WHAT THE PARENTING BOOKS DON'T TELL YOU: Six Rules For Co-Parenting With An Ex
My schedule has been super wonky lately -- between work and travel plans and appointments and whatnot, I am feeling way out of my routine. As a part-time parent, this is not only inconvenient for me, but for my co-parent, Seth.
Lucky for me, Seth and I not only have a legal custody arrangement, but we have a standing verbal agreement when it comes to caring for Oliver. It really makes both of our lives so much easier, and eliminates pesky feelings like guilt and resentment from even entering our relationship as co-parents.
First of all, it definitely helps that Seth and I think the world of each other. I mean, I liked the dude enough to A) have a kid with him and B) marry him (in that order). Even if we don’t want to be married to each other anymore, we still share a mutual respect and affection.
Here is how we operate:
1. We set basic rules from the start. While we were still in the process of separating, we set aside our own relationship bullshit to focus on our son. The very first thing we did was agree that we would never, ever, ever put Oliver in the middle of one of our disagreements. We agreed that we both loved our kid, that divorce is tough for everyone, even under the best of circumstances, and that we wanted to make the transition as smooth and not-scary as possible for Oliver, who was four at the time.
2. We came up with a joint custody schedule that would work with both of our schedules and give us both lots of time with Oliver. At first, because of his young age, we each had him two weekdays every week, plus every other Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. As he got older and learned the routine of having two houses, we adjusted it and we are now on an every-other-week custody schedule. One week at dad’s, one week at mom’s.
3. We stay flexible. This is really where our awesome verbal agreement comes into play. Seth and I both have weird work schedules and work-related social obligations. And that is why it is no big deal if I text Seth tonight and ask if he can pick Oliver up from school tomorrow.
I have a big work thing coming up in a couple of weeks, which (of course) lands smack in the middle of my week with Oliver -- so Seth and I have rearranged custody for the next few weeks to accommodate that. And it isn’t a one-way street. Just recently Oliver spent an unscheduled evening here because Seth was invited to an impromptu work dinner thing.
We respect each other’s time and we agreed long ago that we want to make life easier for each other, thereby making life easier for Oliver.
4. We communicate constantly. We text every day and fill each other in on school happenings, homework, funny stuff Oliver says, and the like.
If Oliver gets in trouble at one house, the other parent always knows. This eliminates the possibility of the kiddo playing us off of each other “but dad said I could do that” style.
5. We try to keep rules of discipline similar between the two houses. We may live apart, but we practice joint discipline. For instance, when Oliver broke his damn laptop, I immediately let Seth know that the kid was grounded from certain privileges for the next few days.
6. Either of us can see Oliver in the middle of the other parent’s week of custody. If I’m missing my kid and I want to pop over to Seth’s on my way home from work, I can. And vice versa.
Of course, as great as our plan works for us, we are the geniuses who just realized like two days ago that we can set up a freaking shared Google calendar to help keep track of custody. We can each enter in our schedules well in advance, instead of trading a billion text messages that go something like, "Hey, dude, when is your trip to Palm Springs again?" I think I actually smacked my head when Seth suggested it, because I mean, duh.
Do you have a custody arrangement with your ex? Is it working well for you, or is it a nightmare?
Somer is on Twitter: @somersherwood.