your cake and eat it too. YOU made a choice to have children… just because your ex is primarily raising them does not mean that you only have 30% responsibility. Your still 100% a mother. ACT LIKE IT.

avatar MovingAgain August 9, 2011, 3:16 am

I am a mother, I act like a mother, I take more than 30% responsibility for my boys. I cancel plans when my ex calls me because something “came up”. I am always there for my boys and they know this, I am the one they ask the big questions to, I am the one who lets them be themselves when my ex tells them to “man up”. Children deserve their fathers to be in their lives as much as their mothers. I did not go to court and say yeah I will take 30% and I’ll just forget about the rest, oh no, he got that because my lawyer said it was the best I could do. The court system is all about money, I have none, my ex and his family have quite a bit, so I agreed with what I could get, that does not mean in any way that I am not involved with their lives, I am. Please read my update below, you might have a greater understanding for the situation. Thank you.

avatar oldie July 28, 2011, 11:19 am

I’m surprised how hard on the LW most posters have been. Dad gets a free pass. Re-enlistments are for 2-4 years, depending upon service. How about Dad stops re-enlisting and gets a job that lets him stay in one spot. If LW follows to be near kids for the remainder of this enlistment, then Dad agrees to move near to her hometown after that, so that she can attend school. Otherwise, ‘being near the kids’, means a life of continual moving alone to strange areas in which she know nobody and can’t do more than her current low-paying job, which she finds unsatisfactory.

She and Ex have been on good terms, but he’s basically had things his own way. A lot of the logic for the 70/30 split of time was predicating on a support network, which Dad is about to move away from. If LW moves back home and studies geology, she’ll be the parent living within a support network of relatives and friends. That makes her best equipped to have the kids the 70% of time. If money is the remaining issue driving Dad to have the kids a greater fraction of the time, then she needs to see a lawyer and get child support.

Yes, she should be supportive of her kids and spend as much time as possible with them, but what commenters are really proposing is that she should give up her life, so that her Ex can live the life he’s chosen. If she goes along with this, she is going to be feeling extremely unhappy and used down the line. The kids will be off on their own, Ex will have his career and pension. She’ll have … ? Yes, she made a decision to have kids. So did her Ex.

Skyblossom Skyblossom July 28, 2011, 11:25 am

She put herself into this situation when she agreed to the custody arrangement. Maybe she should begin by going back to court and trying to change the custody agreement because she would be the more stable parent and then he would be paying child support and the kids wouldn’t be moved over and over again. The reasons for giving him so much custody really don’t add up as Sarah said above. I think there is more going on here and we really don’t know what it is.

avatar oldie July 28, 2011, 4:33 pm

She said he had been verbally abusive. I wouldn’t assume her decision was entirely what she wanted to do at the time. I suggested that she needs get child support and assume greater custody of the kids.

avatar BGD July 28, 2011, 11:55 am

But ex is taking care of the kids 70%. His career provides at least 70% for those kids so therefore if he needs to move to continue to support them I can’t fault him for that. I agree with the comments that there seems to be more to this story. The LW works from home but only has 30% custody? Something is strange here.

avatar Maracuya July 28, 2011, 12:47 pm

I think it depends on the timeline/ages of the kids, which might not make it so strange. Maybe since he was in the military, she got a work-from-home job and never pursued her degree so she could stay with the kids? I’m making the assumption that she wants to get her B.S. Now that they’re divorced and the kids are older, she may want to do so. But she’d have no degree and a middling job. He would have been continually promoted (higher salary), have a housing allowance and health insurance and be more able to provide for her kids than she would.

