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Advice for post-divorce co-parenting

One of our founding mamas went through a divorce early in the history of this site, and it was overwhelming; her experience took her, largely, off the blog. I've personally watched many of my friends go through divorce and it seems so, so hard -- I've even taken to exploring my thoughts about it in fiction. Co-parenting while divorced, for me, sounds even harder than co-parenting while in a difficult marriage. Another mother asks:

Does anyone have good resources or personal experience to share with a newly divorced mama? My ex and I are fairly amicable, but I find myself really struggling with how this new world order works for the kids as they split time between us. Everything I've found to read about divorce addresses the nightmare scenarios when parents say nasty things about each other to the kids or manipulate them to win affection. That's not us at all. Those stories make me very thankful for how our divorce has gone. And still, I wonder if it ever feels normal to live in 2 different houses, have 2 different dogs, 2 sets of neighborhood friends... having grown up with 2 parents and a super stable home life, I feel a little heartbroken when I think about it too long. I know my kids don't necessarily think about it the way I do, but it would help me to have exposure to success stories of growing up equally with 2 parents in two houses.

Do you have any advice or stories to share?

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Haven't been through it myself, but one of my favorite blogs is AskMoxie.org. She & her ex are both bloggers & have both written about how they navigated through the process. She has written about it in her blog, and they started a joint blog together that is linked to her blog.

She's also very accessible & might form an important support system too?

I was just going to say AskMoxie and LOD! I think she is even doing a class/seminar on it and she is on Babble.

A friend just posted this on Facebook - I don't know if it has anything that might help?

http://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/toolkits/divorce

My first thought... my kid doesn't have one set of neighborhood friends, let alone worrying about 2. But more to the real issue. Sure its going to be hard but it can also be alright really.

Just wanted to say thanks for the thoughtful post. My parents divorced when I was 13 and my sister was 9, so I think older than your children? They were both very loving and nurturing and there were only a handful of ugly moments I can recall. My sister and I are stable and pretty emotionally healthy:) What I can remember finding difficult, but not having the ability to express it, was having to do two of so many things. My dad was so well intentioned and wanted to celebrate holidays we didn't spend with him afterwards...a second smaller celebration..same for birthdays I think. It was so emotionally draining. I can just remember feeling so unhappy but not knowing why and then feeling like I was supposed to be happy. Just encouragement to really use your children as barometers and when they seem stressed, just try to see the world and their schedules through their eyes. Transitions are tough and they are doing a lot of that, so the more sensitive you and your ex are to their feelings and needs the more well adjusted they will be. Best of luck to you and thanks for the post.

Thanks for your comment, luckymamaoftwo. OP, here. My kids are early elementary age, for reference.

I hear you about the pressure of doing 2 of every special thing and will watch out for that expectation. Since they began truly splitting time between houses a few months ago, I've tried to build more total down time into the schedule. I see them working hard emotionally right now - I guess we all are.

I so appreciate hearing from someone who grew up through divorce and feels "stable and emotionally healthy". That's what all of us are aiming for with our kids, right? And for ourselves, too.

My parents divorced when my brother and I were elementary school aged and looking back one thing I was grateful for (compared to some peers) was that neither remarried until we were grown. There was always the sense that we were still a family (and on the same team if that makes sense) we just lived in different houses. We both turned out fine as well.

My parents separated when I was 14, but I have three younger siblings. We all turned out fine--emotionally, academically, etc. It was hard, but easier for my younger sisters than for me (this is their take on it--I'm not just whining and saying it was hard for me). They had fewer years of memories of our parents together, less of a sense that the old way was the way things were "supposed" to be. They adapted quickly.

My take on it is that it's important that there be a space, both literal and figurative, for the kids in each household. The kids need to know they're welcome, and welcome even when it's not "scheduled." That way they know that their parents are still their parents, fulltime, not just half the week. This might mean that it's always ok to call Dad or that it's ok to ask to swing by Mom's for a hug on the way home from soccer--more flexibility is an advantage I think.

I would also suggest that you try to embrace a sense of discovery in your first few years as co-parents. Just because you start out doing holidays, birthdays, etc. one way doesn't mean that's a tradition you have to follow. You can change as the years go on. You can listen to the kids and let them have some role in directing events, so if one says "I only want one birthday party!" go ahead and do that even if it means giving up on the party at your house. Let it go. But then check in afterwards, make sure your child knows they can make a different choice next year, etc. I feel like I'm not putting this clearly--sorry!

My kiddo's father and I split when she was 2, now she is almost 4. I guess I'm thankful it happened when she was young, so that out 2 household situation will always be the norm for her. We have a schedule, and she loves her daddy time. But, even in her young age, she sometimes compares our situations to those of her friends, I.e, "I wish daddy lived at our house like so-and-so's mommy and daddy live together". We all get through it, and as long as the love is there and the parents can get along, all will be ok. Good luck!

"Normal" is what you make it. It doesn't require a mom and a dad to live together under one roof to create a stable upbringing, either.

My daugther is a teenager, and when I run through my mental list of her friends, very few of them are living in a household that would have been considered "normal" when I was growing up.

You're right about normal, for sure. I don't get hung up on our family not being "normal" so much. Not a great choice of words in my original post. We ARE normal, for us. I'm more interested in whether kids can ever feel settled living in 2 places.

