The Disneyland Dad:
Coping Tips from the Coach


Just what is a Disneyland Dad? Generally, he's a father who buys his kids whatever they want, taking them out to eat and to all the fun places in town, rarely enforces regular routines, and gives in to their every whim. From a child's point of view, it's like visiting Disneyland. So what's a mother to do, especially if she's struggling to get by? For some perspective on the situation, read the following tips from the life coach in response to our readers questions.

I can't afford to do the things their dad does.

Stephanie's Question: My husband filed for divorce on me several weeks ago. The kids and I have moved out because he said he was selling the house. But now I'm paying for everything; rent, daycare, insurance, and half the mortgage on very little income. I can't afford all the extras anymore. However my husband seems to be doing well and buys the kids anything and everything. Although I'm happy for the kids, how do I get past being so mad? And how do I make the kids understand that I just can't afford to do the things dad does?

Gloria answers: Hi Stephanie ~
I'm so glad you asked this question because I remember so well going through this very same thing, and I'm sure many others have faced it, too! For the first time in a long time or maybe ever, the Mom is now the main provider and has to pay for so many things alone (here are some tips to help you start recovering financially from divorce). Just surviving from day to day is a feat, let alone all the extras that come with kids. And having to say no to the kids when inside we know they are hurting, too, (not to mention Dad giving them anything and everything!) is really a challenge.

Here are a couple of things to encourage and empower you right now. When it comes to the kids, you don't have to justify or explain to them how you spend your money. It is fully within your power to make those decisions. When you were married, you made joint decisions with your husband without the kid's input. And now that you are on your own, you still have that right. The only difference is that now you have the opportunity to make smart decisions on your own.

I would challenge you not to put it out to the kids that you can't afford to do something. Claim your power and say that you are choosing not to spend your money on that right now without apology. The kids will watch your strength and will respect your courage, and will learn how to handle money responsibly by your example. They may not always like it, but so it is with lots of other things we do as parents, too!

As far as being mad about the situation, make a decision to just let the anger go. It really doesn't serve you well, and in reality, there is very little you can do about how your X spends his money now. Instead focus that energy into taking care of yourself well, learning something new, developing other streams of income, or developing supportive relationships. While your kids are being well taken care of (and maybe even spoiled!), do the same for yourself. You deserve it!

There are no rules or discipline at his house.

Shannon's Question: What should I do about my 7 year old daughter that wants to go to dad's house because he doesn't require her to do anything (i.e. no chores, no rules, nothing that involves discipline or anything that is not fun)? She comes home most times wanting our entire family to pay attention only to her.

Gloria's Answer: What child wouldn't want to be in a home where nothing is expected of them, no work or discipline, and they are completely cherished from the time they step foot in the house? Can't blame them for wanting it! I'd love it, too!!

The simplest approach is to talk with your daughter directly to emphasize the fact that she has 2 homes now with 2 separate sets of rules. You have no say over what happens at her Dad's, but you have every say on what happens within your home. Let her know that because you do require certain things of her, it's not because she is a work horse or a slave, but because that's what we do in families, that what we do to get along with one another, and that is what we do to become responsible adults. And be very careful to leave Dad completely out of this conversation. He has no room to judge or criticize YOUR home, so set the example, and don't mention any of that to your daughter either.

She may not understand that bigger picture yet. That's okay! Hold it for her, and someday, when she has a real home of her own, she will. 

About Gloria Swardenski