The presumption in divorce these days is shared parenting and with the prevailing shift to 50/50 parenting, it means kids are shuttling between two homes frequently.
My present guest, Missy has three children who were aged two, four and six at the time of her divorce. That was three years ago and since then they’ve learned a few things about having two homes besides the different rules. Here’s Missy:
We do try to involve as little packing as possible. Now, with young children that’s fairly easy, because they’re not like teenage girls that have lots of make-up and things that they have on their person all of the time. They have pajamas, toothbrush, what I would call “lovies,” like stuffed animals. Toys, they’ve got a full set of all of those things at their daddy’s house.
When they leave from my house, really all they need is whatever they might want at the moment, like an electronic game or something of that nature. Occasionally, they will want to take a toy or something that’s new.
I try to be as generous as possible with that, but the bottom line is that things that go to daddy’s do not get returned home. They know this now. Like my daughter, she won’t want to wear a shirt that she likes, because she’s like, “But it’ll get lost at daddy’s house,” because things just don’t come back once they go there.
We do try to have as much duplicates as possible and what they wear there and what they wear home, that’s just what comes back and forth pretty much. If there’s a specific something extra like a scouting event or something like that, then those things will go with dad, but it’s fairly rare for that to happen.
When we first divorced and separated, he moved about 45 minutes from us and I think that was very challenging for the children, because that meant on the days that he had them for school that’s a long commute back and forth. That was his choice and again there’s nothing I could do about it.
Now that I remarried, we moved closer to his location. Now we’re about 20 minutes apart and it’s really not so awful. It’s been one of the benefits of us moving.
He does pick them up often from school on Fridays so I’ve even told all of the teachers, “Things that go home on Fridays, just assume that I don’t get a copy of that and send me a copy on Monday,” because the bottom line is I do not get anything. Once it enters that apartment, who knows what happens to it, because I don’t see things again. I just don’t.
What I hope is that they will take more and more ownership of their possessions and if they do want to take something to his house, they will be responsible for it. They’re so young right now, they just don’t have a lot of maturity. I know his personality, I know that he was controlling of me and I wanted to please him and I recognize that in at least one of my children. The desire to please him is so strong that they won’t stand up to him for anything. So, if he says, “No, don’t get that,” or “Don’t worry about that,” they’re not going to stand up to daddy at this point. It’s just not going to happen.
The Divorce Coach Says
Dealing with shuttling belongings between two homes requires a healthy dose of pragmatism and realism.
From a practical standpoint, you’ll make it much easier on your child to move between the two homes if you can reduce what they need to take to a bare minimum. To get a taste of what it feels like for your child, I like to tell people to imagine packing your suitcase or overnight bag with the same frequency that your child moves between your two houses. How does that feel? What would make it easier for you?
Based on the comments from my kids, I suspect that it may be easier for younger children. As my kids moved through their teens, they wanted to shuttle less and less.
Possessions are going to get left at the other parent’s house. That’s just inevitable. Just this weekend my eighteen-year-old son announced he’d discovered where all his socks were … at his dad’s … dirty. 🙂 In the big picture, this is a minor inconvenience. And if they cone back here dirty, then they’ll just go in the next load of laundry.
You do have to be vigilant about items that are super important such as school work, medications or uniforms and question if it’s necessary for those items to travel but I like Missy’s approach … your child will learn to take responsibility for the items that are important to them.
I have run into situations where parents are very possessive about items they’ve purchased and won’t allow them to travel to the other parent’s house or won’t allow something the other parent has purchased into their home.
That can be understandable but for items that your child might use on a regular basis it’s not reasonable especially if it makes no sense for your child to have two of the item such as a cell phone. Your restriction in this situation may have more to do with your emotions towards your ex than any practical considerations.
Exploring that may help you understand your reaction AND find a compromise solution.
Do you have any tips for helping your child live in two homes?
Missy blogs at Far From Flawless where she writes about leading a Christian life with a blended family hoping that sharing her journey will empower others to shun the mask of imperfection and open themselves to authentic living.