My Daughter's Father Won't Stop Badmouthing Me to Her

Illustration by Jim Cooke/GMG.
Illustration by Jim Cooke/GMG.

Dear Jane,

I am going through divorce after six years together and he does not accept it at all, but much worse he talks bad about me to our four year old daughter. What can I do about this? I know this is probably a common thing but it is so sad when you see the little confused face. I want to protect her from it and I cannot because he does not understand how bad it is hurting her.

I am a responsible mother who works full time and organizes everything for my daughter—school, gymnastics, holidays—while he stays in the evening with her until I come home. But my daughter loves him as he has lots of time to play with her while I am rushing organizing the house and working during the week. I stay with her on the weekends and we do lots of things together. He never seems to find a proper stable job and cannot be independent so he lives with us and he is controlling and jealous.

Thanks for any advice!

Oh god. Oh god! This is probably my worst personal nightmare. I, too, have a four year old daughter and things wax and wane in my relationship with her father, as far as how kind we can be to each other, but we have yet to face this sort of undermining, praise the lord that probably doesn’t exist. I think the first thing you need to tackle is your living arrangement.


Hear me when I say this: his ability to earn a living and provide a stable home for his child is not your responsibility. You already have a kid, you don’t need to mother him as well. If it means he has to move in with a friend or family member, so be it. He can still care for your daughter when he’s available, but living together is definitely exacerbating the issue. No wonder he doesn’t accept the breakup. What’s a divorce if nothing changes?

Next, you gotta give yourself some credit. You are killing it in the mom game, and yet, NONE of us are perfect. We cannot have or do it all, especially when our kids are so young and have so many needs. Like, all the needs. They don’t know how to do anything! So kudos to you for taking care of business.

As for how he talks to her about you? If appealing to his conscience hasn’t worked, there’s nothing you can do about it right now. Just keep being a great mom and trust that your daughter will grow to know that she has at least one really great parent. Yes, baby brains are malleable and we all fear them getting poisoned, but your baby dad sounds like he sucks and shouldn’t be a dad. Whoops! Just try to take that lemon and make nothing out of it. Let it sit there and rot on its own, annoying everyone with its presence, until it completely decomposes and turns to dust.

Dear Jane!

Missin’ the beauty columns, but also lovin’ the advice. Anyway—here’s my issue in the hopes of getting it out of my damn head. I’m largely introverted and completely fine with that. I also don’t experience much romantic or sexual attraction. Also fine. But last Friday I went for some impromptu drinks witht two coworkers, and three of coworker A’s friends.

We all spent about six hours or so drinking and bowling and karaoke-ing. I got along very well with one of my coworker’s friends. Similar sense of humor, good connection, joking about things being “third date activities.” We ended up kissing several times that night, and I suggested we swap numbers. ‘Cause of Apple being a jerk, my text to his Android phone didn’t come through when I sent a quick “here’s my number text” a few hours before we parted. I texted Monday but with no response I was like... maybe it’s Apple again? ‘Cause Apple’s a jerk? So I sent a quick Whatsapp.

He says he’s busy for the next few months, and that’s fine! I’m honestly not bothered about not dating him. But I’m rabidly sexually attracted to this guy. I want to sleep with him. He pulled my hair while we were kissing in a way that, y’know, ignited my loins. I want to fuck him! I might see this guy tonight. Might see him at a barbeque next weekend. I kind of want to apologize for being so full-on, but I also kind of want to drag him into a backroom and, well, you know where that’s going.

Jane! What do I do!

Much love xoxoxo,

Lamentfully Lustful

Dear LL,

I know this is going to sound lame, like “live in the moment,” but live in the moment. I think sometimes we rush to satisfy these feelings forgetting that this part, the lusting, is so delicious and precious and fleeting. The feelings you’re having right now might be the best one you’ll ever have with this particular person. Things can go south so quickly for a number of reasons—bad sex, bad attitudes, bad spouses or children you don’t even know about. So relish this time. Jerk off like crazy and keep your fingers crossed (maybe at the same time even!) that you didn’t freak him out with all the messages. Maybe next time you meet up you will bone in some restaurant bathroom but chances are the fantasy surrounding that will be better than the real thing. I could be wrong, and I hope I am, but I’m probably not.

Oh! And one last thing: this is great news! You used to not experience much romantic or sexual attraction. You can change that story for the time being because here you are, right in the thick of it.

Dear Jane,

I’ve had a rather tough relationship with my mother the last few years. She has undiagnosed anxiety issues that she refuses to talk to a doctor about, and it negatively influenced her parenting when I was a child. I’m grown now with a family of my own and I’ve come to recognize how differently I want to parent my child, causing some resentment toward my mom.

I’ve slowly constructed boundaries and for the most part, she’s respected the space I’ve needed even if she doesn’t realize why. We have a non-substantive relationship—light, fun, and casual. I don’t share personal details or issues with her and I encourage her to have a fun, loving relationship with her granddaughter. I’ll take daytrips to her house or invite her to spend a night at our home every couple of months, which she seems in enjoy, but makes comments like, “Where’s your coffee? Oh, I didn’t know it was there, I haven’t been here in so long!” Or, “Is that a new light fixture? No? Well, how would I know, I’m rarely invited to your home.”

The issue at hand: Mom has invited my family and my brother’s family to join her at the beach for a week next summer. It’s a condo, and she’s convinced that all 8 of us can happily fit in this small space. For a week. With my family. My brother and I get along fine, but we also have a superficial relationship. Mom has shared with me that she has grand plans for this trip and she’s excited to have her whole family with her for a week. I suspect that she’s trying to relive some of our childhood vacation memories from the ’80s and ’90s. Memories I’d rather not relive. This will be mom’s vacation, and I won’t relax at all. I’ll be on guard, hackles up, ready for her onslaught of passive aggressive comments and anxiety-fueled criticisms.

So, what to do. Suck it up and join this trip—do it for my daughter so she can hang with her granny? Maybe booking a separate vacation for my husband and kid for a later date? Or bow out, keeping my boundaries intact, but upsetting my mom.

Signed – Bitching at the Beach

Hey BB,

Can you just get a different house? Or a hotel? Or a motel? Your mom needs to be doing more of the work in your relationship, but asking you to spend an entire week in her presence isn’t the way to mend things. Set a boundary. If you can’t afford your own place for the whole week, just get a motel for a few nights and rest easy knowing you have somewhere to escape to if that woman becomes too much.


Or don’t go. That’s actually what I would do. I’d say, “No, thanks,” and give them all something to moan about while they catch sunburns.

Have a question for Jane? Email her at Please change names and identifying info; this advice column unfortunately is not aimed at destroying lives.



The kids a lost cause. Give it to him.

Make a new one. Start fresh.

A new lease on life