Crowdsource: How should she make the decision about moving to be closer to her kids’ dad?

Anon is looking for a little group wisdom. Her ex-husband lives four hours away from her and their children. She's considering moving to the city he lives in, but would like some input on things to consider while she makes this decision so she's not missing anything. She's looking for decisions-making process help, not straight up "move" or "don't move" advice.

Things to consider:

She lives in a mid-sized city and he lives in a big city.

She's underemployed in her current city and would likely be in the big city, too.

He's fully employed in the big city.

Her mother lives with her now and helps her with the children, but wouldn't move to the big city with them.

He will be involved with the kids if they are in the same city (and is as involved as possible currently from four hours away).


Thoughts? I feel like my own personal situation is coloring my answer, but the things I'd think about:

1. The kids. Obviously it is better for them to have more and more easy access to their dad. But if being closer to their dad puts their mother in a situation in which she can't survive/thrive financial and emotionally, that isn't a positive for the kids.

2. Support (physical and emotional). Right now she has her mother, who is doing both kinds of support. Will the kids' dad be able to step in for the physical support, and will she be able to find emotional support in the new city?

3. Stability. Being underemployed puts a twist in it. She could have better prospects in the big city, but the cost of living is likely to be higher there, too. It could come out a wash, or she could end up trading down by moving.


Can anyone think of things I'm missing that Anon should consider?

39 thoughts on “Crowdsource: How should she make the decision about moving to be closer to her kids’ dad?”

  1. I would consider what the big city would offer for the kids based on their interests. Are the kids are nature kids and it becomes harder to get out into the woods, or will it give them more access to the jazz music they love so much?How would a weekend day change, and how does that line up with what is important to the family?
    We are at the beginning of a care taking year near my family where things are increasingly walkable … which was something we espoused but can’t act on in our permanent house. We have certainly made trade-offs but it feels like this year we are really putting our money where our mouths are. Family. Intention. Experience over accumulation.

  2. I’d also look at the relationship with dad. If it was a “BAD” relationship, would she potentially be putting herself in harms way with this move.

  3. Does “underemployed” mean working but not as much as you’d like? If you’re in a place where you are at least getting by (whether due to the income you have or to the lower cost of living), that’s nothing to disregard. Can you move to the city and afford everything? What about trying to secure a job first before moving? That might solve the stability/support problems. If you can’t get a job before moving, you probably can’t get one after moving either. If you’re living off of some other non-work income (child support, assistance, etc), you still need to factor in the cost of living in the new location. Does your mom do childcare for you? That’s another cost you might have to absorb, even if Dad can shoulder some of the burden. Sounds like a very complicated decision! You want to do right by your kids, but as Moxie points out a miserable mom isn’t going to make anything better. Do YOU personally want to move? Would YOU be happier in the city, or would it make you miserable? All important factors in the decision. Good luck!

  4. When both parents are good parents, kids deserve the presence of both as much as possible. That trumps a whole lot of things, and the fact that she ~wants~ to be in a big city for her own career also makes it a no-brainer to me.

  5. What is her relationship with her ex like? Could she lean on him in any way as she transitions, finds friends, and gets things sorted out? Or would he only do things for the kids? Is he remarried, or trying to be? If so, how does the new wife feel about him helping with the ex’s transition and the presence of the kids?I mean, it will be a real test of their coparenting skills, in terms of who does what and how decisions are made. Does she want to confront that?
    Does she have any friends or contacts of any kind for herself in the new city that she could lean on if that’s not feasible with the ex?
    I agree with the advice to job-hunt from home first. If a good job appeared so she could feel comfortable that she could afford the new city, then it seems like a great idea.
    Finally, if the job prospects are poor because she has no skills or hasn’t finished a degree, maybe the best thing to do is stay put with her mother’s support until she can fix that and then pursue the move. Something to think about for the sake of family stability in the long term.

  6. The primary factor in our move to our current city was the educational options for the kids. Now we are moving to another city and the primary force behind that is a job change for my husband. I have been working all year to find satisfactory schooling arrangements for the kids in New City. My life experience, therefore, dictates that when moving with children, the question of educational opportunities is of prime importance.The children and I lived away from my husband for two years so that they could continue in their school but now he is saying he can’t continue that arrangement so we areall moving near his job. Obviously, in the op’s case, as in mine, the ability of the children’s father to sustain a long-distance relationship with the kids is also a top consideration.

