There is a challenge of co-parenting that not many of us speak of. It is the pressure from friends and family who are not divorced. You see, society as a whole pushes marriage, the sanctity of marriage, the nuclear family, and so forth. It’s clearly not working since more than half the population is divorced. However, despite the fact that we are in the majority, we sit quietly and feel appropriately ashamed while the marriage and parenting experts show us failures how it’s done.
Everyone knows I am all about personal responsibility. I do not think it is in any way your friends of family’s job to keep track of your visitation schedule. Hell, I remind my girls’ father. I hardly expect extended family and a random parent of a school friend to remember. There will be times however, that it will become frustrating and I mean stuff-them-in-your-trunk-when-no-one’s-watching-and-enjoy-their-screams, frustrating. Your friends and family are not always going to understand, even when they pretend they do. Or my personal favorite when they say the appropriate words, while their body language and every action they take before or since says the exact opposite.
If you have your children every other weekend, which is standard, no matter who the primary time-sharing parent is, you only have your children 4 free days per month. God forbid they play a sport or anything that requires scheduling on those days because that makes it even harder. Summers are split with their other parent, which means that what may, on paper, look like 10 weeks quickly turns into 5. Then you account for preparing again for the new school year, summer camps, and each person you promised to spend time with gets to see your kids for like….30 seconds.
The joy of having to explain several years post-divorce that if I have the kids this weekend, no, I don’t have them next weekend. We’ve only done every other weekend for freaking years. This, is never fun and happens all the time.
There are going to be other challenges as well. Parents who are not in the same situation offer parenting advice that is impossible when the children are not with you full-time. Additionally, they offer advice that I can only assume they heard 15 years ago on bad daytime television, because it simply doesn’t apply here on earth with our current legal system. A reader actually told me she was told, “Well, just make their dad institute all the same rules at his house.” If she had that kind of control, or he listened and executed that well, don’t you think they’d still be married? Other fun ones:
- “Just go tell the Judge he fed them McDonald’s. Poor nutrition is abuse.” – This is a whole other rant for me, but drive thru is NOT abuse. Abuse is a terrible thing and the word should not be thrown around.
- “She/he should never be allowed to have a babysitter and should schedule everything when the kids are with the other parent.” – I agree if you have a free babysitter (other parent) every other week or weekend and it’s excessive, it’s a concern. Seriously, if you have to “party” every weekend, maybe kids aren’t for you. But sometimes, the other parent isn’t available and things come up. If the children are provided for, stay the hell out of it.
- “Demand that the agreement say he cannot have women over when he has the kids.” – The court has no jurisdiction over whom a grown adult allows into his or her home. Also, if you agree to this, it goes both ways. Are you planning on never dating again?
- “You’re the mom so you know best.” – No one, including the court, believes that a vagina makes you a superior parent. You may very well be, but it’s not the lack of a penis that does it.
- Alternately, “Dads can provide better for their children so they should have custody.” – Though this is not always the case, many men make more because while their wives were birthing and raising children, they were putting in valuable years of work experience while she now has a hole in her resume. On the flip side, many women smoke their male counterparts in the income department. Financial success does not make you a good parent.
I’m sure there are many other fun examples that are eluding me now, but you get the picture. Do what works best for your family. Listen to your attorney if it is a legal issue (not your next door neighbor in the curlers) and most importantly, be reasonable! As for friends and family who do not understand, there will be some that are never going to get it and that’s alright. You’ve got this. You are the best person to care for your kids and while you may want to stuff them in your trunk, it’s hard to be an involved parent from jail. Also, when they complain about paying a babysitter, you can snicker quietly about how the you have free babysitting every other weekend and get to spend “babysitter” money on wine!