This is a wild guess that would make the situation more plausible (though they rarely are.) Feel free to tell me if I’m psychic, LW. :)

avatar chiswickian July 28, 2011, 11:50 am

I was 11 when my family moved across the Atlantic to the East coast. My dad had his own company in Europe, but decided to sacrifice all he’d worked for to be a stay at home dad when we moved. And he’s been miserable. For 8 years he’s really been unhappy, and my siblings and I have been perfectly able to tell. If you’re going to be so bored and lonely and depressed in the same city as your ex, go home, even if it means not staying with your kids. Don’t make them feel like it’s their fault their mother isn’t happy.

avatar BGD July 28, 2011, 12:18 pm

Just realized that the LW writes about being close to HER friends and family again. Seems very important to her, so why wouldn’t it be to her sons?

avatar BGD July 28, 2011, 12:19 pm

Meaning… might be important to her sons to be close to their mother.

avatar oldie July 28, 2011, 4:34 pm

What about being close to their maternal grandparents?

avatar Sara July 28, 2011, 11:16 pm

I’ve only had time to read about half of the responses, so I may be repeating people here. IMHO, taking care of yourself *is* taking care of your kids. I do not think you would be acting in a selfish manner if you got a degree that could get you a job with a higher income. That higher income, your increased self-confidence, and the model you are setting for your children are all positives. Also, I doubt your ex would be so supportive about this venture if he thought you would be illustrating how “bad” your mothering ability is. I agree with everyone else– only you can weigh the pros and cons. Will you see your kids enough to keep you–and them–happy? How will your life change with this degree? Putting your kids first does not mean putting yourself last. Being a good mom also means being a good role model and being happy and supportive for and with your children.

avatar RoyalEagle0408 July 29, 2011, 11:42 pm

That’s kind of what I was thinking. If she follows her ex around the country what is she teaching her children? To follow someone else’s career plans. If, however, she moves home, gets her degree and then chooses to move closer to her children, she might have a higher paying job and be able to get more custody.

I don’t like that people are implying that following her own dreams even if it means moving away from her children is awful becuase it’s not putting her kids’ needs first. Depending on their age, achieving her dreams might be what her kids need to see.

avatar MovingAgain August 9, 2011, 2:52 am

Well, it’s been a month since I wrote this letter, I figured I should give a semi-update..I have decided to move to be near my children, but I wanted to clear up a few questions. My boys are 6 and 8, my ex and I are good friends, the boys were both wanted, when we met we were both in the military, I got out so I wouldn’t have to go on deployment again. I just found out today that I will not be able to keep the job I have, and no, it was not a work at home situation, I work in an office. Business is not good right now and they feel no need to keep me. I have always taken risks in my life and this is just another one I am taking. I had quite the conversation with my grandmother a couple weeks ago and she encouraged me to give it a try and, if, after six months I don’t have a job and my ex is ready to kick me out of the house I can come home.
Sometimes in life you marry someone who means everything to you, that you love with all your heart, and everything meshes, but when you move to a new place that person becomes someone else, someone not happy with who they are, or who you are and it doesn’t make sense to be in that situation anymore. That is what happened to me, I still love my ex, I always will, he is the father to our two beautiful, smart, amazing boys and nothing will change that, but he is not a good husband for me.
So, thank you for all your advice, I have really thought about everything that was said here and I appreciate all of you taking time out of your day to give advice to someone you don’t even know.

Skyblossom Skyblossom August 9, 2011, 8:44 am

I’m sorry you’ve found yourself in such a tough situation. I know it isn’t what you expected when you got married and had children. It sounds like you’re doing the best you can under tough circumstances and your kids will appreciate that you’re hanging in there for them. Hopefully you can start taking college classes either online or through a community college and so see your boys and get a start on your education. I wish you the very best!

Skyblossom Skyblossom August 9, 2011, 9:13 am

I just saw that you’ve already completed your first two years of college. Good for you! I’m wondering who the kids will stay with when he deploys? If it’s you, could you take them at that time to where you want to live and start your final two years of college at that time? You might not get completely through before he came back but it would limit the amount of time you were separated and then the increased income you had with a better job could help you go to court and get a better settlement.

Right now he has managed to be in control of everything by getting more than 50% custody. If he was sent to somewhere like Germany or Japan where he could take the kids with him you would have trouble following because you would have trouble working in those countries without a work visa and the travel cost of following would be so high. If you can get a better custody arrangement he wouldn’t be able to keep taking the kids with him without your permission.

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