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Single parents: Would you let your ex stay in your home?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  April 19, 2010 08:18 AM

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At, Dr. Leah describes a situation that might make many single parents nod and cringe at the same time. A single dad, who has been the primary caregiver of his kids for the past five years, fields a request from his broke ex-wife: "Will you please let me stay on your couch for Mothers Day?"

There's more to the story, of course. A year earlier, his ex -- with whom he used to share custody -- got into major financial trouble. "She lost her job and stopped contributing to health insurance, day care, etc.," Dr. Leah writes. "Then, she announced that she was going to live with her parents -- in another state -- to get back on her feet." But her parents have kicked her out, and she says she can't afford a hotel as well as airfare.

The single dad is torn; he wants to do the right thing, he wants to make sure his kids spend time with their mom, but he's wondering where the boundaries are -- and what the ramifications of her staying over could be. Would the kids be confused about Mommy being on the couch? Is he supposed to stick around while she's there? If he says yes and plays host, what might she ask for next?

Personally, I think the dad should let his ex-wife stay at his home for the weekend. Sure, it'll be awkward (his girlfriend is likely to feel pretty uncomfortable) but the bottom line is that spending time with their mom is in his kids' best interests, and that outweighs everything else -- except for their safety. He could offer to split the cost of a hotel room, but given that his ex's parents have kicked her out and she's struggling to pay her own rent, his home may be the safest place to host a visit.

Parents, what do you think? Does a single parent owe it to his or her kids to facilitate their visit with their other parent -- or simply to not impede it?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at April is Autism Awareness Month; you can read her posts about autism here.

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26 comments so far...
  1. Absolutely not. She has friends and her own PARENTS will not allow her to stay with them. That is a huge red flag. What happens if there is a situation and he has to ask her to leave or when the weekend is up she refuses to leave because she has nowhere to go? Daddy gets to throw her out and be the bad guy in his own home.
    The kids can call, make cards, etc... for Mother's Day if she can't be there.

    Posted by Stephanie April 19, 10 10:22 AM
  1. Stephanie hit the nail on the way is that agood idea.

    Posted by Andy April 19, 10 11:13 AM
  1. Would I let an ex-the-parent-of-my-children stay at my house? Mayyyyyyybe. Would I let THIS ex? Absolutely not. If she can't find a place to stay, then it's better if she doesn't visit. It sounds like it would be much more disruptive for her to show up than to just have a phone call. I think she is manipulating the dad--and by extension, her children--by saying it's for mother's day. Obviously there is A LOT more to this story.

    Posted by anita April 19, 10 12:18 PM
  1. No way! I think this would be a very bad idea. Lots have flags have gone up in this situation. Her parents kicking her out being a major one. An afternoon in the park spending quality time with her kids seem like a better alternative. Letting her sleep on the couch will lead to additional requests.

    Posted by kj April 19, 10 12:47 PM
  1. Anita raises a good point. Depending on the circumstances, I would consider it.

    It sounds like this woman is a major problem and can't even take care of herself! Her parents kicked her out? Well, that's her problem. She needs to grow up and stop being enabled.

    Why does she feel the need to come and visit just because it's Mother's Day? A phone call would suffice in this situation. Maybe she should have thought of the consequences of her poor actions (that we don't have the details of) before doing them.

    I would not offer to split the cost of a hotel, either.

    Posted by Mikey "Insane" Monkeypants April 19, 10 01:27 PM
  1. No way! This is a bad idea. Clearly mom has issues. Dad has primary custody for a reason.

    Posted by Lee April 19, 10 01:54 PM
  1. For the first couple of years following my divorce, I would schlep my kids to their dad's, to his parent's apartment, etc. in order for them to have some time with him (he rarely made the visit to see them, although it wasn't more than a 45-minute ride). Eventually I woke up and realized seeing him wasn't necessarily in their best interest. We don't know the circumstances, but if her own parents kicked her out it seems as if perhaps that may be the case here - a mom who manipulates emotionally to get what she wants (not necessarily what is good and healthy for her children) probably isn't good to be around them right now. A phone call should more than suffice.

