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My children's mum smokes around them

(26 Posts)
lucasisking Fri 05-Feb-16 15:06:33

Dear All

Newbie here so sorry if this is posted in the wrong place. I'm a single man with two children who I see part time, and have a concern about their mum (and possibly partner) smoking excessively around them.

Bit of background: my ex-wife has always been a smoker. She even, I'm ashamed to say, smoked through both her pregnancies. We separated after four years of marriage and are now divorced.

However just recently (last few months) I'm noticing that when the kids visit I can smell cigarette smoke on them- in their hair and on their clothes. Last time I went to drop them back the house stank like an ashtray, causing me to comment. The comment was simply dismissed and when I gently tried to raise the issue by text, I got a lengthy message telling me basically to back off, and she was working on it.

My son is 12 and on the autistic spectrum. For some time recently he has had sinus problems. My daughter is 8 and generally healthy, but has had lots of sleeping difficulty, a bad cough, and behavioural problems. Im not suggesting these are linked to passive smoking, but its not inconceivable that cigarette smoke is making these problems worse.

My relationship with my ex wife is fragile at best. When things go well I try really hard not to rock the boat, however I can't ignore the welfare of my kids for the sake of harmony. I feel powerless however. There is nothing I can do legally (or is there?). I feel like she has total control. I don't even know who my kids' GP is.

Is there any advice anyone can give? I'm feeling like I am not doing enough but I don't know how to deal with this.

queenofthepirates Fri 05-Feb-16 15:10:30

If you have a fragile relationship with your ex, I would be inclined to say, don't rock the boat. It's unhealthy but you can't dictate the environment at your ex's house anymore than she can yours. Sorry.

Hassled Fri 05-Feb-16 15:13:44

Do you have any sort of relationship with someone else in the family who you could have a word with - does she have a sister/brother/parent you can talk to? I completely understand why you're worried but don't know what you can actually do.

WhatTheActualFugg Fri 05-Feb-16 15:24:54

I had to live with this as a child. Me and my siblings all have asthma and all suffered continuous ear and chest infections. I dread to think what my lungs look like.

I have advice in afraid.

But, is this not illegal yet? It bloody well should be. Wasn't there talk of banning people smoking in cars with children inside?

WhatTheActualFugg Fri 05-Feb-16 15:25:17

no advice

Hassled Fri 05-Feb-16 15:34:47

Yes, they have banned smoking in cars with children inside - I suppose it's just impossible to police if they banned smoking in houses with children.

Tiggeryoubastard Fri 05-Feb-16 15:37:01

If you don't like it why did you have children with a smoker, especially as she was selfish enough to smoke through pregnancy.

MiddleClassProblem Fri 05-Feb-16 15:42:38

Tiggeryoubastard hmm

lucasisking Fri 05-Feb-16 15:49:52

Thanks for your replies. Confirms what I suspected.

It just seems wrong that I have to sit by and allow grown adults to wilfully harm the health of my children. Perhaps I can try to chat to her without her going off on one. The trouble is if she 'starts', I get angry and argue back- and it escalates. There's a lot she does that doesn't sit well with me but I just have to suck it up for their sake.

I have to admit that even six years on I still struggle being estranged from my kids. Everything seems stacked against me.

I truly envy men who still live with their kids and get to be a full part of their lives. It breaks my heart that I don't have that.

lucasisking Fri 05-Feb-16 15:57:50

Tiggery she fell pregnant by accident the first time. At that time we hadn't been together long enough for me to tell her what to do. By the time she was pregnant the second time (we were married then), I felt sure she'd never do it again and I pestered her not too. I nearly left her over it. But her stupid mother told her that 'the stress of quitting will be even worse for the baby than the smoke', so of course that was carte blanche for her to keep doing it.

When we were together she would stand by the door and smoke.

