When going through a divorce, it is hard to even fathom sharing your children with anyone, even their other parent. Even if the other parent is a great, attentive parent, it does not make giving up time with your child or children any less painful. We do not go into parenting with a thought process of how to share time or be a part time parent. Part time parent is really not a correct term, as even when our children are not with us we are still their parent. As my world turned upside down, I didn’t even think about having to live without my children part of the time. I mean, I am their mother and they belong with me. Well, as we all know that is not how the world works.
As things progressed, I had to quickly accept that my children would be spending time away from me. There are many stories here, some I have already written about and some are still to come. But for now I want to focus on schedules and the importance of them. I have some friends going through divorce and custody battles, all at different stages of their battles. One common thread is we want our children to love us and be happy. One common mistake we tend to make is allowing the children to dictate our lives and schedules.
One mom says she allows her son to stay with his dad even on her days because she thinks he will like her better if she allows that. What? What about your time with your son?
There are always exceptions to every rule, but generally speaking, having a schedule and sticking to it is best for all involved.
A schedule is not just for the kids; we as parents need to be held accountable. If we have a schedule, it makes things like getting our kids to doctor or dentist appointments, or sporting events, or school events, less stressful. There is less arguing about who will get the child where they need to be this time.
But a schedule is definitely for the children. It puts some sort of normalcy and routine in their lives. We must remember as much as we feel our lives have been turned upside down, they feel it even more.
Even today some 6 plus years later, when we are making summer travel plans, we print out a calendar and mark MOM days and DAD days on the calendar. We then discuss when (and where) we want to take vacation and mark that on the calendar. This creates a visual for my daughter to see whose house she will be at, how long she will be with one parent or the other, and so on. It makes so much more sense to her when she sees it written on the calendar.
I create a calendar at the beginning of the school year every year that shows not only early dismissals and school holidays, it also shows MOM days and DAD days. Per our decree, we get certain holidays in even years and others in odd years. My daughter has a 2 week fall break and a 2 week spring break, and those are split between mom and dad, alternating who gets first week or second week depending on if it is an odd year or even year. Having it all marked (and color coded) on our calendar helps my daughter feel like she is in control. It also helps us when we want to buy tickets to an event or take a trip or accept an invitation to a dinner party. When my daughter comes home with an invite to a friend’s birthday party, she can look at the calendar and know which parent she needs to give the invitation to, and for me, I can see if she is with her dad, then I kindly let the parent who sent the invite know she is with her dad that weekend and that I have passed the invitation on to him. This gives the parent having the party knowledge of who she should get an RSVP from or follow up with.
Selfishly it also removes me from being the one who doesn’t respond or show up 🙂
Having our calendar also reminds us to make the most of our time together. Not that we don’t try to always do this, but when we have school, and tutoring, and ice skating, and girl scouts we get busy doing what we have to do and sometimes forget to enjoy each other. Looking at the calendar and seeing she will be on vacation with her dad for the next 9 days reminds us to take some time to just be together and enjoy each other before she leaves.
On my part, having the calendar enables me to respond to invites that are not kid inclusive. Dinner with friends, a movie date, a trip out of town with friends, and so forth, I can look at the calendar and be able to tell if the proposed activity takes place on a day my daughter is with me or her dad. As I have previously shared, I do not participate or attend non-kid activities during my time with my daughter.
Early on, it also took arguments and fights with my ex out of the mix. Pre-schedule days he would try to tell me what I had to do and when. In his world, at that point, there was no asking. Having the schedule removed all that. There it was in black and white (and in my case blue and pink and green and yellow and purple). The schedule (and it is in our divorce decree) dictates what is, and therefore requires that he ask me if he needs to change something.
Now, many years later, as we have all grown accustomed to the schedule, we are able to ask for changes or variants if we need or want. We have both grown and having the schedule still keeps us in line and organized.
Footnote: I simply use Google calendar but there are many option available.