My boyfriend slept over with my kids home for the first time

single mom boyfriend sleep over

 That's adorable. Now get your ass back to bed. 


If you're new here, let me catch you up on my stance on single moms and dating: You are an adult, sexual woman and should proudly date. Do not hide your dating from your kids. Even though there is little societal support for the sexuality of mothers — unmarried ones in particular — do not let that hold you back from enjoying the many amazing men in your midst.

And once you do, it's not a big deal if your kids meet the men you date — even casually. It is not emotionally scaring to get to know a person you will never see again if you don't expect every single person you encounter to be in your life forever and ever. Your kids have friends and neighbors who they love, but move away. Adored teachers who they leave behind at the end of the year, and relatives who die. Meeting a guy their mom is seeing, but may not stay with for the longterm, is not a ticket to a life on the couch, talking about how their mom effed them up with her sexual exploits.

I will go as far as to say you should date, and let your kids know about it. Denying your sexuality and need for romantic connection sets a bad example for your children and thrusts too much responsibility on them to care for your emotional needs now, and physical and financial needs in the future.

Further reading:

Single moms should't wait to introduce their kids to their new boyfriend

That said, I've been a bit ginger about integrating my new boyfriend into my family circus, for reasons I will elaborate on later this week. I've been seeing him for more than three months, and my kids have met him a couple times. He's sweet with them, and he tries to play it cool, though I can tell he's a little nervous about making a good impression on them (and on me, with them), which makes him all the more irresistible.

In the spirit of being normal about mixing kids with dudes, I also tried to keep it cool. We'd planned for him to have dinner at my place with the kids last Thursday. Earlier in the week I texted: “Do you want to stay over?”

Sure, he said. I didn't want to make it into a huge deal with the kids, but I also believe it is really disrespectful to sneak men into your bed, or simply wake up with a man laying next to you without any explanation. Kids aren't morons.

So, I first mentioned to Lucas, age 4: “He's going to sleep over at our house Thursday.”

When his sister, 6, came home, Luke eagerly rushed up to her: “Helena! Helena! Guess WHAT! Mommy's boyfriend is going to SLEEP at our HOUSE!”

Helena: “Where is he going to sleep?

Me: “My bed.”

Helena: “Where are you going to sleep?”

Me: “In my bed with him.”

Helena: “I think you wiggle too much at night. Maybe he should sleep on the couch.”

Lucas: “I know! I know! He can sleep in MY BED!”

Me: “Where are you going to sleep?”

Lucas: “With you.”

Me: “I'm going to sleep with him in my bed because he's my boyfriend and I want to snuggle with him.”

Lucas: “What about OUR morning snuggles?”
sell engagement ring


Me: “We will still do that — there are plenty of mommy snuggles to go around.”

Helena: “I promise not to fart on his lap like I did with your last boyfriend. I think that's why you broke up.”

Maybe that last bit about the boyfriend snuggles was TMI, but it is true and go to the heart of the kids' confusion — this visitor is different than the many houseguests who frequent our couch. And it turned out to be completely accurate (read on).

The day of The Great Sleepover, I picked Helena at the bus stop and she giddily skipped along the sidewalk holding my hand.

“My mommy's boyfriend is going to sleep at my house! My mommy's boyfriend is going to sleep at my house! I told everyone at school — even my teachers! My mommy's boyfriend is going to sleep at my house!” 

The rest of the evening was pork chops and roasted cauliflower and cupcakes my boyfriend brought for the kids. He cleaned the kitchen (even the stovetop which I religiously leave for the housecleaner) while I got the kids into the bath and jammies. I read Helena one of those Madonna English Roses books and he read Lucas a Planes book. There were kisses all around, followed by yelling to get back into bed, and it couldn't have been more normal or cozy.

And it was, at its core, a normal and cozy Thursday evening with the kids. I put on my long-sleeved pajamas, washed my face and slipped into bed next to him, my head resting in the crook of my arm and then on his chest. We turned off the light and talked about what I don't remember. I wish I had a funny story about stifled howls of passion or a knocking headboard that awoke the kids, and while there were some steamy adult snuggles under the predawn covers, we crawled out of bed to make coffee and muffins and listen to NPR as I yelled at the kids to hurry up and get dressed already. And then the day had begun.

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.


  1. Nagina on November 12, 2014 at 10:49 am

    I love your refreshing, honest and thoughtful approach Emma! This post was engaging from beginning to end. Your kids are hilarious!!

    That’s so sweet he read your son a Planes book. Good luck with your relationship!

