Mom Called 'Petty' After She Refused To Cover For Her Ex When He Forgets Their Kid's Birthday

He certainly needs to learn to be a better father. But is getting back at him the best thing for their kid?

parents fighting near their sad child VGstockstudio / Shutterstock; Canva Pro

Co-parenting after a divorce or breakup is a delicate business even in the best possible scenario. But when one parent isn't exactly doing the best job parenting, it's even more fraught.

One woman on Reddit has had it with her ex's lazy parenting, and she's chosen to teach him a lesson.

The mom refused to cover for her ex and decided to expose him when he forgot their son's birthday.

We hear all the time about dads and husbands who are sort of disengaged from the most important and meaningful parts of being a parent.


A dad not even knowing their child's birthday is sadly a common theme among gendered issues like weaponized incompetence where women, more often than not, become the "default parent." It all adds up to the fact that many dads are essentially emotionally absent from parenting, which is incredibly damaging to their kids.

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In a Reddit post, a mom described how these dynamics have manifested in her parenting relationship with her ex. For years, she has covered for him by throwing birthday parties and buying gifts for their son and saying it's from both mom and dad — because her ex never remembers their son's birthday.

"I would say it was from the both of us," she wrote of the birthday celebrations she's planned all their son's life. "He would forget and then [piggyback] off all my work." On their son's most recent birthday, she decided she'd had enough.

She didn't remind her ex of their son's birthday and let him find out the hard way — via an angry phone call from their son.

Their son's recent birthday went as they usually do. "I... did a party, got the gifts, and so on," she wrote. But this time she made no effort to make it seem like his dad was involved, and their son definitely figured it out. 

"Half way through the day since there was no call from [his dad] to wish our kid happy birthday it became obvious that he forgot," she continued "He absolutely noticed by the end of the day [and] was quite sad."




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It became clear her husband hadn't even remembered, let alone made an effort. "He only remembered after our son basically yelled at him for forgetting," she wrote, and her ex was very angry that she refused to cover for him. "I don’t see why I should since he is a grown adult and he should step up."

Many on Reddit applauded her. "You stopped enabling your ex's dysfunction. Good on you," one commenter wrote. "It's better that your kids know who he actually is."


But the mom's own mom disagreed and told her she should have covered for her ex for her son's sake. Most therapists and experts firmly agree.

Therapists and experts say it's vitally important to reinforce a child's relationship with their parent, no matter what. 

There's obviously no arguing that this dad needs to step up his co-parenting game and be an actual father. Given how women end up nearly always being the "default parent" even in marriages with the most involved dads, it's totally understandable that this woman has had it with covering for her ex, and that most people on Reddit firmly took her side. 

But experts say it's likely the worst possible approach when it comes to their son. For starters, it shifts the parenting problems onto the child by essentially ruining his birthday to make a point. More importantly, hearing negative things about one of their parents harms a child developmentally, because part of how they develop their own sense of self is through their parental relationships.

This is why experts pretty much unanimously agree that badmouthing or criticizing a child's other parent is so damaging to children. It creates an inner conflict for kids that can be devastating to their emotional well-being and can often make them feel caught in the middle between their two parents.


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As a person who grew up with divorced parents and a dad who was... let's say less than stellar at parenting, I speak from experience. If my dad had been "exposed" as a bad parent in this kind of way, on my birthday no less, would have devastated me as a kid.

And the notion pushed by many of the Reddit commenters that "the child needs to know" how bad a dad his father is, is absurd. He's a kid with a brain that won't even finish developing until he's 25. What he "needs to know" is that his parents love him, and experts say the time to start talking to him about the fact that his father sucks as a dad is when the child starts asking those questions himself. 




Is it fair that this mom has to keep running interference to make sure her kid's dad remembers his birthday? Of course not. In fact, it's egregious. But is it as egregious as allowing your child to have his birthday ruined in order to teach your ex a lesson? Speaking from experience, I can tell you definitively: not by a long shot.

This mom's child will almost certainly learn the truth about his dad eventually. There's no need to facilitate that heartbreaking lesson for him before he's ready and able to deal with it. Let him enjoy his birthday. Let him be a kid. 

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.