I feel like a "bad mom" for giving up residential custody

September 7 | Guest post by Randi
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I think we need to have one of those Tough Parenting Real Talks… We need to have a conversation about why I feel so awful and guilty for thinking that perhaps, just maybe, my daughter would be better living with her dad than she would with me. That just because I am her mother does not automatically make me the better parent for her to be with. That some children are born with a special bond that pulls them towards one parent… and sometimes parents don’t stay together.

My other two babies don’t have Good Dad options in their lives. But my middle girl. She is a Daddy’s Girl — I know she is, because I was one too. I’m also under the impression that my sister was as well. My sister didn’t spend time with our biological dad, and I did. Every other weekend. Now, my sister turned out better than I did, if you want to go by societal standards… She was into her twenties when she had her first child. Which was planned. As well as the second (who was mostly planned). That said I know that her high school and growing up times were harder than mine. She got put in a Christian boarding school; I guess is what you would call it. She was removed from her home and lived in another state.

I, on the other hand, got pregnant my senior year of high school with one of those druggie kids you tell people to stay away from. (He never did sober up.) I then managed to have another and another and two divorces before my children were all even in elementary school. My councilor says I have lots of issues, but that they stem from my father. My father was the light of my life… and he was a royal dick.

My little girl’s dad is not a dick. He, at one point, was all too immature to raise a child on his own, and for sure not the right guy for me. But he is not a dick. And now he is also far more capable as a father than he used to be, and he's around much more than he used to be. So, that leads me back to the point of all of this…

Why is it that, as a strong feminist, I cannot help shake the guilt that I am sending my child away, or that I am a failure or a bad mom if I let my daughter live with her dad. Because I am pretty sure that, like myself and my sister, my baby girl needs his full attention more than she needs mine. Because I believe she knows with all her heart that I love her more than life itself, but that she may question that kind of love from her dad. Because I am trying to be a good mom, and save her from the trauma and hurt that my sister and I dealt with by deciding that I should let her live the majority of the time with her dad rather than myself, I am secretly telling people I don’t want my daughter and that I don’t love her.

I strongly believe that one gender does not parent better than the other. I fully believe men are just as good at parenting as women when put in the same situations. And that the societal idea that men are idiots when it comes to kids and don’t know what they are doing is ignorant.

So why do I feel so horrible? In addition, how have other mom's who have given up residential custody by choice to the other parent dealt with this?

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  1. I imagine you are both good parents and your child may need both of you equally. Is there something keeping you from sharing residential custody? You ultimately know your child the best. What is your gut telling you? Is this a way of trying to have a do over regarding your own issues or is this really in your child's best interest? From personal experience I actually feel like I am the "better" parent but we have 3 children under 4. We currently are attempting a 50/50 split for my older 2 and when my baby is old enough we will move toward that with her. I was told that he doesn't have to be the best father but should be given the opportunity to be a father. If gender equality applies then although you may not be the so called "best parent" you should still be given the opportunity to be a parent too.

    6 agree
  2. To me, the best parenting means choosing the best for your child, not for yourself. You're trying to put her first, even if it hurts. Kudos for that.

    Sounds like a very tough decision. Best wishes to all of you.

    6 agree
  3. I hope this is okay to say, but I feel like this piece really needs some editing. I think I got the gist but I am so confused about all the details, and there are so many sentence fragments and ellipses and so little context.

    I firmly believe that whichever parent is willing and able to give their child the better life should be the one to take custody. Not necessarily the child's "favorite" (though obviously getting along is a factor.) If you think your daughter will be happier and healthier with her father, and you trust him to be a good parent, then you shouldn't feel bad about her living there. But if you're projecting based on the fact that you were close to your father (even though you admit that you're screwed up because of it), that maybe isn't as great an idea.

    I am a little concerned about how this might affect sibling relationships- they won't be as close, and her siblings might feel like she's getting an unfair advantage by having a "good" dad to go live with. I don't know. Something to discuss with them and maybe a family therapist?

    34 agree
  4. I worked for a divorce attorney for several years and saw a lot of custody arrangements, so here is my two cents. I think you feel bad because you love her and miss her and grieve the fact that under this arrangement, you cannot be with her as much as you'd like. This doesn't make you a bad mom. It makes you a really good mom. Just think how awful it would be for her if you didn't miss her! There may come a time when she needs to be with you more. Custody arrangements often change as children get older. As long as she knows you are always there for her, by the time she is grown she will know that she was lucky to have two parents who were willing to put her needs first.

    8 agree
  5. I hate that this is even a thing. Dad's don't have to deal with the guilt and social pressure (just look at the Facebook comments on this post *blah*) when they have weekend visitation and the kids live with mom. I have a family member dealing with this very thing right now. If having your child live with her dad right now makes the most sense then to hell with what everyone says. I am really sorry you have to deal with all the outside pressures on top of everything else.

    8 agree
  6. I, too, gave up residential custody of my youngest son. It was agonizing internally for me, but when I processed why…quite a bit of it had to do with expectations…not only from others, but self-imposed, as well. I have zero doubt it was the best decision to make for my son. He has a very strong role model in his father and I'd like to think…is blessed that he has a mom that wasn't so closed minded by things that don't really matter and could see the forest from the trees and make that difficult decision.
    Kudos to you for knowing your kiddo…for being brave enough to look clearly at the big picture and badass enough to hold your chin up even when your brain may lie to you about you from time to time… And…thank you for being courageously vulnerable enough to share you story. This mom greatly values and appreciate it!

    5 agree
  7. Sorry to say so but maybe I did not entirely understand your question, it was a litte confusing to read.

    I think your problem is that you have three kids and while you know that sending the middle daughter to live with her dad is best for her, still you somehow feel bad about doing so and you want to figure out why you feel bad – right?

    Here's my guess: kids don't always understand what is best for them. Even though you are really doing a great thing for your daughter by sending her away to live with Dad, she might not understand that now.
    She might feel that you do not love her enough to keep her close. She might feel you love the other two kids more because you keep them but send her away. She might feel you are punishing her for being a bad girl by sending her away.

    I think you must tell (and show) her again, and again, and again, how much you love her. Tell her how blessed she is to have a nice daddy when her siblings don't have caring daddies. Tell her you want her to be with dad because you love her and don't want to take this daddy opportunity away from her. And most of all, tell her now, and next month, and every birthday and Christmas and…simply all the time, in words appropriate for her age.
    She will then grow up to understand what a great mother you are because you let her grow close to dad as well.

    6 agree
  8. I'm honestly wondering, given what you've shared here, whether you are accurately assessing your child's desire to live with her father. I worry you are projecting your own (unhealthy, by your own admission) relationship with your father onto your daughter. You mention you have a counselor; this is something you really should discuss at length with them before coming to a decision.

    12 agree
  9. I am also dad's girls. Your family support your decision and My best suggestion is for you that is spend time with family and going for a vacation. because vacation is the best option to spending time with family. My good wishes always with you and your family.

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