    • Emma on November 12, 2014 at 10:50 am

      :) thanks– will keep you posed xx

  2. Em on November 12, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    My BF recently stayed over, and later came and stayed almost a week. My kids are older than yours – upper elementary/middle school – so I was very apprehensive about the slumber party. It was my kids’ idea to have him stay – I had already laid down that as a ground rule: no slumber parties when the kids are here.
    It went SO smoothly. In fact, they all came in one morning, plopped on the bed and chatted.
    I’ve (finally) figured out that if I don’t blow a situation out of proportion, my kids don’t either. They can’t wait for him to be back – me too! :)

    • Emma on November 12, 2014 at 2:17 pm

      Wow, what a great note. “I’ve (finally) figured out that if I don’t blow a situation out of proportion, my kids don’t either” — so relevant to so many things in parenting. Keep us posted on how things go :)

  3. Marissa on November 12, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    That’s great! I’ve been with my boyfriend a little over a year, and sleepovers started about 6 months ago. My kids LOVE it when he sleeps over.

  4. Emma on November 12, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    I’m loving all these positive stories. I talked about this topic on my radio show today — will post the podcast tomorrow.

    • Nikki on May 10, 2015 at 3:06 am

      Thank you! My teenage son seems happy that I have a new boyfriend. I am honest with him and have decided we’l all 3 go to a concert in a month so they can meet. My mother told me I should feel bad about staying with my boyfriend overnight. I don’t feel bad and I don’t think I should. I’m serious about this guy and I haven’t paraded a bunch of men around my son. Please tell me this is healthy… or not I want to know. I’m 35 and never married and my son is 14. We have great communicatI n and he genuinely seems happy for me. Help. My mother thinks I’m horrible. …

      • Emma on May 12, 2015 at 12:01 pm

        You are doing a great job! Congrats on the wonderful boyfriend, and so great that your son is supportive. You go to that concert, enjoy yourself, and ignore your mom. She doesn’t get a vote :)

  5. Hassan Aljaber on November 13, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    I like the way you handle your life’s affairs as a single mom!! your are hellarious woman Emma.

  6. gg on November 13, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    That’s a great story and piece of advice!
    I will definitely keep it in mind when and if I am ever in that situation.

    I appreciate your healthy perspective on single motherhood and dating.

    • Emma on November 14, 2014 at 7:37 am

      Thanks GG — not everyone thinks it’s heathy. But I’m right and they are wrong :)

  7. Emma on November 14, 2014 at 7:58 am

    Wanted to share this comment from Amy on the post re: the podcast on this topic. Thought it was so funny and true:

    “So here’s the big secret everyone is tip-toeing around: at 4 and 6, your kids think beds are for SLEEPING. That’s what they think is going on when your boyfriend sleeps over…you are both SLEEPING…in the same bed! Chances are you’ll go to bed after the kids and (with any luck at all) the kids will be sleeping or just barely awake by the time you’re up and headed out the door to work. So purely by logistics, you’ve got your “discretion.” And of course your point is completely spot on that we all need to model healthy, NORMAL relationships for our children. In a healthy, normal relationship, your partner doesn’t sleep on the couch, right? Way to go Emma, you rock.”

  8. Kim on November 28, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    If you are allowing your boyfriend to stay the night while your kids are at home you are a SLUT! You have or should make the time away from your kids to get laid. This is disgusting and I feel the same about those supporting your choices. You women are desperate for male attention (how many of you had loving fathers???) and you are causing more damage to your children than you are apparently able to understand. How many men will come and go while your children watch their mother give herself to each one in hopes that one will stick around? Disgusting.

    • Emma on November 30, 2014 at 5:00 pm

      No one is suggesting you bring home every single guy you sleep with! This was a serious boyfriend.

