“My Boyfriend’s Kids Are Always Around”


My new boyfriend of nine months has four kids from two previous marriages. I have an 18-month-old daughter from a previous relationship, but no contact has ever been made by her father…so as you can see it’s always busy at my house.
The problem I have with my boyfriend is his children and his ex-wives. If we make plans and an ex decides she needs him to have the kids that day/night/weekend, he takes them and drops our plans. He has his two girls — more to the point, I have them while he works a half day — three weekends out of four, but, like I said, that’s not set in stone as the mother picks and chooses what weekends she wants my boyfriend to take the girls. He has his boys every Thursday and Saturday nights unless, again, that mother changes her mind. Don’t get me wrong — the kids are nice and I get along with them well even if the younger boy is a handful, but that the set times and days always change makes it hard for us to have time as a couple.

I’m buying a new house so that we can live closer to his kids, and, since I’m giving up my job, family, and friends to do it, I really don’t think I’m being unreasonable. Here’s an example of how things go: We spoke about the weekend we move and I asked if we could make sure that there are no children, including mine. He said, “Fine, I’ll let the moms know.” And then just today he rings to tell me the boys’ mom wants to go out on the date we think we could be moving. “But it’s fine,” he says, “I’ve told her I will pick them up later that night”!!! Now please, tell me if I’m over-reacting? I mean, what the hell? So, basically any time (which, so far, has been three times in eight months) that I ask for us to have a kid-free weekend and he agrees he lets me down and will give in to a ex. I don’t want to be another woman nagging him as he has two exes for that already, but where do we draw the line? What do you think my best way around this problem is and how do I talk to him about it without sounding like a nag or like I have a problem with the children? — Needing a Kid-Free Weekend!

Why in the world are you giving up your job, your friends, and your family to buy a house to live in with a guy who can’t even commit to weekend plans with you? Put the brakes on and re-evaluate. There are five kids involved here! And you want to play house with this man who already has two ex-wives he can’t seem to communicate with effectively? Stay where you are, focus on your 18-month-old daughter, and just enjoy getting to know this guy. What’s the rush? Even if things were totally perfect between you, it would be foolish to give up your job and family and friends for someone you’ve known all of a few months, especially when five children are involved.

As for needing a kid-free weekend with your boyfriend, you need to accept that, with five children among you, that just probably isn’t going to be a reality. I have ONE child and I’m lucky if my husband and I get two weekends a year just the two of us. Sure, maybe when you are separated from your kids’ other parent, then in theory you should have more “kid-free” time if the other parent is sharing custody, but when there are four children who have two other parents to navigate schedules with and when your boyfriend clearly has issues with communication and setting boundaries, you have to accept that this is probably what life with him is going to be like. You want some couple time? Hire a sitter. It’s the best way to ensure that you get that private time you crave. And you should ask your boyfriend to talk with his two baby mamas about them hiring sitters when they have dates or need childcare and it’s not his weekend/night with the kids. But if he won’t, there’s not much you can do. These ex-wives and these kids precede you, and the agreements and communication and co-parenting styles he shares with his exes precede you. You can express your desire for more kid-free time with him, but, if he’s not interested in making changes in his lifestyle or in the way he interacts with his exes, there’s really not much you can do.

Please, if not for your own sake, then for the sake of your daughter, slow things down with this man and his four kids and two ex-wives (and yes, when you’re in a relationship with him, you’re in a relationship with all of them). As a single mom of a young toddler — as a single woman, period — you need a job and family and friends to support you. Don’t give up those things for a relationship that hasn’t proven itself yet. Take some time to really think about whether this is a world you are ready to embrace. You don’t need to rush into locking things down with this guy if you aren’t happy with how things are. Trust me: he’s not going anywhere.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. Bittergaymark says:

    Newsflash: Want lots of kidfree weekends? Don’t have a kid with some random dude who you have ZERO contact with post inconvenience… oops! I mean, baby. Post baby. Also — and I sooooooo get confusing this last one is — maybe don’t date a guy with not one, not two, not three… but FOUR children… None of this is fucking rocket science, people.

