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Old 05-09-2010, 06:59   #1
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Leaving Children Behind ?

My question is basically the exact opposite of those already on this forum. Instead of wanting to know how to cope with having children on the boat I am asking how people cope with leaving children behind?

I really don’t want to go into too many personal details maybe except to say that in my case the situation with the mother has been less than ideal. Although I have always been there for my daughter – now almost five – the mother has done bizarre stuff from day one including leaving me off the birth certificate. Whether or not her family thought I would try to take custody and/or she just wanted to sit around collecting single parents benefits I don’t know. What I do know is that I have always tried to do my best as a positive role model for the kid.

She loves the outdoors (and her dad). To date, when I have done shorter trips, up to a few months, she has responded well to me sending educational gifts. When I have gotten back, although I have been told she missed me, she has always been interested in knowing more about the creatures and adventures the gifts were based around. This was one strategy I have found has worked for the wellbeing of both our relationship and her learning. I am sure other cruisers can recommend some more strategies to further both?

I note, I still get time alone with the kid as the mother is quite frankly happy to get her off her hands. My daughter has enjoyed sailing from the first day she stepped on a boat, likes fishing and is already keen to surf and dive.

Likewise is my daughter at a good age to for me to go? I know for myself it is the perfect opportunity to leave on an extended cruising/working holiday. Unfortunately though, some of the reasons I am leaving are to escape a stale environment where relationship and employment opportunities have not seemed to improve regardless considerable effort over the last twenty years. I am definitely going to including the daughter in future plans and am hoping something brighter might be awaiting over the horizon for us both.

Please no personal attacks. You have probably all heard the old saying “if you can’t say anything positive don’t say anything at all”?
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Old 05-09-2010, 07:52   #2
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The relationship you have with others is what it is and perhaps a desire to make it better could happen. I really don't think it matters if you are living on a boat or not. If you can't do it now then perhaps that is the place to start before you take off. Being on a boat won't make you or your daughter different. We come as we are and change happens but not totally or instantly. You can have a better relationship no matter where each of you are if you both want it.

Many families have survived great changes in their lives and people have that ability. It's not so much a matter of if it's possible because it happens and not all choices are planned. The unplanned changes in your life are not always the good ones. Not all things work out and that is the risk you take in any relationship. You have to risk it all at times with no assurance. It can always be better and can easily get worse. If you have a commitment and ability to work through things your chances improve greatly.

If you don't have full custody of your daughter you will require paperwork that gives the mothers consent to travel beyond your own country. It's a paperwork detail like passports. It's the one legal issue I can see stopping you. You'll need to work that out with her mother. That relationship may require some additional work as well.
The boating part is actually easy. There are lots of threads here on parenting at sea.
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Old 05-09-2010, 07:56   #3
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Positive role playing and participation in upbringing are two separate things. When you go, you may continue to play the positive role (much limited, or reinforced, by the other parent's attitudes), but how much will you participate?

I think it is very difficult to say which age is OK and what is too early. Most of all, there are individual differences in kids: some need a lotta love and support, otheres are extremely dependent, very early. You know your kid and from her reactions you can tell where in the broad spectrum of emotional needs she is. Listen to your heart and you cannot go wrong.

But life is not just kids, upbringing, finances and emotions (or is it?). If you live responsibly, taking your decisions rather than getting swept by a moment's fancy, how much wrong can you do?

You must be aware of the fact that the parent closer (physically) to the kid will form the kid's attitudes, likes and dislikes, as well as the kid's picture of the missing parent.

You must also be aware of the fact that a parent only to some extent forms the kid. Many specialists claim most of the formation comes from the peer group, not from our parents.

If I were in such a situation as yours, I would probably try to get more time with the kid and take her cruising with me. There are single mothers, why not a single cruising father? Guaranteed to get plenty support from the community.

You may consider taking your daughter and yourself to a chat with a child psychologist expert to get a better view of the situation. A better view gives you better chances of making better decisions.

