Shared Custody Is Awful, Shared Custody Is Fine
I try not to think a whole lot about living with shared custody. Because when I do, I break open. How can a person not be with their kid for 50% of the time? How can I possibly do this? And yet, I do. And if I really think about it, parents with 100% custody co-parenting in the same house and marriage really aren’t with their kids all the time either. They go out with friends at night or unapologetically want to. The kids go to school and childcare. The parent goes to the store alone, or the kid goes to gymnastics with the other parent. Before two houses, we had a schedule of pick ups and drop offs, and I was with my kid in the afternoons, but often not in the mornings. Now when she’s here, I get both. I get to take her to gymnastics every other week. I get to take her to friend’s birthday parties every other weekend, just the same as I would if we switched off. Just like now, but we didn’t have a shared calendar, a pile of guilt, and all this goodness I just miss my kid heartbreak.
Maybe I should spend more time thinking about all of this. Maybe I’d realize it’s okay. I don’t know, though. I don’t know that I’ll ever thing it’s okay. Because I can’t help but feel like it’s just wrong to be away from my kid. Or really to have her away from me, since she’s at her other parent’s house.
Over a year into it, it’s not getting any easier. Shared custody doesn’t really get easier, but it does get more manageable. I’m getting better at taking time for myself when she’s not here. I’m getting better at managing the stuff going back and forth and the little kid attitude that goes back and forth with it. Being six is hard. Living in two houses is hard.
I’m better about telling her what the day will look like and what will be expected. I’m better about talking and asking questions. I’m better at not trying to fix it. Even when it’s hard. Even when you’re six and you want your parents to get back together, but they won’t. Even when your other parent lets you do (fill in the blank here, mostly jumping on the bed) at their house and you aren’t allowed to at this house.
I’m getting better at keeping the house chaos to a minimum and making sure her room is clean before she comes back (because she trashes it every time she’s here). We get to start over every two days. It doesn’t matter that we argued too much last time she was here. It doesn’t matter that last time I gave her loads of attention, but this time I have a deadline and we’re both on screens more than I want. We get to start over. Every time.
We are flexible, but scheduled. Organized, but chaotic. Well loved, but hurting. There’s space here for all of that. We talk, we listen, we’re okay. Even when we don’t really want to think too much about it all. Even when we just do it and mess it up and start over and mess it up again.
Even with half time custody, I am a full time parent. I communicate via text when my kid is away from me. I ask annoying questions in the car, at dinner, and at bedtime. We talk about easy things, we talk about hard things. Even when I don’t want to dig in to thinking too much about the hard stuff, I still show up. I still keep talking with my kid. She knows she can talk to me. Even when she’s scared. Even when she’s embarrassed. The way we talk now probably won’t work next year, but that’s okay. We’re getting really good at starting over.
In working with Responsibility.org as a #TalkEarly blogger again this year, I’m more aware of the importance of making space for hard conversations and hard feelings and teaching my child the skills to cope with it all. I’ve been careful to set an example, knowing she’s watching me more than she ever has before, because kids don’t know how to navigate big transitions, we have to show them. Sometimes, I lose my patience. Sometimes, I raise my voice. But always, she is loved and safe and cared for. Always, we begin again.
This post is sponsored by Responsibility.org. I am working with them as a #TalkEarly blogger this year to help them “Empower parents to be confident about their own decisions regarding alcohol, model healthy, balanced behaviors, and create a foundation for starting conversations with their kids from an early age.” Let’s all do that. Because that totally rules.