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      I’d just like to say that I think I’m maturing. Normally this would’ve pissed me off, but…its true. If you want a ton of kid-free weekends, don’t surround yourself with a gaggle of kids. It is what it is now that you have your own baby and you’re on your own with her, but maybe don’t date someone with 4 other kids. I’m overwhelmed reading about it! LW, just keep rereading Wendy’s last paragraph. This is crazytown!

      1. lets_be_honest says:

        (by crazytown, I mean crazytown to do this to yourself.)

  2. artsygirl says:

    WWS – also do not get pregnant!

  3. my answer from the title: yea, kids are weird in that way that once they are born they are kind of always around….

    1. findingtheearth says:

      They really need to stop always being around. Dependent little buggers.

      1. Know what’s worse? They want you to feed them. Like multiple times every single day!

    2. Lily in NYC says:

      Sure, but the boyfriend isn’t trying to set any boundaries at all. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a set schedule and then expect them to stick to it unless it’s for a very good reason. Ex wanting to “go out” is not a good reason. I’m more concerned about LW’s willingness to give up her entire life for someone she has only been dating for 9 months.

  4. If you don’t want to be inconvenienced by another’s children, don’t date and/or marry someone with children. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

  5. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

    Slow your roll. Also birth control.
    That said, why are you making him such a huge priority in your life when he isn’t giving you a thought?

    1. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

      Also, custody agreements or just a formalized plan for childcare. Everyone’s lives will be so much happier (the kids included!!) when there is consistency and scheduling. BF needs to get together with these women and make clearly laid out plans for the custody of these kids. HE has to learn how to stand up for him self and say no to them, and I think having a set schedule will make that much easier.

      1. BriarRose says:

        Agreed, GG. I dated a guy briefly who had no set custody schedule for his son. The poor kid was constantly being shuttled back and forth between the two homes with no rhyme or reason and I could tell it was really disrupting for him. He had no idea what to expect in his own life. I would despise that as an adult, so I can’t imagine how the poor guy dealt with it. Kids need consistency, no doubt about it. It’s great to be friendly with your ex and help out when needed (sure wish I had an ex like that) but overall, I think a fairly regular visitation schedule is best.
        That said, 5 kids between them means no child-free time, basically ever. I only have one (full custody as her dad is out of the country) and even with just her it’s hard to find alone time.

  6. Ms. Simba says:

    Am I the only one who feels bad for the LW in some way? An ever changing kids schedule can make it very difficult to plan/schedule your life.

    However, LW should NOT move in with this man! She should probably not be with this man if he doesn’t want to change the way his ex-wives default to him taking care of the kids and the LW is unable to accept the way things currently operate. But I can understand why she’d find it difficult to manage.

    1. I actually don’t feel sorry for the LW, and this is why…
      In most divorce cases, and I know it’s changing, the woman gets primary custody of the kids and the man gets a couple nights and every other weekend, or whatever the arrangement is. By default, the man can have a more robust personal life, and the woman can’t. I think it’s great when men will take their children if something for the woman pops up. I mean. yes, it sucks for the woman he’s dating. But he also chose to have children and being a parent is a 24-7 responsibility. Not a couple nights per week and every other weekend.
      So this is why I don’t think anyone who wants to be inconvenienced by children should have them or date/marry someone with them.

      1. Ktfran

        I was shocked to read your response.. Interesting that it’s ok for the bio mom to go out and date and continue to depend on bio dad to be there for their kids so she can go have her fun.. If she cared so much maybe she wouldn’t go out, possibly get a sitter, include her children or make her dates when she doesn’t have her children with her. Dad deserves to move forward with his life too! Although being there for your children is important it’s also important to move forward with his life.. His two exes seem very dependent on him. Feel for the girlfriend who’s never a priority ~ even when plans are made.. Maybe girlfriend needs to reevaluate the relationship she’s in.