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Old 05-09-2010, 08:11   #4
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Based on my personal experience raising a daughter by myself - mother took off and wasn't interested in the whole "motherhood" thing - you have posed a very complex question.
- - I can only assume from the statement about you not being on the birth certificate that there is something very unusual and even non-believable about your post. In the 1st world countries the biological father is required to be on the birth certificate unless the government can be convinced that it cannot be determined. And that obstacle is easily overcome by a DNA test to prove genetic linkage. The mother cannot keep you off the birth certificate when DNA test proves you are the father. Family court systems are supposedly centered on the child's welfare, not the maternal grandparents or even the mother's wishes.
- - Next, it is just my personal philosophy (and this will lead to answering your primary question) that if you are the father or are the mother of a child you should be there to raise that child to adulthood regardless of whether you are married or not. So the answer to your question is contained in another question - Do you feel a moral obligation to raise that child to adulthood?
- - If yes, then going off for extended periods of time - months,years - for either work or non-work purposes is not possible with an exception I talk about below. This will mean finding work close to where the child is living even if it means working outside your primary work experience field. There is always work to be found, it is just that a lot of the work that is available is not the fun or pleasant kinds of work where you do not have to get your hands dirty. A creative mind with a passion to find solutions - will find work so that you can remain in the area to assist in the upbringing of the child.
- - If No, then it will not be a problem leaving on an extended journey and by extension also leaving the hassles and tribulations of being a parent behind or leaving a possible poisonous environment on the mother's side.
- - All the other questions are really of no importance. The only determining question is your primary motivation and desire to be in the child's life to help shape that child into an adult. In my case I gave up millions of dollars of wage opportunities to stay "home" everyday and raise the child.
- - But that is not for everybody - everybody is different. You seriously have to ask yourself by metaphorically slapping yourself in the head with a 2x4/stick/brick/whatever - Am I really driven to be there everyday, or most everyday, to be involved in raising the child? Or can I better contribute by not being there and instead contributing financially to providing opportunities to the child which only money can provide like education and housing and food/clothing. Raising a child properly is IMHO the world's most difficult job and not for everybody. But you can assist from "afar" if your presence and the circumstances are such that being there is going to make a horrible or less than good environment for the child. All that boils down to decide to do what is best for the child not necessarily yourself.
- - As to your statements suggesting that the mother appreciates your taking the child for periods of time - then again you have to use your creativity to set yourself up in a place and work/play environment that maximizes the good example/leadership that the child needs to see and experience to become a good adult.
- - Sailing off into the sunset and leaving the child behind is not a bad thing if your presence would make the child's development more difficult and be harmful to her mental/physical health.
- - Personally the best age for you and the child "to go" your separate ways is about age 18 when the child is ready, willing and able to take on the world alone.
- - Nobody can fault or blame or say bad things to or about you if your motivations for staying or leaving are based on what is the best thing for the child. You are fulfilling your moral obligation to give the child the best upbringing possible even it it means not being there or your being somewhere else where you can better provide assistance financially.
- - Those are my personal thoughts on the subject and you are free to consider them or discard them as you see fit. To each their own . . .
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Old 05-09-2010, 08:48   #5
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You can have a better relationship no matter where each of you are if you both want it. Many families have survived great changes in their lives and people have that ability.
Paul,

Thanks,

The boat thing is definitely not a negative when we do spend time on the same. She really enjoys the close one-on-one company. I suppose one thing about having a kid on a smaller boat is that you just can’t dump them in front of the TV and go off and do your own thing. You really do have to pay them attention.

I have to admit this is a bit of an unplanned event and a great change. Nevertheless, the boat is kind of a safe haven where I feel secure after having spent a life around the ocean. The house though directly adjacent the sea is rented. While it is a perfect place to bring a child up there is no guarantee of an ongoing lease. Maybe I could stay another 10 years; who knows? At any rate it is going to happen eventually. Nonetheless, leaving now involves this risk. . As you stated, “It can always be better and can easily get worse”.

The custody is a real issue. It is pretty ironic that I am an admitted lawyer, but because of my studies and other dramas have not had the resources or strength to sort out my own legal issues. Good thing though is that domestic airflights over here are very reasonable.
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Old 05-09-2010, 09:00   #6
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If I were in such a situation as yours, I would probably try to get more time with the kid and take her cruising with me. There are single mothers, why not a single cruising father? Guaranteed to get plenty support from the community.

You may consider taking your daughter and yourself to a chat with a child psychologist expert to get a better view of the situation. A better view gives you better chances of making better decisions.

barnie
Barnie,

Doing a bit of cruising with my daughter might be an option yet. One great thing I have discovered is that there is a wonderful cruising community out there and many have faced similar issues.

