Four years ago I had a baby with my then boyfriend. Things weren't going well – he was into drugs and even hit me, once – so we split up. When our daughter arrived he was over the moon, but after we split he gradually lost touch. Now he's written asking to see her, saying he's changed. He's with another woman, and they've got a child, but I'm in two minds. I've been so happy without him in my life and I don't see why he should disrupt our situation. My parents are dead against letting him see her. What do you think? Yours sincerely, Jen
Virginia says... You're treating this problem as if you were a gambler in a casino. Should you put your money on the black – or the red? Allow your ex to see the child or refuse?
What you don't seem to realise is that you don't have to take any such decision at the moment. And also that you do, in fact, hold all the cards. He's the one who's asking to see your daughter. So you're in a position to make any conditions you like.
First, I think you ought to ask if you can meet him on his own, so you can see how good a case he can make for returning into your life. Next, you wouldn't be unreasonable to ask if you could pop round and meet his new partner and baby – that way you can get a real feel of whether he's changed or not. Based on that evidence, you can decide whether you'd like him to see his daughter.
And even then, you could, if you still felt anxious, make it a condition that he only saw your daughter at your home, with you present. Or you could say that those would be the conditions you'd want to make at the moment. Later, things might change. You might prefer him to stop visiting, if you felt uneasy, or you might, if he's really changed, allow him to take her home and visit him at his house. There are myriad opportunities.
The advantages for your daughter are obvious. She would get to know her father, and have one other person in her life who loved her to bits. She would also gain a half-sibling, which is something that's always great to have in later life. And, who knows, she might find that her father's new wife is someone who'd be an asset. Also, your daughter might blame you later if she discovered you'd prevented her father from seeing her now.
The advantages for you are that, if it worked out, your daughter would have somewhere to stay if you wanted to go on holiday or if you became ill. Or even have free time to yourself. The disadvantage is, of course, if you found yourself attracted to the man again.
I suspect your parents are against the idea because they don't want to rock the boat. And also perhaps they don't want to share their granddaughter with someone else – grandparents can be possessive, too.
So few fathers want to be involved with their children's lives after a break-up it would be madness to give his proposal a blanket refusal without finding out more.
She's his child too
Perhaps Jen has not considered that her former partner may have acted in their daughter's best interests by staying away from her until he had successfully dealt with his drug and violence issues.
If he is now in a fit state to see and care for his daughter, he should be allowed to do so. She is just as much his child as Jen's and the disruption she fears will be caused should not affect her willingness to negotiate fair access to their child. Nor should she allow the views of either set of parents to sway the decision. It is a matter for the parents and, when she is old enough to make her own decisions, the daughter.
William Roberst By email
She needs a father
Children really do need to know both of their parents if at all possible, and it seems that in this case it is.
I appreciate that this may prove to be very difficult for you, but urge you to work towards establishing your daughter's relationship with her father. It could prove vital for her long-term happiness and, by extension, your own.
Paul By email
Next week's dilemma
Dear Virginia, I'm 17 and still live at home, but whenever a guy comes round to pick me up for a date, my mum always flirts with him. Sometimes I ask friends round to my house after we've been out for the night but if she hears us, then mum always comes down in her dressing gown and starts chatting to any of the guys I've brought back, and making sexy remarks. I really hate it, but I don't want to say anything because I know she's lonely after my dad left two years ago. But it's really embarrassing. What can I do? Yours sincerely, Jerry
What would you advise Jerry to do? Email your comments – or your own dilemmas – to Virginia Ironside at email@example.com. Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers (finewinesellers.co.uk)