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50-50 parenting still requires 100% of both parents By Rachel Alexander

50-50 parenting still requires 100% of both parents

{7 minutes to read}  Custody can be a loaded term, filled with implicit threats of loss — loss of control, loss of time, and loss of one’s children. Custody, both a legal and colloquial term, can render images of wailing children wrenched from the arms of panicking parents. One of my tasks as a mediator is to challenge antiquated, draconian concepts of custody, and reimagine how divorcing parents can raise children together.

Of course, sharing custody — whether equally or in some other form or fashion — brings changes, and is likely a departure from what was originally sought and imagined. Changes, particularly the ones that are unwanted, often accompany feelings of diminishment. There will be nights when the children will sleep under a different roof and weekend days the children will be elsewhere, however, when we examine these changes closely, we can recognize they are not as dramatic as they might initially seem. When we break them down, we can examine what the changes will actually amount to, and distinguish the forfeiture associated with two homes versus the everyday heartbreaks - heart fractures - if you will, shared by all parents raising children up to adults. Optimally, our children will, in a matter of years, embark on their grown-up lives in which we are less central.

Children are ever-changing beings; they are always on their journey toward independence. As children develop, their interests naturally grow to include participation and investment in their academic and extracurricular activities. Their peer relationships take focus. Parents are always tasked with the paradox of holding their children while not holding them back. We might say parents must hold everything - hold jackets, hold hands, hold space so children can explore, expand and ultimately take flight. Strong familial bonds are meant to support, not frustrate, the expansion required for adulthood.

When parents separate into two households, some of the separations inherent in healthy development can feel premature and imposed. It can be helpful, however, to contextualize them in what happens in the course of development, regardless of whether a divorce is in the mix or not.

And to look at what can happen in a good joint parenting plan that tracks with the optimal involvement of both parents.

Regular development means time away from your children, whether or not divorce is a factor 

In reality, except in extraordinary circumstances, neither parent spends 24 hours a day with a child. Parents work; children go to school. After school, children have a few hours to snack, unwind, scramble to do homework, and get ready for bed. School nights are often a flurry of getting things done and getting to bed, with the majority of time spent sleeping before the a.m. scramble begins. Our schedules allow for very little “quality” time on weeknights. Once children are old enough, they are typically involved in after-school activities, where parents might be involved as coaches, but more often are observing, waiting, or carpooling. Parents joke about running taxi services in recognition that parental roles change from being the figures of primary importance, to support cast in service to the children’s developmental and logistical needs.

The facts about 50/50 - how often are you with/without the children?

Parents: please do not worry about giving up your child 50% of the time. In truth, you don't have that luxury! Parenting now requires both of you (and more!) to be involved. You will likely be involved on a daily basis, particularly when you can cooperate with your co-parent.

50-50 custody still means that you're both 100 percent parents, 100 percent of the time.  Likely, more structure and planning are required when co-parenting, and more transitions, however, rest assured your parenting is ongoing even when your kids are intermittently out of sight.

Creative parenting plans 

If you want to have a great relationship with your children cultivate a good relationship with your ex-spouse.  When spouses work together in the interests of their children, everyone wins. Parents can have easier, frequent transitions with calmer, more well-adjusted children. The following are some factors to consider when building a co-parenting plan:

  • Proximity.  As banal as it seems, proximity is a crucial factor in making parenting plans work. The closer the two households, the more realistic a 50-50 parenting plan becomes. 

  • Respect.  Co-parents who establish and acknowledge one another’s limits and preferences (for privacy, notice, reliability, communication) without criticizing or arguing against them, can often construct parenting plans that include the creative arrangements that necessitate frequent interaction. These parents are often able to see children daily, be at one another’s homes for pickups and drop-offs, accommodate one another’s work schedules, reach one another as needed, have weekly family dinners and family “town hall” meetings, spend birthdays and holidays together, and generally benefit from the support of another parent.

  • Regularity.  To have flexibility (which we seem to construe as freedom) we first must establish regularity. In this case, via a regular parenting schedule. Deviations can and will happen, but first, the family must have something from which to deviate! The more predictable a parenting schedule, the more everyone can settle into a commodious rhythm that supports the nervous system. Changes can be handled when neither party abuses their discretion and instead fosters a schedule upon which everyone can rely. Constant changes are chaotic for children and parents; they keep everyone off balance and at their worst. The more regular a schedule, the more goodwill and safety are created, and the more likely occasional changes will be managed with grace. 

Parent onward, good people.


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