After we first separated, my ex and I had a very complicated parenting schedule. At the time I think it served both of our needs to be able to see our kids on an almost daily basis, and we felt it was good for them to have time with the other parent as frequently as possible. A few months ago, he suggested we go to an every-other-week schedule. I wasn't really sure I wanted to make that switch, but I also wasn't certain if I was just being selfish or if the way we were already doing it really was better. I agreed to give it a try, and after we agreed together on holidays and so forth, we made the switch.
I have to admit, I think this is better. Right now it works well for me, simply because I am picking them up and taking them to childcare near where I work three days out of the week, every Friday they spend the whole day with their dad and every Wednesday with me, regardless of whose week it is, due to work schedules. I think its an easier adjustment for them to transition from the rules and the rhythm of one household to another one time a week rather than every day. I think its giving them more stability in the time they spend with each of us, and a way to really enjoy their time with each parent.
The one thing I really notice, though, is that every other Sunday, when they have spent a week with their dad and are making the transition between parents, is HARD. In an I-lost-count-of-how-many-timeouts-they-had kind of way.
"They're really tuned up," SG noted in that bemused tone of voice he adopts when he's coping with chaos. "Yeah, I suppose that's one way of putting it," I replied.
I think its natural for children of two households to have some difficulty transitioning, particularly if there are differences in parenting styles (there are) and in the structure of the households in question. My ex and I have an informal understanding that we will not tell each other how to parent. If my children complain that something I have forbidden them to do/play with/eat is A-OK when they're at Daddy's, I simply say "The rules at Dad's house aren't the same as the rules at mine." There are other things I will allow that my ex won't, but I don't think either one of us is interested in having a tug-of-war over whose way of parenting is "right." There are so many instances where it isn't a question of right or wrong, we're just Different. And so I try to temper my reaction to the fighting and the hyperactivity and accept that I have very limited control over how hard it is for them to make the change in households.
Going into the divorce, there were things I expected, and my expectations were met. I expected it would be painful, I expected it would be stress-ridden and emotional. I expected my children to have a great deal of difficulty traversing the new road map of our lives. I expected anger and bitterness and being so lonely sometimes it physically hurt. I also expected there to be some positives, those things the absence of which is why I wanted the marriage to end in the first place. And those were there, and to experience my home as a place where there was more peace and serenity than not was a revelation. On top of those positives, though, were a few unexpected gifts.
Even with the injection of the noise and the chaos on these every-other-Sunday transfers, it is a relief to have them under my roof, to go to sleep at night knowing they are just a few feet away, to wake in the morning knowing I'll soon be rousting them out of their beds. Their childhood years are finite, and every week they are not with me I know I'm missing something precious. Something that has slipped through my fingers without me even being aware that it existed. The ability to reach out and physically touch my children is something I no longer take for granted.
Every other week, I learn to be a person who has children but who does not have them with her. I learn to find that part of myself that doesn't exist simply to be Mother and I nurture her. I go on dates with SG and we enjoy the freedom of being grownups without curfews. I was so used to worrying about whether my kids were being good for the sitter or going to bed on time or trying to keep tabs on them if I brought them to a social engagement. Its a different world to attend a party or have dinner in a restaurant when you aren't constantly doing a mental check on how the kids are doing and if you need to throttle down some energy or head a fight off at the pass. Agonizing over the fact that my children are with their other parent isn't going to make the time between pass any faster. I have learned to just accept it and find pleasure in the positives.
There are times, as always, I roll with the punches and life is simply about coping with too many things that are hard. But more and more of late, there are days when life has much more richness and joy than anxiety and turbulence.