You can be subtle about excluding kids’ mom

Jann Blackstone

My child’s mother is constantly signing our 8-year-old daughter up for extracurricular activities on my time. I have very little time as it is, and she often cannot come to her scheduled visits because of practices and games.

Evidently, she just loves softball. Her mother owes me so many weekends. I would like the opportunity to schedule things on my time. We live less than 5 miles away and I rarely see my daughter. What’s good ex-etiquette?

My impression is you feel you must give up your scheduled time with your daughter because she has a practice or game. That’s ridiculous. Her life didn’t stop because you and her mom broke up, and neither did your responsibility as her parent. She’s 8.

For her to become a well-rounded individual, she needs to develop interests that make her happy, and it’s your responsibility to be there and support her. Go to her practices and games when she’s scheduled to be with you and bring her home with you afterward.

Are you looking for ways to see her more often? Ask her coach if there’s some way you can help. Or, better yet, become her coach. At this point she probably feels rejected because you’re not there. Go. Take pictures. Talk to her mother respectfully when she’s around. That’s your job. That’s good ex-etiquette.

Further good ex-etiquette would be for both of you to consult the other prior to signing your child up for extracurricular activities. Not so one can say, “Not on my time,” but so you can coordinate efforts.

If mom and you were still together, your daughter wouldn’t be missing practices. So, if you’re scheduled to have a midweek dinner visit, for example, and there’s a practice, figure out a way to make it fun. Get takeout. Have a little picnic beforehand.

It’s not mom’s time nor dad’s time, but your daughter’s time. She’s only one kid trying to split her time between two parents. Don’t spend a lot of time resenting the time you can’t see her. Get in there. Make your time together something your daughter and you look forward to.

This is when I hear, “But, what if I want to do something special with my daughter and her mother’s got all her time scheduled?”

First, if it’s something really special, missing a practice occasionally isn’t going to upset the applecart too badly. Your job in that case would be to make sure mom and the coach know well in advance so things that need to be put in place can be and the team isn’t affected because your daughter isn’t there.

And, second, you must know going in, that life will not be the same after a breakup. You and her mom made the choice to end your relationship, and with that comes all sorts of concessions. To spend a lot of time being resentful about the changes associated with the breakup is a waste of time.

Figure out how to be divorced successfully and co-parent your child wisely or reconcile. But, it’s emotionally abusive to torture your child because you weren’t prepared for the changes that naturally come into play once divorced. Your biggest ally? Mom. That’s good ex-etiquette.

Blackstone is founder of Bonus Families,, and may be contacted at


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