But basically you're right. Why did I have children with a selfish woman? well if I didn't I wouldn't have my kids who are everything to me.

lucasisking Mon 09-Jan-17 10:46:27

just thought I would bump my earlier thread as the situation is getting worse rather than better. My ex wife (and partner- now confirmed) continue to smoke heavily in the house around my children despite me expressly asking her to stop. I fact I even used the word "beg" in a recent message to her asking her to stop. She has reacted as she always does by telling me to back off and leave them alone. She's made me the aggressor and her the victim.
Recently my kids have begun to smell ever worse with their hair, clothes, bags, coats and even their devices reeking of cigarette smoke. If I'm noticing it then surely everyone they meet is too. I'm ashamed and embarrassed and that's even before we consider the health effects. My daughter still has sleeping difficulties, my son is still in below average health with a constant 'snuffle'.
To give some extra context, my ex wife suffers from borderline personality disorder which means she is lovely and decent for a time, followed by periods of vile hatred and abuse towards me for no reason. The situation has deteriorated to the point where I think she might be hurting my relationship with them (especially my daughter) and I seem to have no power or recourse to protect them. Whatever I do will antagonise her, whether its contacting their teachers or GP, or heaven forbid social services. I don't know where to turn. What should be my first move and who can I contact about this? There is no reasoning with my ex wife.

poghogger Mon 09-Jan-17 12:24:36

I'm really sorry but I don't think there is much you can do. Whilst smoking in the home with young children is pretty selfish behaviour it is not illegal and if the children are cared for well otherwise then there's no way social services would get involved afaik.

lucasisking Mon 09-Jan-17 12:41:27

Thank you for being honest. I knew there was nothing I could really do.

Should I make an attempt to speak to their teachers/ get Dr appointment (for my son at least) just to check if they are ok? And just so the schools know I'm concerned (and not contributing to the problem myself)? I just want to do SOMETHING.

JayDot500 Mon 09-Jan-17 21:37:39

What's the custody arrangements? Are you able to request more time with them? Are toy even able to have them more time during the week? At least to offer them a 'breather'?

I lived in a house where my mum smoked and it put me off smoking for eternity. It's horrid.

HyacinthsBucket Mon 09-Jan-17 22:01:12

I can't even begin to imagine your frustration. I would encourage having them with you as much as your custody arrangements allow, so at least their lungs get a break from the smoke. They will express a desire to live with you as they are getting older, I'd hate to live a smoky home. It's nothing short of child abuse to smoke around kids in my opinion. It may be worth a free half hour session with a family lawyer to see if there is any legal recourse too. I think social services would probably damage the fragile relationship with your ex beyond repair, sadly.

crunched Mon 09-Jan-17 22:08:54

This is so sad Lucas.
I have no experience of this situation but if you were a mate of mine, I know I would agree with you about getting the children's general health checked.
flowers

TheGruffaloMother Mon 09-Jan-17 22:19:40

The thing is, if smoking is the worst of your concerns then you really do need to back off. You won't talk her out of addiction. She shouldn't be smoking in the house but it isn't illegal and nor is it something social services will get involved with. All you're managing by banging that drum is to get her back up because you're criticising her parenting.

Get the DC some clothes that stay at your place. It's not pleasant growing up in a smoky home but try to remind yourself that she brings far more to their lives than she takes from it I hope

pho3be Mon 09-Jan-17 22:32:54

I really feel for you, what a horrible, frustrating situation.
Could you change the custody arrangements? I would get legal advice on that.
Do you drop or pick them up from school? Their teachers will have definitely noticed and itll be rank for them & the other children to smell all day so they would definitely back you up.
Does their school have a liaison officer? Could you make an appointment, explaining the delicacy of the situation and see if they could liaise with their mum? Not even mentioning you i mean but pointing out their smell and if they haven't already other children will start to notice & kids can be cruel.
I disagree that it doesn't matter if they are well cared for otherwise - the children are passively smoking, they have no say whatsoever so they need responsible adults to do that for them.

lucasisking Tue 10-Jan-17 09:29:23

Thank you all sincerely for your responses. They are all very useful and appreciated. I've always had the children approximately 3 nights a week (2 nights one week, then 4 every other week) and take them to school when its my turn. The problem is since she took up with her current partner and his child, my daughter has developed attachment anxieties to her mum and she seems to want to spend less time with me (despite me being the 'activities' parent). Naturally, I'm blamed for her attachment anxiety.

