Divorce has consequences…

Question: I have a 10 year old daughter who wants to live with her dad and step-mom and their 3 daughters.  She currently lives with me, step-dad and our 4 children.  She has lived with us since she was 2 1/2.  Her father and I divorce when 10 year old was 6 months old.  Some of the time we have lived in the same town and did every other weekend type set-up.  Some of the time we have been long distance and they have had her for all holidays, breaks, etc.  We are now living somewhere we know we will have to move from in 3 years.  Her dad is living somewhere he says they will live ‘forever.’  My daughter has a life and friends both places.  I believe she wants to genuinely try living with them.  She does not want to go out of spite, or rebellion etc.  We have very similar home rules – other than I am the serious homework and chore mom and they are the fun and play weekend ones.  She has spent extended amounts of time with them in the past – up to 8 weeks.  We have always maintained a fairly civil relationship and worked out problems so all 4 parents felt appeased.  We try to ask our 10 year old for her opinion and take it into consideration when making decisions.  
My problem is really with myself.  How do I come to terms with and accept this situation.  I want to respect her thoughts and opinion, but often feel like I am not a good mother by letting her live with her dad – I’m afraid she will think I don’t love her enough to ‘fight’ for her.  I also feel somewhat jealous that they would be getting her – like a prize (stupid I know).  Admittedly I feel somewhat embarrassed telling people she chose to live with her dad – I feel like it makes me look bad.  Of course I will plane ol’ miss her.  She is lots of fun to have around the house!  She is an awesome kid!  Knowing how it is for her to have to fly to their house for every holiday, long weekends, and miss out on things that are important to her – like friends and birthday parties and church activities – I also feel the need to not demand so much of her while she is living with them.  I know this would result in us seeing her less.  How do I come to terms with things and make a good decision for her well-being?  Is she really old enough to make this kind of decision?
Answer: Tricia,
I will tell you what you already know. Divorce has consequences that aren’t just related to husband and wives leaving one another. This is another consequence. It IS nice that she is not leaving out of spite. If there was a good situation to leave under this would be it. So, it seems evident that you LOVE your daughter. I would suggest the feelings you have are normal. I would say letting her do it now and see what the experience is like would be better than her as a teen woman using it as a way to spite you. I would suggest if you do it to keep in touch with her and write her through e-mail and snail mail. The more she can feel welcome in both places and the more civil you can be with the other parents the better. I would suggest if it is possible you speak with your ex and get on the same page about never allowing the kids to use the others home as a way to get out of chores, consequences etc…

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