The Single Mom’s Guide

  1. And the Father Would Be…
  2. Dating: Starting Over
  3. Getting Away From It All
  4. Sex and the Single Mom
  5. Provider Blues
  6. It’s Your Party and Your Ex Wants to Party Too
  7. Depending on Child Care Providers
  8. Introducing “Him” to “Them”
  9. Covering Up for Your Ex
  10. Powerplay with the Ex
  11. He’s Not Paying Child Support
  12. Step-Parent and Discipline

1. And the Father Would Be…

It’s amazing how curious total strangers can be about you being a single mom.

They will cross boundaries with single moms that they wouldn’t dare with married moms. Do women who are married get asked who the father is or how the baby was conceived?

The Bottom Line

The single mom, especially at family functions, is sure to have someone invade her space with these questions. I found this to be most invasive when my son, Sam began pre-school. Parents would ask about Sam’s father as if they had a right to know and some even offered me their opinions. One mom actually asked my 3 year old about his father. I was outraged, but politely told her I felt it was none of her business. What’s important is that you make your child aware that there are all kinds of families and not every family has a father living with them. Since we are an adoptive single family I’ve been open and sensitive with my son, Sam about his story. That doesn’t mean I choose to tell anyone I’ve just met. I tell people what I want when I want to about my family and do it when I feel comfortable. I don’t keep it a secret, but I also want the same sense of privacy that is offered to traditional families. It’s necessary to sensitize schools, church groups, the PTA, camps and community groups that various expressions of family exist in this world. There are families like mine as well as my girlfriends who are single parents through divorce, choice or widowhood. If organizations and schools are reluctant to accept this diversity, it’s our job to become advocates for our children. Even though 40% of all kids don’t live with both of their parents anymore, vestiges of the old “Father Knows Best” ideal persist. The father/son book club and father/daughter “Indian Princesses” group are planned bonding experiences that are found even at the most enlightened schools We should try to make our children feel entitled and not left out. There are times when our best efforts aren’t enough and we need to adjust the event or send in a close male friend or relative to step in for an absent dad. I have a few wonderful men friends, who I call in for such occasions. They have a special relationship with Sam which helps him feel connected

Comebacks and Then Some

  • If you’re a single mother by choice try answering the question of fatherhood is, by saying, “David Crosby”.
  • Don’t be shy enlisting friends and family to help you with a male role model for your child. These extended family members are wonderful allies in our parenting efforts.
  • When it comes to Father’s Day let your child’s teacher know that you’d like there to be a conversation about diverse types of families and have your child make a card for the special person in his/her life that he/she wants to honor. Maybe an uncle, a grandfather, a “big brother”, or Mr. Rogers.
  • It is also okay to graciously decline the invitation entirely and create our own special day.
  • Rename Father’s Day to Parents Day.

2. Dating: Starting Over

After a day of work, chauffeuring the car pool, cleaning her kids room, doing the laundry, making dinner, preparing lunch for the next day, arranging this weeks play-dates, and reading her kids a bedtime story, my single mom girlfriend DeeDee just can’t face going out on a date. Besides being too tired, not to mention the cost of a babysitter, she can’t imagine this guy who she’s been set up with is worth it. She’s been telling all her friends that she wants to meet someone and that she’s tired of being alone, but when it’s time for the date, DeeDee’s not up for it.