    • Snails on June 22, 2016 at 12:33 am

      I disagree with calling her a slut. I have been seeing a man for 5 years. Our kids have met, and we all spend time together. We are just friends as far as the kids go. We don’t have sleep overs when the kids are home. My kids and I slept over when his daughter was there. I slept on the couch. We are trying to raise our kids in the same way. We both have common ideas, and values that we are impressing upon our children. We have both acknowledged that we would like more. We have also let the kids know that we are moving slow, and things may or may not progress. Both of us have had difficulty in healing from our respective divorces. We both waited quite awhile before dating anyone. We both went in several dates before meeting each other. None of our other dates worked out. We decided to be friends but it has gone much further. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the way Emma is going about it for her family. It would not work for mine, but it appears to be working for hers. We can disagree without calling names or judging. I’m glad she is offering a perspective different than most people. I am not ashamed of sex, or sexuality. A lot of women especially moms are. The biggest thing I want my kids to k ow is that when someone is very special to you, and you want to build a life with them, you treat that relationship special. You don’t expose it to the elements. You take your time. You don’t give yourself to just anyone. I don’t mean only sexually. You don’t involve someone in your family life if they aren’t permanent in some way. If this man and I ever decide we are not going to be more, we are friends for life. I think we will eventually be more. We’fe just progressing naturally, and not rushing into anything, or giving kids expectations beyond what we expect ourselves. It is working for our families. After being married and divorced, and feeling like a failure for being divorced, I want to make sure my kids take marriage seriously, and don’t think I gave up easily. I want them to have a good example of a healthy relationship, and respect for themselves and their partners. I feel like I’m giving them a good example. it is right for us. Emma gets to decide what is right for her – as does each one of us.

    • Sara on April 17, 2018 at 7:47 pm

      Whats disgusting is calling someone you know almost nothing about a slut. That is bullying. And I hope my children never cross paths with yours, as they are probably just as judgemental and cruel as you. No one is saying that they are bringing a different man home every week. All of these women clearly put a lot of careful thought and consideration into their decision to have their boyfriend spend the night. We moms have to take care of ourselves so that we can be the best moms we can be for our kids!! Unfortunately, we do not all have the option to dump our kids on our parents/ exhusband in order to date. And why should we have to sacrifice time with our kids in order to see our man?? If he’s a good man & its a healthy relationship, why wouldnt you want to model that for your children?? How else will they know what a healthy relationship looks like? TV? Movies? Lol And your kids need to know you have a life outside of them, otherwise they are going to think the world should revolve around them and they’ll be living in your basement when they’re 40. Or maybe you want that and dont understand the whole point of parenting is to raise your kids to be functioning, independent adults??

    • Nichole on May 23, 2018 at 12:25 pm

      What happens when you don’t have any time away from the kids? IF your ex has no rights/contact with the children and you have no immediate family around?

    • Isaac on May 27, 2018 at 7:36 pm

      I agree 100%. My ex has started having her boyfriend of less than a month sleep over while our kids are there. To make it worse she displaced my 13 year old son from the room she has been letting him use to back onto her couch because “she needs her room back now”. Yeah, mom of the year….

    • Ty on March 23, 2019 at 11:30 pm

      Wow Kim grow up. I’m a guy and lets say it wasn’t a serious relationship and she did it. Even still what you just said is worse than anything she could do.

  9. Pamela on February 9, 2015 at 7:11 am

    My boyfriend of two years has slept over twice now with my daughter who is 12 at home. The first time we played it off like we fell asleep watching a movie. The most recent time I just let him stay and didn’t say anything. I guess I’m nervous about questions she may have since we have always had an open relationship of discussing most things. What if she blatantly asks if we are having sex? I think I myself am nervous too that a new normal will occur and she will feel neglected of the 24/7 time that we’ve always shared.

    • Emma on February 9, 2015 at 7:38 am

      A lot of people tell little lies and hope the kids don’t notice that that their entire family dynamic has changed. I get that this is challenging and uncomfortable. But until you get over your own shame about being a sexual person — and a mom — it will only cast shame about sex and sexuality on your daughter, too.

      Since you’ve already passively let your daughter know that this is something not to be spoken of, take it upon yourself to turn it around. Next time you and your daughter are together alone, bring it up. Be cool. Say: “You probably noticed that Rob has been sleeping over. He will be sleeping over more often now. How do you feel about that?”

      She may resent he is taking time away from you. Or maybe she feels like she has even more attention from a loving adult. Or both. It may be a really easy transition for her. Or it may be really painful. Or both at different times. Keep the conversation going. Respond to her cues. Also push her – gently – to open up even more.

      She is 12. She should be getting sex ed at school and home by now. She has hormones. Sex is all around her. If she doesn’t ask about sex, she will be thinking about it. Plan on addressing it — either in this first conversation or the subsequent ones. If she asks, “Where does Rob sleep?” Tell her: “In my bed.”

      “Are you having sex with him?”

