I asked one of my children the other day, “So how much of a pain is it to go back and forth between two houses?” I was floored when they told me, “Actually dad, it’s kind of cool.” We didn’t get into a deep conversation about it, but what I took away from the conversation was that our effort to ensure the kids had what they needed including good relationships with both of us was working. For them, this is their reality, and they’ve adjusted well. That’s not to say that from time to time the occasional “it wouldn’t be like that if you and mom weren’t divorced,” doesn’t rear its ugly head. But then the same holds true for the always popular “You’re ruining my life,” and “I hate this family.” It’s just another way of them lashing out to express their dismay with a situation or any form of discipline that provides necessary boundaries.
For the most part they’ve handled it well. In fact on some levels they’ve probably handled it better than their mom and I since they always have one of us around. The only point at which it becomes an issue is when they feel like they have to choose between one parent or the other. They may want to do something with one parent, but can feel guilty for leaving the other one behind, especially if it’s supposed to be that parent’s time with the kids. All you can do is encourage them that nobody’s feelings will be hurt either way.
As for the parents; one of the most difficult aspects of divorce has been the on and off again aspect of being a divorced dad (or mom). Even though I know I’m their dad 24/7 and despite the texting and facetime aspects of today’s technology, the contrast between being with them and not being with them can be an extraordinary adjustment to the system. It’s an element of the divorce that I don’t believe people fully take into consideration when they make the decision to split, even if their choice is to co-parent.
Whether you have your kids every other weekend or every other week; whether you custody is 50/50, 60/40, 80/20, 90/10; there is one fundamental truth that’s undeniable; when they’re not with you it can suck the life right out of you. I don’t know that you ever become 100% OK with that fact, but it does help you focus on making the most of the time you do have with them.
That said. Seeing them flourish makes it worth it. Good grades, healthy relationships with friends and interest in social activities tells me they’re doing OK. It doesn’t mean things are perfect or that there aren’t frustrating aspects of this arrangement for everyone involved. But consistent experiences working through it all as a team, as dysfunctional as it can be at times, seems to be working. That in and of itself is worth finding ways to work through things with their mom even when we both would probably prefer not to.