Bottom Line

Life is overwhelming as a single parent and time is a premium with little energy to spare. Who knows if the person you’re about to date is going to remind you of the anger and pain of the previous relationship? I know when I’ve been alone for awhile I have a hard time getting back into the dating game. Anyway I have a child and all the unconditional love I ever thought possible. Isn’t that enough? Besides I’m not sure how my son will react ? Oh, that’s a lie. He’s always been exposed to my social life, which has always had many wonderful men friends in it. Having a new man drop by to pick me up should cause him no concern. One of my single-mom girlfriends thinks she’s shy to romance because she feels physically out of shape and has lost her sense of style. I can identify. I caught a glimpse of myself the other day and wondered who the frumpy woman in the mirror was staring at me until I realized it was moi. I guess anything can be an excuse. Dating for most people is filled with insecurity and doubt and for someone who’s been out of practice it’s magnified. I’m a firm believer in solutions instead of excuses. I always tell my son, Sam, find solutions to troubles and fears. When I take my own advice I remember that it doesn’t have to be a big deal. We single moms have to take care of ourselves and get out. It’s important to simplify our lives and make the time. Since single moms are pretty daring and courageous, going on a date is a small risk compared to everything else we’re facing. Take the pressure off by starting out casually with a meeting somewhere neutral like a coffee house. If you haven’t been dating in awhile it’s okay to let your date know that you’re a “virgin” dater. Think of dating as practice for a good relationship and find humor in your new found adolescence.

Reasons It’s Good To Date

  • Your child cannot be your life partner. You don’t want to be too emeshed with your son or daughter.
  • Be a role model for your child. Let them see you being an adult with a social life.
  • Going on line and entering chat rooms is good way to start the dating conversation. You can practice exchanging information, flirting and even meet someone.
  • You might find out that the kind of man you used to go out with is no longer attractive to you and you’re taste has gotten better.
  • If you get into shape and your dating experience doesn’t pay off, at least you’ll feel better and like yourself more.
  • Finally, if your not ready to date, then you probably shouldn’t. Maybe this is time to get into a better relationship with yourself.

Special Information – Where The Boys Are:

Baseball Games, Sailing, Bike Rides, The Sierra Club, Wine Tasting Classes, Cooking Classes, The Zoo, Cruises, Dances, Parents Without Partners, Churches, Temples, Going back to School, Horseback Riding, Golf, Going On Line, Personals, Auto Racing, Singles Events, Ask Friends

3. Getting Away From It All

Now that school is almost out I’m making plans for my son, Sam and I to travel during summer vacation. I’d love to go to Paris, but wouldn’t you know it, he’d rather go to Disneyworld. I suppose breakfast with Mickey and Goofy is better than my 8-year-old protesting through the Louvre, “Can we go now?” I’m always looking for ways to combine Sam’s version of “awesome” and my yearning for a grownup experience.

Bottom Line

My girlfriends who are married tell me that traveling with children is tough even with husband in tow. There’s no doubt that doing it without a spouse or companion is even more challenging. Just carrying the bags alone is harder.

Since traveling is one of my great passions I want to share this with my son. Long before I became a mom I loved to hit the road. Immediately after Sam was born I made him part of the experience. In fact when he was six weeks old we flew to New York from Los Angeles. It was a fantastic trip and I loved showing him the “Big Apple”. Of course he doesn’t remember it, but having my baby with me, is what made the trip so wonderful. Later that first year we went to Idaho and I drove across the state. Despite the paraphernalia you need to bring the younger the child is when you start this adventure the better they acclimate to change. They are also learning in ways you can’t even imagine. At 8, Sam loves to travel. He loves hotels, airplanes and new experiences. As a rule I look for vacations that give us plenty of time together and also some time for ourselves. I stay at hotels that are child friendly and have a pool or a playroom. That way Sam can unwind after we’ve traveled or been out sightseeing. I include him in the choice so the experience is satisfying for both of us and I make sure our day is about things he likes to do and I like to do. If we’re visiting a museum I bring a camera for him, as well art supplies to get his creative juices going. I get maps and books in advance about where we’re going and we spend time daydreaming. After we get home we put together a scrapbook of our adventure.

