The most common request I hear from divorcing parents is “I just want 50/50” or “I want equal time with the kids.” Sounds “fair”, right? Both parents love their kids, both parents want to continue to as involved in their kids’ lives as possible, both parents want to prove they’re the “better” parent and show the other once and for all what a worthless has been he/she is.
But … where does what’s best for the kids fall into that equation? Often times during a divorce, the parents become so self-centered (which is perfectly natural to do in a crisis, by the way) that the kids are end up being treated like collateral. “I’ll take the sofa, the TV, and our 13-year-old son, and you can have the cookware, the nice bath towels, the car, and our 11-year-old daughter.” Or “let’s do week-on week-off.” Or, my personal favorites, the 5-2-2-5 plan, or the 3-4-3-4 plan.
Some kids are fine bouncing between houses, especially if the parents are capable at co-parenting. But based on my own anecdotal experience, a lot of kids are not. They don’t like not knowing where they’re going to wake up; or leaving their favorite PJs at the other parents house; or forgetting if it’s okay to have soda at Mom’s house, but not Dad’s house – or is it the other way around? Children are resilient, yes, and most of the time it’s better to have both parents equally involved in their kids lives. But when the constant transitions start to be a problem, then it’s time to realize that the “50/50” plan just isn’t working for your family – and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that either parent isn’t doing a good job, but rather that your kids are not thriving in this state of constant transition.
So if 50/50 isn’t working, are both parents able to recognize it, and if so, can the parents be mature enough to find a solution? Can one parent forego a little parenting time in the short term, to help their kids thrive in the long term? Can the parents find creative solutions, like a lot of extracurricular involvement from the other parent, dinner visits, weekend visits, more time in the summer, visiting for meals at school?
Can the parents agree to put their kids first?