Long distance parenting is a very complicated situation for anyone to find themselves in. I am a 27 year old man and I have an 8 year old daughter who lives 5 hours away from me with her mother. In a lot of ways this is a situation that no parent can ever imagine being able to cope with, in others it is an opportunity to have a relationship like no other with your child.
The traditional role of disciplinarian and advisor basically has to be relinquished in a long distance parenting situation. While you do have some influence on the general nature in which your child will be raised, for the most part, it is up to the full time parent whether they agree and follow the same parenting techniques you would use. In my case, my ex has many parenting techniques I agree with and some I don’t as well. Unfortunately there are few options available besides discussion and compromise. There was a time when I never thought my ex and I would ever agree on a single thing regarding our daughter. Time has a way of working things out. Now I feel we agree on many things and are at a point where we parent together as opposed to against each other. Anyone who is finds themselves in a long distance parenting position may feel that there is no way for this to happen, but families adapt and roles sort themselves out.
In my opinion, the hardest part of being so far away from my daughter is the influence of another father figure in her life. Divorced and separated parents are a common occurrence now, but there is a huge difference between being within 20 minutes of your child when she needs a dad, and not even being in the same province. I had a serious pride issue going on, knowing my daughter calls someone else daddy and gets a male role model from him. This is another one of those situations I now know sorts itself out with time. This situation was much harder when she was younger and was more confused on the roles within a family. As she is getting older it is much less painful and pride-wrecking because there is never a doubt to her who is who.
Even though I have had many years of coming to grips with her living so far away, and trying to figure out my role as a parent so far away, I have come to realize that there is a special bond that can be built within a situation like this. Without being the primary caregiver, I feel I know my daughter in a way no other parental figure in her life does. There is a definite excitement in her voice and mine when we talk. Even though we do our best to talk every day or two, there are times when we go a few days with no communication and to hear that excitement is one of the most rewarding parts of my entire parenting experience.
Of course I wish my daughter lived closer to me. I also wish she lived with me, but sometimes life doesn’t work the way you want it to. The best advice I can give to a long distance parent is that it will only work if you are willing to work for it. I go through a lot of time management and travel costs to ensure my daughter and I have a solid relationship. That is not including the hurdles my family jump through in order to maintain a relationship with her as well. It would be incredibly easy to put in a bare minimum effort and have a so-so relationship, but maintaining a healthy relationship takes work. I know people who have children locally that put in very little effort and to that I have to question: why!?! Maybe it is one of those situations people take for granted until they do not have open access to their kids anymore? I don’t know.
So to sum it all up, in order to have a successful long distance relationship with your kids, relinquish the parenting control and the dumb pride issues you will inevitably feel, and put in the effort needed. Kids notice whether you are into the relationship or not. Don’t think they don’t. They will know and once you have set that precedent it is almost impossible to come back from. Enjoy the relationship you have and remember no matter what they know who their daddy is. Even if you don’t believe that now, I promise you, it’s true!