Travel Tips

  • Join other friends and families. It’s more fun for the kids and it gives you a chance to be with adults and have some time for yourself.
  • Most large hotels have a list of bonded, licensed baby sitters. Make sure you tell your children that you are going to leave them for awhile and how long you will be gone.
  • A good way to travel as a single parent family is with another single parent family and take along a nanny that you can both share.
  • Find a travel agent that specializes in family travel with an emphasis on single parent travel.
  • Try Hosteling International (for great deals and an opportunity to meet people from all over the world.
  • Border crossing can be quite serious. The real concern is kidnapping, so the more documentation you have the better.
  • Have passports
  • Have birth certificates or citizenship papers
  • Have proof of custody (if the father is not on the birth certificates this is obviously not necessary)
  • If you have shared custody, you need a letter of permission from the father to go to another country with the kids.
  • If you’re taking a road trip prepare to make frequent stops so everyone can unwind. Let your kids be in charge of the map and bring their own toys, games and books on tape. Have a tape player with headphones for your child’s own music time so you can listen to the radio. This is also a try a good opportunity to play word games and have sing-a-longs.
  • Some colleges have family camps during the summer. There are lots of activities and other single families attend. You don’t have to be an alumnus of the school. Sam and I went to the University of Santa Barbara family camp when he was 2. They had excellent childcare, which was provided by the students in the psychology and education departments. The food was cafeteria style and we stayed in a dorm room. It was lots of fun participating with other family’s in-group activities.
  • For a more leisurely vacation Club Ed, cruises, family resorts and tours are good options. They are not that expensive and have a lot of services and support. Remember getting there is part of the fun. Sam and I Iove traveling on a ship. We just recently went to Baja, Mexico and besides the adventure I got in some shopping. There was children’s camp, that Sam sometimes wanted to go to, but generally we could just hang out together. After 10pm they had a game room set up for a sleep over with baby-sitters. I got to spend time gambling, taking in a show and meeting other adults.
  • On long plane rides bring lots of distractions. Pack new toys and books and bring them out along the way. When Sam was 3 or 4 I used to wrap things in little boxes and he’d be thrilled to find even an old toy. Tearing up the paper was half the fun.
  • Be sure you consider your child’s eating habits and be prepared to supplement his/her diet if they are finicky. I always bring peanut butter and jelly for emergencies. Request a small refrigerator for the room.
  • Family Travel Times is a good resource which can be subscribed to for about $40 a year (212) 477-5524 or www.traveltime.com.
  • To take the edge off your young traveler. Have your child take a bath and then after they get to sleep take one yourself.
  • Have a good time and take lots of pictures. The scrapbook you build together will prepare you for your next adventure. Maybe next year your child will be ready for Paris.

4. Sex and the Single Mom

Recently my single mom girlfriend Penny called to tell me she met someone who has her feeling things she never thought she’d ever feel again. She keeps picturing herself lying in his arms and wanting more. The last time she felt this way was before her 5-year-old was born. There’s lust in her life and she’s concerned about how to balance her own personal needs with being a good mom.

Bottom Line

First of all, single moms deserve a sex life just like other women. Let’s not forget you’re a woman as well as someone’s mother. I believe that having intimate relations can generate a more harmonious family life. I’m not suggesting that you allow passion to rule without some caution, but don’t deny your right to feel desirable and worthy. I think it’s actually dangerous for a person to feel unfulfilled. This doesn’t mean you should go to the local bar and pick up some stranger. It means you should be aware of your personal feelings and look for a sense of balance. Sometimes this means realizing that you need to take better care of yourself and treat yourself to something that satisfies your pleasure and comfort. It could mean having a massage, or having a luxurious candle lit bubble bath or taking yourself on a date to the theater or a concert,. If you are ready to have a lover you should use discretion, good judgment and keep your sex life separate from your child. I’ve been pretty careful about keeping mine a private affair. I’ve used the word private to explain personal time and consideration to my son, Sam. I try to respect his need for this courtesy as he begins to want his “privacy”. (These days he doesn’t want me in the bathroom when he’s naked, but it’s still okay for me to enter once he’s in the bath.) I wouldn’t expose Sam to a situation that might cause him anxiety and confusion. When he was an infant I did have a lover, who would come over after he was asleep. It was easy to keep this intimacy from my son back then and of course this handsome younger man was fun, but he wasn’t a keeper. I never had to deal with the issue of introducing him to my family life. Bringing someone home, now that Sam is 8, isn’t an option unless the relationship becomes much more significant. Just remember the rule for sex and the single mom is pretty simple, it’s best to share intimate time with someone away from your child. That means staying at their place, or at a hotel, or planning to be together at your place when your child isn’t home. Kids need to feel safe and assured that they’re not losing their mom and that they are. It takes planning and consideration. And always practice safe sex And. Remember you are someone’s mom.

