Should a mother leave her son with his fa­ther to take a far-flung job?

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - TELEVISION/EXPLORE - BY CAROLYN HAX Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: I im­mi­grated to marry a man I’d dated for four years. It was an in­cred­i­bly toxic and abu­sive re­la­tion­ship and I fi­nally man­aged to leave af­ter 11 years. I was un­em­ployed and with­out fam­ily or friends.

Af­ter two years I’ve found an amaz­ing job and have done bril­liant work in my com­mu­nity and my new coun­try. I’m lit­er­ally re­ceiv­ing awards for my work.

Our 12-year-old child has not only ad­justed but thrived. We co-par­ent well and ac­tu­ally main­tain a very solid friend­ship. I’m even friends with his new part­ner. I’m sur­rounded by lov­ing friends and “found” fam­ily. I’m in a lov­ing, sup­port­ive re­la­tion­ship.

All in all, life is per­fect. But. I’ve been of­fered my dream job 12 hours away. Dur­ing our di­vorce we agreed our child has a say in his liv­ing si­t­u­a­tion should I move.

I’m pretty con­fi­dent he will choose to stay in his home­town, but hope­ful he will choose to move with me.

I’ve made peace with it. The lo­gis­tics aren’t that hard to man­age. But I feel guilty. So­ci­ety judges ab­sent moth­ers so harshly. I’m wor­ried about him hav­ing the sup­port and com­pas­sion he needs.

I’m wor­ried I’m aban­don­ing him and he will end up with weird is­sues.

I feel jus­ti­fied af­ter so many years of abuse and sac­ri­fice that I de­serve to chase my own dreams.

But am I be­ing self­ish? A bad mother?

Woman on Hold Dear Woman on Hold: Tempt­ing.

But first: Se­ri­ously?

You have an amaz­ing job and lov­ing friends and “found” fam­ily and your child is thriv­ing and you’re in love and you’re a ... “Woman on Hold”?

They’re your feel­ings to feel, of course, but I see room – as in, pris­tine acres of rolling land­scape – for you to re­frame your view of your life, if you re­ally wanted to do that.

As you did just a few para­graphs prior, with, “per­fect.”

I also don’t think it’s pos­si­ble to make “peace with it” and “feel guilty” and be “wor­ried,” all about the same move.

And you won’t get a you-go-girl (or, alas, a bad-mother) an­swer from me, be­cause to treat this as an is­sue of so­ci­ety and judg­ments – and misog­yny, if that’s what you’re im­ply­ing – sounds like a cyn­i­cal dodge.

The price you pay for a bad de­ci­sion won’t be charged to your pub­licim­age ac­count – it’ll come straight from your kid’s emo­tional health. And he didn’t choose to be born or move any­where or marry badly.

Yet, as you your­self de­scribe your de­ci­sion, it will take ei­ther his mother or his fa­ther out of his day-to-day life, be­cause “I de­serve to chase my own dreams.”

How is this not self­ish? That’s not a rhetor­i­cal ques­tion; my ad­vice for you is to an­swer it.

Es­pe­cially since the na­ture of the dream mat­ters. Par­ents live away from mi­nor chil­dren plenty, for rea­sons “so­ci­ety” ac­cepts and even ap­plauds. Mil­i­tary de­ploy­ments; diplo­matic or po­lit­i­cal po­si­tions; hu­man­i­tar­ian aid work; ca­reer ne­ces­sity (astro­nauts, jour­nal­ists, moun­taineers, ship cap­tains); eco­nomic pres­sure – any­thing from a job trans­fer to em­i­gra­tion from an im­pov­er­ished coun­try.

These have in com­mon some com­bi­na­tion of ne­ces­sity and a higher pur­pose – and typ­i­cally an end date.

That’s still of­ten wrench­ing for kids, how­ever, “I wanted to be with you, but I had to pro­tect the world/lead the world/ save the world/con­quer space/keep us all from starv­ing”?

At least it feels im­por­tant.

If you re­ally are just talk­ing about dream­ful­fill­ment be­yond your cur­rent per­fec­tion, then your de­ci­sion feels heav­ily op­tional. Like, sec­ond­cherry-on-a-sun­dae op­tional. I’d say this about any dad or mom who has vi­able and non-soul­crush­ing lo­cal em­ploy­ment op­tions and whose af­fected child is only 12.

The chances you’ll have other dreamy ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties, es­pe­cially if you’re “bril­liant” at it: ex­cel­lent.

The chances your child will have an­other crack at child­hood: zero.

And I can’t believe I’m only now get­ting to this: You’re dump­ing a hor­rific choice on your child.

Who, pre­sum­ably, has just found sta­bil­ity af­ter be­ing put through a wringer by his par­ents’ abu­sive mar­riage and di­vorce. “So, which par­ent can you do with­out? Take your time, Honey.” Se­ri­ously.

And, you’re do­ing this just as he has one foot on the thresh­old into ado­les­cence, one of the most dizzy­ing, un­nerv­ing, and im­pres­sion­able times of our lives.

One promis­ing el­e­ment is that you’re even torn about it. You don’t say so your­self, but your peaceguilt-worry pret­zel does. Your ask­ing this ques­tion does.

Of course, the only one whose vote counts is your son. So, again, my ad­vice is to give your­self an hon­est, non-self-serv­ing an­swer to the base­line ques­tion: Will he grow up to re­spect your rea­sons or will he look back and say, “She shook my whole world? For that?”

Ex­tra credit: Read Reyna Grande’s “The Dis­tance Be­tween Us” for a child’s nu­anced per­spec­tive on par­ents who leave. Or just play “Cat’s in the Cra­dle” on a loop – about an ab­sen­tee dad.

Email Carolyn at [email protected]­ or chat with her on­line at 3 p.m. each Fri­day at www.wash­ing­ton­

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