Are parents of young children allowed a 'do-over'?

Has anyone else felt the need for a do-over in life?

I’m tired of my current job (have stayed with it for the past 5 years and in fact moved to this part of the country to keep my wife happy), my wife and I are separated with no prospects of getting back together, and I just met a wonderful, available, and very interested woman who, unfortunately, lives in another state, near my hometown where I have lots of friends and family.

If I didn’t have children, I’m pretty sure I’d be driving there right now, ready to start over. Having young children vastly complicates matters. I want to do what’s best for them, but I don’t want to give up everything for them–my needs are important too. Who knows, maybe I’d be a better father if I were living a life that were personally fulfilling and gratifying.

It’s a lot to sort out. Has anyone else on the board wrestled with this kind of situation? Any advice would be welcome.

That’s a sad situation, and you have my sympathy, but I have to disagree with you there. Kids come first. Providing for their needs, physical, mental, and emotional, must take priority over your own. Sorry, I know it’s hard, but that’s the way it is (IMO, anyway.) Of course, your needs are important too…just not as important.

But you know, they won’t be young forever. I’m personally looking forward to about 11 years down the road, when my son is grown and I can be irresponsible again. Don’t get me wrong—I love him to death and would do anything for him. But I really never wanted to be or imagined myself being the responsible career-guy type. But you know, “a man’s gotta do…”

But then, on the other hand…he won’t be young forever. I’m gonna enjoy it while it lasts!

Eh, I guess this isn’t coming off as very sympathetic. Without knowing more details of your situation, I can’t say whether it might be better for your kids if you moved away. My feeling is, probably not, but I don’t know. Are you really “giving up everything” by sticking around while they grow up?

I agree with Ferrous. If your idea of parenting comes down to sending a child support check once a month and seeing your kid for a month in the summer, that’s your choice. But don’t make it sound like you’re doing the best thing for him by not being there. And if you do leave, don’t be surprised if your daughter walks down the aisle on the arm of some other man, or your son eventually has a “send the old man a Christmas card once a year” kind of relationship with you, it’s not just your loss, it’s your child’s.


Thanks for the thoughts, but I think I haven’t quite made myself clear. I would try to keep custody of my children. I’m not going to engage in a custody battle, but I’m not talking about giving them up either. We’re both great parents; we’re just not great spouses to each other. If they went with me, it would mean new schools, friends, etc. for them and seeing their mother less often. If they stay here and I moved, they’d see me a lot less, but I’d still want to have them as much as possible, maybe summers and holidays.

Well then, a few more thoughts…

You want to keep them, but don’t want to engage in a custody battle either? How does mom feel? If she isn’t going to give them up, you’ve got a battle on your hands. Those are never pretty, as I’m sure you know. And unfortunately, under our current system, the mother is heavily favored in these situations.

Also, IANAL, and I don’t know about your jurisdiction, but in many (if not most) places, it is illegal for a custodial parent to move out out of state without the noncustodial parent’s consent. Will she consent?

Just some things to think about.

Why did she want to move where you are and would she maybe consider moving back? (to where she is from appearently)

If you are an unhappy person I can’t imagine you being a happy parent. If you have in the back of your mind ‘If it weren’t for these meddling kids (and that dog) I’d be a happy person’ then you may over time start to resent or maybe even hate your kids.

Basically you will need to hash this out with the mother.
Good luck

I have no experience to compare with yours, but I can’t agree with “kids come first” completely.

Yes, if you have kids, you have a responsibility to them - give them a clean, safe environment, food, clothing, love, attention, education, all those good things. But you can’t live your life for or thru your kids. Besides being a parent, you’re an individual and you have a life, a career, and interests that may or may not have anything to do with your kids.

Very early on, we found several sitters to care for our daughter. She was barely a toddler when we took a week vacation without her. We made it clear early on that there are kid things and adult things and each had a time and place. We also went to all her dance recitals/gymnastics meets/chorus concerts/piano recitals/softball games/swim meets, took her places she wanted to go (oh, the agony of Chuck E Cheez), let her have friends overnight, threw birthday parties - so she did play a big part in our lives, but she wasn’t the focus.

My unprofessional opinion: parents who put their lives on hold when they have kids do the kids a disservice. Children need to learn early on that they are not the center of any universe. They have a claim on their parents, but they shouldn’t control their parents’ lives. And, to steal a phrase - If momma/daddy ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Meaning, if you’re miserable in your situation, whatever it may be, your kids will pick up on it, and that may not be good. Is it better for Dad to be close by in a job he hates, so that the kids see his misery every day, or would they be better off with a Dad who they don’t see as often but who loves his work and has lots of energy for his kids when he does see them? Or something in between?

It’s a difficult choice and no one can make it but you. I wish you the best - it’s not going to be easy no matter what you choose.

I think that children deserve to have both parents close by and available. It’s unfortunate that you moved away from your hometown before the marriage fell apart, but in my mind that doesn’t justify moving away (and either losing proximity to them, or making them lose close contact with their mom).