Input from adults who grew up with divorced parents helps a lot. Though, I haven't come across any in my own generation who lived in two places. Most often, home was with mom - then there were weekends or vacations or holidays with dad (or occasionally, the reverse). That fully living in two places is what I get caught on. Can home be in two places at the same time?

Having had parents that divorced when I was nine, I can tell you that the most important thing is that both parents have a relationship with the children if possible. My dad left not just my mom but us because after he left I didn't see him again until I was twelve for a week and after that I saw him for a day when I was 15 and I haven't seen him since. No cards, phonecalls, letters nothing. I still feel the rage of not having a father in my life but for the most part I have turned out okay. I have forgiven him and I also went thru seven years of therapy in my early 20's to work thru some issues for myself. I admire parents that work together to provide two loving homes for their children.

I am from New Mexico where shared physical custody has been the norm for a long time. When the kids are small they usually do fine especially if the divorce wasn't too toxic and the parents act like adults and don't restrict friendships based on whose side someone took during the divorce or force kids to have two of everything (even a coat!) one for each house (I've seen more than one petty parent do this) etc But once the kids hit adolescents almost all the ones I knew in this situation were tired of living out of a suitcase and never feeling settled and usually ended up staying full time with one parent and more often than not it fell along gender lines although sometimes it was just because one parent was less strict or one parent had a cruel spouse that made a lousy step-parent and in those situations living with them half time becomes a nightmare. In the case of my family, one parent remarried and started a new family when the other kids were in their teens and so they chose to live full time with the parent who didn't have a new family and just visit the other parent.

So odd, I haven't looked at the site in a while; but, took a moment to look today. I believe I am the person discussed in the original post who went through divorce early on in the history of the blog. I would be more than happy to talk, offline, with the mama who sent the original post, if that can be arranged. My ex and I get along better as co-parents than we did as a couple; so, I feel pretty lucky for our situation. The internal and sometimes external struggle over whether or not I am doing to the right thing for my child continues and I imagine will continue throughout his childhood as I am sure things will continue to evolve along with his growth and development.

Adjusted, happy, healthy adult survivor of a divorced family. I say "survivor" because, I won't lie, it was hard. A lot of emotional hard work, for years. I don't have advice, really -- just some reflections. I echo the person above who said it was hard to not have *one* place that was home, but two. The shifting back and forth was tremendously draining. I was a lot happier when my dad willingly sort of took a back seat, and our time with him was special trips and specific long weekends, instead of living in two places. The school-year versus summer arrangement was easier than one week here, one week there. I could plan and anticipate, instead of trying to keep my feet under me. I just remember this internal experience of constant vertigo -- catching my breath and settling into the rhythm at one place (down to what kinds of groceries were in the fridge and how the house smelled and the noises of the house in the morning routine - stuff you can't really control or fix, as parents) only to switch it up again. And I definitely remember that eventually, it became very, very hard to "just swing by" one parent's house on a non-scheduled day -- the surprise/concern/awkwardness-in-trying-to-hide-surprise/concern on my parents' faces if I walked in the door unplanned was painful. So was walking in on their time with eventual boyfriends/girlfriends. And on the other hand, if a parent found out I'd been nearby and hadn't stopped in, they would feel bad (or I would feel a huge sense of guilt). All I wanted was ONE house and ONE bedroom that was mine. By the time I was 16, I spent most of my time at friends houses because I just hated the back and forth. If I was going to feel like a visitor, I was happier doing it at a place where I really *was* a visitor. Honestly, it was not until I was grown with a child of my own that I came to a full peace about our family breaking apart when I was 10 -- not the "why" of it, but simply recovering from all that emotional effort. Now, all of that said, I *am* at peace and a healthy person in an 18-year happy marriage of my own. So they'll be OK. I think, mainly, I would just say to take a deep breath and know that it will be a lifelong process of figuring out what works and what doesn't for your children. Consider longer stretches versus shorter at each house. I also think that divorced parents have it tough, in that you have to put your kids needs first in a whole different way, right when you're reframing your own life in a new freedom from a relationship that wasn't working. It sounds like you have the best possible amicable situation, which will help. Good luck to you all!

That was very moving and helpful Amy. Thank you.

hey, postdivorceurbanMama. i'd be happy to connect offline. thank you for the offer. i don't know how to do that - not crazy about listing my email address in comments. can you get it from the mamas running the site?

thanks to all for insight. working the puzzle as we go, and every piece helps.

hi OP and postdivorceurbanMama - I think we can get email addresses from comments on typepad and send to you. I will check it out and do what I can do. /courtney - one of the mamas with admin access.

Post-divorce guilt can range from occasional thoughts and doubts about things that occurred during the marriage to intense self-blame and thoughts of guilt that can stand in the way of moving forward to a happier life.

after having a divorce with my wife 3 years ago, i've been raising our only daughter single handedly. My ex-wife only visits our daughter once every 2-3 months due to work commitment. I must say that it is really tough having to play both the mum and dad role. I always try my best to provide as much as love i can give to fill up the void in her life.

I think co parenting is very important. Mom and Dad continue to discuss issues as they relate to the child or children, interact routinely with regards to information specific to the kids, and often talk and/or phone each other with questions or concerns about the kids. While parents may not specifically spend time together with the kids, many co-parents attend birthday parties, school events and other special activities together to allow the child to feel very much a part of both parent's lives.

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