Consider This:

  • Try arranging romantic occasions at home when you child is staying overnight at a friends or at Dad’s.
  • If passion gets the best of, make sure your lover is gone by the morning or else have him sleep where you would put overnight guests.
  • Have all your sex toys and birth control devices in a gym bag, which you can keep in the trunk of your car.
  • Take a change of clothes if you’re staying out overnight.
  • Be prepared with answer to the questions your child might have about your sex life. Be open but sensible about it.
  • Don’t refer to an overnight guest as “uncle”
  • Sometimes a hug, or a back rub or a creative outlet can be more beneficial that a sex partner.

5. Provider Blues

Since I’ve been a single parent from the get go I’ve always been financially responsible for my family. Maybe this is easier, since I haven’t experienced the loss of financial security. When I was a single career woman I always felt I could take care of myself just fine. By taking on the demands of parenting a child on my own that confidence went out the window. Now I constantly worry whether or not I can provide.

Bottom Line

Most single moms are also providers for their families. If you’re new to the single parent life this is one of the tough challenges. The fear of not having enough money is brutal. But even single moms who have money are insecure. They worry about the future and what if something happens and they can’t earn enough. If you face the facts of finance you won’t be paralyzed by the fear. For weeks I was trying to figure out how I was going to get through a financially difficult time. I was crunching numbers in my head and it kept me tossing and turning all night. Finally I sat down and made a list of all my expenses and then all my assets. Seeing the reality of my financial life was the beginning of getting it under control. Although I was the provider for my family, I was still very immature about money. By not knowing what was going on I was able to avoid being responsible. Once I realized I was spending more than I was earning I had to face the fact I had to downsize my lifestyle. This was not a happy realization. I didn’t want to feel deprived. How did it get to this? Then it occurred to me that since I was home with my infant son, Sam, I wasn’t the driven career woman I used to be and my income had decreased. Instead I was working part-time and freelancing. My priorities had changed and so my lifestyle had to change. This is true for most single moms, divorced, widowed or by choice. Don’t live beyond your means. Accepting life on life’s terms is humbling, but once you’re there you can look for solutions to your financial concerns. It may mean you don’t go on vacation this year, or buy a new car, or go out to dinner as often. Some single mom’s feel more disadvantaged than others. It’s all relative. One of my single mom girlfriends, Elly was divorced from a very rich entertainer. She lived in Brentwood, California. In fact OJ Simpson was her neighbor. Her million dollar lifestyle was reduced to alimony and child support at $20,000K a month. Mind you she was freaked out while I actually lived on less than that, one year during my “poor” period. Eventually Elly started accepting the reality and doing something she’d never done before – taking responsibility for her financial life. She downsized too and got a job as well. Today, she has a thriving real estate business and earns more than her ex. Many of my single mom girlfriends kept telling me that one day when my son was in school I’d have plenty of time to return to my career and build up my resources again. They were right. Just after Ethan went to kindergarten, I found more time and energy to work extra hours without jeopardizing his best interests. I found a business consultant to help me with my financial situation and I have a good retirement fund and a college fund for Sam.

