Data points, please

So things are moving along in my life. Which means I need to think about things that are going to be helpful to the kids after the divorce and splitting of the households. I’m hoping you guys can tell me things that you did if you divorced that you thought were good, or things that you wish you’d done differently. If your parents divorced, please talk about what they did that was good or bad, and what you wished had happened after the divorce that didn’t, or things you think your parents did right.

You can post whatever you want here, but just so you know, the kids are going to see each of us almost every day and we don’t have any reason to badmouth the other one (and we wouldn’t even if we did). And we don’t have the money to try to bribe the kids with toys, and neither of us have any problems saying no to things the kids ask for that aren’t possible. So all the big problems you hear about–loss of contact, sniping and bad-mouthing, and bribery and spoiling out of guilt–shouldn’t be issues. I’m looking for stuff that is smaller and wouldn’t necessarily occur to a parent. Although, of course, you’re welcome to post anything you want, especially if it gives you the chance to get it off your chest.

Oh, and sorry for two divorce-related topics in a row! Tomorrow is another day.

0 thoughts on “Data points, please”

  1. For the small stuff… well, there’s not that much I can think of, though I’ll probably go ‘oh, RIGHT! That!’ to everyone else’s…I can only think of one, really – Intentionally passing on family stories and history from both channels. Mothers tend to be the story-tellers in the family, but living with the non-story-teller parent allows one to glean a lot in casual interactions. Given the amount of contact your kids will have, it may be less an issue, but I find I am lacking a lot of family history on my dad’s side – stuff my step-sibs know because they lived with him, and I don’t. I miss it. Those ‘Grandparents Remember’ books can be started as a kind of process for parents long before grandkids arrive (and it’s less all-at-once, too). Or a scrap-book of blips like ‘favorite memories from highschool’ or ‘my first car’ or ‘scariest things’ etc. Many methods, I’m sure.
    Granted, that may have been something of a problem even without the divorce, or may not have been an issue with more joint custody type arrangements.

  2. It sounds like you guys are on your way to an ideal (in the realm of divorces) situation. The only thing I think I would say as a child of divorce that I struggled with is having to do everything twice. And that came from a situation where my parents (and stepmother) were extremely uncomfortable around each other. There was a lot of tension – they tried really hard to hide it, never bad mouthed each other, but you know how finely tuned kids are. We felt every frustration, had our radars tuned WAY up everytime they had a phone conversation…..which led to guilt. If not for us, they wouldn’t have this tension in their lives at all.So I guess my advice would be to do whatever you can do to be friends…..not just friendly, but real friends, if you can. I know that might sound unrealistic……but knowing that my mom was on one side of the concert auditorium and my dad and stepmother were on the other side…..it was stressful. Who would I go see first? Who would have to wait to congratulate me? How long should I spend with one before going over to see the other?
    When I do parent/student/teacher conferences with my divorced kids and parents, I’ve seen the a wide range….some insist on doing the conference twice separately, while others pull together and take joy (or present a united front when things aren’t going well) in their child. One couple was so good at it, they kept kissing and hugging their daughter and saying to each other “Didn’t we make the BEST kid????” which just lit her up from inside. And me too.
    When my dad was in the picture (which wasn’t very long) we had to do TWO christmases, two birthdays……and one felt “real” and the other didn’t. If there is a way for you guys to collaborate on these big childhood milestones and pull together to do them once, that would be great. I’m not saying to go on vacation together, but just the big things that kids feel most accutely the separateness of their parents.
    So to sum up….be friends. Sit together at assemblies and concerts. Go out to dinner afterward and show your children that you both take joy in their accomplishments and existence, and that you’re so glad in each other that you had them. It won’t confuse them or make them think you guys are getting back together……but it will give them a solid sense that they are still a part of ONE family – albeit not a traditional one (especially when significant others come along), instead of two separate families. This is what I wish my parents had been able to do differently more than anything else.

  3. small details… not sure if I will hit those things, but I do have some worthwhile insight I think.My parents divorced when I was 4 and lived 4 hours apart.
    Good/ Great things about the whole situation or that they did:
    Never talked bad about each other, including extended family.
    Each extended family treated the other parent as still part of the family and accepted them at family events (christmas at my mom’s families, my dad was always welcome) – this helped me feel like I had a whole family
    During the long drive to see the other parent I got one on one time with each parent. I think this is huge to having a great relationship with each, one on one time with your parents and knowing when you will get it makes communicating much easier.
    Bad stuff (aka don’t do this!)
    I always felt like I had a divided sense of home. As soon as I was old enough I got a place of my own, I just wanted ONE HOME. I dont know how to remedy that, but it is something to keep in mind.
    Decision making….
    I hated my school and teacher one year, I was miserable. I lived with my mom, she let my dad decide whether or not I could switch, he made me stay… he didn’t live with me, he didn’t know how bad it was. You will have to share decision making, but know you kid and trust yourself and listen to that(don’t think you will have a problem with this as you are such an advocate of that).
    Also do try and be flexible with schedules. I couldn’t ever get a summer job because of the whole every other weekend thing.
    Oh! and clothes and toys and stuff…. my poor mom, every summer I would come home and bring so much stuff, and every other weekend I had to pack… perhaps having stuff at each house that stays there to limit the amount of transfer, packing ect.

  4. Wow, just the first two comments spoke to things I was thinking! I too don’t have much family history or stories from my father. Some of that is definitely personality in his side of the family…he and his siblings aren’t as connected as my mom’s side but some of it really is from just not having LIVED with him.The main thing I wanted to emphasize from my memories (and baggage) as a kid of divorce is how separated we felt when our parents remarried and had ‘new’ kids. While I absolutely love my siblings and found a lot of joy as a preteen in helping to raise them, I and my older brother were the ‘other’. We now had to navigate two nuclear families that weren’t ours. And while we were lucky to not have to deal with any of the emotional crap that other kids from divorce had to deal with, it was difficult. Especially as teenagers when the parents were all in the throes of babyhood and toddlerhood. We were definitely left to fend for ourselves.
    Anyway, my two cents.

