Dear John: Should She Leave Her Son With Her Boyfriend?
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
I work two jobs, two-and-a-half if you count a part-time one that doesn’t have regular hours, and it’s hard. But the hardest part isn’t the work, it’s arranging for someone to watch my five-year-old son. I try to make arrangements with friends or relatives. Fortunately I have a lot of them so no one feels burned out or like I’m taking advantage of them. But the thing is, I have to do this and not hire someone because if I have to pay someone to watch my son, that will be the money I’m making while I’m working. It doesn’t make sense.
I have been dating a guy for about eight months and he’s great. Nice, supportive, hard-working, we get along great. So sometimes I leave my son with him. I trust him. But I have two friends who make me feel terrible about it, saying I shouldn’t be leaving my son with him, I don’t know him well enough, etc. I feel like I do know him well enough and I resent them making me feel even worse than I already do when I feel like I have no other options. Who’s right here?
Dear Maxed Out,
You say your son is safe in his care; your friends say he’s not. I can’t break that impasse, but in a moment I’ll give you a different perspective on this.
First, your question. On the one hand, I think eight months is sufficient to get to know someone well enough to judge whether it’s a good idea to entrust a child to him. Lots of parents hire teenagers to babysit based on a more hasty evaluation than your boyfriend presumably received. Is it because he’s a single man that your friends are alarmed? Barring other factors, I don't think that’s a reason he should be crossed off your list of possible babysitters.
Yet on the other hand, I could argue this from your friends’ side as well. Might your desperation for someone to watch your son cause you to be more receptive to this arrangement than you should be? Is it typical for these two friends to try to upset you for no reason? If not, then maybe they’re seeing this situation with a little more clarity than you are, right?
So as you can see, I have no idea who’s right here. But there’s another aspect of this you should give serious thought to: the possibility that your son will come to view this man – your boyfriend – as a father figure, only to have him disappear if the two of you break up. How serious is your relationship? If the answer is anything short of “very serious,” I don’t think it’s fair to let your son grow too attached to him, no matter how convenient it might be. Is his father actively involved in raising him? If not, it’s all the more likely he could come to view this man as a father figure – so it’s even more incumbent on you to think of the implications of allowing him to develop those feelings.
I know this entire situation must be very, very hard for you – the sheer number of hours you work, the arrangements that constantly have to be made, the relentlessness of it all. But unless you expect to be with your boyfriend for the long haul, I don’t think it’s a good idea for your son to bond with a guy who may not be part of his – and your – future.
Long story short, my kind-of-new boyfriend (of six months) finally let me visit him at his place. He avoided this for quite a while until it got to be so long it was weird and he had to admit he has a problem keeping a clean house. I’ve had some friends with some pretty nasty apartments, so I assured him it was ok, I’ve seen worse. Except no I haven’t. I was beyond shocked at the filth he lives in. (By himself, by the way.) What’s most unsettling is that you’d never know how he lives. He has a good professional job, he always looks neat, even the place he lives is very nice from the outside. He has a totally secret life.
When he saw the expression on my face I think he saw his place for the first time in a way himself. He was pretty embarrassed and said I was the only person he would let see this because he trusts me, then he said he doesn’t want to live that way any more and asked me to help him change. Which I’m fine with except part of that involves helping him clean his apartment! John, I work all week, I don’t particularly like my job, and the last thing I want to spend precious weekend time on is cleaning. Part of me thinks it’s the right girlfriend thing to do and I can sacrifice at least one weekend to show my support for his desire to change, but part of me says no way – I don’t like cleaning my own house, let alone this toxic waste dump. So which part should I listen to?
Dear Still Nauseous,
I’m siding with the part of you that says, “No way.” Are you kidding me? Don’t give this slob even the slimmest reason to think his mess is anyone’s responsibility but his. You say you want to do the right girlfriend thing, but cleaning up his mess sounds more like a mother thing to me. And besides, the right boyfriend thing would have been to avoid putting you on the spot in the first place. If it’s too overwhelming for him, he has a good job, right? Let him hire someone to clean it.
My mom passed away a year or so ago. Her husband, whom she married after my brother and sister and I were well into adulthood, continues to live in the house they shared – the house we grew up in. My siblings and I were heartbroken recently to learn that he has sold a lot of things that my mother had for years – things that go back to before we were born, in some cases.
I have never been close with her husband. There was no antagonism between us or anything of that nature; we simply never got together that often and I never got to know him as a result.
Given that, how should I approach him to discuss our disappointment over what he has already sold and to inquire whether he plans to sell more of my mother’s things? I would be happy to buy anything he wants to get rid of, although I would prefer it if he simply left my mother’s house intact.
Memories For Sale
Dear Memories For Sale,
This is going to sound far more harsh than I intend it to sound, but it isn’t your mother’s house any more. It’s his now, unless your mother explicitly left it or any of its contents to someone else. And it sounds like she didn’t, right? So these things are his, and he’s entirely free to do with them what he wishes. If you want to ensure that nothing else that has sentimental value for you gets sold off, then give him a call. Explain that you heard he was selling some things that used to belong to your mother, and if he intends to sell more, you would sincerely appreciate it if he would give you a chance to purchase them first. Would it have been nice if he had made such an offer on his own initiative? Of course. But he didn’t. And “it would have been nice” is not nearly the same as “he had an obligation to.”
John is a middle-aged family man from Providence. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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