The Nightmare Before Christmas: Holiday Planning after Divorce

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By Live By Surprise, Featured DM Blogger - December 13, 2014 - Updated December 14, 2014

Fotolia_71452086_XS.jpgWhen my ex and I first divorced, I knew the big holidays were going to be a problem.  Easter.  Christmas.  Thanksgiving.  All of them. So, in an attempt to avoid those issues, we came up with a specific agreement that should have answered all of our problems. Turns out, not so much.

Every year when we were married, my ex’s family would have a celebration on Christmas Eve. Then we’d head to my mother’s on Christmas morning, back home for a few hours and up to my in-laws for the afternoon. And my mother’s family has had their Christmas celebration on Boxing Day ever since I was a little girl, so we’d head up on Boxing Day to hang out with my grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Seems like an easy enough schedule, and when we entered negotiations, I hoped not to disrupt it. Of course, that wasn't happening. The ex wanted the children on Christmas morning just as much as I did.  So I compromised. 

Our holiday schedule is supposed to come into play every year. No matter what the regular schedule says, my ex is supposed to have the children on Christmas Eve from 8 AM to 8 PM. We alternate Christmas morning and afternoon. So if it’s his year to have them Christmas morning, the 8 PM Christmas Eve doesn't come into play, and he returns them at noon on Christmas Day instead. If it’s not his year, he drops them off at 8 PM, picks them up at noon on Christmas Day, and returns them again at 8 PM, so that I can have them for Boxing Day. If Boxing Day is normally his day, I return them to him at 8 PM.  If not, we return to the regular schedule and I return the children whenever the schedule has them back at his.

It’s a bit hectic – but having a holiday parenting plan I can rely on every year makes it easier to plan my Christmas Day with my family.

At least…that’s the way it’s supposed to go.

This year I e-mailed my ex mid-November spelling out the way the schedule plays out this year. I’ll drop them off at his house on the 22nd (as that’s when he’s scheduled to have them) and pick them up on the 25th at noon. Then I’ll return them on the 26th at 8 PM.

Seems easy enough. It actually means he should have them for an extra day and a half of my time. 

He didn't respond to my November 15th e-mail. 

I sent a second e-mail last week, suggesting that I assumed his lack of response meant that he wanted to continue with the regular access schedule. Meaning I have the children all day Christmas Eve AND have them all day Christmas Day. And they’d return to him Boxing Day for the weekend.

It was a bold move. Because of course – I want the children to have Boxing Day with my family. It’s a tradition that’s been part of my family for as long as I can remember.

He didn't even respond to that e-mail. I had to send him another one on December 1st. He responded:  “I'm scheduled too work Christmas eve. I'm trying too see if possible too take a vacation day.” [SIC] (Yeah…that’s how he writes.)

The factory that he works is a 24/7 operation. He works 12 hour shifts on a two week rotating schedule.  And this year, he is scheduled to work Christmas Eve night from 6 PM to 6 AM Christmas Day, and then go back in again 6 PM Christmas Day to 6 AM Boxing Day. The second shift shouldn't be an issue. He’s not scheduled to have the children in the afternoon. But the first one…well, that’s a bit of a pickle.

The ex is not unfamiliar with our holiday custody schedule. It’s been over six years now. He knows that this is his year to have the children through Christmas morning. The problem with the ex is, although he has seniority at work and would likely be granted a vacation request if he asked far enough in advance – he never does.  Yeah, that’s right.  This is not the first time this has been an issue).  And quite frankly (believe it or not, I suspect that the management and other employees he works with are not inclined to do him any favors.

In previous years, I might have suggested I could take the children Christmas morning, and he could have them for the afternoon instead. But I've already made my plans this year – well back in October. While I would love to have the kids in the morning – we have family plans in the afternoon that cannot be changed with less than two weeks before the holiday.

So, I've had to issue an ultimatum. Either you take the kids per the holiday schedule, or you don’t get the kids on Christmas Day. I will happily pick them up Christmas Eve before you go to work, but you cannot have them back until Boxing Day.

I've taken a stand. 

And...I feel very guilty about it.

I shouldn't. I didn't create this problem. In fact, with the holiday schedule we agreed to almost seven years ago - I tried to prevent this very thing from happening by cementing exactly what each of our expectations were.

I want the kids to have time with their father. I think Christmas is an important time to spend with your whole family.

I can’t keep doing this every year. I can’t keep sacrificing my own time and cleaning up the mess that he’s brought on himself. I deserve a stress free holiday.

But I’m not going to get it this year.

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