  5. I think this follows up on what Julie is talking about, but comes at a later age. My husband and I both have divorced parents. His divorced late in life (after we were married), and mine actually…well, they never were married. I met my bio father for the first time when I was 17. Anyway, now all but my dad are remarried. Which means what for all the kids? 4 Christmas’s we HAVE to attend just to see our parents. Several more if we want to see our grandparents. Last year that meant 6 Christmas’s. In one week. With a 12 month old. One of them 6 hours from our home. I hate Christmas now. Hate it. And THEN, there’s all the pressure to come to the step-family’s celebrations, even though we’ve only known them for, at most (in the case of my mother’s husband), 8 years. This holds true for Thanksgiving too. I have already established that for my children, there will be one birthday celebration, one christening celebration, one time. Everybody’s invited. If you can’t get along, don’t come. I hope when I am the grandparent, I will have the insight to cancel Christmas if that’s what needs to happen to make it a happy occasion for everyone. Ugh. That sounded bitter. The best solution I’ve seen for this age group is some friends of ours who have 4 daughters around my age, two of them married with children. They have Thanksmas every year. Thanksgiving on Thursday, Christmas on Friday. Then on Christmas, they are free to follow their own traditions and visit their in-laws. If only more people were willing to make these kinds of compromises Christmas could be a happier time for us in-betweeners.

  6. My parents are divorced. The not badmouthing each other is huge. Also, try to stay somewhat connected to your ex-in-laws, and don’t let your families bad mouth (in big or little ways) the other parent around the kids. This didn’t apply to my situation, but I’ve heard from many other kids with divorced parents that being flexible with the schedule is really good.

  7. My parents divorced when I was in high school, and one thing I have a hard time with was that they *did do* everything “right” and did not acknowledge that there would still be pain and loss.That is, I still think a (healthy) parenting partnership is better for everyone than two parents doing a good job separately. No, it’s not always possible, but even a textbook divorce/co-parenting situation needs to be honestly looked at as a loss for at least the kids…not to dwell on it or be glass-half-empty, but know that the pain does linger no matter how functional and healthy the divorce.

  8. As I said yesterday, I was practically an adult (18 yrs.) when my parents divorced and remarried. Julie above’s comments really rang true to me, especially the taking joint pride in your children. My biggest problem with my divorced parents is my mom’s struggles with codependency which is really unrelated to the divorce at all, so not really applicable here. The not bad- mouthing is key, I think.About the big milestone events… I didn’t ever have a problem with having seperate ones (but then again, I was older by then)… but what I did have a problem with is when the problems between my parents (still, 10 years after the divorce) became problems to overcome when planning big milestone events (my wedding, births and christenings of grandchildren, etc.) So what I’ll say is to let your kids’ (and eventually, grandkids’) big events be about them, and not about who gets seated in front of whom at their wedding ceremonies, etc. Hopefully you will all get along well (even if you’re not really friends), with future exes and spouses, etc, so it won’t be an issue, but if it does become one, try to work it out yourself and not put your issues onto your kids.

  9. My data points: My parents divorced when I was 7 and my brother was 4. They lived about a mile apart, and we switched back and forth to each one’s house every 3 days. (Kind of chaotic, but at the time my parents felt the “every other week” thing was too long for my younger brother.)My parents did everything right. Both wanted to be involved in our lives, and both were excellent parents even if they couldn’t be excellent spouses to each other. They agreed on most parenting decisions. They remarried, and I got 2 awesome, caring step-parents and a same-age step-brother (also awesome). We’re all very close now.
    Yet still, there were little problems. As sheSaid commented, it was hard to develop a sense of home. And I remember those early days when I would cry during the transition between my parents’ houses. (It wasn’t that I preferred one over the other, because I was an equal-opportunity crier. It was just the change that was hard for me.) I remember awkward moments at things like graduations and recitals, where I would go through the, “Who should I sit with?” anxiety. And then there was the whole, “You can’t tell me what to do! You’re not my mom!” drama.
    I think the most important thing my parents did was to just be there for me. That sounds pretty nebulous, so I’ll give an example. When I was crying during the transitions, one of the parents would sit with me for as long as I needed and talk it through, even though I’m sure watching me cry must have just gutted them. Nobody ever got all petty at the graduations and recitals when I sat with one parent versus the other.
    Was it perfect? Hell no! There were the normal issues involved with blended families. There were a lot of tears. But my personal opinion is that everybody has something difficult in their childhood, and my parents’ divorce was my difficult thing. And I think the fact that I can look at it that objectively is largely due to my parents’ maturity in the whole thing.
    I guess the bottom line is, Moxie, you’re already doing the right thing by being conscientious and putting your children’s needs first. I don’t have any advice, but I always like to talk about my parents when divorce conversations come up, to emphasize that people can do it right.

  10. Another child of divorce chiming in to say the worst worst part for me was constant badmouthing for years – so if you’re avoiding that, everything else is SO MUCH MORE MINOR.As we got older, it was great to take control over when we spent time at each house. When we were younger, routine was comforting.

  11. Please don’t use your kids to communicate with your ex. The one thing I always hated as the child of divorced (fairly amicably) parents was being used as go-between. Even if it seems easy and convenient, just don’t do it. It’s your responsibility to tell Daddy that he needs to chip in for school clothes, field trips, or glasses, not your kids’.

  12. Another child of divorce here, there’s a lot of us eh?I want to chime in with stay friendly with your ex inlaws. In my case my mother made sure that we all knew our grandmother on our father’s side. She is the most wonderful person and we would visit for 2 weeks every summer. I don’t know my dad, at all, met him for the first time at 26. I know my grandmother very well and was able to hear all the stories from her. It was (is) great.

  13. Growing up, my best friends parents divorced when we were about 4 years old. They shared custody of their 2 children and had what I think of as a “model divorce.”Here’s what that looked like to me:
    * Lots of time with both parents (until high school, they went back and forth twice/week most weeks).
    * Parents kept finance and other issues separate from communication with/in front of the kids.
    * Friends welcome at both parents’ new residences, and kids welcome to do spend-the-night etc during either parents’ weekends.
    * Flexible. When the Dad got the opportunity to go on sabbatical to Ireland for a year, his 7th & 9th grade daughters went with him. Mom visited twice.

