The Ex Factor

by mssinglemama on March 19, 2008

break-up.jpgYou rarely hear mention of him on my blog. Maybe because it usually breaks my heart to write about it. Maybe because I don’t want Benjamin to read this someday and think his father’s a lousy (enter superlative of your choice here). But now that Benjamin’s two…soon there will be questions which means Mommy needs to figure some stuff out. And I prefer to turn to the experts – you, my readers and open this up for discussion.

First some facts:

  • I left him when Benjamin was 4 months old.
  • My Ex has 36 hours a week with Benjamin.
  • He never, ever asks for more and usually returns him early whenever he has the chance.
  • Throughout the week we never get a phone call from him. Not one.
  • Of those 36 hours he spends a majority of them watching him at my apartment: using my diapers, my food and completely trashing the place in the process.

I have daydreamed about moving across the country (knowing he wouldn’t follow us) but there’s a part of me that knows Benjamin deserves the right to know his father and form a bond with him – no matter how irresponsible he may be. And I do believe that he loves his son … he definitely loves him … he just is lacking in the parenting department.

The bright side to my Ex Factor (because I always look on the bright side). No debates on parenting, no pestering phone calls, no jealousy because I’m dating. The downside – Benjamin doesn’t have the father he deserves.

I’ve come to terms with all of this. At least, I believe I have. So now what? What’s the best way to handle the Ex Factor when you’re a single parent?
Dr. Leah posted this comment to my last post:

Responsible parents provide what kids need during the time the kids are with them. This includes food, clothing, and play things. Later on, of course, kids can take the responsibility for carrying school books and other possessions back and forth, as needed.

I’m unclear why Dad felt comfortable enough to dismantle something in your home and reassemble it in his home. When he said, Gee, is that a problem?” perhaps you might have responded, “Yes, it is. Please do not take anything out of my home without checking with me first.”

Please think about asking for the entire train set—every little piece–back and setting some boundaries. You’ve got a long haul with this guy. Today the train set; tomorrow who knows?

I am planning on having a talk with Ex this coming Monday. Or maybe I should write a list of concerns, because believe me this post has just touched on a few.

A question Dr. Leah, if you’re reading … what is the best way to approach an Ex on issues like these? And to my readers, what do you think? What are your Ex Factors?

P.S. Since writing this post (I’ve been cleaning) and have discovered that he not only took the Thomas train set but also all of his Thomas bath toys. There’s only one in the overnight bag. The other two are goners. And as for the track….looks like all of the major pieces are there but won’t know if tracks are missing until I try to set it up again tomorrow. Sigh.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

QTMama March 19, 2008 at 2:23 am

While I realize that your ex watches your darling boy at your home, it is another to take things FROM your home without even checking with you. You must remember, you are no longer married, that is not his right to do. You do not walk into his place and take things from his home! Regardless, these are all things that single momma’s with involved dad’s deal with, or come to terms with. You should definitely approach this with him, and set up some boundries. As Benjamin gets older, he’ll start asking what he can or can’t take.

My ex use to NEVER let my girl bring any clothes he bought for her home to my house. I felt like buying her a tshirt that said “IN TRANSIT” because he was so weird about it. And if she did happen to wear something home (that she did not go there wearing), he was asking for it back the next day. I use to give him back the clothes all dirty. LOL But we talked, er perhaps argued over this, and finally came to a decent compromise. It’s give and take, and sometimes it just sucks. Making the little ones not part of it is probably the most important part, but you’re already VERY good at that. 🙂

I have no good idea’s on how to approach this, really. You know him best – would explaining to hin that you don’t want the pieces to get lost and you would appreciate him not taking certain toys out of your home work? I hope so, good luck!!



mssinglemama March 19, 2008 at 3:10 am

In Transit! I love it QTMama…and giving the clothes back dirty, nice touch. I’m glad you worked it out and thanks for the tips!

And as for keeping the little ones out of it – that’s exactly why I left him. So that my son wouldn’t have to witness such things…


Dr. Leah March 19, 2008 at 12:28 pm

I’m happy to weigh in on this all important subject.

Understanding and coping with the varied challenges your ex presents are key to keeping your life sane. Letting your ex take over your place taking, touching, eating, . . .seems like an open invitation to violating your personal space and, frankly, keeping your home life/your personal place of safety in a state of perpetual misery and confusion.

SM’s of every type struggle with their own brand of the Ex Factor. In fact, The Complete Single Mother, which I co-authored, has a whole chapter devoted to just this very topic. Don’t fight unarmed battles other SM’s have already won. Read up and take a giant step forward toward managing your ex.

I wrote the book I wished were available when I was raising my own two children as a SM. And, speaking of ex’s from Hell, let me tell you about my ex . . .

Take care.


ana.biosis March 19, 2008 at 2:17 pm

I read the complete single mom, I loved it. When my Ex visited, he came to my home as well, but that was only 7 times. He played with my son’s toys there, and once or twice brought his own. Just for fun, his new wife left books to my son from dad and momma Dingo. She knew how I felt about that, and many many a fight continued. Just from personal experience, I would say, toys should stay at their original homes, at least until child is old enough to be responsible for them should they be left, or pieces go missing.


dadshouse March 19, 2008 at 5:34 pm

My situation is very different from yours, but the need to protect personal space is the same.