    2. Avatar photo call-me-hobo says:

      I do not feel bad for this LW. That is the way it works when you date someone with multiple children (with multiple women!). It’s not like they started dating and he found out that he had some disease- she knew going in that he had four kids.

      Combined they have FIVE children. That is one less than the Brady Bunch. Of course you don’t have time for anything- YOU HAVE FIVE CHILDREN. It takes a lot of work/scheduling to make any form or semblance of a schedule, and even then- you can’t rely on it because sometimes kids get sick/emergencies happen/work schedules get shifted. The more kids you have the more life seems to shift with unavoidable schedule changes.

      1. Ms. Simba says:

        I hear what you’re saying.

        I guess from personal experience, when I was a kid going between two houses we kept to a pretty strict schedules. There were, of course, exceptions, but for the most part each household knew when to expect the kids for the night. It made it easier to ensure the parents were home for the nights they had the kids and hadn’t made other plans or scheduled a late meeting or what not. But I suppose every family is different. And in the case of the LW, she’s coming into that family and needs to accept those dynamics or MOA. (Unless the dad is also looking to change how things operate)

      2. yea something tells me that these people arent they type to have a nice, neat schedule magnet-ed to the fridge.

    3. artsygirl says:

      I do feel bad because I understand that having to constantly reshuffle your plans is aggravating, especially if you think that you are being manipulated. That said, she has only been with her BF for nine months. Hopefully her BF will make changes (i.e. a more structured visitation schedule, advanced warning if plans are going to change, etc), but moving in with him all while making massive sacrifices does not seem like a good idea at this point. Also, I think she should be directing her annoyance at her BF rather than the kids.

      1. Ms. Simba says:

        This is exactly where I fell after reading the letter. Thank you for stating it more eloquently.

  7. Are you asking for a his kids free weekend or are you also finding someone to care for your kid? Because, I mean maybe he’s jealous of all the time you get with your child. I can understand that changing plans is frustrating but, they are his kids. Also you said three ‘kids free’ weekends in 8 months. Are you relocating and buying a new house after dating for 8 mths? In my opinion that is a terrible idea.

    1. She says in her first sentence that they’ve been together for nine months

      1. Eight months, nine months. 4 weeks does not make it a better decision.

  8. Why on earth would you even consider buying a house for his convenience, to your detriment, so his chaos can continue?? His being closer to his kids is lovely but why doesn’t he provide this for himself? If his ex-wives use him now, just wait until he’s close by!
    You are a great, big-hearted woman to take on this much baggage and put in this much effort. I hope you are seeing and feeling his love and appreciation of you for all that you’re doing to be good to him and his kids and his ex wives and his busy work schedule. You deserve some r-e-s-p-e-c-t, an occasional child-free date, and not to be constantly railroaded by the exes, don’t you think? It’s his job to arrange all of that, so let him.

  9. Avatar photo Guy Friday says:

    Two things:.
    1.) So you have an 18-month old child whose father has no contact . . . how exactly are you getting a “kid-free weekend?” Did I miss something in the letter where you discussed what exactly you were planning on doing with your extremely young child? Or does “kid free” mean “not his kids, but still mine?”.
    2.) Some previous posters referenced it, but it bears repeating: in a LOT of custody/placement situations the parent without primary placement gets a day or two a week (and, all things being equal, the tie usually goes to the mother, not the father.) And since these matters are more often than not contentious, a lot of times otherwise decent and loving and good parents are held hostage by this court decision and given only the minimum amount of time required. So if I’m one of those fathers, and my ex gives me the chance to see my child for more time than they’re required to give me, I’m taking it before she changes her mind. And while I appreciate the need for adult quiet time for the two of you, you’re dating a father who obviously loves his children a great deal, and what you see as bailing out the exes is probably more cherishing every second he can get with his kids.

    1. Lily in NYC says:

      re: your first point. There are other people who can babysit – maybe she asked a sibling or friend. I read “kid free” as including her child as well.

