Dear Mr. Dad: My girlfriend has had a drug problem since I’ve known her. She was clean while pregnant with our daughter, but started up again right after the birth. She was in and out of our daughter’s life for the first two years, disappearing for long stretches of time, and spent the past two years in jail. Because of my ex’s drug problem, I was given sole legal and physical custody. A few weeks ago, she got out of jail and suddenly wants to be super mom. Given her history, I’m skeptical. I’m also torn. On one hand, I think our daughter, who’s now four, and her mother have a right to a relationship with each other and I want to support that. On the other hand, I’m afraid that she’ll start using again and will land back in jail, leaving our daughter disappointed and confused again. I wonder whether making a clean break would be the best thing for everyone. What do you suggest?
If your daughter’s mother is drug-free and doesn’t pose a danger to your daughter or herself, I think that making a clean break would be a big mistake. Your daughter, like most children, sees herself as equal parts you and her mother. And she’s probably worrying that one day she’ll end up like her mom, doing bad things, getting arrested, and spending time in prison. I’m guessing she’s a very frightened little girl. In her mind, it doesn’t matter what her mom has done; she loves her very much. Keeping her from seeing her mom will make things worse.