But you can’t tell mom…..

By Michael

Parents are supposed to be a team, working together, presenting a consistently united front. As we all know, that’s why parent and partner have exactly the same letters.

So I was reminded last week about a question that challenges all of us at one point or another. Is it ever okay to have a secret from your spouse when it comes to the children you share?

I’m not talking about one of those divide-and-conquer strategies the darlings devise from time to time, or a birthday surpise. Like the question about using torture when the bomb is about to go off, this is one that we can all answer in theory and would find troubling in practice.

So little Lindsey comes home and says she has a problem and she will only tell you, but you absolutely have to swear you won’t tell your significant other. If you won’t swear, you won’t hear the truth and, of course, not hearing the truth could lead to disaster.

This was a rare occurrence for me, although I have no idea how rare it was for Jill. As I recall, I always had the same speech about how mom and I are a team and we don’t have secrets from each other. So I couldn’t promise not to say anything, but I could promise to think about it and make a good decision, but only if I knew what I was making a decision about. Yada. Yada. Yada.


As I recall.

The quality of my memory notwithstanding, what’s the right answer here? Is it a betrayal of a spouse to keep secrets about your child? Is it a betrayal of your obligation as a parent to reject a plea for help because the ground rules aren’t according to your taste?

So where do you land on this one?

Michael Rosenbaum is 5 Minutes for Parenting’s first dadblogger. He is a business consultant, playwright and author of Your Name Here: Guide to Life.

Michael blogs on life issues at Your Name Here Guide to Life and manages the Adult Conversation discussion group on Linked-In.

7 Responses to But you can’t tell mom…..
  1. Kelly
    August 10, 2010 | 11:31 am

    I haven’t dealt with this yet, so my comments are strictly theoretical. But I don’t think I would agree to a secret from a spouse under any circumstances. Your reply sounds wise to me. “Mom and I don’t keep secrets, but you can trust that I will behave responsibility with your trust.”

    Secrets are dangerous, especially in families.

  2. Stephanie
    August 10, 2010 | 6:02 pm

    I like your reply, and have to say, when I was younger it meant a lot to me that I could trust my dad with something and know he would really consider if he needed to tell my Mom (when I didn’t want to) and to this day, I don’t think he ever told her. That has meant a big deal for me after all these years.


  3. Melissa
    August 11, 2010 | 8:18 pm

    I, too, like your reply about not keeping secrets, but you’ll think about it, etc. It is very important to build trust with your children, but there is another level here. As parents of girls, we are raising future wives, and while you may be building trust with your daughter, you are also teaching her that it’s okay to keep secrets from her (future) spouse.
    It’s a tough spot to be in. Please let us know how it turns out. 🙂

  4. Anitra
    August 11, 2010 | 8:39 pm

    Oof. That’s a tough one. I think you have the right response. Kids need to know that their parents are always a team – husband and wife before they are dad and mom.

  5. Tammy
    September 14, 2010 | 9:37 pm

    You shouldn’t tell your significant other. Your children has place their trust in you and they trust you to not tell your significant other. Even if it might be something that you should tell your significant other, don’t tell. You should wait until your children has told your significant other. Secrets are dangerous in your family and so are secrets in your circle of friends. Would you betray your friend? Ask yourself and ask the same thing for family. You should build your trust with your child. Even if your significant other will get mad when she knows this, you should try to explain and as your wife, she should understand. If she doesn’t get it, ask her what she would have felt if she told one of her parents to tell her secret and her mom or dad did.

  6. Tammy
    September 14, 2010 | 9:44 pm

    Oh yeah! You should also know that if you child told your mom, it would be ok to talk about it in front of your significant other!

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