  14. I wouldn’t normally comment on my first visit to a blog, but I really want to say this: as a child of divorce (aged 4+) ‘badmouthing’ covered a lot more than the obvious. It could be the most honest, well-intentioned comment, even the answer to a question I’d asked (and kids need to know what’s going on to some extent, so sometimes you do need to tell them facts, and you can only really do that from your own point of view) – if for whatever reason it wasn’t consistent with the version the other parent was giving me, it was hurtful and confusing – almost as much so as the directly critical remarks that you already know you’ll avoid.

  15. For the holidays thing – we didn’t do the four-christmases thing until I was married. One for us, one for mom, one for dad, one for in-laws.My parents both opted to take a secondary spot in order to facilitate larger family gatherings. My dad took ‘the other christmas’ – but not the day after or the day before, but a week or even two weeks offset from the date. That allows everyone to do their in-laws on another day. Same principle may work. They also do different style and format festivities – very much a pollyanna approach at my dad’s, more a one-for-everyone at my mom’s (ish).
    My mom does thanksgiving on the weekend after, in her turn. And she does it as a potluck with some core dishes. Again, more people can come if it isn’t the same day.
    The point and purpose in both cases was very clearly highlighted as a way to get the most family together at the same time. Less about the celebration itself, more about the people. By taking that spin, it seemed to have worked pretty well. Granted, we only did one holiday at a time growing up, because it was all at my mom’s.
    Another thing I’ll note is something you already know, Moxie – that is, we don’t get to choose which things they’ll find difficult. We can try and try and try, and the thing that we do to avoid a problem may be what they feel *is* the problem. Carry on your conversation with your kids, adjust and adapt, and then recognize that they still might have some gripes to air with a therapist, just as kids whose parents were always together are likely to have. It’s probably harder (I think it would be for me) to STAY okay with the idea that they’ll grow up having some therapy sessions that will start with ‘my MOM…’ or ‘my DAD…’ – divorce seems so much a personal ME choice, it is hard to *not* feel that anything in any way that comes from or even carries a whiff of that is ‘all our fault’. It is, sure… but so are all the other parenting gaffes we make, big and small, short term or ongoing, that are part of feeling our way through this process. It’s just harder to let go when it was highlighted as an ‘our choice’ issue. I’m sure you know that, and not sure it helps at all, but just reminding you anyway.

  16. Child of divorce here:Don’t argue money/schedule/etc. in front of the kids…it makes them not want to bring up issues to avoid your fighting about it.
    Don’t avoid going places just because the other parent will be there. Kids HATE that. They want both parents at important events.
    Go to all important events if you can.
    Don’t forget the schedule or change it without warning. If your kids expect to see you or their dad at a certain time and that is changing, make sure they have a lot of leeway and reminders about the change.
    Especially during this first year, don’t be late picking them up from things. Their world has just fallen apart and they will be extra needy for predictability, stability, and reliability.

  17. Hedra -Man I wish I heard more of “whatever gets the most family together” and less “Well, OUR tradition is to do it on THIS day, at THIS time, and we will be VERY HURT if you choose to not show up, because you KNOW this is when we do it.” Heh, turns out, we make a special effort to spend time with the flexible people, and are less and less involved with the inflexible. No surprise there. I’m going to strive very hard to be the flexible person on that kind of stuff.
    Moxie – Sorry for hijacking! Sorta on this topic, though, it seems like the generation of people who are responsible for their kids and increasingly, their parents, have the short stick. I know this is nothing new, except possibly the fact that people are living longer and longer, so there are more generations alive at the same time. (We have 4 generations on 3 sides of the family right now!) While this is awesome in some respects, because my kids get to know their great-grandparents, it does cause this whole new set of stresses. Any chance of a post about that?

  18. Following what Julie & Hyrdogeek said- I hate Christmas and other events like that now too for the same reasons (so does my sister). My parents divorced when i was 7 and my sister was 5. My dad lived a ferry ride away so we packed up and visited every weekend. Moxie you have boys so this may not be a problem but as the oldest and being a girl i took on mom duty while i was at my dad’s …and that caretaker role has stayed with me and is probably the only issue remaining from my parents’ divorce that i still struggle with. I don’t know if i took on these duties because i was asked or if i just felt like i needed to step in but i vividly recall doing things like vacuuming my dad’s place for him and chores like peeling potatoes, carrots etc while he and my sister played. I also was the one to get up and comfort my sister who woke up a lot at night when we were at my dad’s (she missed my mom and i didn’t want my dad to get hurt feelings so i just stayed with her). This was at a young age and i never told my mom (or my dad but to this day we have never discussed the divorce) about it until i was a lot older. They are small things but they have definitely impacted me as an adult. And as a side note my dad did remarry when i was 12 and he is getting divorced again ( i am 29)- i have been revisiting my feelings of caretaking as my dad had/has a drinking problem and he has been a lot more active in my life since i had my daughter. But i noticed on his last visit he is drinking a lot more and will be moving to a new town and those old csaretaker urges have been resurfacing. I am trying to work through them as he is an adult and doesn’t need me to take care of him but the urge is strangely powerful. Remnants of an old life coupled with being a mom i guess. Communicate with your kids and your ex. Make sure you & your ex are both taking the steps to make sure your kids feel like thy can come to you. I could go to my mom but never to my dad. I feel like i probably could go to him now but he wouldn’t know what they hell to do with me!! You guys sound like you are way better off to start with so just keep at it. And good luck.

