Letter from a Long Distance Dad

February 2, 2012

reposted with permission from the author – he became a distance parent in September 2011 when he moved back to his home country, England. His son is 4.

I was looking on google for a forum for long distance parents. Over the past 3 months I have been slowly adjusting to a new life thousands of miles from my son. I am English and have recently moved back to the UK from South America where my son lives with his mum.

I feel desperately sad at times. I worry a lot about my very nearly 4 year old son. From the sounds of it, he is quite depressed at times, biting his nails a lot. I am seeking a community because last night I got a quite upset email from his mum telling me that at the moment things are especially hard. My son had his last day at nursery this week – another loss for him.

I make some kind of contact with him every day, either through Skype, telephone or by sending a little email with some pictures. I find these things help me, and sometimes my son seems to like them too. Sometimes I think Skype frustrates him a lot. While reading a picture book to him the other day he said to me ‘you can’t read it properly when you’re not here’.

Generally I find reading and books to be a good way of connecting. I try to make our Skype sessions fun, if that seems to be the vibe, to get us laughing and playing like we do when we’re together. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and even though I feel sad when it doesn’t I always tell my boy that it’s ok that he didn’t feel like talking today, and that we’ll connect again soon.

The biggest challenge of long distance parenting is that it simply is not the same as real physical contact. I used to play rough and tumble, rolling in the park, kicking a ball to each other, touching the pages of a book together, running around with my son on my shoulders and back…all this tactile contact which was so wonderful and is not possible. The connection sometimes falters and we can’t hear each other well. Skype is fantastic, and makes things so much easier than if it didn’t exist, but it is no replacement for real physical contact, especially with a young child.

In my visitation rights, I get to Skype him five times a week. Luckily, his mum knows what an important bond we have and is very co-operative about organising it, as is his grandmother who sometimes looks after him.

My son was 3 and three quarters when I left for England. I really think this is not an ideal age, but what age is? He came with me to the airport, saw me crying and asked ‘why are you crying dad?’ I don’t think a three year old can understand what it means to be gone for a long time, and I think it must be very anxiety provoking for him.

One idea I had that I really like was to make a photo album before I left. I made two identical albums, one for me and one for my son. It was full of photos of us together, from him as a baby til the moment I left. There are many blank pages at the back and I told him that we’d put more photos in it when we’re together in the future. I look at it when I’m feeling sad, or missing him. Usually it makes me cry, a deep painful cry, but afterwards I feel better.

The challenges of being a long distant parent are obvious. The only solution that I have is to send and feel great love for your child (and hopefully his other parent and family too) and send it in any way you can – letters, emails, Skype sessions, and then the visits when they happen. One will always be faced with great hardships in the long distance situation– guilt, loneliness, feeling left out, feeling replaced, worrying about being forgotten, driven out , etc. These feelings can be close to unbearable at times. Denying the pain and suffering is not realistic, it needs to be acknowledged and embraced. If your child is close to your heart, the gap in physical space can melt away and become more tolerable. The only tool we have as long distance parents is love. Luckily it’s the most powerful tool in the world.


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9 Responses to Letter from a Long Distance Dad

  1. Vish
    March 9, 2012 at 5:08 am

    After reading your feelings and thoughts, I was in tears and I have gone through the same with my daughter. Now she is 9 yrs and I moved to her place one year ago, and now my new marriage which happend 1 year ago is in trouble. I have to choose my daughter or my marriage.

  2. Mike
    March 15, 2012 at 2:22 am

    It is such a relief to find people that are in a similar situation as I am about to be in.
    Actualy in many ways I am already in.
    I followed the girl of my dreams to California from the UK.
    We had a good marriage for many years and have 2 wonderful daughters together.
    Our marriage took a terrible turn a few years ago, I had a spine injury that put me out of work and resulted in a painkiller addiction. I was also diagnosed as bipolar after a few “episodes”. She tried for as long as she could but eventualy could not take it anymore.
    I was free of addiction for about a year when she asked for  a divorce.
    The family court imposed supervised visitation due to my past addiction and ongoing battle with bipolar disorder on the condition that I be in regular therapy, which, I can’t afford.
    It’s tough enough getting groceries, never mind paying for counselling.
    I am here alone, desperately wanting to be with my kids.
    I have no support here, no friends, no family other than my kids that I don’t get to see, nothing.
    I have come to the conclusion that the best thing that I can do for them is go back home and take care of me so that I can be their Daddy again. Even if it has to be from a distance for a while.
    It doesn’t make it any easier, I am distraught at the idea of not being able to touch or smell them for several months at a time. I am terrorfied that they might think I don’t love them enough to stay. I had an image of trying to say goodbye to my children and ended up having an anxiety attack.
    Imagine my reief, even if it is only temporary when I found this site. People who are doing the long distance thing and doing it well. It helpss so much to know that other people have had to make this gut wrenching decision and been able to keep strong, loving 2 way relationships with their kids.
    It doesn’t lessen the pain, but it gives me hope.
    Thank you

  3. cameron mitchell
    March 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    l am another parent having my 3 kids living interstate, a 11yr old boy and 9yr old twin girls. i was separated 7yrs ago its now been 5yrs since my x wife packed up moved away,l live in melbourne(australia) she the kids live in cairns (4000km away).Her legal claim for moving herself and the kids was from having a back problems a injury she sustrained 14yrs ago, she needed a warmer climate,l was legally advised l cldnt stop her moving . The last 5yrs has been hell for me and the kids, this long distance parenting has’nt worked for me, my x wife has been unbearable and uncoropetive,she has broken our court orders many times and made it very difficuit for me to be apart of the kids lives,.I had legal advice recently to try to pull her into line, get her to follow our court orders ,l was told l would have to take her to court at my expense in cairns but it wouldnt leave me in a much better position as the courts are reluctant to penalise single mums for breaking courts orders which l can still see happening, basically the court orders are toothless. so whats the answer ?

