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Sunday, March 20, 2011

In-Between Parenting: How do YOU handle shared custody?

How do you make the best of the time you have? 

Anyone could ask themselves this question, but it is especially poignant if you have shared custody, like me. I have always been a working mom. In fact, when my son was born, due to financial constraints and an unpaid maternity leave, I was forced to go back to work when he was a mere 4 weeks old. My full time schedule at that time only entailed 4 days a week, so I had one day home with him and otherwise was transporting him back and forth between family from that time.

His father and I split (I'll spare you the details) just after his first birthday. Long story made very, very short: I suddenly only had my baby boy for half the week.

How do you, as a mother, handle that? (and sorry, really I'm sure it's the same on both sides- mom and dad- but I'm just speaking from my point of view here)

How do you go from nursing and rocking and nightly story reading, to having nights all alone in a new apartment? And how is your baby? Sure, his dad loves him and he loves his dad- but he's only 1!! He needs his mommy! Is he crying? Is he scared? Did his dad remember to rub his back the way he likes? Did he remember his special blanky?

... you get the point....

my baby boy at about 8 weeks old
Anyways, it has been almost 3 years now, and my son has turned out just fine :) He enjoys spending time at mommy's house AND daddy's house. Despite the fact that his dad and I do NOT have a good coparenting relationship- somehow my toddler has become a well adjusted, polite, and mindful little person!

So what's the problem?

my now toddler, just before his 1st birthday

These first few years of any child's life are crucial. And as with any child, but especially your first, you have the perpetual fear of somehow permanently damaging their psyche and/or spirit. So how do you make sure you parent at your BEST, even with such LIMITED time?

Can you be an attached parent, even with a shared schedule? Or as a working parent? And what about if the two homes have NO consistency? What if neither your co parent OR your current spouse are attached parents? Will your child still turn out ok??

If I had all the answers, I wouldn't be writing this article :) What I do know, is that there is hope. 

There is hope because my son is happy.
There is hope because my son is so full of love.
There is hope because he is surrounded by so many people who love him in return. 
There is hope because he is social and polite.
There is hope because his well adjusted, adaptable, and yet still emotional personality tells me I'm doing something right!

Is it perfect? Probably not. 
Am I perfect? Absolutely not. 
But is he a happy kid? Yes. 
Is that all that really matters? At this point, yes :) 


Forgive me while I step up on my soapbox for a minute folks, but I need to take a minute to tell you how important coparenting IS if you are in a shared custody situation. 

Now I might not have the best coparenting relationship with my coparent, but we have always made a point to put our son FIRST. Here are some advice/links that could be helpful if you too, are in a high-conflict shared custody situation like mine:

- get a mediator. I don't know where my situation would be today without one. 
- consult an attorney. Granted, it is WAYYYY cheaper (believe me) to go the mediation route, but in high conflict situations it is best to at least know the laws in your state and how they apply to you. Most initial consults are free of charge anyways. 
- Shared Parenting: How to Make it Work
- Check to see if you have courses, like those offered at Kids First, in your area.
- Attachment Parenting International has some great links for divorced and blended families
- make the BEST of your time with you child(ren) each day you have them. You're not going to be perfect, but you're EXACTLY what they need.

I also put some book selections up at the NurtureMe Store, including two of my faves;
Joint Custody with a Jerk
Custody Chaos, Personal Peace

How do you handle parenting with your shared custody and/or full time working schedule?

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