  19. I want to echo an earlier commenter that even in an amicable divorce, when you see both parents a lot, it’s just hard. And the thing that cropped up for me, years later, in therapy, was that I wanted to make my parents happy–I knew they didn’t want me to be sad, so I felt like I shouldn’t be sad (and they weren’t fighting or mean to each, overtly). So, subliminally, I was feeling pressure to be “fine” when I wasn’t. I think recognizing that would help. Of course you want your kids to be happy, and you want them to know that you want that for them, but even that can create pressure.Also, about bad-mouthing–sometimes, *any* info about one ex-spouse from the other is too much; my mother kept insisting on talking about my father in ways she didn’t think should bother me, but did (again, not overtly negative, but to me covertly judgmental–and her judgments may have been *right* but I still didn’t want to hear them from her. So maybe when the kids are older (or even now?) let them know that they can tell you what they *don’t* want to hear and you’ll respect that. I would tell my mother, and she would laugh it off–her need to talk was greater than my need not to hear. That still annoys me, since she could’ve talked to someone else about it.

  20. My data points: parents divorced when I was 5 and sister was 3. For several years we moved back and forth every 3-4 days. Later on, my mom moved a bit further away and my dad got us every other weekend. In my teen years, my parents made the very unorthodox decision to buy a house together. It had 2 apartments and each parent lived in one. My bedroom was in dad’s apartment and sister’s was in mom’s. We had a schedule for meals and chores in each household but could effectively move through either one as we desired.I have to say this was a GREAT thing for us kids. My parents have always been friends, and to this day our holiday celebrations often include both parents. The biggest difficulty of the divorce (in our case) was always the moving back and forth. Having stuff in both places, having to move it or have 2 sets. etc. Not having a sense of home. Obviously there are ways to lessen the effects of this. But my parents’ decision ended up being the best thing for all of us.
    All that said, there were some more painful times in the early years. Divorce is never easy. My parents were great about trying to keep us out of most of it, but of course, we would se them cry or get frustrated. Things got easier w/ time, but I think it’s important to acknowledge the pain and loss that everuone is going through.
    And want to agree with how important it is NOT to bad mouth. Moxie, it sounds like you and your ex are off to a great start at parenting in your new configuration. You are still a family, divorce or not.

  21. My parents separated when I was 13. Things they did well:no badmouthing
    never discussed money in front of us
    my dad paid child support and whatever else was needed with no problem
    they remained cordial and became friends
    My dad dropped the ball in terms of having us visit for a few years. He made some cursory attempts, but it was hard and he just kind of let it go. He shouldn’t have. My mom was unhappy about it, but she didn’t let on until much later. After a while, it became a shared responsibility to set up visits, but I wish he had been more active about spending time with us(also true when they were still married!)
    My dad remarried when I was in my early 20s. I felt OK about that, but felt betrayed when I learned that they planned to have children, as my dad’s wife had explicitly said they wouldn’t have kids at their wedding. They weren’t great about presenting that news to us, even though we were adults. It felt bad.
    My parents remained friends–talking on the phone, completely independent of my sister and I, keeping many of the same friends, able to be at big events together with no problem. My dad’s attorney said they have the best divorce he’s ever seen. I need to ask them sometime how they did it.
    In the last several years, we have all spent holidays together and really enjoy it. My mom attended my dad’s family reunion and has kept in touch with his family. Both still care about and ask about each other’s family. The birth of my son has just added another layer of connection for them.
    If there is any way to be friends with your ex, do it. I never once thought that my parents would get back together(although I was older).
    Finally, although it was clear that my parents were sorry about any pain the divorce may have caused in the beginning, they were not good at acknowledging any pain a few/several years down the road. They should be proud of the good divorce they have, but any divorce brings about pain for the kids. It took me years to realize that, so it would have been good to have a parent actively bring that up.

  22. So timely because I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as we try to perfect our divorced family technique. My situation–a child of divorce who is divorced herself with two kids and remarried with a third.What I remember hating most from my divorced child days was that my father would not let me carry toys back and forth between the houses. Not only did it reinforce the idea of having two houses but also meant that any cool toy he gave me only got played with every other weekend. So, when my ex and I split, I begged him to let the kids be very fluid with their toys. But this is getting increasingly harder as the kids are given more expensive things the older they get and losing one between homes becomes a big deal. Case in point–my ex and I both bought our son Wiis for our homes so he would have the same system at both places. We were letting him carry a DVD case full of the games back and forth and I even let him take one of our controllers over there one day so he could play with more than two friends… and now both the Wii games and that controller are lost. Ex insists he sent them back, I insist they are not here. At $50 bucks a pop, those games aren’t cheap… you see the dilemma.
    In addition to two homes, divorced children often have two “lives” and I hated that. I had friends at my dad’s that I never saw outside of being at my dad’s. On very rare occasions a friend from my mom’s might come spend the night at my dad’s. When my dad lived in a separate town, it meant missing friends’ parties if they fell on his weekend. So, we’ve tried to be better than that. The kids never miss a party because of visitation (they might miss it for other reasons, but we never say “Well, you can only go to Jimmy’s party if it falls on my weekend.”) The kids do have a few sets of friendships developed after the divorce that are unique to each house, but we’ve been good about making sure they don’t miss events with those friends because they are with the parent who doesn’t have that relationship. And at least on my end, I try to ask them about those friends so I stay somewhat in the loop as to their social lives.
    Keeping a relationship with your former in-laws can be tough (depending on their attitude towards you). Since I did the leaving, my in-laws were very cold towards me the first year. My former MIL has warmed up some (and even attended my daughter’s 6th b-day party at my house this past weekend), but this is an on-going process. I do think it is important to at least stay civil and attend things, sit together, exchange pictures, so that the children have a sense of one life instead of two. (Oh, I also make sure that when I have nice photos done of the 3 kids I get one set of just the older two so I can give some to their dad and their grandparents… otherwise they end up being the kids in the grandparents’ house without any pictures.)
    Ex also tries to keep clothes on hand so that there aren’t a lot of bags to carry, and we’ve also tried to work it out so that the kids aren’t carrying a bag of clothes to school on the morning after a visit. We want to minimize their being different from all the other kids.
    We do struggle with something someone said above. Because my husband and I have our own baby, it is hard to make us a 5-some because my husband clearly feels differently about his own baby than he does about his step-children. He doesn’t purposely do anything to draw distinctions between them, but I catch him saying “My boy” to the baby and have to remind him that he has TWO boys, etc.
    Finally, I’m with Shannon. Everyone has something they struggle with in their childhoods. I think we do a really good job of keeping the lines open, ex lives close enough that if the kids want to pop in, or he wants them on the fly, or I want them for a few hours on his weekend, it is no problem at all. We invite each other and attend things at the other one’s house. We participate in the kids’ activities together (for example, ex and I are the popcorn co-chairs for cub scouts).
    I’m rambling… my point is, we can’t recreate the family we broke up. The kids will always be scarred because of our broken home. But we both try to remember that we can do our best to always be there for them and give them some sense of a united family.

