The Secret Joy of a Proper Child Residence Arrangement

parenting schedule calendar, pink and purpleWithout 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.

11 comments on “The Secret Joy of a Proper Child Residence Arrangement

  1. Dave,
    It sounds like you and Linda are making the best of a situation that at best just plain sucks. I haven’t had to deal with the transition as a Parent, but I do remember as a child that the thing that really upset us when my parents divorced, was that OUR schedule (my brother sister and I) became secondary to that of the “arrangement”. Sleep overs, birthday parties, etc. all fell victim to “It your time with (fill in blank)” I truly wish you guys the best. I know you will really handle it with the kids best interest at heart. Good luck!

  2. The transitions really are difficult. When my ex and I lived in the same city, we tried to have him spend time with the kids 1-2 weeknight evenings and part of every weekend. The kids did not enjoy the frequent transitions and we quickly realized that it just didn’t work. We went to every second weekend and one evening every week with their dad.
    Now, we live an hour apart, so we have retreated to the typical every second weekend, a week in the summer, extra days at christmas and march break schedule.
    We both get individual time with each child because of their social and activity schedule.
    Sadly, my former spouse’s commitment to attachment parenting and co-parenting dissipated rapidly after our split. Your family seems to have a much stronger dedication to both.

  3. 🙂 That is exactly our arrangement, except that on the alternating weekends we switch off Fridays (so on “his” weekend I’ll have them on Friday night and vice versa). It really has ended up being a wonderful arrangement. We also each spend a few hours on Sunday afternoons after church doing some one on one time. We only have two kids so it is an easier split, but I’ll bet you could work something out like that too, if the one on one time is still important to you and your XW. We got to this place by following the cues of the children, and with their therapist helping them voice frustrations that they didn’t know how to say to us. “I NEED more time with Dad.” DS was able to tell me. “He just doesn’t have as much attention for me with (girlfriend and her kids) around all the time.”

  4. The only thing that bugs me is that I don’t ever get a weekend off without children.. does that mean I don’t get to have a life?
    I want a life.. do these things grow up?

  5. Ok- this is a really weird suggestion, but I had a very strange dream a while ago. In my dream, my husband and I were divorced and we had agreed on a very unusual arrangement. We each rented small places for ourselves and then purchased a home essentially for my son. We were the ones that would come and go- he was the consistent resident.
    I don’t know why I dreamt this- I do come from a divorced family. At first it really set me on edge, but then the more I thought about it, things started to make sense. The transition is the hardest part for the kids, why not eliminate it? Adults are better equipt at handling variable environments. Granted it is not financially feasible for many families and some parents just don’t get along well enough to make it work. But I wonder, why have I never heard of this as an option. Call me crazy, but as a child it would have been pretty ideal.

  6. Sarah L,
    I’ve heard of this arrangement, too, and a psychologist friend of mine says it’s a new trend emerging. The needs of the child(ren) come first, she says, and because the transitions are so difficult, it’s the parents who should move from house to house, not the kids. The kids stay in the same home, the parents move in on alternative days.
    I think it’s great, personally, and a lot less traumatic than never feeling like you’re ever really home. My parents divorced and once that happened and I had to move back and forth, I have to tell you I never felt truly at home. Having one house, one room, one set of books, clothes, etc would have been better.

  7. I am also a child of divorce. I like Sarah L.’s comment, about the child staying at home and the parents rotating in and out. Like Steve said, I always felt like my schedule was secondary to “the agreement.” I remember missing a big sleepover because it was my dad’s weekend and being so angry over that. It wasn’t my fault that my parents couldn’t live together, so why was I suffering? Why was I being dragged between houses, having to split up holidays, living out of a suitcase every other week, etc. My opinion may sound harsh and be extremely unpopular, but I think if you get divorced, you should be the one inconvenienced, not your children.

  8. I like Sarah L.’s comment too. My problem is that my separation is long distance. My ex, while an advocate of attachment parenting early on, now wants me gone, and is unwilling to adopt an arrangement where we make the moves and the children remain in the same house.

  9. So I’m a little late coming to this site but this post caught my eye. I think that the only unfortunate bi-product of your arrangement is that the kids get much less full on sibling time with each other. Essentially it looks like it is only two days a week where they are all at the same house at the same time, right? At this age, they probably don’t mind (especially the older girl) but I wonder if it will affect their relationships as they get older, particularly between the two girls. I’m actually an only child, so the dynamics of sibling relationships are a mystery to me. I do, however, have an infant and my husband has a teenager (ok, 19 y.o.) who recently moved into his own place and I know we’ve talked a lot about how to make sure they get enough time together to feel connected as the baby gets older.

  10. We’re finding the 2-5-5-2 arrangement really workable, but your point about one-on-one time is a good one we will have to experiment with some. We’re still doing all our parenting at the original family house (his apartment move-in got delayed by months) so the transition is us coming and going, not them, but overall it is working. And yes, the time to go be an adult (and especially for me right now, for business travel) is very helpful.
    So far they’ve been great, and our separation lessened tensions for them, making them visibly happier and more easygoing in the last 9 months.

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