A common reason parents give for putting off divorce is not wanting to be separated from their children. That’s understandable. Adapting to shared parenting after divorce takes time, energy and commitment.
Antonio Borello has been divorced now for about three years and his two children are now aged ten and eight. He admits that being apart from his children has been difficult but he and his ex seem to have got shared parenting figured out. Here’s Antonio:
It was challenging to not see my children every day. I was a very hands-on dad and I worked from home most the time, so I was very involved with my children. Going from having them all the time to living with them only half-time was a challenge for me.
It was difficult to adapt to that because everything that I did involved my family. Even when I was married I still managed my schedule so that the majority of my work happened when my kids were in school. That left more free time for me when I didn’t have them. That just feels like this big emptiness.
I wanted to spend every moment that I could with my children when I have them, so I changed my work schedule around. On days that I don’t have them, those are days that I work from morning to night, practically. That fills up my time. On the days that I do have them, dropping off the last one to school at 9 o’clock, and then picking up the first one at 2 o’clock, that’s a very short work day. But that’s how I arranged my time so that I could deal with missing them and adjusting to that.
It’s interesting because every time that I know that I have them that evening or that day, I’m looking forward to it, but I also look forward to knowing that I’m going have the whole day to myself on Monday and I can get all of these things done without having to worry about them being attended to or needing something or any of those things.
For our parenting schedule, we recognize the importance of us both having as much time as possible with them and so we have made it so that we have them 50/50. And at first we did a schedule where I think it’s called the 2-2-5-5 schedule where the way that we had it set up was that she would have the kids every Monday and Tuesday night and I would have them every Wednesday and Thursday night, and then we would alternate weekends.
So if it was my weekend I would have them Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and then she would have them Monday and Tuesday. Then I’ve had them Wednesday and Thursday, and then I wouldn’t have them on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
Those five days were a pretty long stretch so then because we live only two miles apart, we permanently traded one-day a week with one another so I traded every Friday for every Sunday.
Now I have the kids on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday night every week. She has them on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday night every week. And then we alternate Saturdays. So we each get them either three days out of one week, and four days next week, but it’s always the same three days. The only day that switches or changes is Saturday.
I think that the children like it. I’ve never heard either one of them say things like, “I don’t want to go to mom’s,” or heard that they said that I want to go to dad’s. It’s pretty equal with regard to what they have here and what they have at their mom’s.
The other thing is that we have flexibility that if they need something or if there’s a special event going on at school and it happens to fall on my time and my daughter needs to be beautified or, her mom needs to help her get ready, I certainly don’t have a problem dropping her off the night before. We are definitely very flexible and we are switching days and watching the kids for each other. That’s the thing that we do in the summer.
The summertime is more challenging to get into work when the kids are at home and when they haven’t been in camp so we become each other’s babysitter so to speak.
So it’s kind of worked out.
The Divorce Coach Says
I always congratulate parents when they can honestly acknowledge the importance of the other parent being actively involved in their child’s life and not just pay lip service to it, because it’s the right thing to say or because it’s expected. And I know it isn’t easy.
I like how Antonio can see the positives shared parenting has for him and I agree. We all miss our kids but the alone time makes it easier to dedicate your attention to your kids when they are with you and this is one factor in why many divorce parents feel they become better parents after divorce.
It means you can compartmentalize your life easier so you can take care of your needs, your interests, your errands, your social life (dating?) when your kids are with their other parent and then you feel less guilty or conflicted about these activities because they’re not encroaching on your time with your kids.
I think it is important and helpful to come to an agreement on the target share of parenting time such as 50/50 or 60/40 but not to get fixated on the exact share. What’s more important is that the actual schedule works for your family as a whole taking into account your children’s needs and their activities as well yours and you ex’s situations.
For the uninitiated, a parenting plan can come as a shock: seeing the logistics and practicalities of your child’s life broken down into paragraphs is overwhelming, confusing and even sad. But I do believe that when properly constructed, parenting plans are a positive and they can really help get you through the early years following separation when distrust and communication problems are common. So what do I mean by “properly constructed?” I mean written with conscious, deliberate and intentional decisions. So 50/50 shared parenting doesn’t necessarily mean alternating weeks but could mean the type of schedule Antonio and his ex have worked out.
One thing that often gets in the way of this is child support. Many states factor in the number of overnights into the calculation of child support and this creates a financial incentive for overnights that may not be aligned to what is going to work best. There is a solution to this: you and your ex can agree to calculate child support based on a theoretical number of overnights while following the schedule that does work.
Would you like to know more about parenting and divorce? Try my free audio program What You Need To Know About Parenting And Divorce.
Dr. Antonio Borello is a psychologist and relationship therapist. He and his ex are collaborating on a book about relationships. You can follow his tweets at@eDatingDr and follow him on Facebook at Relationships 2.0.
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