  23. Hedra is so right about not getting to choose what things kids will find hard about divorce. I remember when my parents told me they were getting a divorce, they emphasized that IT WAS NOT OUR FAULT. Honestly, they thought they were saying the right thing (and I’m sure somewhere they had read that they were supposed to say that), but it would never have even crossed my mind that it was my fault. As an adult, I can see how there are some situations where kids create enough stress to end a marriage, but as a child I didn’t realize how much stress children create.

  24. @nicole, I didn’t even realize that the ‘not speaking sometimes *at all* about the other parent’ thing was in there, though that’s part of what my mom did well with me. She did it poorly with another sister (more information toward someone with less tolerance for it). And my dad pretty much sucked at it – he was always bringing it up, trying to make a case for how he felt about my mom, for who was the bad guy, for why we’d experienced all this disruption and pain, etc., etc. I simply did not want to hear it. At one point, I just told him that I was GLAD we’d been with my mom custodially, and part of it was because he COULD NOT SHUT UP about his own issues with her. Not *my* problem, done is done, justifying it is pointless right now, and if I want to know, I’ll ASK. You deal with your relationship issues, what is or was between you is between you and isn’t my business. Oy. *cough* Nah, that one didn’t leave any lingering issues, huh? Sigh. It was kind of a cruel cut down back, too – didn’t much bring out the best in me.Oh, and Moxie, I think you’ve already dodged the horror my mom and one of the step-dads visited on us. They asked us about them divorcing in a way that sounded like they were giving us a chance to weigh in on the DECISION, not just the results of the decision. Like, um, do you want us to get divorced, or do you want us to stay-together-and-be-unhappy-for-the-rest-of-our-lives? Kind of that tone, in my recollection – I’m sure they meant it to come out clean, but I can still feel the semi-out-of-body experience I had as a result as I calmly said, ‘I want you to be happy, of course!’ while inside I was saying, ‘you stupid cruel jerks, why could you not find a way to be happy without messing up my family, and what makes you think we don’t know you have already made the decision and are only asking pro-forma? Why would you offer that kind of power to us, knowing you will never follow on what we choose, knowing you MUST choose for yourselves? Why do you insist on lying to us while patting yourselves on the backs and telling yourself you’re being respectful of our feelings by doing so? We know you can’t and shouldn’t choose to stay married for our sake. Don’t. Ask.’ … And, erm, no issues from that, either. Riiiight. It was totally idiotic. I’ll have to ask some day whose idea that was. :shakes head: Granted, they were definitely both better people apart than together at that point, but WOW was that badly done.
    So, adding to the list – be willing to a) stay the parent even when trying to respect the kids needs – keep your problems on your side of the line. and b) be willing to recognize fallout later – and address it. My mom has always been open to discussing where she went wrong, her mistakes, the things she wished she could have done better, and so forth as a STORY, but knowing that the reality is just the reality and there is no justification – and then asked forgiveness for the many places she mucked it up along the way. Not hat in hand or groveling, but on level ground, and honestly, knowing herself as human. That balances a lot of psychological accounting, right there. My dad also got there, but in a different way. It helps.

  25. My parents divorced when I was 9 (only child). Although they were pretty amicable, from my perspective a lot of things could have been better. I lost a lot of the connection with my dad in the process.My mom was the custodial parent, and I became her world. There are many positives there, but looking back I think my mom often used me as a sounding board for concerns that usually would have been reserved for a peer or a partner. For example, I have vivid memories of her coming home and telling me (starting right away at age 9/10) in great detail about all her office stresses and politics. I actually recall saying to her once in the car on the way home from daycare, “you know, I’m just a kid, I don’t really want to hear all this,” and she cried, and I felt guilty and she stopped for maybe a day. But, bottom line was that these adult concerns were a pretty big burden on my 9/10 y.o. psyche.
    I understand now that she was so focused on making ends meet and meeting my needs that she lost many of her adult connections along the way. So, my advice is to maintain those friendships and grown up connections — don’t use your kids, even as they get older and seem “mature enough to handle it,” to fill a void in your adult relationships.

  26. Moxie,The fact that you’re even asking the question tells me that you’re going to be fine (and so are your kids). My parents divorced when I was 4. My sister and I went back and forth every 2 days or so until I hit the age of 16 and started to refuse.
    Although I doubt you’ll do any of this stuff, here’s my advice:
    1. Don’t ever ask your children to be the go-between, even for minor stuff.
    2. Don’t pump your kids for information about the ex or his current life.
    3. Allow the kids to be excited about things they learn from and do with their dad. (Bad example: we weren’t allowed to sing songs that dad taught us when we were at mom’s house– it reminded mom of dad).
    4. Do the parent stuff even if it’s not your responsibility or your turn according to the terms of your divorce agreement. (Bad example: being told by dad, in the car on the way to school, that lunch money is “your mother’s responsibility.”)
    5. Accept that at some point you no longer know your ex well enough to comment on his or her personality or way of being in the world (Bad example: 30 years later each parent still pontificates about the other’s strengths and foibles).
    6. Let your child have one home. Don’t set up a visitation agreement that you wouldn’t or couldn’t follow if you were the child.
    If you think “no way in hell would I do that,” then ask yourself why you expect a small child to do it.
    I’ve always thought that the ideal was to leave the children in one house and let the parents take turns coming to the home for visitation. Most adults would refuse– arguing that they need their own space, they need a place to decorate and put their things without having to share, a place to entertain their friends, one stable home for their dog, and a place to call home. SO DO YOUR KIDS.
    7. Your home is your child’s home, even when your child is not in it. Your child should always be welcome in his or her own home. (Bad example: we were not allowed to go to mom’s house when we were supposed to be with our dad, or vice-versa. Why? It put a crimp in the “non-custodial” parent’s ability to entertain in our absence).
    8. Don’t make ersatz holidays. I always hated having two birthdays, two Christmases, etc., simply because my parents couldn’t get along well enough to both attend one event.
    9. Accept that your child *needs* both of you. When things go wrong, when someone dies, when they go to a new school or off to college, they need *both* parents. And they need those parents to be pleasant to one another and not add more stress to the situation.
    10. Don’t use your children to try and exact change from your ex. (Bad example: when my sister or I needed something, we were told “I’ll pay for half but only if you can get your dad to pay for half.”)
    It’s probably clear by now: my parents had good intentions, but made a lot of mistakes. I think most of those mistakes could have been solved by communicating with the ex and the kids, and by thinking about things from the child’s point of view. I know you already do that!

