Q: I have been divorced for seven years and have a 12-year-old daughter. I also have a new boyfriend, but we are careful to portray the relationship as "just friends" until we agree that the relationship is permanent.
My friend is the CFO of a company and travels to Europe on occasion. He has asked me to go with him next month for two weeks. I am conflicted because my daughter is going through puberty, divorce (her father is divorcing again and moving to another state), her best friend just moved away and her dog was recently euthanized.
My question is: Will she be able to handle it if I go to Europe for two weeks right now? My mom has volunteered to watch her and says, "Go for it!" My boyfriend says, "No pressure. I'd love for you to go, but it won't change my commitment to you if you say you can't right now."
I really would love to go. What's good ex-etiquette?
A: I'm reading between the lines, but it sounds to me like you're saying you don't think it is a good time for your daughter, but you really want to go — and your mom raised you and you came out OK, so you don't feel too guilty leaving your daughter with her.
But then there's that tiny little voice in your head that says, "Bad mom, bad mom, bad mom" and you think, "Am I?"
Divorced parents are often faced with the dilemma you describe. They feel torn between their new love and their love for their children. "If I put my kids first, will he leave me?" The truth is, he might. But he also might not. Strength of conviction is a very attractive trait, and if you get clear that your kids are first when faced with a dilemma of this sort, there will be no question as to what is the right answer.
Your new partner also will know where you stand, which will make it easier for him to make decisions about his life and if he wants to go forward with someone who has kids.
You can't buffer the fact that you are a mom. It's obvious that you're sensitive and intuitive, two traits in good moms and in good partners. You know your daughter and you sense she needs order right now.
If your friend says "no pressure" and often travels to Europe, there's no question the right answer is to put the trip off until next time. Then you can both plan for the romantic getaway you want.
In a few months your daughter may be more settled in — plus be more open to the fact that you are going away with your friend, and you will be able to relax and enjoy yourself with far less guilt.
What if she's still not ready for you to leave for a couple of weeks in a couple of months? If the transition is too tough on her, you may have to put it off again — and in that case you may also want to think about consulting a counselor to help her cope and the best ways you can support her.
Jann Blackstone is author of "Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation" and founder of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com).