  4. ukdistancedad
    March 21, 2012 at 11:23 am

    to Cameron Mitchell. I am the authour of the above article. I am sorry to hear about your situation. It sounds incredibly difficult. What you describe your ex-wife as doing is clearly not in the best interests of your children, who need to have their dad involved in their lives. 

    There is no easy solution, but I would suggest going down all other avenues possible before taking the matter to the courts. That will just create more resentment between you and the mum of your kids.

    Perhaps you have tried all this already but I would do all you could to re-open a healthy dialogue with your ex-. You have to stay very strong and avoid confrontation at all costs. You have to both become aware that the needs of the children are primary and it is their right and your right legally, emotionally and spiritually to have contact with both parents. They need that for their health.

    If a face-to-face encounter with someone like an ex usually turns confrontational, write the the feelings in a letter, get a friend to read over it. Make sure it is totally non-judgemental, non critical and instead has the needs of the children at its centre.

    Good luck 

  5. ukdistancedad
    March 21, 2012 at 11:29 am

    to Mike. Yes, well, you are right that the pain will not go away. It will always being painful living a long way away from someone that we love very deeply. 

    I think it’s an incredibly tough decision that you face. In the end I decided that what my boy needed was a happy dad from a distance, rather than a frustrated close-by one. 

    The few days before I left were the hardest of all. I had anxiety attacks too and nearly change my mind at the last minute. Don’t expect an easy ride. Expect great emotional turmoil, there could be no other way and if we can harness those strong emotions, direct them in a loving way, transmit that love in any way we can albeit from a distance, we are doing all we can. 

    However, I am OK now. I recently visited my son and it was wonderful and I will post a little piece about that here soon. 

    Sending my thoughts and best wishes.

  6. Nikki
    March 23, 2012 at 5:00 pm

     My Daughter moved across the Country with her Father when she was a baby. I have created a Fan Page for my Daughter on FaceBook and am trying to get her Father to get Skype. I don’t know when I’ll get to see her again…haven’t seen her since he took her and she’s nearly a teenager now. I am using Esther Hicks Law of Attraction on Youtube for now to assist me with the pain and have healed alot…I have had some very lonely and sad times with this….but I have also discovered lots of tools and resources. I’m not ready to make a mission of helping others with this yet…still helping myself…but I really feel onto something….I am learning to make the best of it in ways that have helped me in every area of life through Abraham (Esther HickS) Be kind to yourselves for YoU ARe Love ItSelf. XO

  7. Dana
    May 23, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    I currently live in Oregon, which is where my kids reside. Right now, I get to see them on Wednesdays and every other weekend and some holidays. All of my family lives in Illinois, and other than a few select people, I pretty much have no support group here. I was able to attain an honorable postion with a major corporation at home, which gives me a perfect opportunity to be back with my family and childhood friends. Of which I’ll be moving in just about 3 weeks. My ex’s family has started attacking me for going home stating that I’m “abandoning” my kids, which makes the entire transition that much harder. I’ve been struggling for a long time with going back home, but feel it’s in the best interest of self preservation. I’m, however, worried that I’m being selfish and not putting my children’s needs above my own, and at the same time, I know that the lonely feeling of being here alone and unsupported will never go away. I’m on board with Mike when you said ” In the end I decided that what my boy needed was a happy dad from a distance, rather than a frustrated close-by one.” That’s how I feel. I struggle with being away from my kids as much as I am now and I’m not looking forward to being gone from them for longer periods of time. I was going to break the news to my kids this weekend, but their mom decided, out of nothing more than spite, to not let me discuss this move with them first. I haven’t even moved yet and I already miss my kids. I’m going to set up a skype account for them so we can talk regularly and I like Mike’s idea of a photo album with the same pictures in each one. I’m going to look into doing that myself. I’m glad I came across this forum of other parents who understand what this process is like.

  8. Donna Morris
    October 12, 2012 at 7:15 am

    After my husbands divorce his ex-wife moved from Utah to Pennsylvania — taking all six children with her. The children were all under the age of 10 at the time. My husband was devastated. He had always played an active part in the children’s lives and worried how he would keep his relationship with them alive and thriving.
    We have been married 8 years and have tried to do everything we can to keep our relationship with the kids strong. The thousands of phone calls, texts, packages, skype sessions, and prayers have payed off. Three of the six kids have come to live with us full time for their high school years and I believe that the other three kids know that we love them deeply. For the past three years I have been writing a book specifically for LDS Stepfamilies. I would like to ask permission to include the eloquent letter written by the ukdistance dad in my chapter on long distance parenting. Thank you for this wonderful forum. I think we all need to know that we are not alone in these particular struggles. May God bless your journeys.

  9. Mike
    October 26, 2012 at 5:28 am

    I just said goodbye to my daughter who is 6 as my job takes me 7000 km away. I have spent the last couple months preparing her and myself for this day, and though she understands she obviously was sad. I have taken alot of strength and solice in this letter and will have frequent contact with her(3 times per week or more) I know the next few weeks will be mixed with fear, sadness and grief. I know she will be ok and she will visit me every 2nd xmas and every summer so I know I will be her dad. Thanks so much for your insights and as my little girl told me today “it will be OK, I love you”

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