  10. Obviously, this guy’s kids come first. No question. And obviously the LW knew he had 4 kids going in. And obviously it’s a terrible, no good rotten idea for the LW to move in with/closer to her BF at this point. However, with 4 kids and 2 exes, there needs to be a custody schedule so that everyone knows who should be where at and when. It just makes everything easier on everyone – including the kids – and avoids confusion and conflict! So, don’t buy a house, LW and slow this thing way down. But, it’s not unreasonable for you to suggest to your BF that he and his exes come up with an official custody arrangement. But only suggest it. Then stay out of it because it’s really not your role. If he does it, great. And, if he doesn’t, well, then you can decide if this is how you want to live.

  11. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

    It sounds like he wants to have his kids around as much as possible. That’s a good thing, don’t go fucking it up. He has four kids, they are going to be around. If you can’t handle that then walk away because that isn’t going to be changing and it shouldn’t.

  12. You asked “how do I talk to him about it without sounding like a nag or like I have a problem with the children?”
    The answer is, you don’t, because you clearly do have a problem with the children.

    1. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

      IDK, I think there is a way to talk about it with out sounding like a nag. Saying some scheduling and consistency would alleviate stress for everyone (kids, LW, BF, the mothers) is a good approach, IMO. I wouldn’t frame it as “I need time away from your kids!” rather “we should create a schedule so everyone can plan in advance and the stress of last minute arrangements is minimized.” I don’t think she does have a problem with the kids, she has a problem with her BFs management of his kids.

      1. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        Life just isn’t that cut and dry with kids though, sometimes things come up and if the people coparenting have a good enough relationship to rely on each other like that I don’t think it’s a bad thing. The kids would probably rather go hang out with their dad then be left with a friend of the mom’s or a babysitter when she needs to go to the dentist or has a parent-teacher meeting or any other number of things that come up. It seems like the boyfriend is happy to have the extra time with his kids so it’s only the lw that has the problem. I think that she should just count on having more kids than hers around and factor that into her plans.

      2. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        Oh I definitely agree it’s not that cut and dry! And co-parenting is essential. I’m just thinking of a few people I work with a Kohls who do have shared custody, so they know that they need this weekend and this Tuesday and this Thursday off, so they can plan for that. Then when something comes up it’s not as big of a deal, since there is usually a standard and it’s a more one-off thing. Or my sister had a friend in school who’s parents had shared custody, she did one week at dad’s and one week at mom’s. Each parent could plan dates, work, trips around this, and if something came up it was handled. I just think it’s a good step towards reducing some chaos.

      3. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        With 5 kids I think you should just give in to the chaos lol.

      4. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        The “worst” part is, LW doesn’t even really have any control here. But yeah, talking to GGuy I realize that kids will inevitably create some level of chaos. I think I would rather a schedule with a splash of chaos, then just craziness. But maybe there are better suggestions for how to deal with it.

      5. In my line of work, you actually can’t plan a lot of work trips a certain week. If a client decides they want you to present on a certain day, you present on that day. People have had to cancel, or leave vacations early. People have had to work last minute weekends. Planning a work schedule, in some instances, is really not as simple as picking a week and leaving.

      6. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        I mean of course, there will be some people this won’t work for. But she’s asking for suggestions, so

      7. You are correct, and it doesn’t sound like work is really the case here. I just know that life happens, and things come up, and I think parents, even when divorced, should be able to rely on each other with the children they both willingly created. Even if some schedule says otherwise.

      8. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        Well yeah I never suggested that they shouldn’t be a little flexible!

      9. I agree with you that the kids and parents need a better scheduling system, for sure. But even if that were in place I still think all those kids are too much for the LW, and that she really does have a problem with all the kids.

      10. lets_be_honest says:

        Sure, its not gonna be perfect and always work, but I totally agree that at least attempting to enforce a schedule is beneficial for ALL involved, especially the kids.
        Honestly though, I hope this LW walks away. This just sounds like a nightmare. Go enjoy a little home near your family, friends and JOB, with your baby. Have you even considered her?