  27. I’m noticing something.Is it just me, or does a lot of acceptance of ourselves as being able to read our kids go right out the window if there’s a divorce pending? Because my parents knew a lot better how to parent the rest of the time, but during divorce process (pre/post/regarding), they often totally lost their way, didn’t read us, read into us what they’d have felt themselves, forgot we were separate people with our own experience of what was happening, etc., etc. Granted, they were probably completely maxed out emotionally, and unable to stop and attune all that much. But the stop-gap measures were really just the old ‘all kids are alike’ and ‘they’ll want what I’d have wanted’ and the rest of the non-intuitive parenting by the rule book approach. We became cardboard cutouts of ourselves, static, black-and-white, and available to be colored in using whatever colors that parent had to hand (or was fretting over, etc.). The rest of the time, they were pretty good with the ‘each child is different, let’s figure out what they themselves need, and ignore what other people say they’re going to need.’ (The ‘not your fault’ thing rang a bell for me, because I remember so many of my early abuse-recovery resources saying ‘just remember, it’s not your fault’ and I was just grossed/skeeved out – granted, fourteen years old – by the idea that I’d have EVER thought it was MY fault. I was likewise pretty clear that it wasn’t my fault when parents said the same thing to us regarding divorce – my response was the same – ‘um, DUH, people!’ Can we not just stick with, ‘we both love you and will try our best to work through this together in ways we can all accept … starting now’?)
    Okay, back to the looming deadlines…

  28. Another child of divorce here. It sounds like you are off to a healthy start.Remember that you can’t breathe a sigh of relief when they grow up, and say, “Finally, I don’t have to worry about dealing with my ex.” When you have kids with someone, you’re linked to them forever, like it or not. And just because your child is an adult, it doesn’t mean they want to know the ins and outs of the divorce and your feelings toward your ex. It never becomes less complicated, and they still love the other parent just like they did when they were a kid.

  29. My parents divorced when I was 4 (I think) and my sister was 5 (or it was 3 and 4) yrs old.Little things – definitely agree to keep the “important” conversations separate from the kids and to never use the kids as the messengers (no matter how menial the message).
    Trying to create an environment/relationship where you are able to sit together at school functions and be friendly with no tension would be great. I dreaded any and all school functions, spent most of the time trying to see if my parents were far enough away from eac other so there wouldn’t be fireworks.
    I’d strongly suggest encouraging the kids to talk to/develop a relationship with someone neutral – a therapist, a good (neutral) adult friend, a priest, etc. Then they’d have a safe place to go when they needed to talk and they’d know you (and hopefully their father) not only supported it but also actively encouraged it. Keep that relationship (w/ therapist, friend, etc.) active enough that it is available for many years.
    Attempt at all cost to stay geographically close to each other.
    Don’t introduce significant others until you know they are going to stick around and don’t make it seem that finding a new partner/dating is more important than your child. Once you start dating, still make time for one on one time with your kids.

  30. The problems of having two homes keeps coming up… again, this is one I struggled with as a child and struggle to create one home for my children. Is there anyone out there whose divorced parents did this really well? (Aside from moving into the same home or letting the kids keep the home and the parents moving in and out!)

  31. I’m a child of divorce three times over — my parents from each other, and each parents’ from their second spouse, plus I am working toward separating from my husband. My mom was very eager to remarry, and she introduced us to a string of boyfriends and their kids before she eventually married the alcoholic, violent, pedophile cop who made my life from age 13 – 25 a living hell. Ummm … so yeah, I wholeheartedly support the comment from yesterday about doing background checks on any other adult who comes into your home and not repeating the mistakes that led to a divorce in the first place.I actually don’t completely agree with the badmouthing advice. Of course a parent should never say things like “your father is so cheap” or “yes, your stepmother is a pretty nice woman, for a homewrecker.” For me, it would have been great if either of my parents had been open to talking about the obvious shortcomings of the other parent and the hurt that came from that. When my alcoholic dad forgot my birthday or was hours late for visits, my mom didn’t badmouth him, but she didn’t acknowledge my pain and hurt either. I needed some adult help in managing my expectations regarding both of my parents, but that didn’t happen. The therapy I’ve had since my own marriage has helped me to understand and accept my parents, although I will never forgive my mom for some of the things she did. I also understand now why I’ve made some of the choices I did. Post-divoce, I will not get into another relationship until I feel I am healthy enough to do so.
    My future ex-husband is a depressive rageaholic who medicates himself with pot. My kids don’t know about the drug use, but they do know that their dad is very unlikely to show up for the school or sporting events, and they have been exposed to a lot of yelling and inappropriate behavior. The kids and I talk a lot about healthy ways of expressing feelings, and how disappointing their dad can be, and how they are not the cause of his behavior. They know that their dad does love them, very much, but that he has his own issues that prevent him from being the parent that we all wish he could be.
    Bad marriages and bad divorces both suck.