Best case to work towards: your wife agrees to relocate too.

The fact that this woman lives far away from your kids is a serious strike against her. I mean, not personally, of course, but it is a huge, huge problem. It’s like when a woman claims “I’ve met the perfect man–except he’s married” Uh, no, he’s not perfect–it’s like finding a perfect racehorse–except it only has three legs. I realize you never said this person is “perfect” but I want to get across that having to break up the geographic proximity of your immediate family to be with her is a serious problem, not a small one (as you seem to realize).

Sorry you are in such a tough spot.

Allow me to barge in as the child of parents who both ‘did over’…


  1. Yes, your needs count, but always in conjunction with the kids. You seem to have a grasp of that.

  2. Have you calculated the impact on the kids from being away from their mother at this age (whatever age it is)? It can be significantly painful, confusing, and/or damaging if they lose a good parent for most of the year, especially if they do not grasp the concept of time completey (before, say, 6-7 years old?). Summers and holidays are ‘nice’ but they don’t permit much in the way of long-term functional impact as a parent.

  3. Can your do-over involve a long-distance relationship for now? LDR is rough, but so is long-distance shared custody. Rough should be on the grownups, not the kids.

  4. Family nearby the new location is a definite bonus, but must be measured against the loss of mother. Age, again, is a factor.

Methinks from the wistfulness of the OP, that you already know the answer. You wish wish wish that you could just up and start over, and that it would not have a significant negative impact on your kids. You hope that someone will tell you that you can have what you dearly would love to have. It would help you put aside your concerns if other people corroborated your dream, rather than your underlying discomfort about the impact on your kids.

Sound about right? I’d trust your gut, not your heart. Does your gut say your kids will thrive on the move? Not survive, but thrive.

Work it out over time. Yes, you may have a more limited window because of the distance. But as you work it out over time, you may discover that it will or will not enhance your children’s lives to have this other person in your life, too. And if it is enough of a positive, that may push the line to where a move is the right choice as time goes by. I found my step-parents to be valuable additions to my life. But the degree of value varied widely, too.

Long run, I ended up developing a good relationship with my dad (summer custody only), but he influenced me almost not at all as the non-major-custodial-parent. I didn’t develop that relationship until I was an adult, when I lived near enough to him that I encountered him regularly (proximity was entirely accidental, btw). The daughter who did not live near him still doesn’t talk to him - she hasn’t developed a relationship with him, period. Proximity is a powerful force re: frequency of contact, and frequency of contact is, IMHO, a major factor in developing a maintainable relationship with a parent. JMHO, there, no stats. But that’s how it worked out with us. We can ask Tranquilis if he had a similar experience with our mom - I believe that he began to develop a ‘real’ relationship with her when he lived nearby, too (he lived with our dad for most of his childhood, his choice).

Are we ‘okay’ as adults? Mostly. Definitely all needed therapy, and some of us had some mighty big disasters of relationships and funky issues. Not all from the parents, mind, but there.

Not sure if that is helpful, but hopefully it is at lest food for thought.

Gotta run…

Essentially what hedra said.

I had issues with mom, and at age twelve, went to live with dad for a year. This became the perminant arrangement by my decision (not going into the ugly details here), and I didn’t spend much time around mom, or develop a decent relationship with her until I was stationed at the Philly Navy Yard, some 15-16 years later. Even still, it took a while to resolve all the issues, and it wasn’t until I actually left the Nav and took a job in the area, most of a decade later, that I actually became comfortable around her again. We’ve got a pretty good and close relationship now, but there was a lot of angst and misunderstanding to get us to this point.

IMO, kids need to be near a parent to establish and maintain a relationship with them that evolves as the child develops. Otherwise, IME, you have a grown child that still has a juevenile relationship to their parent, and a tenuous one at that. One of the thankless tasks we take on as parents is making sacrifices for our children. They’ll never understand until they themselves become parents, and maybe not even then, but it’s what we do, none-the-less.

Look into your heart, and think about your kids, and what will do them the best. Including in those thoughts, whether you will be able to best care for them where you are, or somewhere else. Ballance that with their need of a father, and your need to be a father, and weight it all out. That will be your choice, even if it hurts. Actually, I have no doubt that no matter what decision you make, you’re going to hurt some. That also comes with being a parent.

Best of luck, and Be Well.

I’m really sorry you have to be in this situation. I was just wondering some things. Keep in mind, I have no kids, and my parents have always been together, so my point of view may not count too much:

  1. How far away is “home” from where y’all live now? I mean, if they could hop on the bus/train/whatever and get to you for a weekend if they wanted to, it might not be so bad

  2. What about this lady? You’re so willing to move just to see her - would she be willing to do the same? It wouldn’t change anything when it comes to your job, but at least you’d have a companion and possibly lover.

  3. Also, has she met the kids, and how does she feel about them? My boyfriend’s brother is divorced and dating someone else. His kids LOVE his girlfriend - she’s better with them than the mother is, and I know the family benefits from having her around.

Just a couple thoughts