What Money Means

  • You don’t need a lot of money to provide security for your child. If you worry about money constantly, your kids will.
  • If you’re always in a struggle with debt than you might have some emotional problems that manifest themselves through your spending habits. Get some help with this issue.
  • If you feel you are worthy of feeling secure financially, you will find your way there.
  • You need to solve your financial problem. Someone else won’t.
  • Even if you are getting child-support don’t depend on it to cover your expenses.
  • Use credit wisely and don’t get stuck with late fees and juggling bills to keep up the minimum monthly payments on your credit card
  • Balance your budget. Get enough cash for the week and then don’t go to the cash machine.
  • Be resourceful. Don’t be afraid to try the old fashioned way, clipping coupons, looking for two for one deals, shop at wholesale outlets, find ways to earn extra income from your home.

6. It’s Your Party and your Ex Wants to Party Too

My single girlfriend Marie has been planning a party for her daughter, Kimberly’s fourth birthday for a last two months. Her ex-husband just started to put together a party as well and has invited all the same friends to a separate celebration. Marie is furious that he is causing so much confusion and conflict. She truly believes that her is doing this to get to her.

Bottom Line

What’s new about the ex making things difficult? Marie and her ex have been unsettled over many issues since their divorce. Why should things be different when it comes to Kimberly’s birthday pary if the relationship hasn’t been smoothed out in other areas? For divorced single moms it’s important to remember that your ex may have been a terrible partner, but he might be a good dad. It’s time for a truce. If you’re embattled with an ex call for a moratorium during holidays, birthdays and other significant events in your child’s life. Remember one day it could be your child’s wedding. How will you and he behave?

Solutions

  • Instead of two birthday parties try to have one together. If that wont work why not suggest to you ex that he might consider another form of festivity. Perhaps an excursion, a special sleep-over, or an event with family and a few select friends. If your ex-spouse insists on having the party, maybe you can be the one that decides to create another way to make it the best birthday ever. Let your child help you with this decision.
  • If there are two parties planned let friends who have been invited to both know that it won’t be necessary for them to bring separate presents to both events. They also don’t have to go to both parties.
  • Don’t do what another one of my single girlfriends did at their son’s party, when her ex showed up. She actually had one of her pals go around and tell everyone not to speak to him. It was an awful thing to do and she lost a lot of respect in my opinion. If she didn’t want him there she shouldn’t have invited him. Needless to say her son was thrilled his dad showed up.
  • Don’t discuss the problems you’re having about the party with your child. If you ask a child to deal with a parental dispute he/she will think he/she is the cause of the conflict.
  • Your child might use this as a time to fantasize the possibility that you and your ex will get together. This is not unlike the way children of divorce feel at holidays too. Remind your child as always both parents’ love them and that no matter how his or her birthday will be celebrated it will be the best and most joyous day.
  • Remember you two aren’t together anymore, but you will always be your child’s mom and dad. Use these occasions to practice being mature, responsible adults and keep your child’s best interest at heart. You communicate and compromise for his sake.

7. Depending on Child Care Providers

Julie, my single mom girlfriend, just called in a panic because her baby-sitter didn’t show up this morning. I know the feeling well. I can remember many Monday morning’s pacing in the driveway waiting for the “nanny” to arrive. Single moms really depend on their child care providers. Not only to go to work and get chores done, but to get away and clear our heads. We single mom’s need a break, a chance to take a walk, go to the gym, sit in a cafe, browse in a bookstore.

The Bottom Line

All working moms have to worry about child care, but single moms face an even more intense challenge because there isn’t anyone to back them up. In a two parent family one of the parents can always be there. I have vivid memories of not having any support when my son, Sam was an infant and I needed just an hour to get out to clear my head. I didn’t have the luxury of a partner to give me the time to get away. My girlfriends who had a partner used to marvel at how I was able to be the sole parent. I just never knew another way, but I knew I needed help to be a single parent and chose live-in help for my child care. It allowed me to have sense of independence and give Sam individual attention at home. Even though I was fortunate enough to afford this solution it was one of the most complicated and frustrating areas I had to contend with as a single parent. It was a time consuming obligation to find, train and integrate a “nanny” into our family life. I believe I had over a dozen different women live-in as part of our family. It’s a wonder Sam doesn’t speak several different languages fluently and it’s a greater wonder I survived the revolving door of care takers.