  32. The comments from others brought up a few more thoughts:1. Your kids are kids– don’t try to make them your friends or confidants. My dad allowed my sister to be his care-taker (until he remarried and my sister was removed from the position). My mom always treated me as sounding board, telling me about boyfriends, why my dad was the bad guy, etc.
    I didn’t want to comfort my mom while she cried over the bad behavior of a boyfriend, nor did I want to chose sides between mom and dad. Part of me wanted to scream, “I’m the kid– you’re supposed to comfort me while *I* cry over new romances!”
    2. Accept that your kids will continue to feel pain from the divorce long after you think they should be over it (and maybe long after you’re over it). Allow your kids to express that pain, even if it feels like recrimination.
    3. When you criticize the other parent– even if you think that the criticism is minor, funny, or seems insignificant– you are criticizing the child. Your kids are half mom and half dad, and they don’t want to hear that either half stinks.
    4. Avoid guilt, the gift that keeps on giving. My mom continues to think that I should live near her, help her with household chores, give her a place to go on holidays, etc., because she has never remarried and is alone. While I would do some of those things anyway, I don’t want to be guilted into it. Although it’s hard, it’s the parent’s responsibility to build a new life.

  33. The one good thing my parents did was to have my dad spend the night on Christmas Eve so that we could continue to wake up as a family and celebrate Christmas. This went on for a number of years and it really made me and my younger brother feel good.Things not to do – well, my mom remarried right away (in fact her boyfriend moved in to our family home the day my dad moved out.) And she did the same thing again 8 years later when she left the second husband and moved in – taking my little brother – with her new boyfriend (her current third husband). Thankfully I was in college but my poor brother….This is obviously a sore point, sorry, but I all I can suggest is be careful with dating and remarriage. And if your ex tries to pull something strange (granted, I can’t imagine many other people having my history), it would be good to jump in. My dad did not – and in fact moved 3,000 miles away and wasn’t emotionally around for my brother at that time (who turned to drugs in his teenage years to kill the pain).
    Wow – sorry for the dump. Brother is doing great now – and we have decent relationships with our parents. I will tell you that having my own son (now six months old) has brought these feelings back up to the surface and my anger at my mother is stronger than ever. Therapy anyone?

  34. I haven’t had time to read all the posts, forgive me if I’m repeating.I’m a child of divorce too, there are so many of us-you may be sorry you asked!
    I have two things to share.
    Great to hear that bad mouthing won’t be part of your divorce. You are wise, and clear about your intentions and I know you’ll both stay committed to the goals you’ve set for your post divorce relationship.
    My data point is a cautionary tale to watch what comes out of your mouth during *stressful* times. The times when a parent isn’t thinking, just reacting.
    When my parents got divorced the judge said my parents had the most loving divorce he had ever seen and they should be commended. Then something changed for my Mom as the reality of being divorced set in. She began saying nasty things about my Dad at stressful times. What she didn’t count on was the effect her nasty words would end up having on us.
    She would say things hoping we’d see Dad’s behavior through her eyes and feel the same way she did about him. But the opposite ended up happening. We always felt sorry for him and felt we had to defend him, not support her. After all as any child of divorce will tell you-“he’s our Dad and no one can say anything bad about him, not even Mom.”
    I believe if she had allowed us to have our own experiences of Dad without her trying to explain his actions, from her point of view, we would have seen for ourselves what was important to him and what wasn’t.
    I know you won’t do that, but I just thought I would mention it.
    The other suggestion is on a much lighter note.
    My son decided that since he’s moving far, far away he’d like to take some family with him. He’s sending a tape recorder to all sides of the family, including those he barely knows due to my parents divorce. Each family member will record their answers to a set of questions about where our family came from and share funny stories too. Then, he’ll upload the complete set of stories and send them to everyone. This way we not only have a complete family genealogy, we’ll be able to hear family members voices and share all of this with those yet to be born.
    This can work for any family who is or has experienced a divorce. It’s a great way to show your children how loved and connected they really are even though there’s been a divorce.

  35. Keep the rules the same!If bedtime at Mom’s is 8:00, bedtime at Dad’s should be 8:00. If pajamas are required at Dad’s, a t-shirt and panties should not be okay at Mom’s.
    Those seem like minor things, but when two parents are trying to teach a kid the right way to do things, their ways should agree. It makes them both seem like they know what they’re doing, and that’s comforting.

  36. The only thing I wished my parents did differently was get divorced sooner. And it’s nice now that they get together with their new spouses and get along. They may not be crazy about it, but there is no arguing or fighting.

  37. I, too, am a child of divorced folks–I was about 7–and an only child. I want to second what the Anon who was an only child said above, and also what others have said, that no matter how amicable the divorce was or is, it still helps to acknowledge the pain and loss that any change–even good change–can bring. The one thing I wish I had had when my parents split up, fairly amicably, was someone who I could talk to about my parents’ divorce without that person taking it personally. So if anyone ever asks me, I always say please think about sending your kids to a therapist, because you never know what might help. Of course, when there is no actual issue, therapy’s a pretty pricey gambit, and I do see it could make a kid feel weird. Maybe I should recommend that the parents go to therapy, so they can learn not to take weird stuff kids do and say personally? Anyway, that’s the one thing I wish I’d had, someone whose feelings I couldn’t hurt when I was confused or felt strange about the living arrangements.The one other thing I would second that has come up a lot, though all the comments are very insightful, is that the parents should stay the parents. It was hard to be switching houses when I was 12 and my dad had let his place go–probably depression and avoidance, but what did I know?–and I said I didn’t want to stay nights anymore, just wanted to go out to dinner with him once or twice a week. Looking back on this as an adult, I appreciate that my parents wanted to do what seemed to make me comfortable, but, really, I should not have been in charge of that decision. I adore my dad, respect and love him, but all that time we didn’t have together, all the dribs and drabs of washing dishes and deciding when to do homework or go to bed and all that–left us with a relationship that, while full of love, takes a lot more of an effort. (This is not to say that kids should have to spend time with a non-custodial parent, or that discomforting situations shouldn’t be examined or adjusted, just that my reasons for discomfort were maybe not as important or as un-fixable as I thought, and I think it’s the parents’ job to decide those things, rather than the kid). No matter how crazy things may get with my mom, I know she’s sticking it out. Dad, well, in some ways I learned he’s less of a sticker, as it were, than perhaps he really is. Even at this decades-long remove, it is still hard to tell.
    I hope that this post makes a modicum of sense and didn’t go on too long. (This commenting thing has its own social anxiety issues, doesn’t it?) Thanks for sharing all these stories. Best of luck to you, Moxie–it sounds like you are off to a very good start–and to you all.

