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Home » Parenting » What’s Worse: Growing Up without a Mother or Growing Up with a Mother Who Comes and Goes?

What’s Worse: Growing Up without a Mother or Growing Up with a Mother Who Comes and Goes?

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From the U.S. My brother’s son turns 2 in April, and they live in Denver. The boy’s mother left them for a 3 month stay in California right after he turned 1 to “work on herself”; before returning to Denver when she felt like she was ready to be a mother again. She has recently left them again, this time she has said she has little interest in returning to Denver.

While she was living in Denver, my mother put a GPS tracker on her car. We found that when she was dropping off her son so she could go to work, she was really out partying at different bars around the city. She has a drug and alcohol problem, she’s consistently asking to borrow money, she’s stolen from my brother multiple times, and she’s made threats on my brother’s life.

There has been debate around my brother filing for primary custody but my family believes that it’s important for a child to have their mother around. Since she comes and goes as she pleases, I don’t think that having her around is a good thing. We are wondering what’s worse- growing up without a mother or growing up with a Mother who comes and goes as she pleases and takes poor care of the child. Please help.

What’s Worse: Growing Up without a Mother or Growing Up with a Mother Who Comes and Goes?

Answered by on -

A.

Generally, I think it is better for a child to have intermittent contact with his mother than none at all. He does have a mother who seems to have some feelings for him, although she may be unfit to care for him. Children who are cut off from a parent often develop unrealistic fantasies about that parent. I think it is better to allow supervised contact and to periodically have age-appropriate conversations with a child about what the child can expect from visits.

In this case, the mother is troubled and addicted. She isn’t able to be the mother the child deserves. “Contact” does not mean that the child should be left in her care. You already have evidence that she doesn’t take care of him when she takes him off by herself. “Contact” does not mean that the father should not assume primary custody. The mother is apparently unable to keep her child safe or to be a responsible adult.

I suggest that the father talk to a family therapist about what is in the best interests of the child. He should also talk to a lawyer about how best to handle the situation, hopefully without becoming so adversarial that the mother vanishes completely. Hopefully, she will eventually deal with her addictions and mental instability and be able to be a positive presence in her child’s life.

I wish everyone well.
Dr. Marie

What’s Worse: Growing Up without a Mother or Growing Up with a Mother Who Comes and Goes?

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). What’s Worse: Growing Up without a Mother or Growing Up with a Mother Who Comes and Goes?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 17, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2018/03/14/whats-worse-growing-up-without-a-mother-or-growing-up-with-a-mother-who-comes-and-goes/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.