Putting children first…?

OnlyDads sent out a question on Twitter asking people to tell us what “putting children first” meant for them and their families. This post written by Ruth gets to the point very quickly – the airplane oxygen mask analogy will mean a lot to some readers I’m sure.


“Putting the children first”

I hate this phrase, perhaps because my parents stayed in their marriage longer than was healthy for them or for their children and as the last child at home I feel this impacted most on me.  That said, as I’ve got older and talked about this time with both of my parents and had my own failed relationships I understand the complexity of my parents and their situation.  Please don’t think I have bitterness towards them on that count, I am just trying to put into context what the phrase means to me.

So have I put my child first?

Yes, no, maybe.

When my husband walked out on me, suddenly, but in fairness not without warning, I was living in France, my daughter was 11 months old and we had already had to move from Spain when she was three months old due to losing our business.  I had been living overseas for nearly four years and I was tired.  I wanted to come home.  I wanted life to be easier and I didn’t want to feel the hurt I was feeling.

Six weeks after he left I left.  I moved my daughter for the third time in her short life and brought her to live in the town I grew up in where my mum still lives.
We now live 900 miles and a nine hour rail and ‘plane trip from her dad.  Is this in her best interest?  Probably not in regard to having regular contact with her dad and building a close loving relationship with him, but it was in my best interest.

To live somewhere that I could be myself, not feel trapped, not feel isolated and have a chance of building myself and my daughter a happy life.
In prioritising my immediate and future welfare above that of my child, I was, I believe putting my child first.  As her primary carer it is imperative that I am well, in all senses of the word, to be able to look after her.

I think of it like the safety briefing you get on a flight, if the oxygen masks drop down, you are instructed to put yours on first before your child’s.  Your child cannot look after itself so you have to ensure that you are able to.

For my small family I see us as equally important.  Two people building a life together, one just happens to be smaller than the other, but believe me she is no less able to make her needs and desires known.  So, for me, I have to be happy for my child to be happy.  When all is said and done the only person I have to justify my decisions to is my daughter,  I just hope I can instill in her the empathy and imagination to understand the decisions we make in difficult circumstances.

About onlydads

Single Dad living near Totnes in Devon. I founded www.onlydads.org in 2007 and live with my daughters Priya, 14 and Anya 11. I write about single parenting, work, overcoming trials and tribulations and sometimes not overcoming trials and tribulations.
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11 Responses to Putting children first…?

  1. Squeaky says:

    Very, very well said, darling! I can’t think of one instance where anyone would say: gee, i wish my parents had been more miserable and stressed when i was growing up. Children, especially young children, look to their parents for a model for all sorts of things. And happiness rubs off as surely as misery and stress. But it is still a hard call to make, and i admire your courage.

  2. Beki says:

    For your daughter to be happy you have to be happy, don’t ever lose sight of that.

  3. onlydads says:

    The more I read this article…the more I think what you say is true. But…and it’s a BIG “but”, keeping a real and meaningful relationship alive between your daughter and her Dad is going to be difficult. I know you will do all that you can – and Dad is going to have to play his role to perfection too. I just wonder if http://www.onlydads.org should be offering more advice and direction to support parents who find themselves thousands of miles apart after break-up…I have just answered my own question. Of course we should!

  4. Oli says:

    Aww Ruth, you are a star.

    If it were me, and ‘A’ was 9 hours away I’d move- end of. But then thats me, my hearts desire is to move back to Wales or take the plunge and try make my fortune in the big smoke but I couldn’t handle being so far away from ‘A’. Its hard enough seeing her only twice a month let alone say twice a year. One day I will probably even up sticks and move to Somerset just so I could be closer.

    Oxygen mask is a very good analogy.

    • Ruth says:

      Thank you Oli. This article is in no way a comment on my daughter’s father and the decision he takes for himself in regard to contact and visits. Rather it shows how sometimes have to take a decision that is for one good but at the cost of another.

  5. Oli says:

    Oh I didn’t take it that way- everyone has there own situation and own reason for what they do or do not do.
    I was merely commenting generally around the ‘putting children first’ subject.

  6. Fran L. says:

    Just to say my eldest’s father is spanish, we’ve managed to keep up a relationship with him and his dad, and S is now 20. Dad and I took it in turns to meet up once a year (he lives in North Spain so more difficult to access than the South), and of course with the advent of the net there has been Skype, email, MSN and the like. Visits still go on and this year S is visiting his dad in Spain with his girlfriend.

    My youngest three’s dad only lives 2 miles from us yet he hasn’t taken the boys out for nearly a year, in spite of offers to see them at my house, take them to his, have a carer out for a trip for another pair of hands (they are disabled). My daughter doesn’t get on with her stepmother so refuses now to go to her dad’s house for sleepovers 😦 she does see her dad every week but only for 20 minutes when he takes her to guides and back. I find this harder to manage than the long-distance one. Dad 1 and I get on and there was no big drama about us. Dad 2 and I do not but I thought after 8.5yrs we could at least do what’s best for the kids. I strongly believe that every child needs their father where possible if he’s interested. Dad 2 is selfish and has never put children first even when we were together, he sort of sees them as an ‘add on’ when he’s not doing anything else.

    Sometimes mums (and dads) have to make tough decisions about where to live but distance isn’t necessarily a big barrier, sometimes lack of distance is!

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