  7. Agree with finding a job first!It is important to remember that she is considering moving to facilitate relationships that she fundamentally has no control or say over, and that aren’t really her business. Of course it is incredibly important for her to support her ex’s relationship with their kids, but in my opinion that support should come as much as possible in whatever form her ex is asking for.
    So- A big question here is: How invested is the dad, really, in their moving closer? If he is begging her to move because he really wants to pick the kids up every afternoon from school, and his life situation makes that possible, and he has a reputation for delivering on that sort of thing, then yeah, maybe it’s a really great idea.
    If on the other hand she is thinking about moving because the dad would rather have the kids come to him and isn’t willing to drive the four hours each way to see them regularly, and the kids miss him and she feels guilty about that, then I think she might do better to make the decision based on what she needs to do to care for and support herself and her family. This might include moving to Big City, but she may not want to factor the dad into it quite so much, and she absolutely cannot martyr herself for the sake of that relationship. I have seen someone move closer to their kids’ dad only to discover that it was *her* fantasy that he be more involved, not his. The distance was his excuse and his involvement didn’t change much. That was a big disappointment.
    Of course most dads aren’t like that, and there are middle grounds. But in an era of over-determined, helicopter parenting, the thing to remember is: it isn’t her job to make a relationship with dad happen. It is her job to get out of the way when necessary and support it whenever possible.
    Along those lines, has the family exhausted ways for dad to be more involved given the current arrangement? If mom is underemployed is there a way the family could spend regular three-days or four-day weekends in Big City to see how it feels? Can dad telecommute and/or be in Mid-sized City for long weekends? It seems like a bad move to depend on dad to make the move work financially long-term, but would dad be willing/able to help with one-time costs of move and job hunt?
    I hope it works out for her!

  8. I agree with the need for total realism about the dad’s expected level of involvement. He may not himself understand what being an on-site divorced parent would really be like, so it’s important not to just take his word for it. Maybe the kids could spend a significant amount of time there this summer (like 2 or 3 weeks) so that he experiences Daily Grind rather than Fun Weekend Visit. Also, how strong is the dad’s affiliation with the city? It doesn’t make sense to relocate for someone who isn’t committed to the location himself.Also, when people live apart it’s easy to gloss over personal and lifestyle factors like new girlfriends, travel-intensive jobs or hobbies, that interfere with providing childcare and being an involved co-parent on a day-to-day basis. I agree with Celeste that it will be a real test of their co-parenting– I think that’s a great way to look at it. He may want more decisionmaking input since the details of their lives will now affect him more, and is the mom prepared to accept that input and compromise?
    Another question is the grandma’s situation. How old is she and how is her health? Who are her other support people? It’s great that she helps a lot, but the balance of caregiving may tip in the other direction at some point– maybe soon– and it’ll be a lot harder to deal with from 4 hours away. Is there a sense of obligation to the grandma? You helped me with the kids and my divorce, now I help you when you’re old?
    Finances are obviously a huge concern, and the mom’s employment status is only one piece of the puzzle. What happens to the grandma financially if she has to get her own place to live? Or conversely, if the mom no longer has the grandma to share household expenses would that pose a hardship? If the three adults in this scenario are going from two dwellings to three, that could be a significant increase in expenses. Also, if the dad makes child support payments, would he want to decrease those due to more time spent caring for the children? Major, major red flags in the financial category.

  9. I would definitively say she would need a job in the new city before she moves.But the emotional and practical support is so huge. I’m still “shell shocked” from our move, and it’s been over a year. It’s exhausting to be in a new environment, everything is just harder, even finding a grocery store you like, finding what you want in that new store, finding your way around your new kitchen, everything… And then, how would she be able to make friends “rapidly”, i.e. in less than a year? I like the suggestion that the kids spend extended vacations there in the summer, but it may also be useful for her to spend more time there networking, etc.

  10. Also, the kids will have just moved, which will stress them out I would think. They might be more difficult to deal with and need extra support, plus getting all their logistics figured out. So it would be a new and more intense co-parenting relationship at the same time as the kids may be extra-high-maintenance and less fun to be around.

  11. I’ve moved across country and to 3 different large cities in my lifetime so far, and by another perspective it’s exciting and cool to make a new start and meet new people. It totally about individual personality how well one adjusts and I think it’s a great opportunity for children to learn to be adaptable. Everybody had good advice here so I only had a suggestion — could this woman take some vacation time of at least 2 weeks if not 3 or 4 weeks and find a housesitting gig or sublet in the big city? Do a trial run, call it family vacation, and see how everybody incl the dad likes it.

  12. As much as we want it to be “all about the kids,” economics are the driving factor.If you can’t afford to live in a decent apartment in a safe neighborhood, there’s no point in making the move. Also, regardless of “flex” time, child care has to be considered, especially if they’re new on the job.
    At my company, senority dictates who gets to work from home on which days (there always needs to be coverage in the office) and you also need to wait six months before requesting to work at home. If you can’t find or afford child care to suit your needs, it might be best to stay put for a while longer.
    A previous poster also said that it’s important to make sure that the father geniunely wants (and is able!) to spend more time with the kids. It would be awful to upend everyone’s life only to disover that dad is still only spending every other weekend with the kids. If his work doesn’t permit more time, or he really just doesn’t want to be more involved, it could blow up.
    Now that school is winding down, is it possible to find a camp option in the Big City for 2-3 weeks? That way dad could get a taste of what having the kids close by would be like and the mother could take soem of her free time to job hunt remotley.

