I feel obligated to tell people I meet about the fact that we have week on, week off custody of all three children. The reasoning is so when they try to make plans and I reply with “if we have the kids”, they don’t give me the crazy stare and wonder where I would be stashing my children for the night-and “their mom (or Dad in C’s case)” is not an acceptable response to “whose watching your kids?”
Divorce is ugly. Divorce with children is even uglier. Essentially, the only people who lose are the children. Our parenting plans are set to up to maximize visitation to the benefit of the children. Week on, week off. Sunday to Sunday. Holidays are split up as well. So breaking it down in a non-legal fashion, we have all of the kids one week and 0 kids the next. Holidays are dictated by a piece of paper.
At first, we had C full-time, so although E and K got picked up at 6pm, C kept us in “parent” mode per se. Then things changed. The first Sunday exchange with C was terrible. He was a little over a year old and had no idea what was going on. I shut the door, turned around and burst into tears. An eerie silence flooded the house. It was unnatural to be away from him. My DH, who had been doing this for 5 years, knew the feeling all to well and explained that it never gets easier.
You’re probably thinking how awesome the break is and yes, while it’s nice sometimes, deep down it sucks. It allows for the scheduling of the doctors appointments without having to find a babysitter, it allows for me to get my house clean and laundry caught up and it allows ample travel time (which we do often), but it also allows me to miss milestones, school projects, football practices and school dances. It allows me to be secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) judged by the gaggle of moms at the park who want to set up a play date, for “next week”…
So having only have 182.5 days a year with your children, how can you maximize the time?
- Plan accordingly
I have it on my calendar in my phone when we pick up the kids. It allows for me to easily see when to schedule appointments, family vacations, and sleepovers. It definitely helps me keep track of everything and when to plan things.
- Don’t waste valuable time
When the kids are home, we don’t like to sit in the house. School nights are slightly different, but we at least try to play family games or watch a movie together. Weekends are a different story though. We plan fun things the kids will remember that get us out of the house and active.
- Be involved
We go to (almost) all school programs, events, and class parties whether the kids are with us or not. We also try to go once a week to eat lunch with the kiddos at school. They love it and so do we. That extra 30 min on a random Tuesday definitely helps break up the week.
- Be flexible
At some point in time you will have to celebrate a birthday the week before, do thanksgiving dinner 4 days before, or move Christmas until the next day. Don’t worry, it will be okay. It’s not so much about the date, but the memories and meaning behind it.
My husband was right, it never gets easier. As a parent, being away from your child for any reason is unnatural. However, making up for lost time is quite possible with proper planning and a positive attitude.