Options

  • Although I haven’t had an au pair in my home, I’ve heard from some of my single mom girlfriends that this cultural exchange really works for them. They have somone in their home that is part of the family for one year. If you have the room, it’s relatively inexpensive in exchange for up to forty-five hours of live-in child care epr week. It this works for you make sure you are going through a government approved organization.
  • If you are hiring a live-in you are required to report and withhold taxes and they should be legal immigrants or citizens. When hiring use a work with a licensed agent who has been recommended. Make sure you know everything you can about your “nanny”. Don’t be shy to ask lots of questions and be less concerned if they have good cleaning skills. It is generally affordable and it
  • I found that one of the best solutions for child care has been my other single mom firends. They have come through for me many times when I needed someone to watch Sam and in return I helped them with their child. I’ve enjoyed hosting many Saturday night sleep-overs so my friend’s could get a break. When I needed it, they’ve been there for me.
  • If you’ re hiring a nanny or a baby-sitter have a list of questions and make sure they know CPR, first aid and how they handle an emergency. Question them on how they discipline, temper tantrums, back talk and what their philosophy on child rearing is. Make sure you get their employment history and check out why they have gaps in it. Make sure you get and call their references. Introduce your child to the person once you think they have potential. When I was interested in someone on a long-term basis I would ask them to work at my home for a half day while I was at home. I’d step in and out of the house to see how they were doing, That way I’d get a sense about their style and how them interacted with Sam.
  • Be aware of child’s behavior. If he seems unhappy or difficult make sure that there isn’t something more than separation anxiety. Check to make sure your child doesn’t have unusual bruises. Ask lots of questions. It’s okay to sound compulsive and neurotic about this subject. Make sure you can be reached by all the new convenient means of communication. Invest in a pager for you caretaker so they can be reached if they go out. I got a two for one deal on a cel phone and when I go out I give my second phone to the baby-sitter to use when she’s off to Little League games or chauffeuring Sam around to his activities.
  • It’s understandable that you can resent how dependent you are on the “nanny” or baby-sitter, but remember this is another woman who is often overworked and underpaid – just like a real mom. Best rule – be nice and patient.

8. Introducing “Him” to “Them”

My single mom girlfriend Toni has been dating David for almost five months and so far her daughter hasn’t even met him. She’s crazy about him but isn’t sure it’s going to last. She confessed to me that she might be avoiding taking to the next step by keeping David out of her “real” life and she doesn’t want to upset her daughter.

The Bottom Line

Since Toni has kept her romantic life out of her daughter’s sight I think it would be best if she started to introduce David slowly. I suggest an initial casual meeting where he’s simply introduced as a friend. In order to find out if this is a true relationship it has to be tested by Toni’s daughter. Can David handle sharing Toni? Does he even like kids? When I was starting a serious relationship I progressed slowly and this helped Sam get to know my steady. Eventually Sam was very comfortable with us holding hands and being affectionate. Sometimes Sam wanted us all to hold hands. My boyfriend was aware that Sam needed to feel part of it and had no problem with this reaction.

What’s In Store

  • Plan family events so your new boyfriend and can spend time outside your home in neutral territory. Go to the park, the zoo, a movie, ice skating, etc. . Slowly bring your new relationship home on a regular basis.
  • Be prepared for your kids not to like your boyfriend and be patient. Don’t expect too much from your child.
  • If your child is especially rude to your boyfriend, you need make it clear that bad behavior is unacceptable. You should talk to them about respecting your friends and reassure them that you love them unconditionally.
  • Be cautious if your boyfriend starts becoming an instant dad to your child. Be careful that you’re not encouraging this either, because you have a fantasy about this relationship. And most of all watch out for your child’s desire to fix his family life by having a dad.
  • Sometimes children of divorce feel a loyalty toward their dad or they are still holding out for their parents to get back together. . I dated a recently divorced single dad who had two daughters. My son liked my boyfriend, Jim, a lot, but his girls had a tough time accepting me. They weren’t ready for their dad to have a girlfriend. We decided to make plans on our own when we wanted to be more affectionate and when we were with our kids we were more casual. We made our family dates about our kids. This helped the situation.