  13. I can’t help but wonder if the answers would be different if dad was primary caretaker thinking about moving closer to mom?

  14. I don’t know the American system, so this may not be relevant but:What happens if it doesn’t work out? Will she need to argue for relocation in an order?
    I’m thinking about examples in other countries where parents have moved with the kids either while coupled with a parent who initiated the move or else moved to be closer to a parent who had already moved. They ended up in a legal fight when they tried to move back closer to home base with the kids. I’m not sure that this should make or break the decision, but if it’s relevant, it’s worth having a discussion with their father about whether this is a trial based relocation and maybe put something legal out there between them that acknowledges this and that allows her to move back to the mid-sized city after a specific period. Or something okay with both. A safety net.

  15. @Raia, very interesting question…how do you think the comments might be different if it were the dad who was primary caretaker and thinking of moving?

  16. Je ne peux pas m’empêcher de me demander si les réponses seraient différentes si papa était gardien au sujet principal la pensée se rapproche de la maman?

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  20. The father is responsible for his relationship with his children. Is it an option for him to relocate to the city the kids live in?Relocating the family in order to be closer to dad is a noble idea, but carries major “buts” and “ifs”, some of them already specified in previous posts.
    How involved was the father prior to the divorce?

  21. Oh my goodness I love these! I have never seen a more perefct group of beautiful girls! Each one is so unique, but you can tell they are sisters. So pretty. I love their outfits too, the colors look great.

  22. Being a father of two small boys, ages 4 and 19 mtohns, I have often wondered how to spend quality time with both while not making the other jealous. So far, it seems we have the most fun when we’re all together, playing in a group of four! I cherish every second with these two and hope when they get older, they will remember these times!

  23. Happy New Year, Kelly – sorry to have been off-line so much – impressed that your ttearhs of cutting people out of your loop has prompted my DH to actually comment on your blog (even if he has to lie about my state of (un)dress ;o))!!!Hope all went smoothly with your dad’s surgery.Make sure and get on with planning our trip to Beautiful Boston (no pressure!!) and enjoy everything there is to enjoy about 2008! :o)

  24. Michelle, I don’t even know what to say I love these SO much!! I am so glad you did them for us I will charish them for many years! They ternud out absolutely amazing. And my very favorite is the one of all of us together as you know there are so few of those and it ternud out awesome! Thank you!!

  25. This post made me cry.As you know, my mother sferfus from Parkinson’s and dementia. My feelings towards her are much like the feelings you have towards your father. My father was the abusive one but she was too. I feel that I was harmed by her actions more so than his. She didn’t do her job as a mother to protect us. As a result I blamed her for years. I have let that go and have forgiven her. Today I focus on trying to be a good daughter to her. She can’t be a mother to me now. Watching her slowly lose who she is over time has been very difficult. My mother remains to be the strongest, smartest woman, that I’ve ever known. I miss those sides of her.God is carrying you and I through these things. Its life on life’s terms and walking through it is what shapes and molds us. We have a choice in how we do it. We can draw closer to God or we can turn away. Personally I’d rather draw closer and feel his comfort.Love you honey!

  26. Roger Ebert tweeted a link to this. I watend you to know how I found you.I admire you for what you’re doing and how you’ve responded to the things done to you. I don’t know that I would be able to do the same, though I agree it is what is required to heal and have anything resembling a normal life with normal relationships. My reaction to stories of child abuse is strong and angry and this is no exception. I find it hard to understand how anyone could think abusing a child is the right thing to do, or that it’s the best they could do at the time. But the human mind is complicated and I don’t pretend to understand it well.In any case, I wish you the best and I hope that when the current dreadfulness is over, you have peace and happiness.

  27. You are so right, we have to foigvre them in order to move on. We have to foigvre them for our own sakes. I’m almost forty and I still haven’t been able to foigvre my mother for her abuse and neglect, even though I am aware I should, and I do try. It’s good to read things like this post to help me hammer the idea into my head, I guess, so thanks for writing it.I wish you all the best, and hope your mother’s recovery goes well.

  28. Your story really reneastod with me and I pray for you and your parents. I am sorry your family is unsupportive.My father was incredibly abusive as well and my mother is also battling an illness. I can relate to what u are dealing with and I know it’s not easy, and for me, it leaves me very conflicted.Know that you are not alone and if u need to vent or cry on an virtual shoulder, feel free.Sincerely,Sarah B.

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  30. Robin Posted on Hi Qamaal,Bhai, bade Sikander’ nikle aap to!Those two songs you name are exactly what the skecthes illustrate.I was reading too much into them, thinking they might be related to his military entertainment tour.Regards,Robin (Legend? In his own mind!)

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