Unfortunately, the mother and family have already sent the child off to psychologists and other specialists. This has nothing to do with accusations of neglect and is based on the fact they think she is not ready for school (I disagree). Problem too I am finding is that there is a real culture of control with some of the so called “educational professionals” around where I live. Strange how you go somewhere like my North Coast and attitudes can change dramatically. Then again these things always turn on the personal beliefs and values of the individual?
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Old 05-09-2010, 09:19   #7
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Based on my personal experience raising a daughter by myself - mother took off and wasn't interested in the whole "motherhood" thing - you have posed a very complex question.

- - Nobody can fault or blame or say bad things to or about you if your motivations for staying or leaving are based on what is the best thing for the child. You are fulfilling your moral obligation to give the child the best upbringing possible even it it means not being there or your being somewhere else where you can better provide assistance financially.

- - Those are my personal thoughts on the subject and you are free to consider them or discard them as you see fit. To each their own . . .
Thanks, I know of many people in a similar situation and admire the effort they put into bringing up their children.

Yes it is a “very complex question”. All I can say about the birth certificate thing is that I was pretty pissed off about the games and deceit. This is probably part of the anguish that makes me want to get the hell out of this place. Still, I do not blame the child and have no intention of sailing into the sunset and forgetting about her. Honestly though, at the moment with these issues and other employment dramas and resulting financial pressure I am probably better off taking some professional advice and having a well deserved “rest”.

Maybe too it is not in her “best interests” (S 66CC Family Law Act 1975 Cth AUS) if I ignore this advice, end up a nasty old man or maybe (hopefully NOT) even throttle the next fool who takes me for a sucker? Unfortunately due financial constraints and employment opportunities elsewhere the “rest” would involve packing up and sailing away.

In the interim it would be good to know how other cruisers or single-handed voyagers have dealt with separation from their children?
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Old 05-09-2010, 09:48   #8
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Sorry Guys, I am really worried this is going to end up a fishing expedition about my personal circumstances when the real question is simply how people cope with leaving children behind?

The only reason I threw in a few background facts was so you could narrow the answers. I really don’t think I need to say any more. Regardless of their motivations I am sure heaps of sailors who have set out on voyages if not circumnavigations have been forced to leave their loved ones at home?

Again, any ideas about keeping relationships healthy while mostly having to travel without your child or even children?
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Old 05-09-2010, 11:01   #9
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I don't think I would have gone on a circumnavigation if I had to leave my children at home. That being said, if I had a voyage in mind that lasted six months or a year, I would consider the trip. We live in the day of Skype, email, satellite phone, and affordable communications from most places on planet earth.

I lived outside the USA for 28 years, but I was never more than 24 hours from family and home by simply getting on an airplane. In my own experience, if I am more than eight hours away from family by car, I may as well be halfway around the world because I can generally fly to see them as fast as I could drive to see them in a car.

Distances don't mean so much to me. Communication is what counts. I have found that I can communicate with family and friends instantly from any point on the globe. I even have skype on my cell phone and can talk to anyone at any location in the world on their computer for free. I just set up a schedule.

If I was going to leave a child at home when I was on a voyage of limited duration, I would get them a phone and give them access to a computer so that I could contact them every day if I wanted.

I am not into guilt trips. I am into sailing trips and living my dreams in spite of the challenges that I face. Kids are tough and resilient. If they know that you care, and if you communicate frequently, you can do anything you want.
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Old 05-09-2010, 12:45   #10
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SurferShane,

*** This post is similar to Maxingout's post, #9 (http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/...tml#post515912) above but puts a little different spin on the same advice.***

To answer your original question without philosophical comment, one method to reduce separation anxiety is to keep open a reliable and convenient communication link to your daughter whenever you are apart and to use it frequently. Since she is only five, she may not be ready yet to have her own e-mail account. Hopefully her mother would agree to read her any e-mails you sent via her mother's account, though. If not, you could send e-mail via a trusted family member or friend. If you don't already have an SSB e-mail system and don't want to invest in one, you might consider Skymate (Skymate.com) as a relatively inexpensive alternative.

A more expensive but more user friendly communication link is the telephone: cellular works most places in the world within a few miles of shore; satellite is available for more money.

