A Note from the Author:
Just for the record…I am not an advocate for divorce. In an ideal world, couples who get married would happily stay together for the long term. Unfortunately, this is not always the case…and these days divorce is more common than ever.
The purpose of this book is not to help you to decide to get a divorce. It is meant to be a practical guide once the decision has been made to make this change in your life.
My goal in writing this book is to help women who have children go through this change and make it through both the process and the post-divorce phase with a positive outcome for both you and your children.
For me, the definition of a good divorce is one that puts the children first.
The Mom’s Guide to a Good Divorce
Prepare the Professional Traveler
When you are thinking through the decision of how to structure your children’s lives, there are so many considerations… many of which depend on whether you are going to have sole custody or joint custody.
Either way (sole custody or joint custody)…the hardest thing I was told when I was going through my divorce came from our child specialist, whom we met with in advance of having Grace see him.
He asked me if I traveled, and I said, “Yes, I travel internationally for my job.” He asked my ex-husband, and he said, “Yes, I travel domestically for my job.” Then, the child specialist said, “Well, Grace has just become a professional traveler…she is going to travel back and forth between your two homes for the next eleven years.” At that point, I burst into tears because the reality was setting in that regardless of the reasons why we were getting a divorce…Grace was going to be the one most impacted by our decision.
So, at that point we made a couple of decisions…and I appreciate that what I am going to share with you is dependent on the fact that we could afford to take this approach. However, I can share with you based on our experience…I fundamentally believe that some of the decisions we have made regarding Grace’s day-to-day schedule and routine have made a big difference in terms of her ability to adjust to the significant change we put her through due to the divorce.
Set a Goal to Never Pack a Bag
Even though Grace was about to become a professional traveler for the next eleven years…another principle that we have tried to live by is that Grace never has to pack a bag when going between our homes. The only things that travel back and forth with her are her backpack for school, and her golf bag (on the days she has golf lessons).
Logistically, what this means is that we buy two of everything for Grace so that she has clothes at both homes. I completely appreciate that this is not always feasible from a financial standpoint. However, if you are able to set up your children’s lives at both homes…so they do not need to pack a bag…then you are minimizing the “professional traveler” dynamic that will be a reality for your children.
A by-product of this approach is that one house can end up with more jeans, t-shirts, and socks than the other house. When this happens, it is up to my ex-husband and me to even out the clothes and figure out if some of the clothes need to be taken to the other house. We have never asked Grace to manage this process because we believe it is not her responsibility to ensure she has clothes at both homes…it is our responsibility.
Always be mindful of which items are special and/or important to your children…and ensure those items are with them wherever they are staying. It is not your children’s fault that they do not have that one special item at both houses, so I would recommend figuring out how to transition these items without involving your children.
If you have a nanny who is involved in both homes, you could have your nanny help with any items that need to be transitioned between homes. Ideally, the nanny would handle the packing and unpacking of overnight bags (if required) while the children are not home, so they do not have to see their things being transitioned.
It is already stressful enough for our children to keep up with all of the details of their day-to-day lives…in terms of homework, books, laptop, and phone…the additional requirement of keeping up with the basics to live their lives (clothes, toiletries, etc.) should not be something they have to be concerned with on a day-to-day basis.
As your children become teens, they will start to take things to or from each home and will not want their parents involved in helping them. However, even as Grace has gotten older, we still try to even out the “clothes balance” when we see that more of a certain item of clothing is at one of our houses.
The goal of “never packing a bag” could be setting the bar too high…a more realistic goal may be to “minimize packing.” Regardless, be conscious of the impact that packing a bag each week can have on your children and work to find ways to minimize this dynamic.
The Transition of Special Items & Miscellaneous Stuff
Whether or not you achieve the goal of “never packing a bag”…there are still special items and miscellaneous stuff that need to go back and forth with your children between homes each week, whether it is a special blanket, stuffed animal or sports equipment. It is important to determine how these items will be transitioned between homes…and whether or not your children are required to be accountable for helping to transition these items…or whether you will handle the transition for them.
If there is something your child has deemed “special,” such as a blanket or a stuffed animal…and there is a way to get a second one of the exact same item, this can definitely alleviate the stress of ensuring that this special item makes the transition between homes.
Early on post-divorce, I decided to set aside a shelf in our hallway cupboard for the smaller “special” items as well as the other miscellaneous items that may have needed to go to my ex-husband’s house. This ensures there is one spot my ex-husband can go to in order to check to see if there is anything that needs to go to his house. It also is used for anything he needs to drop off at my house. This has actually been helpful for both of us to stay organized with the things we have needed to transition between our homes.
There is inevitably going to be a time when something your child needs is at the other parent’s place. When these instances occur, pause…take a deep breath…and stay calm…as it is not your child’s fault that they are living between two homes and that the specific item they need is not where it is supposed to be at that specific moment.
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John McElhenney says
I’d love to have Sarah on my podcast Love on the Air. Please put her in touch with me, or give me her contact info. (PS: I’m a divorced moms author as well.) Thanks.
DivorcedMoms Staff says
John, email me at [email protected] and I’ll make sure you two make connections.