There are few topics more controversial in divorce groups than moving away from your children after divorce. Whether it’s the man or the woman who moves, it seems like everyone has strong feelings.
Archaic divorce laws don’t prioritize a woman’s career and, in fact, subordinate it to that of her exes. Most laws don’t allow you to move out of state with your children, even if you have a great job offer, despite the fact that women make up 54% of breadwinners in American households. Laws which require us to remain in the same city or state essentially limit our advancement to that area, and if you moved there to support an ex’s career you’re now stuck.
There’s not much we can do to change the perspective of male lawmakers determined to keep control of our children, so some women choose to move away. It’s a tough call. After all, our economic stability and financial well-being directly impact our children’s futures. Making more money, having a stable job, this allows us to save more for college or provide them with more opportunities. Good luck finding a judge to see it that way, however.
If you have a good co-parenting relationship with your ex, it can go well. You can arrange for weekends, vacations, and summer visits with the kids. Nightly phone calls or regular communication are a must, but for older children, it can work. If, however, your ex is controlling and won’t pick up the phone if you call five minutes late, or restricts communication and refuses to share pictures and information with you, you could find yourself shut out of your child’s life.
Not to sugar coat it, but a man moving away from his kids will be judged less harshly than a woman. Due, in part, to traditional gender roles which see him as the “provider,” he’ll face less societal condemnation if he moves for a job. It sucks, and it’s unfair, but it’s reality.
This reality can leave mom picking up the pieces. You may be reeling from the end of your marriage, finding yourself a single parent, or losing the life you’d expected to live, but it’s imperative that you put your feelings aside. Always do what is best for your children.
Take your feelings out of it, and continue to facilitate their relationship. Schedule calls, send emails, keep your ex looped into their life to the extent that they want to be included. Always respect your own mental health boundaries, however, and don’t perform unnecessary or excessive emotional labor for them.
When your kids ask questions, respond in an age-appropriate and tactful manner. Even if you feel abandoned and betrayed, using that language with them could create a lifetime of self-esteem issues. Instead of saying, “Daddy abandoned us,” briefly explain the why, “Your father left for a new job,” or “your father left to pursue new career opportunities” and let them draw their own conclusions.
Your children may cycle through several opinions and emotional reactions to their parent leaving over the years, and this gives them the freedom to explore all of them. If they are truly struggling, consider enlisting professional help in the form of a therapist.
Moving away from the kids after a divorce is a complicated situation with many variables. People move for jobs, to be close to family, for a new relationship, or to receive help for substance abuse issues. I do believe that happy parents produce happy children, but I also don’t believe that a parent should sacrifice their children’s happiness for their own.
In short, often there is no clear cut “right” or “wrong” in this situation. Even if you think there is, you should carefully consider the impact on your kids to paint the other parent as a villain. Trashing the parent who moved away may make you feel good, but it will ultimately harm your child.
You may deal with loneliness, no matter how busy your new life keeps you if you move away. Be prepared for an adjustment period for all concerned, and accept that your child could direct anger your way. If it truly doesn’t go well, you can always move back. You’ve already learned from your divorce that few things in life are permanent.
It may be difficult for a time, but together you can all find a path forward. Even if you’re only together part of the time.
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