Switching custody arrangements–feeling like I’ve failed

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    Divorced three years ago. Since then I’ve had primary custody (informal arrangement) with my ex, where he would have my two boys every other weekend and then a week here and there through the year.

    I’ve since met someone who moved in with us. It’s gone well I think–he’s a good man and kind to my boys.

    The problem is that since he moved in, and just through passage of time, my boys have come closer to their dad, wanting to be with him more. They are approaching adolescence so it makes sense they want their dad a bit more. But I also fear that part of it is that they see me with someone but might feel their dad is lonely too. It became so strained a few months ago (of course height of lockdown when we are all on top of each other all day long for months on end) that I agreed to do a switch of custody with my ex; he would move back into the family home, and me and my partner move out.

    Now that the day is approaching where we finally tell the boys about the upcoming change (August) I am feeling like I’m falling apart. I feel like I’ve totally failed as a mum and that’s why I agreed to this, and why my boys keep wanting to be with their dad more and more. I’ve signed over my half of the deed to the house, I’ve agreed to a switch in arrangements.

    I feel like I’m leaving my babies and I’m a horrible horrible mother. I just want them to be happy and feel like they have both their mum and their dad, and I want them to be happy. I work in a very high pressured job so I feel like I have no energy for them or myself or anything. Another reason why I feel like having their dad instead of me would be better. He will be better at this than me. But makes me feel more a failure as a mum too.

    It doesn’t help that my partner (he has children but not primary custody) has a very different parenting style; he thinks my style is old fashioned. I greq up in a ‘do what you’re told’ sort of house, and he thinks this is damaging so doesn’t do it with his kids. I think about this a lot. This just makes me feel like everything is my fault and I’ve brought all this on myself. I feel like I’m in a total hole that I will never get out of, and that I will have lost my kids and my feeling that I’m a proper mum forever.

    #54274 Report


    It’s really tough for so many mum’s juggling a demanding job and being a mum to two kids.

    My first thought reading your post is, what do you really want and need for yourself deep down. Forget everyone else. Ask yourself honestly what you want. You don’t have to answer me or these questions btw.:-) Do you want a bit of a break from all the responsibility as you have alot on with other demands. Is it anything to do with the new partner and his relationship with the kids. Is it because the kids make you feel worthless through rejection and you want to be free of that. All those feelings are human as far as I’m concerned and knowing what you want for sure makes it easier to be sure about what to do, and why you’re doing it.

    Have you asked the boys? It feels like a huge move to make without asking them what they really want and why they want that. Are you avoiding them telling you something you don’t want to hear? I’m not sure about the guilt element ref the boys. If he has no new partner, that may be a factor. As my son gets older I see that kids can be a little fickle at times, so happy to be where the party is at if that makes sense. I think that is more common as they get into teenage years.

    The fact their dad wants to move into the home is much less unsettling for the kids but then I’m thinking about you and what you have to give up to give the boys what they may want.

    If you end up sacrificing too much for those you care for, it can backfire on you, and it isn’t fair on you.

    Rather than ask the boys do you want to live here with dad etc, ask them how they feel being in your home with you and your partner in the way it is at the moment. Ask them if they feel comfortable and is there anything they aren’t comfortable with that maybe they are more so when with their dad. Facing the truth is hard but often worse than avoiding it. I’ve learnt that myself.

    Hugs to you x




    #54275 Report


    My dear Henslowmum,

    I understand how you feel. Many parents feel like this, even in a marriage, as children will sometimes gravitate to their mothers and sometimes graviate to their father’s depending on their needs.

    If you ever watch the tear jerking film, “The Shack” God presents him/herself as a motherly female character initially to the protagonist (Mackenzie). This is because Mackenzie has loads of ‘dad’ issues at the start of the story. However, later in the film God presents him/herself as a paternal male to help Mackenzie deal with another issue. He said, “You need a father figure for what we are about to do.” As your sons are teenage boys they will naturally need their father to guide them through adolescence.

    As a loving mother you need to do what is best for your sons. Sometimes the most selfless thing to do is let your children stay with their dad whilst they need him the most. So you are not an awful mum at all. Actually what you are doing is the complete opposite. You are making what you believe is the best decision for your sons at this present time, despite how you feel. That’s awesome parenting! But I understand how heart breaking this can be.

    To help you and your sons adapt to this new routine, think about the times when you will have your sons and all the awesome stuff you can do with them. Maybe sit them down and discuss stuff they want to do with you and plan days out together, so they have something to look forward to.

    Wishing you all the best. xx


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