9. Covering Up for Your Ex

One of my very best single mom girlfriends, Sarah, has an ex who is very inconsistent. He was unreliable when they were married and now that they’re divorced he hasn’t changed. He’s always late picking up the kids and too many times he’s canceled and left her two boys sitting by the window waiting. I’ve heard Sarah make excuses for their dad’s behavior. She says it’s to protect the boys, but I fear she’s really trying to make herself feel better.

Bottom Line

It’s important not to cover up for your ex. I believe that if you’re honest with your child you will serve them better than making excuses. Who wants to see their child hurt, but if you lie on behalf of your ex you are sending the wrong message? Sarah is letting her kids down by making them think there is a fantasy person out there who is going to come through. Kids blame themselves when their dad doesn’t show up. In the end, us single moms will be resented for not being “real”.

How To Handle It

  • Prepare your kids for the possibility of disappointment by taking control of the time planned. Since my son Sam and I are a single adoptive family there’s never been a father in the parenting experience. But his uncle has been an important man in my son’s life, and he too has disappointed Sam by not showing up. I’ve handled it by telling Sam that his uncle is planning to come by but if he doesn’t I have a terrific back up plan.
  • Help your kids by telling them that when their dad says he promises, what he really means is, he’ll do his best.
  • Even though your ex is a jerk. Don’t go to the other extreme and say so to your kid. Be diplomatic and sensitive when helping them with their disappointment and pain.
  • Be prepared for backlash. When Sam has been let down by someone he sometimes takes it out on me. I try to help him see that he’s frustrated and talk it out instead of acting it out.
  • Try to point out some positive things about your ex even though he doesn’t act the way he should all the time. State the information without judgment and remember this is still your child’s dad and there is a reflection of their self-image in this person.

10. Powerplay with the Ex

Jenny, a single mom girlfriend, who has joint custody of her two sons, was really upset when her ex cut her 2-year-olds ringlets off. Her ex told her he felt that her son “looked like a girl with all that hair and it was up to a man to cut it”. She is sure he is doing it too get to her.

Bottom Line

Jenny shouldn’t do or say anything, especially in the presence of her son. There’s no going back now that the curls are gone. If she shows how upset she is it will only upset her son and send the inappropriate message that his dad’s a jerk. The greatest gift you can give your kids under these circumstances is to make them feel that their dad is the coolest guy on the planet. Hopefully the ex supports you the same way.

Handling the Sticky Side of Joint Custody

  • Even if your ex is still trying to get to you. Maybe he does want to reinforce his authority as dad. Don’t let him know that he does get to you. It allows him to continue to control you.
  • Remember how picking your battles with you child is a good policy. Use this principle with your ex. Play it cool with issues that you can let go of. It’s best to save the confrontations for more important concerns.
  • In a joint custody both of you are responsible for your child’s best interests. Try to encourage your ex to have an ongoing relationship with you about the your child’s welfare. If you are diplomatic he may be inspired to discuss his child grooming plans in advance. In the future your child will have his or her own ideas about their style. You may find that you and your ex are on the same side when he/she comes home with a tattoo.
  • The goal is to make decisions together without the undertow of revenge. There is a way to have a successful co-parenting relationship. This means you are cooperating with each other’s needs and are bring consistent.
  • While the custody is being decided agree on who is the primary parent. In other words if your child is living primarily with you then the responsibility is yours and you need to be the “final word”.
  • Be prepared for your child to pick up on the possibility of contention on certain issues and let him/her know that you will be discussing the question with their dad. See if your ex would consider in participating in a specific time for family issues.

