Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | October 17, 2010

Paying Penny to be the Mom. Your Thoughts?

Penny and I had a talk this past week.

It almost didn’t happen.

Every time I’ve tried to schedule this talk, something comes up. And it’s always easier to roll with whatever it is that comes up than to insist that we have this meeting to talk over parenting plans or divvying up our financial assets. The house is a big issue, and there are so many unknowns surrounding it that everything else freezes in its wake: until we know if I’m going to try to keep the house, we don’t know who should move out, when.

Here was the sentence that had to be said, and had to be said sooner rather than later: “If I am to work out a deal with the bank, you need to move out.”

It was so very, very hard to say those last few words. But I said them without any anger and without any hint of a question. I arranged the baby sitting, I started the conversation, and I said those words in those words. “You need to move out.”

She wasn’t expecting it. I’ve given her no reason to expect it, insofar as I’ve been reasonable to a fault. But she took it in. And we talked about where she might live, or where we both might live if I do not try to keep the house. So, we’ve made some progress.

We will meet with a lawyer this coming week to talk over our options with regard to the house and the banks that hold the mortgage and the HELOC on it. I expect that conversation to clarify a great deal. And then, either I’m going to be looking for a place to live right away, or she is. (If we’re going to try to short sell or otherwise give up the house, I’m not going to stay in the house waiting for that axe to fall. I’m tired of living like this. Whereas her feeling is, why pay rent if you can get away with staying in your home for another month or two rent free?)

We also talked about how our financial separation will look. And toward that end, I have a question for you, dear readers:

However things work out, the short term prospects favor me having a decent paying job through June, while she will most likely (and at best) barely scrape by. My work schedule requires my full attention for over 40 hours a week.

We are agreed to the notion of 50/50 custody. We are agreed to the notion of splitting child-related expenses 50/50. But insofar as on work days, I will not have the luxury of bringing our two-year-old to work (and Penny would, both on her days and on mine), I run into a snag: either the youngest has day care and the other two have a couple hours of some kind of baby-sitting, or Penny takes them.

Penny can take them, but doing so would interfere with her work time. She can’t get as much done when she has the kids as she can get done when she doesn’t. She would rather take the kids than have me put them in day care. But she would also like some amount of financial compensation for doing so. (Say, half or even a quarter of what a nanny would otherwise typically make.)

On one hand, such an arrangement would make sense, because it would be cheaper for me than paying a nanny or a day care, and I know the kids would be looked after. On the other hand, I don’t want the kids to be an excuse for why Penny can’t make the business successful, and I’m concerned about setting a precedent of me paying Penny to, essentially, be their caregiver.

I also don’t think the warehouse space where our business resides is such a good place for our youngest to be spending his days.

As it is, Penny only works the business part time. My paying her to take the children to the science museum or to the zoo or to the park feels… like I’m paying her to play with them. Then again, if I have the option of being paid X dollars an hour, and I can be sure the kids are being taken care of for a tiny fraction of that X dollars, everybody wins… right?

Or… not right?

What are your thoughts, dear readers? Should I pay Penny a few bucks an hour and be glad my kids will be looked after so cheaply during my work time on days that I have custody? Or should I make other (day care) arrangements, knowing that it will cost me more financially, but in the hopes that both Penny and the kids (and I, for that matter) might be better off for it in the long run?



  1. I would be very worried about setting the precedent that you have to pay her to take the kids, and I would be worried that a judge might see it as though, if you’re not capable of making your own day-care arrangements that you may as well give her primary custody and pay child support. This could be used against you later, and IMO, kind of defeats the purpose of 50/50 parenting.

    You could always make an arrangement with another parent who lives nearby.

  2. I agree with IntrigueMe regarding establishing precedent. Often the court will base the final decree on the conditions leading up to its issuance. Don’t give away the farm just because the chickens need a roost!

    What would be best for your kids is to not be a distraction to either parent while working. Just as you have to focus on your job for vital economic reasons, she does as well. She is going to need that business functioning once you no longer have any legal obligations to support her, and she can’t do that if her attention is divided.

    So my vote goes to child care. It will cost more money now and will cause fewer problems later.

  3. It appears that she has placed the burden solely on your shoulders to figure this out. Unfortunately, divorce doesn’t and can’t work this way. YOu have very young children and will have to learn to work out amicable arrangements for many years to come. Additionally when its said that co-parenting is challenging this is an example of what they are talking about. Actually, should you move forward with paying her “sitting fees” then you are immediately setting a precedent that may follow you for many years to come (to the commenters point). Where I in your shoes you both should work it out and I would be extremely resistant, to the point of prejudice, of paying her sitting expenses to watch her kids. If you need to pay for a sitter, so be it, and you both should work out an amicable percentage of payment At the point when you live in separate homes this will very well be the situation. Both of the previous commenters are correct in their positions.

    This is your ex’s life, not to be blunt, but she should get used to it.

  4. I agree with IntrigueMe and ToppHogg. They said it better than I.

  5. @THE IDEA: I’m right there with IntrigueMe and ToppHogg. The mere idea that you would PAY your former spouse to take care of her children so she can AVOID work sounds so much like alimony that I almost spit my breakfast drink on the screen. You’d be a fucking fool to walk down that road. It can and will be used against you in a court of law.

    @CHILDCARE: This is me, and my opinion. While your marriage most likely would have been unsuccessful, I believe the suspicion towards childcare combined with the unwillingness to try it expedited its demise. Also, I think you were (are) just being cheap about it. It was “cheaper” to have someone slack on the business and spend all the time with the kids than to use outside assistance. That’s what it looked/sounded like.

