Without doing any research or checking with anyone, when Linda and I separated, we decided on a quite complicated two-household arrangement that maximized the solo time each child had with each parent. We did check after a month or two with a local psychiatrist and her comment was basically “wow, if you can do this, it’s good for the kids, but I think it’s going to prove difficult.”
Our arrangement, on a typical week, was: Monday: G- with me, A- and K- with Mom, Tuesday G- and K- with me, A- with Mom, Wednesday, A- with me, Thursday A- and K- with me, Friday A- and G- with me, Saturday no-one with me, and Sunday everyone with me. As a reminder, A- is 11, G- is 8 and K- is 4.
For those of you familiar with divorce and dual-household setups, what’s wrong with this arrangement, over and above that each parent only has a single night where they’re without children?
What’s wrong with the arrangement is that the children have to transition from one household to the other just about every single day of the week, week after week. This is not good.
In fact, as the books I’ve finally read tell us, it’s the transition that’s the hardest part of a dual-household arrangement for children of any age, because it’s as if they have to go through the separation (and the sundering of their “happy household” dreams) again, each time they move from Mommy’s to Daddy’s, and vice versa.
The last thing either Linda or I want to do to the children is put them through more stress than they already have in this situation, but I plead ignorance: we really didn’t know any better and, frankly, it’s been good from my perspective, with the frequent solo time with each child. They haven’t demonstrated too much anger, frustration or depression about the separation and have really rolled with things to a remarkable degree, with no reports from teachers about atypical behaviors, no withdrawing from their peer groups, etc.
Nonetheless, we have reexamined the situation and decided together that a more traditional arrangement where the children move “en masse” rather than as individuals will give them the comfort of each other’s presence and, perhaps more importantly, will give Linda and I, as adults, a semblance of a life as adults, not just as parents.
And so for the next few weeks, until school is out, we’ve agreed to a 4-3 arrangement, where they’re all with Linda Sunday night through Thursday noon, and with me the rest of the time. Four nights with her, three with me.
This isn’t sustainable, however, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that they need to be with their Dad as much as their Mom, they need both structured (e.g. weekday) and unstructured (weekend) time with each of us, and, if I may say so, I want at least every other weekend off from children so I can have a life too.
To address that, we’ve agreed to a 2-5-5-2 arrangement starting next month, a traditional two-household arrangement where they’re always with Mom Monday and Tuesday, always with Dad Wednesday and Thursday, and then Friday-Sunday they alternate households. This means essentially that I’ll have them two days one week, five days the next.
Here’s the thing: I’m looking forward to it.
I’m looking forward both to the time I’ll have with my children, and five days is a nice stretch for us to get into a groove (which we have little problem attaining already) and five days off is a really nice length of time for me to have my own life and start to get things in order too. I mean, I could travel during those five days if I wanted, without feeling like I’m taking any time away from parenting. Rather a novel situation after almost twelve years of full-on attachment parenting.
Looking back on things now, I have to say that I’m really sorry we put our children through the never-ending merry-go-round of transitioning between our two houses. Even though we’re about a mile apart and they’re making friends in the new community too, it’s tough on the little nippers.
I expect that they’ll settle down even more with our new arrangement and their new lives, but I’m also just eagerly anticipating having days on end when I can relax, recharge myself and enjoy my own life too.