11. He’s Not Paying Child Support

My single mom girlfriend Stacey is distraught that her ex has stopped paying support, but still sees their kids. He claims to be out of work has not given her money in over six months. She’s furious that he recently took a vacation with his new girlfriend, but claims his girlfriend paid. Stacey wants to terminate his visitation.

Bottom Line

The ex is legally obligate to pay support and if he doesn’t pay he is in contempt of court.

Get a lawyer or an agency to help you get the funds you deserve. Let the system work for you. In my opinion, if your ex continues to see your child you might need to accept that this is as good as it’s going to get at this time. Unfortunately, I have several other single mom girlfriends who have an out of work ex, but these guys love their kids and they still show up. They even go on vacation and often let their new girlfriends pay. They don’t have any shame about any of this.

How To Handle It

  • It’s better to keep your ex in the picture even if he’s not paying, but don’t give up on getting the system to work on your behalf. Even though the process is emotionally and mentally exhausting. Don’t give up. Your child has a right to be cared for financially and let the court decide what that is.
  • Child support and visitation rights are two different issues. If your ex is a good enough parent, but isn’t paying child support you shouldn’t deny him visitation. My single mom girlfriend Jenny accepts her ex, who is an out of work musician, will never make a consistent financial contribution. He’s a wonderful dad despite his inability to make a steady income. The arrangement allows Jenny to work at her lucrative job in advertising and have time for herself.
  • I’ve had friends get as little as $125 dollars a month and much as $7,000 thousand dollars. When the ex suddenly experienced a change in income or suddenly resented the amount he had to pay he would withdraw funds. No wonder divorce attorneys make so much money. In some cases the battle goes on for years.
  • You have to wait until the court rules. If you want to terminate his parental rights be sure you can do without the support.
  • Usually when the ex is delinquent about money he often disappears. If your ex is still around consider it a good sign that you will get the support that’s due in the future. Men who see their children usually pay child support.
  • A child deserves support whether the parents are married or not. If the father of your child had no desire to be a parent and you got pregnant on purpose be prepared for an expensive battle if you are trying to collect child support.

12. Step-Parent and Discipline

My girlfriend Patty recently remarried after being single for the last five years. Her son Jesse, 10, has an on-going relationship with his father, who is also remarried. Her new husband, Ron, treats Jesse as his own, but Patty freaks out when he disciplines Jesse. She is in terrible conflict about who sets the rules for Jesse.

Bottom Line

I don’t like it when someone else corrects my son’s behavior. It pushes my buttons big-time. Even a simple reprimand makes me feel like defending him. If you’re going to ask your new mate to participate in raising your child you need to have a clear understanding about what the rules are. In Patty’s case she wants her new husband to feel that he is really part of the family in every way. Ron needs to feel that he can defend himself when Jesse misbehaves. Patty can’t expect him to participate in raising her son if she’s not going to trust him to enter the magic and often challenging circle of parenthood.

Setting The Rules

  • Patty’s new husband and her son’s biological father and his mate need to mutually agree on behavior goals that you want to set for Jesse. An understanding needs to be reached about what punishments are acceptable when he acts up.
  • Set boundaries for your household. Make sure you, your spouse and your kids all agree on the house-rules.
  • Your child has to see you and your spouse as united. Don’t disagree in front of your child.
  • Let your child voice his/her feelings about the new arrangement. He/She might resent the new rules and the new parent. Your child’s needs come first. Make sure you put your child first and then your spouse, who as an adult, should understand.
  • Perhaps you were much too lenient as a single parent and realize you need to pull in the reigns a bit to accommodate the new member of your family.
  • Your new husband may not have any experience with children. Consider parenting classes or family therapy for both you and your husband.
  • Have patience with this new family arrangement. By remaining calm and assured that it will work out – it will work out.
  • If you can’t reach common ground with your husband, then keep the child rearing to yourself and regard your spouse not as your child’s parent, but as his respected friend.
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