    Posted by SA April 19, 10 02:09 PM
  1. I have let my ex stay on the coach when we did not live very close to one another and he was without his own transpertation. It seemed to make sense to allow for better visitation with the kids. Boundries were clearly setup, expectations articulated and what the plans are were outlined to the kids on how things were going to work. (By the way if they were not comfortable with it I would have said no.)

    If everyone can stay clear on how its supposed to work and the children do not get confused than I do think it can work. However, I would not reccomend making it a regular thing and be prepared for her to push the boundries. My ex sure did

    I did well to remind myself that my responsibilities are to take care of my kids and me, it is not my responsibility to take care of my ex. Think carefully, plan carefully and best of luck!

    Posted by singlemom April 19, 10 02:24 PM
  1. Of course it's always a good idea to help someone who needs it. The children will learn compassion. That said, I would want to know why her parents kicked her out before allowing (the weekend only) visit. Especially if it wouldn't be the safest thing to do. This isn't just a yes or no question. It depends on the circumstances.

    Posted by Safer Dates April 19, 10 03:36 PM
  1. So typical, the responsible grown up parent has to make all the tough decisions. My ex is close to being shown the door by his own parents, and he is such a train wreck he will probably end up living in his car or a shelter, and that will effectively end my son's overnight visits. It's just so hard on the kids. I really feel bad for the dad in this situation, to say nothing of those children. Maybe she should have been thinking about them when she was doing whatever she did to end up in this situation, because you don't lose custody when you put your kids first and foremost.

    Posted by ReginaFalange April 19, 10 03:59 PM
  1. The answer to the question would be yes except for the fact that this ex seems to be a seriously needy person who has the potential to cause huge amounts of getting her to leave after mother's day...she is homeless and clearly needs to get her life together with professional help and maybe some time in a shelter. I'd get her a motel room for the night. One night.

    Posted by li1wing April 19, 10 05:16 PM
  1. Bad idea. She has only herself to take care of, no more child expenses..where is her money going?? Burning bridges with your own parents is usually hard to do. This woman seems to be up to no good.

    Posted by melinda mae April 19, 10 05:28 PM
  1. I would suggest the father look to see if there is a church or other low income service that will provide money for a hotel or motel room for one or two nights. I see all sorts of issues although, initally, I would have said, yes, let her stay. I think it will be a good move to let her see her children. Otherwise the day will come when the children will resent the father for withholding time with their biological mother. There also are YWCA facilities and perhaps he can help a bit financially. Do let her visit them in their own home or a nearby park for security.

    Posted by Lin McKay April 19, 10 06:06 PM
  1. Be careful. She might want back in.

    Posted by lala April 19, 10 09:09 PM
  1. Let's see - she lost her job (fired I presume), gave up custody, is in major financial troubles, and her parents kicked her out. She is not blameless in her situation and to me she sounds like a substance abuser, a drinker, or a compulsive gambler. Is that what the kids need to be around? I don't think so. I respectfully disagree with Lin McKay's assertion that he is withholding Mommy time - Mommy clearly takes no responsibility for her actions. And Stephanie raises an excellent point - if she's already homeless, where does she plan to go on the Monday following Mothers Day? It sounds to me like she's planning a major emotional assault on Dad, possibly using the children. I can hear it now: She'll say she wants to stay a few more days and will ask the kids if they'd like that, setting Dad up to be the bad guy. Dad's first responsibility is to his kids, not to his ex, and she sounds like a bad apple to me.

    Posted by JBar April 20, 10 08:59 AM
  1. I think it makes a difference as to how old the children are. Pre-teens and teens especially would do well to see their father being charitable toward their mother, who is clearly in need of some stability. The family should try to respect this woman who is, for better or worse, still part of the family. Rules about her stay, however, should be clearly laid out ahead of time. Unless she is known to be using drugs or violent, I would say give her a chance for a night. And talk to the kids in advance about the situation their mother is in, and ask what they think about it. Their views might surprise you.

