Bri and I are in a long-distance relationship, and as time marches on, it becomes increasingly difficult for us to be apart. This is temporary, of course – we don’t intend to be a long-distance couple forever. But as hard as it is for us, we also have constant reminders that we are not the only ones affected by the distance. We both have preschool-aged daughters whose lives are touched by our relationship and as a result, the miles between us.
A quick Google search about how long-distance relationships affect children turns up websites and blogs about parents’ experiences after divorce, involving situations when a move puts miles between a parent and their children. There is nothing written (that I could find) about two single parents who came together via the Internet, are living through a long-distance relationship and will eventually become a blended family.
Surely we aren’t the only single parents who are in a long-distance relationship? Or maybe we are. In any case, there is no guide book or manual on how to work through this with our children. Hell, there isn’t even a poorly written blog I can turn to for advice. We’re working on this with a lot of communication, open hearts and minds, patience and understanding for the challenges we face and the challenges that will be in our future.
My daughter Evelyn (4) is pretty good with identifying her feelings and talking about them. When she first met Bri back in October, she had a short period of jealousy – she hadn’t seen me be romantically affectionate with another adult since her infancy and she doesn’t remember that. Since our first visit, she has loved Bri. She has moments of jealousy that creep in every once in a while, but she absolutely adores Bri and tells her she loves her unprompted.
It helps that Bri always makes sure to bring a little something for Evelyn in her bag when she visits. She pays close attention to her, writes her letters and sends her cards to let her know she’s thinking of her and loves her. She is patient and kind, and always plays with her (and my best friend’s kids) when she is here. As a result, she’s won Evelyn’s loyalties, which Evelyn does not give away freely.
A couple days ago at preschool pick-up, Evelyn’s teacher told me that Evelyn told her, “My mommy and Bri love each other very much,” followed by, “My family is growing and I’m happy about it.” I had never used the word “family” to describe Bri and her daughter to Evelyn. But somehow, she put it all together in her mind and knows that we are currently family (in heart) and will be family all under the same roof some day in the future. These moments let me know that although this relationship is extra emotional labour, it is a good thing for all of us.
Some of the challenges we face as single parents in an LDR
- Our daughters don’t get to spend time together as often as we’d like. When they do spend time together, it is for days in a row, rather than a few hours here, a full day there. We don’t have the luxury of introducing the girls gradually so they can get to know each other and get used to each other.
- Saying goodbye is hard (and not just for the adults). After a couple of Bri’s visits, Evelyn has cried when she realizes that the last hug she gave Bri was the last hug she’ll give her for a while.
- Most of our relationship is invisible to the kids. Bri and I talk all day, every day in some way (text, email, telephone calls), but the kids don’t see this. Instead of seeing us work together as a team, our kids only get glimpses of us together. They don’t see us working together or running a home together or being a duo who does life together (yet).
Tips for helping children with parents in a long-distance relationship
- Send photos and videos back & forth. Bri’s daughter enjoys watching videos of us, so I/we try to make them for her so she knows we’re thinking of her and love her.
- FaceTime. Connecting in this way gives the girls an opportunity to see each other and show each other their toys/new tricks/booboos and get to know each other a little better.
- Involve the kids in visits. Our lives revolve around our children and visits are no different – we put them and their needs first, always. This means that we stick to Evelyn’s routine when Bri is here and when we were in Florida, every activity we did was kid-focused.
- Communicate openly. Communication is a big part of any relationship, and it is particularly vital in an LDR. I talk to Evelyn about Bri and her daughter all the time. I know Bri does the same thing. Although we cannot always be close in proximity, we can always be close in thought.
I’m no pro at this – I’m living it and winging it as I do. Although none of this is particularly easy, I could not have picked anyone better to take this journey with. To know Bri is to know someone who is patient, thoughtful, loving and above all – kind. She’s exactly the kind of person I dreamed to have not only in my life, but in my daughter’s life. We are guaranteed to have some (more) challenges in our future, but I feel confident that we can get through anything together.