  13. Liquid Luck says:

    Did you consider the possibility that your boyfriend always agrees to the extra childcare not because he really wants to help his ex-wives or screw up your alone-time schedule, but because he actually wants to spend more time with his kids? Maybe he likes them and wishes he could have them more often, so he jumps at the chance to see them whenever he can.
    I also don’t understand why his work schedule automatically means that you’re on babysitting duty. He wants his kids on days he’s working, he can find childcare for them. You are in this position because you are putting yourself there. Your boyfriend of a few months cannot force you to watch his kids while he’s at work, and he certainly he can’t make you give up your job and family to focus on his. You are making these choices, but the real question is why? Why are you willingly doing things that clearly make you unhappy? You present all these issues as things that are passively happening to you, but they aren’t. These are decisions you are actively making.
    The best thing for you right now is to slow down. Focus on your daughter, on the family and friends you mention, and your job (which you, as a single parent, definitely need). Do not prioritize a man who can’t give you the kind of relationship you want. Don’t put yourself in a position to depend on someone you don’t trust to take care of you and your daughter. Don’t buy a house that requires you to quit your job (how do you even plan to pay for that house if you have to leave your job?). Don’t move your daughter away from her family to be closer to his. You say that what you’re asking is not unreasonable, but what you’re planning to do is. So don’t do it, at least not now, less than a year into a relationship that still has many, many issues to resolve before you should even think about taking this step together. Don’t get so swept up in the idea of a relationship that you settle for a reality you don’t actually want.

  14. Sounds like you are right on with the normal 9 month mark in a relationship… buy a new house to move in with boyfriend, and kids, quit job, and leave family and friends who you have known for a lot longer than 9 months in the dust. This sounds like a life long process for you, and all the boyfriends you are going to have.

    1. Also who wants to be that she is possible pregnant already?

    2. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

      The nine month relationship checklist:
      -take care of his children while he works: CHECK!
      -Move for his convenience, away from your support system: CHECK!
      -Give up your job: CHECK!

      As I say below in my comment- DUH WHAT?

  15. I can see how it can be frustrating to never be able to have a planned schedule, but you know what that’s called? PARENTHOOD. In many situations, dads (or whoever the non-custodial parent is) get very little time with their kids. A good dad would jump at the chance to get extra time with their kids. I know I would be ecstatic if we got more time with my husband’s kids! Even if he works during the day, just coming home to them is awesome.
    LW you need to chill out. You’ve been with this guy for 9 months. That’s nothing. Don’t uproot your whole life to buy a house closer to his kids. That’s not on you at this point. You need to stop and focus on what’s important. If having a set visitation schedule with no wiggle room is important, you need to discuss that but be prepared that it’s not likely. And if that’s the case, you should cut your losses and MOA.
    Even having a few fully child free weekends in 8 months is amazing when there are 5 kids to contend with (including yours who appears to be with you full time). Instead of focusing on “omg I need time without any kids” maybe focus on “how can I make our time as a family better?”

  16. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

    Ummmm, duh what?
    Giving up everything so YOU can buy a house?? (You didn’t say “we’re buying a house.” And you have a baby/toddler and he sounds like a good dad who can’t say no to spending more time with his children???
    Gah, that is all I’ve got.
    Just kidding, one more thing – yes to the birth control!

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      Ha, didn’t even notice that she’s buying HIM a house basically. Come on, LW. You can do so much better than this for you and your kid.

  17. Laura Hope says:

    I feel sorry for the kids–being tossed around, having to adjust to new “parents” every time mom or dad have a new relationship, half siblings, full siblings, “siblings” who aren’t related…… being a kid is hard enough without this mess.

  18. Avatar photo Crochet.Ninja says:

    fyi, when you marry someone with kids, you are accepting responsibility for his kids to a point. you should be treating them like your own, as he should be treating yours. you’re also accepting to deal with an ex wife – and sometimes that sucks. a lot. my husband has an ex that’s a bit like that, except she lives farther away so she can’t just drop their son off whenever. but planning around her is a bitch. but you know what? i adjusted. this isn’t about me, or her, or my husband, it’s about the kids. they have to be high on his priority or how do you think he’s going to treat yours?

