Ask Mr. Dad: Disneyland syndrome affects mothers, too

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m a divorced mom, and because of my past substance-abuse issues, my ex-husband has primary physical custody of our children. I only get to see them on weekends, and we miss each other terribly. I’ve been trying to make it up to them by filling every weekend with outings and activities. But I think I’ve made a mistake. More than anything, I want to just hang out with the kids, but every time I schedule some downtime, they complain that they’re bored. What can I do?

A: I’m so glad you wrote — I get this question a lot from non-custodial dads, but it’s important for readers to understand that when the roles are reversed, moms often experience the same problems. A lot of non-custodial parents, especially those with limited time with their children, fall into the same trap you did. Sometimes, like you, it’s because they feel guilty about not having been around as much as they’d like to. Sometimes, they’re trying to earn their children’s love, and sometimes they’re trying to compete with their former spouse. The result is a nonstop party, filled with expensive gifts and trips, little or no discipline or responsibilities (meaning no homework or chores) and treating the kids like royalty instead of children. Hence the nickname “Disneyland parents.”

As you’ve discovered, this model simply isn’t sustainable. Eventually, you’ll run out of money or ideas. And even if don’t, you’ll end up with no relationship with your children. Plus, they will be so spoiled that if you