A third even more effective method of keeping in touch is Skype, which now supports video calling. That feature enables you to see each other as well as talk over the internet. The down side of Skype is that it requires a reasonably healthy internet connection, not something available everywhere.

In our case, when we set out to cruise 5 years ago our two sons were both grown and had been expecting us to leave for several years. Thus we did not feel guilty about leaving them until the younger one (then 25 years old) said that he felt abandoned when we actually left. Ironically, he had only been home for short visits since going off to college right after High School. He explained his feelings by saying that he always knew he COULD have come home to see us while we were living ashore if he had wanted/needed to but once we cast off, coming to visit was essentially impractical for him.
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Old 05-09-2010, 17:05   #11
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Re: Maxingout and Dreaming Yachtsman

Thanks Dave and John,

These are exactly the sort of answers I was contemplating as I fell asleep last night not long after posting my last comment. What I was thinking about was a Jessica Watson scenario in reverse where I was the anxious parent at sea with all that technology to keep me in real-time contact with the family at home. Not that I am setting out half-cocked on a circumnavigation; with those airplanes and even my car I would never really be much more than that 24 hrs away.

The great thing too is that if I could immerse myself in the cruising lifestyle this would leave me with huge blocks of quality time that I could spend with my daughter. In comparison, back here working as a chef blanks out most nights and weekends. Incredulously and maybe to a lot of people’s surprise, furthering a career in law where I live ussually involves even more oppressive hours for an equally repressive wage. Both realistically leave little quality time to spend with family.

I suppose you could say I am caught between “the devil and the deep blue sea”? The quandry makes it wonder what it must have been like for the seamen of yesterday who would set off on voyages not knowing if they would ever see there family again and unsure whether any correspondence would ever reach home. You could say nowadays we have it easy?

(Thanks again Dr Dave for your Positive Thinking Network!)
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Old 07-09-2010, 05:36   #12
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Hey Shane,

I have walked your shoes a little

Kids are very adaptable and cope perfectly with most things. Normal for your daughter is different to normal for another 5yo. She will however be very astute and pick up your stress. So if you are happy, and being a great dad when she sees you - all is good in her world. Be accessible with skype or whatever - we foung the 3G network works well up the coast.

PS Round Hill Ck entrance had a slow 2' break, perfect for a mal a few weeks ago
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Old 07-09-2010, 06:02   #13
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Timing

How close are you to jumping off? Maybe as you make your plans and prepare yourself and the boat, you could involve her with that process, which will give you some insight as to how she feels about you being away. It will also give her some time to see the reality of your adventure, and the prospect of your being gone for extended periods. Then, go for 2 or 3 weeks, then a month, then a month and a half, then two, and see how it goes. If she, or you, cannot endure the seperation, you'll know what to do.

Listen very carefully to her - do not imagine a world perfect for you but impossible for her. Let her design the life she wants and find out where she puts you in it.

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Old 07-09-2010, 17:17   #14
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Normal for your daughter is different to normal for another 5yo. She will however be very astute and pick up your stress.
Thanks – I actually had a talk with a professional counsellor a while back about similar and he was really helpful. I am also thinking normal for my daughter will be pushing dad to take her diving and surfing. While I see a lot of kids at playgroup who look like they rarely go outside I am coping spiels from her about how she wants to go camping and have a fire. She has been doing the same since she was a baby and has obviously really taken to the outdoors. I get the same about diving and surfing. Hopefully the boat will have a similar long term affect and it is definitely a place where I am a lot more relaxed.

I already have skype on the laptop. Not that I ever use it; spending too much time on this site of late. At least the advice has been useful and I am meeting some great people!
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Old 07-09-2010, 17:33   #15
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How close are you to jumping off?...,,, Let her design the life she wants and find out where she puts you in it.

John
John, I have reframed from thoughts of “jumping off”, but unfortunately a lot of it does go on at the cliffs where I live. On fathers day I noticed a plaque above one such escarpment in memory of someone the same name born a year earlier noting his love of the sea. This makes me really glad that as in the post above she has is pushing me along and sharing my passions. Having that boat and getting it ready to go is another great diversion.

As I also mentioned in the first thread she has responded really well when on two to three month trips I sent her postcards, books and T-shirts of the sea creatures I had encountered. Likewise, I really agree with your last bit of wisdom and it has obviously been working so far.
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