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Single Parenting: Can Wives And Girlfriends Stop Meddling With Kids?

If you didn’t watch ABC’s Private Practice last night I will fill you in. [Spoiler Alert] Cooper is married to Charlotte and they don’t have kids. Last night, a woman showed up to the medical practice where Cooper and Charlotte work to tell Cooper she is the mother of his 8-year-old son, Mason. Gulp. Apparently Cooper had a one-night stand nine years ago. "Do you wanna meet your son?" she asked.

The woman claimed from the start she knew it was Cooper’s baby and didn’t tell him because she figured he’d tell her to “take care of it.” Little did she know Cooper is a Pediatrician and loves kids. When Cooper met Mason he knew instantly by looking at him that this was his kid. He gave him a physical and took blood. Now he had to tell his wife, Charlotte.

Her response to the news was: “You’re an idiot. I married an idiot.” In all fairness, she reacted this way because Cooper made this life-changing announcement without confirming paternity via testing (which I think is dumb). He was further convinced the kid was his during a lunch date when Mason chose a strawberry shake (Cooper’s favorite flavor) and dipped a fry in it (A Cooper quirk).

Charlotte did not take this news well. She did not want anything to do with this kid or woman. This completely disrupted her life. She took matters into her own hands. She met with the woman and gave her a check for 20K. She told the woman to contact her when that ran out and to stay away from her husband. This pissed me off for many reasons.

1. 20K is not a lot of money to raise an 8-year-old on. Child support is calculated according to state guidelines that usually factor Mom and Dad’s incomes to come up with an appropriate number for basic needs, child care/schooling, health insurance, other medical needs + extracurricular activities. This 20K could very well be just one year of child support (trust me, I know). Think about it. 20K is about the mortgage for a year (one year) on a newish 2-bed condo in North NJ. Just saying.

2. Charlotte interfered with the potential relationship THE CHILD could have with his FATHER. Not cool. Lady, you’re literally messing with an 8-year-old because you’re insecure. Check yourself!

3. She did this completely behind Cooper’s back and it all backfired because the mom came storming in with the check and declared, “I’m not a whore. My son wanted to know his dad.” GOOD FOR HER (But, she should have called Cooper when she discovered she was pregnant. My son’s dad was there when the positive sign showed up on the stick.)

I know this is a show and many of you were a little miffed by my blog about Grey’s Anatomy and the jam-comment Meredith made. Here’s the thing though: Writers draw from personal experience and observation when creating (my friends write for magazines, TV, movies and are authors). The Devil Wears Prada: A Novel by Lauren Weisberger is fiction, but based on her real-life experiences working at Vogue. Prospect Park West (another novel) by Amy Sohn who is a mom and lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn is based on...motherhood in Park Slope, Brooklyn. My friend Mary Pols had a one-night stand and got pregnant. She told the guy immediately and chronicled her journey in the fabulous book Accidentally On Purpose (Dad participates—he didn’t run). What you see on the screen and read in novels likely happened in real life in some way (maybe it was something the author witnessed on the subway and maybe scenes are beefed up—still).

The storyline on last night’s Private Practice is relatable. Women do meddle with their husbands when it comes to acknowledging and supporting children outside of their happy marriage. My best friend met her dad when she was 13 and her dad’s wife, to this day, refuses to hear about the past and how her husband ignored his daughter for years. I watched A Shot In The Dark and interviewed Entourage actor, Adrian Grenier on his journey to reconnect with his bio-dad. There were many contributing factors to his father’s absence (his bio-mom included) but his father’s wife was one, too. She could not conceive children. She was admittedly threatened by Adrian. Adrian’s mom called her home to speak to Adrian’s father and was told not to call back and that she was getting nothing.

This all means that wives and girlfriends need to butt out, grow up and let CHILDREN know their fathers (or mothers). I totally get that a child outside of a marriage discolors the white picket fence and can even shame the wife, her children and family—but at the end of the day, you have to think of the innocent child. Charlotte’s response on Private Practice was extreme and I felt bad for her—this was a blow, because she married a man who at the time was not a father—or knew of his child. But, there are women who go into marriages knowing their husbands abandoned their pregnant girlfriends and have a child(ren). This is something they need to work through and deal with on their own—this is their weight. This is the life and the man they chose. They should expect a disruption, a knock on the door, a phone call—and be ready to introduce half-siblings and explain things to family who have been in the dark. The latter? Live with an elephant in the room. I bbm’ed my friend Amy last night: “Do you think absent parents are watching this show in silence next to their spouses with awkward energy between them? I do.”

Charlotte ran a paternity test behind Cooper's back (via the kid's bloodwork and Cooper's toothbrush). It's his kiddo. She needs to back off now and check into therapy. It'll be OK.

Now hear from Dr. Leah Klungness, Ph.D., a psychologist, coauthor of The Complete Single Mother and cofounder of

CC: Why do women try to make children from past relationships go away?  

LK: Children from past relationships are undeniable and constant reminders that this prior relationship was significant and really forever. He shares with his ex a forever bond, way more significant than vacation snaps or even a tattoo. The right now girlfriend fears that even just the business communication between co-parents will interfere or destroy her relationship with this guy. They share a child, which may not necessarily happen in the current relationship. Without a child, it's easy to dismiss or deny prior relationships. Bottom line: you can compete -- and even win -- when you're pitted against another adult woman. But, when the competition is a child, game over.   

CC: What advice can you offer women who enter into a marriage or relationship fully aware the man they are marrying has a child he abandoned and refuses to see?

LK: A woman who enters a relationship/marriage fully aware that he has abandoned a child needs to ask herself what she can reasonably expect from this guy. Likely, she needs to lower her expectation to zero. It's just foolish to expect a man who walks away from his own child to commit to a relationship. His child can't trust him. Why should you?

CC: When a man gets married and then finds out down the road he in fact has a kid (like Cooper) how can he and his present wife work together for the sake of the child?

LK: This couple needs to talk this through -- and, likely, get some professional help. For different reasons, both parties feel angry, betrayed, shocked, and fearful. A couple can survive and move beyond such a shocking discovery, but only with great determination and lots of shared love and respect.


You might also like: Blended Families With Children and Single Parent Advice.

Discuss! Have a great weekend! Peace and happiness to all!

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