Dear Rene:

Okay…this one is a doozy. I found out today that while I’m at work, my 18-yr-old daughter has, at times, been letting her father, my ex-husband (we’ve been divorced for 16 years), come into my home to use the internet and (gasp!) wash/dry his dirty clothes!

Rene, I don’t like my ex-husband. I didn’t like him a whole lot when we were married. I have “tolerated” him for the past 16 years for the sake of our daughters, but…huh? He owes over $15,000 in back child support and went YEARS without even seeing his daughters.

I found out while talking to my youngest daughter’s home health nurse today (my 11-year-old daughter has cerebral palsy and is homebound). My ex-husband arrived at my house around 11:00 a.m. this morning to pick up my oldest daughter, and the nurse says, “Hmm, I’m surprised he didn’t get out and come in.” (Side note: I’ve always relegated my ex-husband’s interaction at my home to the driveway ONLY – pick up/drop off.) I’ve never been so livid in my life.  RENE…WHAT WOULD YOU DO? HELP!

Signed: Not Feeling Good Enough


Dear Not Feeling Good Enough:

You have every right to be furious, angry, pissed off and any other descriptive we can come up with but your anger has to be directed at two parties, the ex and your daughter.

I am going to assume, in light of the way drop-offs and pick-ups had been going in the past that your daughter was very familiar with your feelings. That means that she deliberately disobeyed the rules of the house (that you pay the mortgage on) and showed a wanton disregard for your feelings. That is not cool. Your ex-husband ought to be ashamed of himself because he is the adult in this situation (though your daughter is too, technically but she’s his child) and probably used some manipulation to get inside your house.

You need to have a talk with both of them separately. For your daughter, the obvious question is why? Why would she, knowing how you felt about the ex, let him come into the place that you consider pristine, your sanctuary against the world? Does she know he owes you money and has caused untold heartache? If not, this is your chance to make it clear to her. You don’t have to talk bad about him, he is her father, but I wouldn’t spare your true feelings. From there you need to tell her how truly disappointed you are in her. I’m curious about how she thought this was all going to play out. Did she think this could go on indefinitely? And she corralled her sister and the home health nurse into lying as well, making them unwilling participants in this scheme. Not good.

I know this is a very emotional thing for you and you can vent to good friends or us here at goodenoughmother.com but when you have the conversation with the ex-husband you need to be cool and collected. Don’t bother asking why he did it; we know the answer. He was lazy, broke or selfish, possibly all three.  Whatever the reason, YOU DON’T CARE! After your clear, brief, one-sided conversation he will know he is never, ever to step foot inside your house again. Make sure he knows this is an official warning, that there is no ambiguity and if you get wind of this again, you will contact the police and report him for trespassing.

Back to your daughter for a moment. I’m not sure how you want to handle this but there should be some sort of punishment involved. 18 might be a bit old for grounding, though she does still live in your house. I supposed you could make her pay some of the electric bill or something like that. The lesson for her, and it’s a tough one, is that even though someone talked her into the situation, she is still ultimately responsible for her actions. I realize it may have been hard for her to say no to her father but that is exactly why she should have brought you in at the outset to handle it. This is a perfect time to reiterate to her that you will always be there for her and though you are disappointed, you still love her and are sure the two of you can work beyond this.

You might wonder why the emphasis on your daughter and not the ex. It’s quite simple; you have a chance to really have a lifelong impact with her, as this is a “teachable moment” that will stay with her the rest of her life. A man who uses plays on his daughter’s feelings (regardless of the untenable situation it puts her it) is a lost cause.

Good luck!

Have a question for Rene? She has an answer! Click here and fire away.