My ex and I share 50-50 custody. Early on in our divorce whenever she came for the kids, she would knock then simply walk into my house and into my kids’ bedrooms. I definitely felt my personal space violated, and I would retreat to the back of the house to escape her. But finally one day, I told her it bothered me and I set a limit – that when she came over for the kids, she should wait at the front door as if she was visiting a neighbor. She was surprised I said this, but she has respected that wish ever since.

She still at times pushes other limits with me, for instance trying to take the kids someplace fun when it’s my custody time with them. I am getting better at pointing these out to her, and demanding she respect my time and space with the kids, but I have to stay on my toes. She’s a strong-willed woman who takes what she wants. I have to be strong, too. (I bet you all think it’s funny hearing a man admit to not being strong all the time)

As for toys, things like bikes and skateboards are shared between the two houses, but indoor games generally stay at one house. Your ex should not be taking toys from your place. I think it’s great you’re having a talk with him. I know it’s not easy, but you’ll do great.


Christina September 10, 2014 at 3:04 pm

To: dadshouse. Hi! I know this is a super long shot, but I’m hoping to get a response. I just became single mom recently, but I’m sharing 50 50 with my husband. It’s a little different from being the primary parent as I’m sure you know and I was hoping to chat with you to see how you handle the split. Sometimes I wish my Ex factor was a complete jerk and would leave, but I can say he is a good dad (just a crappy husband). I really appreciate it! My e-mail is

mssinglemama: You have no idea how much your blog has helped me since I found it. Thank you so much!


Santi February 4, 2015 at 4:43 am

Thank you Chrissy! It will actually air in Milwaukee in the moirnng at 9am on WIT12. I just looked it up on You are still in Milwaukee aren’t you? Hope all is well with you!


mssinglemama March 19, 2008 at 10:00 pm

Thanks for the advice everyone! Crazy stuff we’ve got to think about…

So – the consensus is maintain boundaries and keep the big items in their home. Benjamin does have a mini-backpack. I think I’ll just tell his dad he can fill that with things (and when I say tiny, I mean tiny) but other than that he’s on his own.

Not sure about not allowing him to watch Benjamin here when I’m not home b/c I would rather him be in his own home than at his dad’s girlfriend’s house. It would be different if his dad had his own place.

It just makes me feel better to know he’s in his own home when he’s with his dad. This will definitely change as he gets older…but for now, to me, he’s still just a baby.


mscheevious March 21, 2008 at 7:31 am

hmm. All I know is that if you do not stand up for you, no one will. That’s the main credo of all “single” moms, isn’t it? It’s up to us? So, if he’s being abusive with the privilege of caring for Benjamin at your place, then only you can put an end to that. I don’t know your situation, but I wonder if a conversation about it is possible? Something to the effect of “I think we need to come up with another arrangement for your time with Benjamin,” along with a few alternate suggestions, such as the neighborhood park, and McDonald’s play land, or the children’s library and local bookstores with reading times… The list goes on.

If it’s not the mess of the apartment, or the fact that he uses all your stuff, and takes things – but simply the fact that he spends limited time with Benjamin or that he tries to return him early – well, those are things that you can’t do much about, really. They are probably just part of the fabric of who your ex is right now, and part of his journey and his personal choices.

Good luck MsSinglemama!!


Gayle March 23, 2008 at 1:49 am

I’ve had the same thoughts about my daughter “deserving” to have her Father in her life, and wallowed in it quite a while before coming to my personal conclusions.

If I would have stayed in the marriage, her father would be teaching her on a daily basis by example that (1) it’s okay to look down on and make fun of certain people, (2) she needs to hide her faults and appear perfect on the outside, (3) she must comply and not question his “authority”, (4) she can and should manipulate/guilt/play people with ease…my list goes on, but I’ll stop now.

I realized my daughter doesn’t need her “Father” (by definition). She needs healthy and positive male influences and role models in her life. Men that love her in unconditional ways. She needs male examples of how to respect and treat herself. She needs examples of male and female relationships that are loving and true.

My kid would and will NEVER get those positive examples from her “Father” (by definition). BUT, I am making sure she spends time with my male friends and family who can and do live their own lives, and who treat my daughter with the love, respect, and humanity she DESERVES.


mssinglemama March 24, 2008 at 1:17 am

Miss Chevious – you’re right…I have to put my foot down on some things…but…I don’t want him to keep him at his girlfriend’s…would rather him be here. I’m between a rock and a hard place.

Gayle – ROCK ON!!! You are absolutely right and I agree with you 100% – we are in the same boat on this as most of us single mamas are. The trick is coming to terms with this fact, moving on and yes, establishing positive male role models.


McSwain June 24, 2008 at 4:45 pm

My ex and I can’t stand each other–but you’d never know it if you are around us casually or if you are a teacher, etc. who knows are son. The keys for me are:

I’m always civil, even if he’s not.

He is not allowed in my house, because not only do I need my space, he’s volatile.

I never down-talk him to or in front of my son, but I do not negate my son’s legitimate feelings, ie. “Dad has an anger problem.” Because? Did I say he’s volatile?

We got a custody agreement in court, and we do not deviate from it. That is the biggest thing that keeps us on an even keel.

I remember, that even though I don’t think much of his opinion, he’s my son’s dad. He is the only person on the planet who cares about my son as much as I do, even if he’s too screwed up to do right by him.

And yes, I make sure to keep him in his son’s life AND I “supplement” with positive role models, such as my dad, my son’s three fabulous uncles, and plain-old friends.


McSwain June 24, 2008 at 4:46 pm

I meant OUR son. Because I’m a teacher,and it would kill me to leave that there.


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