      “Yes. I care about him very much and adults have sex together. ”

      Take it from there. It may be uncomfortable for you, and that is OK. This is new territory for both of you. You may screw it up. And that is ok. But forgive yourself. Embrace this new relationship. Do your best to shed your shame. Congratulations on the relationship! And good luck :) You’re doing a great job. xxx

    • Mz,Rae on September 7, 2016 at 4:40 pm

      I also have a12 year old daughter. My boyfriend, who I have known for about 15 years, decided about 7 month ago, that he wanted to take our friendship to a higher level. Now we are talking marriage. He is coming to spend time with me (he lives in another State). We are planning on moving in together in the summer. When he comes, this will be the first time meeting him. She had spoken to him on the phone, but that’s about it. When I asked her what she thought about him coming to visit for two weeks, she surprised me by saying that she was excited, and that it was okay because she wants me to be happy. She has a few friends who’s moms havery new boyfriend, one who Everything got married. The only thing bothering me, is how to explain that my boyfriend will be sleeping with me. I’ve been single since she was born. Although I dated a couple times, no man has ever come to my home. Now that I’m in a committed relationship with someone who is not only my friend, but someone that wants to spend the rest of his life with me. He thinks that it’s important that my daughter is happy, because if she is happy…..we will all be happy, but at the same time, he does not want to sneak around. He feels that she is old enough to understand that asks who love each other, share the same bed. It’s what adults do. My mother will probably flip a lid. Nothing I do will ever be good enough for her. She thinks that I should wait until my daughter graduates from high school, and move out of the house before I allow any man to spend the night at my house. She did that with us, but instead of letting him move in….she left us to go and live with him in another Country. We were not our of high school. I am so glad that I found your post. I think that being honest with my 12 year old daughter is the best approach. Just like I say down with her and tools her about my boyfriend, I will sit down and talk to her again, so that I can evaluate her feelings. She will always come before any man that I bring into her life. My boyfriend told her, that if she ever needed to talk, she could call him. He had a daughter that he is googoo over, and he had Granddaughters that he adores, so he knows that it’s important to make my daughter feel comfortable about the relationship between her mom and mom’s boyfriend.

      • Mz,Rae on September 7, 2016 at 4:44 pm

        My apologies for all of the typos. I should have proofread, before posting :)

  10. Pamela on February 9, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Very good insight and advice. We have maintained a very open relationship in any topic up to this point and luckily had the sex talk a few years ago, and periodically still discuss when questions arise. I had, however, neglected the “when my boyfriend sleeps over” discussions. I thought about your words throughout today and knew I had to have this conversation with my daughter immediately. Funny part? Her response was, “Mom, I’m totally fine with it.” Thank you for your feedback. Much appreciated.

    • Emma on February 10, 2015 at 3:23 pm

      Ha! Kids are so much more mature than we are sometimes :) Glad this was helpful and the outcome a good one. But keep the conversation going … her feelings and your feelings will change over time.

  11. Emma on March 22, 2015 at 11:02 am

    I have two kids 7,8 . I also have a boyfriend. We planned to have a sleepover, then when he arived earlier that day for bvq, he mentioned he wanted to take things slow. That when he was little his mother would have guys in his life and it was uncomfterble for him, so he believes my son to feel this way. He has been sneaking over. Im not sure what to do. I feel like i do not want to lie to my kids or them catch us sneaking around. But i want tho respect his feelings as well

  12. Mandolyn on May 18, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    Oh my goodness, thank you for writing this. I am overwhelmed with the amount of conservatism and self-sacrifice people expect of single moms.

    I have a two and a half year old and am newly dating someone (about 3 months in). We’ve not had a sleepover yet, but we’re serious about one another — given, we’re as serious as you can get in a few months — and I don’t think sleepovers are too far off for us.

    Shocker — I believe in modeling healthy sexuality for my daughter. I read in some thread that if I don’t want my kids having a parade of partners through their lives then don’t show them how to do that. Well, I actually don’t care if my daughter decides that she wants to have lots of casual sex… when she is capable of making that decision — near or at adulthood. I also don’t care if she is gay, or decides polyamory is for her, or is into kinky sex. All I care about is that she feels respected and empowered and in control of her sexuality. I care that she doesn’t hurt others or manipulate them, so I will make sure I don’t date people who are hurtful and manipulative. I care that she can communicate her wants and needs to someone she cares about, so I will model that for her in my relationships. What I cannot protect her from is loss. We lose people we love. Sure, I don’t want her to be heartbroken if I can prevent it, but I won’t always be able to do that.

    Sometimes we will make the wrong choice, and our kids will have to go through those consequences with us. This is true whether we are happily married forever or single parents and dating. We will cause pain to our kids. Hopefully rarely, but it is inevitable. How we help them heal is much more important than that it happens.

    Anyway, thanks for bringing this refreshing perspective to the overwhelmingly conservative, prudish, and outdated conversations around this topic.

