Q: My fiance has a 2-year-old son and due to alternate work schedules his son gets to spend the days with him and then nights with his mother. In between, my fiance’s mother watches the little man. His ex-wife uses her as the main baby sitter, even asking her to watch him at her house because she has now started going to school and won’t be home until after bedtime. Is it wrong of me to think that she should find her own support system or at least ask my fiance first?

A: Grandma is her support system. It’s not your side, my side, your support system, my support system. It’s the child’s support system, and thank goodness Grandma gets that and puts the child first!

As the new kid in town, it may be difficult to understand, but extended family often remains family even after divorce. Since you are the new partner, it probably feels foreign for Dad’s side of the family to openly interact with the ex, but they are doing exactly what they should do. The more consistent parents can be with their parenting after divorce, the better it is for the children.

Some custody agreements have a clause that states that both parents have the first right of refusal for child care so that if the custodial parent needs help in child care they are obliged to call the other parent first. If the other parent declines, then they can call a baby sitter of their choice. That may be something your fiance considers adding to his custody agreement.

Now some words from the wise: Stay out of your fiance’s custody arrangements with his ex and his mother. The last person you want to alienate is your fiance’s mother, and life will be miserable if you do. So take a deep breath and join the party. Suggestions are occasionally welcomed, but that’s after you have established trusted relationships with both Grandma and the ex. If you put your two cents in too soon you will undermine your future credibility. Then it will be difficult to backtrack.


Jann Blackstone-Ford, Ph.D., and her husband’s ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, authors of “Ex-Etiquette for Parents,” are the founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com).


— McClatchy-Tribune


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