    1. They aren’t married, but I agree with the rest of your points.

  19. Anybody willing to bet that child support for 4 children is why the LW is buying the house? Those CS payments have to be astronomical.

  20. I’m on my phone, so I can’t reply directly, but as a “divorced kid” whose parents divorced when I was young, I would have hated the uncertainty of not knowing where I would be staying at any given time. We had a fairly good routine when I was a kid and it let me know what was going on so that I could plan activities, friend visits, etc. and know what the schedule would be. I get it’s chaotic with kids, but with 4 or 5, there needs to be a fairly regular routine. Not saying you can’t deviate, but generally, everyone needs to know what’s happening at what time and be able to count on that. And it’s the parents’ job to make that happen, regardless of what else is going on in their lives. It’s not just the LW who is affected by this; the kids need that level of stability, too. I truly can’t even imagine bouncing around like this all the time as a kid. (But then, I was a type-A control freak as a kid, so…)

  21. How about giving this relationship time to mature on it’s own without the added pressure of moving, and changing jobs, and buying a house. Don’t complicate things by making rash decisions that could be financially disastrous.

    More importantly, think about the kids first – yours and his. Does he want what you want? It sounds like he cherishes the time he has with his kids, and that’s great. Let him be a Dad first and foremost to the kids that he’s responsible to.

    I can promise that life will only get more hectic with school events, and sports, and practices everyday, and homework assignments, holidays and birthdays, and sick kids, and all the other things that require patience and flexibility on the part of the adults involved in the kids lives.

    If your question is “What do you think my best way around this problem is” then you’re asking the wrong question – IMO. I’d ask your boyfriend if he feels like he’s ready and capable to handle 2 more people in his life right now.

  22. lets_be_honest says:

    I’m also curious how you even have the time for this. How did you meet this guy? You have a 1 1/2 year old you’re raising alone and a full time job.

    1. I think she has a baby-sitter (i.e. Grandma or somebody) in her family willing to watch her daughter but that person refuses to baby-sit a stranger’s 4 kids.

      1. lets_be_honest says:

        That makes sense, but even still, how many times does this lucky lw get a sitter that in 8 months, she was able to get out so much that she’s this serious with a guy…who also must be busy with 4 kids, right?!

  23. I’m a long time lurker but this letter, combined with one from the other day, drives me crazy. I’m not a divorced parent so maybe I don’t understand, but I have a kid and he’s around all the time. I don’t get his idea that people are upset because their kids are always at home, boo hoo. Hire someone to watch your kids if need time alone. There’s no guaranteed time off once you have a kid, let alone five.

  24. Avatar photo muchachaenlaventana says:

    I just don’t think it is a wise move to quit your job and also buy a house simultaneously…regardless of all of the other potential red-flags in this situation, please seriously reconsider the economic effects of owning a home if you are unemployed, especially if you have a child to support.

  25. Before reading Wendy’s response, I try to guess it while the page loads. (Come on, fess up, you do that too!) I was surprised when the word “MOA” was not in her response!

    LW, your guy has given you the reason why he has so many ex-es. He does not treat them like they are special.

    I did not read the other comments due to a busy day. But even if I am the only one saying this here, please also consider MOA. And it would be beyond stupid to change anything major in your life for this situation.

    1. He sounds like a much better ex than current boyfriend or husband.

    2. bittergaymark says:

      Really? He constantly changes his plans to help his exes out with their kids at a moments notice… How is that not being a good ex?

  26. For a man with no balls, boyfriend sure has a lot of offspring. Ditch his ass.

  27. I know the feeling ,my gf daughter who is 22 moved into a bedsit we rented out to her.she has at least 4 pets mostly dogs.
    This was only meant to be tempory b ut now a year and a half.she has the bedsit in a total mess.and our lifestyle seems to be running round her plans .She creates an issue every week .when we do go out for a day she texts while we are out .I just want to spend some time with my gf and geta break from the daughter.It seems to be all me me me.
    She treats her mum like a slave.

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