My Ex is a slob and it's driving me crazy

MadIf you search the web looking for information on post-divorce parenting, chances are you’ll find quite a bit of chatter about how to manage big-ticket items. How do you break the news to your kids? What’s the best approach to co-parenting? When do you introduce your kids to someone new?

You get the idea.

But some times it’s not the big-ticket items that throw us for a loop.  Often it’s the little everyday stuff that send us right over the edge. Like when your Ex has a habit that truly drives you crazy.

A mom from our parenting community faced just such a dilemma.

She writes,

“I have a “divorce dilemma.” My Ex and I have a 50/50 parenting arrangement.  Overall, we co-parent together really well. Unfortunately, there’s one HUGE area of our parenting  where we’re totally different. His house is disorganized, cluttered and filthy.  It’s drives me nuts!

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to cleanliness.  However, I work VERY hard with our daughter on improving study skills and staying organized. I feel like her dad’s home is the complete opposite of what I provide in my home. 

As parents, I believe we should be modeling the behavior we want to see in her. I’m struggling with how to handle this. On one hand I think we need to talk about it on the other, I don’t want to stir the pot.  Do I need to let it go or should I say something (nicely) to my ex?”

Here are my thoughts on the situation.

From one control freak to another, I feel your pain. It’s hard to sit back and keep quiet about what goes on in your children’s other household. Especially when it’s the polar opposite of how your house is structured.

It sounds like there are two issues at work here.

First, regarding Dad’s less than stellar housekeeping – I think this is one of those issues that you probably need to stop sweating. Chances are no matter how “nicely” you offer your opinion, Dad will probably end up feeling defensive.  After all, if the shoe was on the other foot how would you feel about him critiquing your home?

In reality, a messy house doesn’t equal bad parenting anymore than a spotless house equals good parenting.  

Stay focused on the positive

As long as there are no health risks on the horizon, do your best to stay focused on the positive things Dad has to offer.

Yes, modeling the values you want your children to grow up with is important. However, you and Dad value different things. As a result, you’ll undoubtedly role model different ways of living life. Hopefully, your daughter will be able to draw on the very best you each have to offer and carry that with her into adulthood.

While the thought of Dad’s house may leave you feeling twitchy, keep in mind that as your daughter gets older she will encounter wide variety of attitudes, habits and lifestyles. Even though it may be more challenging for her to shift gears between households, perhaps in the long run the differences between you and your Ex will help cultivate some adaptability. Think about it, what will she do if later in life if she has a messy disorganized roommate?

Lead by example

Also, don’t forget that your influence and support will go a long way. Continue to model what’s important to you and lead by example. Just make sure that you keep any judgments about Dad’s choices to yourself. What you consider constructive criticism will probably just sound like criticism to your daughter.

Cleanliness aside, I do think it would be a good idea to have a chat with Dad about how the two of you could work together on helping your daughter develop better study skills and be a more organized student. Consider having a meeting on neutral turf to discuss/share some of the strategies you are using with her. Ask for his feedback and give him a chance to share his perspective. Then you can shift into discussing how the two of you could work together on mirroring that structure in each household.

So while Dad may have dirty dishes in the sink that doesn’t mean he can’t play a more active role around homework and helping your daughter maintain good study habits.

Is there something your Ex does that completely drives you up the wall? Do you ever worry about your Ex bad habits rubbing off on your children?    How do you handle those differences in a constructive way?     If you have some wisdom to share about not sweating the small stuff, please post your comment below.I’d love to hear what you think. 

Until next time,

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