    Posted by askme2build April 20, 10 12:36 PM
  1. Absolutely not. Full stop. It only confuses the children. Put her up in a hotel room for a night. Have it prepaid with explicit instructions to hotel. Arrange a place/park to meet with kids. Not only is it a total invasion of privacy but in this case a dangerous one.

    Posted by I'd never April 20, 10 12:42 PM
  1. As parents we really just want to make our children happy. But we also need to make sure the other parent isn't taking advantage of us. So I would let the mother sleep on the couch, have my significant other also stay over and make it fun for the kids. I would also make it extremely clear to the other parent that she would have to leave Monday morning - with no sob stories. This can be done when the children are not around to witness it. This way they don't think you are "kicking mommy out".

    Posted by Jeanine April 20, 10 01:09 PM
  1. You have to look at it from the kids perspective.
    Every kid wants their parents to be together and boy would this send the wrong message and give false hope, and unrealistic expectations to the kids.
    Bad, bad idea.

    Posted by Edgar Allen Poe April 20, 10 03:19 PM
  1. I agree. This Mom is too much trouble - - not even her parents want her in their home. In other circumstances, where there are no issues with the ex, I would consider it.

    Posted by BN April 20, 10 04:21 PM
  1. No, from experience I know this sets a bad precedent. She should have other friends to stay with.

    We go through this every year with my bf's ex and it is nothing but drama and torment (her doing) for the kids.

    Posted by hikerskiergirl April 20, 10 05:00 PM
  1. Dirty story! A world where children are thought that it is normal
    to have kids with another woman and still be playing away match with other woman or men.
    Dirty world!!!!

    No wonder Jesus Christ told his children saying you are in this world but you are not of this world.Because worldly ways are waywardways pioneering against will of their creator.

    God created one man and one wife .And their children under their care period.Any other thing other than that is not only sin but abomination and unhealthy to the society.

    Thank you.

    Posted by greaterlight. April 22, 10 10:06 AM
  1. Greaterlight, you've obviously read the Bible. What do you think about Genesis 4:19?

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page April 22, 10 12:58 PM
  1. Single parents are definately not responsible for the their ex's. I don't allow my ex even in my driveway. We exchange the kids at a neutral location. He's not physically abusive but has no awareness of boundaries & is very subtle w/ his ways. If I allow him to have a foot in my door, there is nothing that would be off limits, in his mind. Being a Christian, I am very particular about what I model for my children. Allowing their dad into my home could lead to things that are confusing for them. Also this is a home I aquired since the divorce.

    Posted by J Garland May 7, 10 03:09 PM
  1. I found myself in a somewhat similar situation when my now ex boyfriend allowed his son's mother to stay with him (while she was there, he let her sleep in the bed we bought together for the apartment we were planning to live in and we didn't have a couch yet). What started out as a few days college visit for their teenaged son turned into a week and a half stay. That inappropriate situation was one more thing in a line of things where boundaries had been crossed. Once you allow those boundaries to be crossed, they will be crossed over and over again. Avoid the drama and confusion put the mother up in a hotel and everyone will be happy. Advice I wish my ex had followed.

    Posted by SW June 3, 10 09:30 PM
  1. I think it depends on the age of the kids and how mature everyone can be for the weekend. The boundaries should be set. I think it is better for the kids, its one weekend out of many that the parents can get along and act happy for.

    Posted by Devynn Fagre September 29, 10 09:23 AM
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about the author

Lylah M. Alphonse
Lylah M. Alphonse is a member of the Globe Magazine staff and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling a full-time career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day, and about everything else at Write. Edit. Repeat. When she's not glued to the computer or solving a kid-related crisis, she's in the kitchen or, occasionally, asleep.

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