There was no good reason for us to marry and there was really no good reason for us to divorce. We had very little in common and we didn’t belong together. At the end, we were tired of faking a happy marriage.
I think Joe and I married because we were lonely and tired of being alone. I was 29 and he was 32. Our clocks were ticking and it just seemed like a good idea at the time. Why not? I liked him well enough and thought that would be enough. Wrong! Sometimes even love is not enough to keep people together. Liking someone is never enough. It might have worked out better, or a little longer, but in spite of trying not to, I got pregnant almost immediately. Nine months and two days after we married, I gave birth to boy/girl twins six weeks premature. Months before our one year wedding anniversary, we were a family, a big family. It was a recipe for failure.
Joe has always been a good guy and I greatly respect him. He’s one of the smartest men I have ever known. He is a retired community college science professor and was adored and hated by his students. Loved because they learned a lot; hated because he was hard, which was exactly like he was at home, but our home was not a classroom.
Joe was not a good husband, but he has always been an excellent father. He loves his children very much. We devised our own custody and visitation agreement and it worked out very well all the years the kids were little. It is not easy to do and you and your ex-husband have to get along with each other. The well-being of the children have to be put above the pettiness, anger, resentment, even hatred you two might be feeling for each other.
At the time of our divorce, I had been a stay-at- home mom since the day the children were born five years earlier. I was waiting for the kids to start kindergarten to go back to work and also planned, at that time to leave Joe. As well-planned as it was, this was going to be very confusing to the children. We had lived in the country as a family, but the children and I were leaving their father and moving to the city about 20 miles away. I was going to work and they were starting school for the first time, in separate classrooms. It was a time of tremendous upheaval and change for Jay and Emily. It was scary, actually terrifying, for me, too.
Putting Everyone’s Needs First:
Legally, I had primary custody of the children, but Joe was not going to settle with the usual father/child visitation agreement. Seeing his small children every other weekend and one night a week was not acceptable. Jay and Emily were young, five years old, and small children do not understand divorce or time. They spell love, T-I-M-E. Joe and I understood this. We agreed to disagree (one of the few things we agreed on) and to get along for the sake of our children.
Joe and I decided that he would get the kids every weekend. He picked them up every Friday after school and I picked them up from him every Sunday afternoon. This was easy for them to remember and understand. Since Joe was a professor, he had summers off from school just as the kids did. It did not make sense for me to put the kids into summer day care when they had a father who was home most of the summer.
So in the summers, we reversed custody. They lived with Joe during the week and with me on weekends. On holidays we just worked it out depending on who was doing what and going where. As a matter of fact, the first couple of years after we divorced when the kids were 5- and 6-years-old, Joe spent the night on my couch Christmas Eve. He wanted to be there when the kids woke up the next morning and discovered Santa Claus had been there. After the kids opened their gifts from Santa, and we all had breakfast together, he took them home with him for most of their Christmas vacation.
Reducing Separation Anxiety:
At other times, when one of us wanted the kids for something special, we talked about it and civilly worked it out. Our kids never suffered the usual separation anxiety some kids of divorce experience. We rarely argued about the kids. We certainly didn’t use them as pawns in a war between us. It wasn’t their fault we didn’t want to be married any longer.
Even today, 27 years after our divorce, Joe and I are friendly and spend time together with our kids and grandkids on birthdays and holidays. We’ve managed to get along all these years for the kids’ sake through good and bad times, heartaches, joy, and now through grandchildren.
Right now, think about your kids for a few minutes and not yourself and your hurts. Get a mediator if you have to in order to work it out. It’s worth it and your children will thank you later for the maturity and the sacrifices you both had to make. Children are not pawns in a battle to get what you want or to hurt the other person. Get along for the sake of the kids throughout the divorce and beyond. It can be done. It has to be done.
Cuckoo Mamma says
Oh I love this. We are birdnesting, we kept the house and the two of us rotate every few days. The kids never have to swap. Its hard on us but the kids have done great because their lives haven’t changed much. It’s been 3 years now though and wearing thin just because of the expense. How long did you do the every weekend thing? I’m wondering if that is an option for us after we stop birdnesting. I don’t see how my kids are going to swap during the week. One has ADHD and they are in 3 different schools.
Liv BySurprise says
Cuckoo Mama – have you considered a five and two? May work in your situation – basically you rotate five days and two days – so you each get to spend extended time with the kids and each get a weekend.
Colline Hise says
Thank you for your kind remarks! We did this until the kids were old enough to decide what they wanted to do on weekends and had activities they wanted to do. It was more than just a few years. At that time, we ALL (kids included) talked about it. I think it is better than having to switch schools, lives, friends and routines. It may bore you and me sometimes, but kids thrive on routine. So I suggest you keep the lines of communication open, talk to the kids, and work it out according to what is best for them. Sounds like that is just what you are doing!
Suzan Morris says
Excellent article and excellent advice!
carol bompart says
It is not easy but it is best for everyone. Good article. dr b
X DeRubicon says
It’s not just dads. I have sole custody of our kids and my ex-wife does everything she can to try to minimize or avoid paying child support. For some reason there seems to be a disconnect between the legal requirement of child support and the obvious obligation of supporting your children.
X DeRubicon says
Advanced for your time. Props to both of you, but especially for Joe who understood that at a young age love is spelled T-I-M-E and refused to accept the old standard min vis. Kids need both parents and being a father requires “hang time” that doesn’t easily happen with the clock ticking on a minimal schedule.
When it became obvious that my ex and I were going to split, I assumed that we’d share custody and parenting time equally and she assumed that it was 1950 and I would just visit (her opining position was 3 sunday afternoons a month, two week vacation in the summer, and alternating major holidays!). Sadly, she would only budge to alternating weekends, so we fought it out in court. By the time that she realized she was about to lose and was willing to share rather than get saddled with the plan she had for me, too much damage had been done. It was unrealistic to believe that she would really co-parent with me. So we let judges to what they do and I have sole custody our our children.
I’ve dialed things back and tried to co-parent with her, but it really doesn’t work. We can’t make decisions together. I’ve settled on asking for her opinion on all of the things she would be entitled to an opinion on if we shared custody, so that I’ve at least heard it, and then doing what I think is best for the kids.
I do envy the parents who are able to find a way to share. My neighbor and her ex do. When their daughter got to highschool, she wanted to spend most of her time with her dad, and they managed the change without rancor. Daughter wasn’t abandoning mom or favoring dad, just being alowed a bit more age appropriate control over her life.