    • Snails on June 22, 2016 at 12:37 am

      Every parent, dad or mom, should expect a lot of self sacrifice. It goes with having a child. It’s our job to do the right thing for them. The right thing for each family varies.

    • Megan on January 26, 2017 at 12:05 pm

      “I believe in modeling healthy sexuality for my daughter. I read in some thread that if I don’t want my kids having a parade of partners through their lives then don’t show them how to do that. Well, I actually don’t care if my daughter decides that she wants to have lots of casual sex… when she is capable of making that decision — near or at adulthood. I also don’t care if she is gay, or decides polyamory is for her, or is into kinky sex. All I care about is that she feels respected and empowered and in control of her sexuality.” – the absolute best thing I’ve ever seen written anywhere. I have a son, but my dream job would a sexuality educator to teach everyone what you’ve just written. Girls need the empowerment, and boys need to see empowered women and also need their own empowerment, too. I think the simple lesson from my college Human Sexuality course summed it up nicely; most males masturbate before engaging in sexual behavior with another person, but most females don’t masturbate until after they’ve engaged in sexual behavior with another person. It shapes so many parts of future relationships and sexual experiences when the pleasure is seen as something to be obtained from an external source versus something you’re in control of.

  13. Jennifer on November 26, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    I was glad to come across this. I’ve been dating my boyfriend for two years and we finally had a sleepover with his kids and mine. Slept with the door wide open. No hanky panky kids had a campout in the family room. My ex husband is now berating me and saying I’m selfish and all I think about is me. When I think it is good for my kids to see a healthy loving relationship modeled, something they never saw when I was married. I have been divorced for five years. This is my first relationship after my divorce.

    • Emma on November 28, 2016 at 10:56 am

      Sounds like you’re doing great. Ignore the jealous ex and enjoy xo

  14. Sarah Wall on December 8, 2016 at 11:56 am

    I’m contemplating this myself. I have a bf…whom my kids have met two or three times…they all seem to get along…my kids are 6 and 12. The 6yo is a boy and the 12yo is a girl. My boyfriend lives an hour and a half away and we would really like to have the freedom to stay over…but I’m concerned about how to bring this up with them. I agree that I don’t want to sneak or lie… but is it too soon if he’s only met them within the last few weeks? I’m sure my mother will have negative comments once it’s known so I want to make sure I’ve thought this out well before I commit to it.

  15. Ann on March 11, 2017 at 8:22 am

    Can I email you a question? I’m the GF of a divorced man with children and his ex might read this site. She’s a horror.

  16. Rick on November 27, 2017 at 3:47 am

    My wife has been dating a guy for a month and a half and had him sleepover with my 2 daughters (ages 3 & 6) on the same night they met him. Too soon?

  17. Shane on January 7, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    @Rick. If your wife is sleeping with another man , and your kids have seen it 1st hand, congratulations. You will win the divorce battle.

  18. Clare on January 7, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    This is a great post – and love the healthy and open attitude with the kids! My question is about having a partner sleepover when your little one is used to coming into your bed in the morning, or doesn’t sleep through the might because they are conscious of this new person in your space . . . Do you have any suggestions for how to navigate that? Usually, to comfort my son if he felt upset, I’d let him have morning snuggles with me. But obviously that changes when someone is sleeping over, which just seems to make everything more uncomfortable for him! :(

  19. Rae Hitchcock on February 19, 2018 at 3:41 am

    I have a rather unique situation but require advice, how does one get advice of a very similar topic?

  20. Nicole on August 9, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    I’m a 45 year old single mom and have 2 boys, 13 and 16. I’ve been divorced for almost 3 years and have been dating a man for over a year. When my 13 year old asked if we have sex, I was honest and told him the truth. I explained that we are in a healthy, adult relationship, we care a lot about each other, we’ve been dating for a while, its different then “sex” you see on TV, etc… When we all went on a recent vacation, my boyfriend and I slept in separate beds, in separate rooms. WE hated it but, my 13 year old is having a lot of trouble with me dating anyone but, his Dad. My boyfriend has 2 boys of his own and everyone but, my 13 year old is great with our relationship. We are supposed to go away again next week- how do I handle the sleeping arrangements as my boyfriend and I would like to share a room

    • Emma on August 9, 2018 at 3:20 pm

      You are the adult, and you decide what is best for your family and relationship — the kids don’t dictate their mother’s romantic life. Explain to your kids ahead of time what to expect, address their fears and concerns, and let them feel heard. Then, proceed as the healthy, sexy adult woman that you are.

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