Gruffalomother- sadly you are probably right. My partner behaves like a cornered animal in these situations and my criticising her is probably making the problem worse. I can get new clothes/ uniforms for them, but they go to their mums straight after school so they'd only get as smoke ridden as the rest. But Phoebe I think its a great idea for me to talk to the schools and try the liason officer route.

If it was up to me the kids would live with me permanently; I'd reorganise my job around them. At the moment though, my ex's pychological issues seem to be making my daughter even clingier with her. My ex doesn't work either, and rarely leaves the house. I've noticed my daughter seems less inclined to go out lately too (we used to have all kinds of outdoor adventures).

There are other problems too. My ex is deeply insecure and has forbidden me from having girlfriends. So when my new gf and her little girl came to visit over Christmas when the kids were there, ex turned nasty and has tried to limit my contact with them since. Ironic as my gf is the most conscientious, dedicated mother Ive ever met! She wouldn't allow her daughter anywhere near cigarette smoke.

Thank you all again for your responses, you have all really helped so far. What a supportive place this is.

Primaryteach87 Tue 10-Jan-17 09:38:09

Definitely a good idea to speak to school. Perhaps you could get a referral to the school nurse?

pho3be Tue 10-Jan-17 10:25:36

Good plan.
Try not to worry about your dd's clingy ness to her mum, as in don't take offence to it or show her in any way that it bothers you. Ignore any kind of blame behaviour.
For now just make sure she knows you love her very much and can rely on you as a parent who is there for her as a constant stable presence in her life. Over time she'll learn, play the long game!

JayDot500 Tue 10-Jan-17 12:11:34

I agree with pho3be. Play the long game. Also, it does no harm to speak to the school.

This isn't about me but let me tell you. It's a great thing to have a dad who I can turn to now, as I didn't always have him. My mum was a single mother who has had many partners (many of whom smoked and weren't the nicest). I look back now and feel sorry for her. I could have done with a dad then, since I went through a lot living with my mum. But he's since apologised and right now he is the dependable, reliable parent who is always calling to make sure I'm okay (love my mum but she's going through her own stuff so I can't always rely/lean on her).

I've read what your ex may be going through in terms of her mental health. I think you really need to be a visible source of love and affection for your children. From what you've said, you're already there for them. Just keep trying to be the best dad you can be. And as regards your ex, show compassion, try not to battle with her. I would hope she is receiving support from MH services. You don't want her to have any reason to use your kids against you. Your kids will grow and see you for the man you are one day. Stay strong flowers

lucasisking Tue 10-Jan-17 12:34:53

Thanks Primaryteach87 and Pho3be for your advice. The schools have always been good sources of support for my kids so I agree that's the best place to start. And I'll try not to let things get to me in front of the kids, sometimes I let emotions get the better of me. You're dead right about the long game.

JayDot500 thanks for your lovely response. There's a lot of truth in what you say. My ex's Borderline disorder is almost like schizophrenia. When she is in a 'good place', relations are good between us, even friendly. In fact if you were to read our text conversations during those times none of what I've previously said will appear to make sense! However there's a monster in her that is almost impossible to deal with and its been triggered (although I've tried to be supportive of it). I will certainly try to be the rock the kids need, whether they want it or not. I'm sorry to hear what you too have been through, but you've certainly come out of it a wise, compassionate person based on what I've read. Thank you so much.

Leviticus Tue 10-Jan-17 12:47:37

I don't think it's great to smoke in a house where children live.

But she's always been a smoker and you just sound pissed off now that you no longer get along and she has a new boyfriend.

There's nothing you can do and if you start trying to lay down the law with her it will end in tears. Yours probably.

dottypotter Tue 10-Jan-17 13:41:49

ITS AWFUL THAT NOTHING CAN BE DONE IM SURE IF YOU WERE ADOPTING A CHILD YOU WOULDNT BE ALLOWED TO SMOKE SO WHY ARE NATURAL PARENTS. THE LEAST THEY COULD DO IS GO OUTSIDE ETC AND NOT SMOKE ROUND THE CHILDREN. WHY ARE PPL SO SELFISH.

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