    I’m just stealing ToppHogg’s conclusion. It’s the right one: So my vote goes to child care. It will cost more money now and will cause fewer problems later.

    • By the way, my first response was, “Are you MOTHERFUCKING crazy?” I think it still stands; although everyone has been a lot more gentile than this.

  6. In my state, even though we had 50/50 custody and Pat was not asking for any support, because I made more money (and it sounds like you do) and even though I knew my job would be ending so we’d both be making essentially nothing (all of which I told the court), I was (and am) still required to pay child support, until Kelsea is 18. All that mattered were my assets and what I was making at the time we filed. Of course, we could petition for something different, but the court’s primary interest was that Kelsea be properly taken care of with an appropraite financial contribution. At least they allowed me to scale down the amount that “the formula” required me to pay. Be careful, Inris. There’s a formula for child support and an incredibly heinous formula for spousal support (at least in my state). If your negotiations go south, and Penny decides to take advantage of such a formula, the outcome is decidedly unfair and financially ugly.

  7. gaah, finances. so dangerous. i’m in the middle of all of this with my ex right now. he’s taking more than his fair share of our marital debts now, because i’m in school. the trade-off to this is that, once i get out of school and have a job, he wants alimony. it’s unnerving and obnoxious to reduce everything we’ve been to each other to a pecuniary calculation.

    as for paying for the childcare: if you’re gonna pay, pay a third party. don’t set that precedent. the price will be well worth it.

  8. I agree with everyone else. Plus: it’s easy now for Penny to happily take the kids during “your” time, but that won’t always be the case… Eventually she’ll have a different life and might want her time “off”. A friend of mine went through something very similar and it added a lot of animosity to their negotiations as she felt her ex was taking advantage of her Mom Status and just using her as a babysitter. Eventually she threw up her hands and said, “when they’re with him, they’re HIS responsibility and HE needs to find solutions to his own problems.”.

  9. I agree! Keep everything separate, once it “is” actually separate.
    The kids should get used to having child care, anyway; it’s the healthiest thing for you AND for them. Take control now, or you’ll be sorry later.
    Penny is your “ex” for a reason.

  10. Agree with everyone here, if you opt for child care, go third party. It is cleaner, sets the right precedent and keeps things separate. I know you enough to know that the “you have to move out” comment was very difficult, as is the idea of other child care when Penny has the time to do it. But if you are to do 50/50, do 50/50, or else the lines get far too blurred. And what’s to say eventually she doesn’t then ask for alimony or more child support or whatever, on top of that? You are doing the right thing by your children, don’t forget that.

  11. Yeah, this is a Skype-versation. We’ll talk soon.

    Big hugs!

  12. My vote is child care… Just to cover your butt later. There are plenty of child care providers who do a great job. Perhaps you could even arrange something with other parents in your neighborhood? You watch their children for a few hours one day and they watch yours for a few hours another day?

  13. Another “vote” for what everyone else has said. Paying her to take care of your kids is just another term for alimony and won’t be 50/50. If it’s going to be 50/50, then let it be 50/50. From what I’ve read you both have a lot of maturing/growing up to do, and paying to do that… well … What Suzanne said with the kindest of intentions.

  14. Holy fuck. Daycare. Daycare, daycare, daycare.

    For all the reasons the other commenters gave, and because daycare is a good thing for kids, esp when it’s going to be a constant in their lives irregardless of which parent they’re living with. For instance, The Mook started at her daycare a few months before The Former Mr and I split and it means that she’s at the same place, every day, no matter which parent she’s with.

  15. In my experience you can’t effectively work and take care of children at the same time, especially young kids. It’s an either or situation. While it may be convenient for Penny to take the kids to work, truly, this may not be in the best interests of the children or even Penny’s when it comes developing the business.

    You and Penny could decide that it is in the children’s best interests for her to work part-time and be a stay-at-home mom the balance and then you would be paying her support because you had both decided that was in children’s best interest. I wouldn’t automatically exclude this as an option just because you’d have to pay her. Some kids don’t do well in day care. You know your children and you probably know what arrangement is best for them and that should be your starting point.

    You could also look to hire a nanny – someone who would look after the kids at Penny’s house and at yours….

  16. Wow, I must say I’m quite shocked by these responses. Personally I’d rather pay my ex-spouse to care for my kids, as he has an invested interest in them. I certainly don’t think daycare is evil by any means, but I know that their parent will have extra care and concern for their well-being. I would consider paying my spouse to do this to be money well spent. I don’t care if it’s called alimony or whatever nasty word people want to put to it…what’s in my kid’s best interest is what’s most important. Let me say I recognize all parents don’t have the non-daycare option….but if you DO, why the heck not utilize it?

  17. Divorce is an earthshaking event, for you, for Penny, for especially on your children. All I want to stress is, since you have created these innocent children, please make the sacrifices due them in order to lower the impact of their lives from this point. It already sounds like they have been living in a tension-filled void, and with two very emotionally washed-out souls for parents. All of you surely have smiles turned upside-down.

    I think the four of you should discuss this matter that will turn the lives of everyone involved upside-down, in an adult and caring manner. The kids already suspect your failing marriage, I would think, even though they may not know how to interpret it yet. They are surely feeling insecure, even if they don’t know how to process such an emotion. Their understanding may be hampered by being very young, but they sense at some level. It will be the honest thing to do to include them in on what is in the works, and show the least amount of animosity between yourself and your wife (their mother and father). Give them an idea that their mother and father will remain civil to each other and will take care of and love them without a break, and with real concern for their happiness. Go do what is good for them. You big guys will have sacrifices to make, and my heart goes out to you both – but I’m on the side of your kids. I hope you will be, too. Remember, be the adults you should be. Please.

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