The Guilty Disneyland Parent Syndrome

written by Fred Campos

The Guilty Disneyland Parent by Fred Campos, @FullCustodyDad bloggerFour years ago, I wrote a post for Rachel & Dr. Leah’s blog. Here is re-post of that popular explanation of the non-custodial parent who is consumed with guilt. This is a continuation of my series that started with The Disneyland Parent Syndrome Defined.

I have had full custody of my wonderful 10 year old daughter for the last 6 years. I now have two school age kids (and one on the way), and my wife and I have a very structured, organized, and well run family. We have calendars of planned activities, pre-decided well balanced meals, homework places at the table, reading logs, and regularly scheduled bedtimes.

However, every other year we take a major vacation and go to Disney World or some other exciting place and do—the unthinkable. I let the kids sleep in the same bed, eat out several times a day – extremely fattening food, stay up late, sometimes they even miss a bath, and I give them unexpected gifts. “Why do I do this?” I dedicate this time to spend 24/7 with my kids. I love and miss them very much and vacations are my time to break the rules. We all look forward to it!

Let’s consider a traveling father in a nuclear family who comes home from his out of town work, kisses his wife, and sneaks into his kids bedrooms and wakes them up. He pulls out gifts he bought, loads them into the car in pajamas and takes them to get a big fat banana split. His wife says, “Honey, it’s an hour past their bedtime, they don’t need the sugar and they have school in the morning.” He says, “Yeah, but I missed them.” She smiles, he leaves, and she thinks to herself, “He’s such a good daddy. He misses our kids. I’ll get them back on schedule tomorrow.” She forgives him and gives him some grace.

Most of the time, non-custodial parents are often hurting, missing their kids and wanting to make up for time missed. They want to enjoy the kids and we, the structured custodial parents, are bitter about “getting them back on schedule tomorrow.” We vent to the Ex, vindictiveness kicks in as a response from the Ex and now the pattern is repeating and becoming other things like manipulation, revenge, and selfishness (perhaps on both sides). I am by NO means excusing the repeated behavior of the Ex as vacations DON’T last forever. Exs need to come back from vacation and work on being good co-parents. Both sides need to recognize the “Disneyland Parent Syndrome” and break the pattern.

Are you and your Ex caught in this cycle? Is the “other parent” a Guilty Disneyland Parent? How do you think it can be dealt with?

Fred Campos is father to three and primary custodian to his daughter Caitlyn from a previous relationship. Image courtesy of ImageryMajestic at



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