“What’s your schedule?”
It’s like a code between divorced parents. Every divorced parent knows that by “schedule,” I mean “court-ordered time-sharing with your former spouse.” Non-divorced people may think I’m asking a very personal question.
So what’s my schedule? It’s simple! I have my son from Thursday at noon to Sunday at noon. My ex has his from Sunday at noon until Wednesday at noon. We rotate Wednesday nights every other week. That’s the basic schedule, fifty-fifty. Then there are the joys of federal and school holidays, and summer weeks, and Christmas and Thanksgiving, and….. maybe it’s not so simple.
I have friends whose kids shuttle back and forth multiple times per week, and other friends whose kids see their other parent a couple of times a year.
The #1 question I get asked from non-divorced parents is, “How do you keep up with that kind of schedule?” Interestingly, this question occurs more frequently than “How do you deal with not seeing your son every day?” (Answer: Not well! I have a lot of feelings about it!) The schedule question is pretty easy: You just do. It’s like asking a diabetic how she remembers to check her blood sugar. You just do.
Through my extremely informal research, I’ve found that the failure or success of a schedule depends not on the complexity of the plan, but on the maturity of the parties. Successful co-parents are committed to making their children comfortable with their new (or not-so-new) two-household reality. They are relaxed during transitions from one parent to the other – there are no melodramatic good-byes, no pressure on the children to worry that their other parent is distraught without them. When I drop Tyler off on Sunday afternoon, my ex and I take a few minutes to catch up on Tyler’s week and discuss any issues that might come up in the next week. While this information could be shared by e-mail, it’s important for Tyler to see his parents being normal with each other. It’s not always easy – my ex and I have Very Different Parenting Styles – but Tyler is a very happy, well-adjusted little boy who sees that his parents are not engaged in a war for his affection or his loyalty.
So yes, keeping up a custody schedule, in addition to a regular school/extracurricular/vacation schedule, is difficult with one child. But my husband and I get to juggle three – count ’em, three! – children, with two – count ’em, two! – totally different schedules. Jason’s schedule looks nothing like mine, and likely never will. If we’re planning the week’s dinners, the first question is, “Who’s going to be there?” In any given week, we will have zero, one, two, and three children at various times. It no longer seems strange to me.
Today, I printed out blank calendars for the summer, and carefully wrote in who was going to be under our roof for each day of the 11-week summer break. Otherwise, I’ll never be able to keep it straight.
Internet, what’s your schedule?