  38. I think my pregnancy hormones must be in overdrive b/c this post and the comments are really getting to me (and I’m not even a child of divorce!).I just wanted to chime in with the things I’ve observed from my best friend’s family. I didn’t meet her until we were in grade 9 (14 yrs old), but at the time, she gave me this little “business card” to tell me which days she was were. Her parents lived about 10 blocks apart and she practically switched houses everyday (Mon, Tues at Dad’s, Wed, Thurs at Dad’s, Fri at Mom’s, Sat at Dad’s, half of Sun at each parents)! This just seems extreme to me.
    Another thing she has complained about has already been mentioned, her mom used her (and still does, we’re 31 now!) as a sounding board for all things. The worst part now, as she reports, is that her parents remarried EACH OTHER about 10 years ago, and her mom is always complaining about her Dad to her. And she’s worried that they are heading down the road to divorce AGAIN. That is just too much!

  39. My parents divorced when I was in my 20s and are now both remarried … I live an hour’s plane ride from all. They (parents and new spouses) live within 40 minutes driving distance of each other. I have a great relationship with both my parents and am genuinely fond of the new spouses. BUT …I totally agree that trying to have 2 of any important holiday (one with mom, one with dad) is exhausting and robs the day of its specialness. Now that I have 2 children of my own I have more leverage, but I usually alternate holidays, rather than split them. So someone gets Thanksgiving, someone else gets Christmas, etc. That way no one spends their Christmas exhausted, driving, over-scheduled.
    It does suck that some parent misses Christmas but you know what? Divorce sucks. I fail to see why the CHILD (even the adult child) should pay the price (stressed out, traveling-around holiday) for the parents’ divorce. It isn’t the kids’ fault the parents decided to split up. The parents made that choice — maybe the very best choice that could be made in a bad situation, but still a choice. The parents should handle the consequences, not the kids.
    Maybe with small children it is more important for the parents to continue to do important holidays together, rather than alternate, because it would make small children really sad to have Dad or Mom miss Thanksgiving (or whatever). I guess I don’t know about that. But the duplicating is just crappy, so if you can avoid it, do.

  40. My parents divorced when I was 5 and my brother was 4 – I’m 26 now. We spent weekends with my mom and weeks with my dad, and all that moving around was really tough for me. Two sets of possessions. Two sets of friends. I was always missing something no matter where I was, it made school difficult socially. Their houses were separated by a boat ride, so even though they lived close together, it was difficult to switch houses. I think that’s why I’m such a homebody now – just to stay home all weekend and not have to pack anything or go anywhere seems like such luxury.The two different houses still get me – it’s difficult to visit because I feel an obligation to see both of them equally. I can’t drive up (we’re about 5 hours away) for a weekend, because someone will get two nights and someone will get one. Then the person who gets one wants to have lunch, which is two more boat rides and most of a day gone. And culturally my parents’ houses are so different that it’s a little bit jarring going back and forth. It would be easier now if they lived far apart and I could enjoy separate times with them instead of awkwardly and exhaustingly splitting my time. I wish I could feel more okay about spending more time with one parent or the other.
    Also, money talk, as other people have mentioned. I still feel really guilty about money. Even though my parents mostly disagreed in private about it, it still trickled down in overhearing phone calls, and “ask you dad for that.” I felt like a huge financial burden to my parents.
    I struggle to balance my closeness to my mother and stepmother. I initially had a very difficult relationship with my stepmother. It’s much (much!) better now, but my mom still has a hard time with her because of our initial nastiness. So I feel like I can’t do special things with one of them because the other will have some sort of problem with it. Everyone acts like an adult, but I can still see it in my mom’s eyes or hear it in her voice that she’s upset.
    You know, the common thread here seems to be that I feel some obligation to take care of my parents emotionally. It was exhausting as a child when I didn’t have the perspective to know that I didn’t need to, that they were supposed to be taking care of me. It’s still tough, but at least now I can set limits and behave in a way that makes me sane, and mostly their reactions are their problems. I still feel bad sometimes, but it’s a start…
    Whoa … I just wrote a book there. I’m surprised by how much this brings up for me … thanks Moxie.

  41. I will keep this short, which is hard for me, having been through three divorces (parents both remarried and divorced a second time).I HATED having to see both parents every day or week. It was just too much. I felt totally lost in all of it. Who was I with, where was I going, how do I act/relate to this parent or that?
    I much preferred the extended stays, so that I had time to adjust and settle in with one parent personality, place, neighborhood, toys, general lifestyle, even the layout of my room. Then I could anticipate and prepare mentally and emotionally for the transition to the other parent.
    Just something to keep in mind as you watch how your boys deal with the changes.

  42. The thing I’m noticing over and over again in the situations that did/did not work was the parents’ sense of self. Getting divorced is often an act of saving your Self. What a critical and difficult step that can be. The folks who have done it well have realized that once that step is over, what they want must take a backseat to what is best for the kids. Those who have not done it well have continued to do what feels right for their own selves and not so much what is right or healthy for the kids. You cannot erase this person who helped you create your children….as much as you might wish you could do so on some days. Learning how to embrace each other as the other parent to your children may be difficult but oh so important to how well they end up adjusting to their new normal.Moxie, the fact that your kids’ dad is his best self with them and for them makes me very hopeful that you guys can be friends and work together to make the boys feel that they have two parents who love them enough to co-parent through the important stuff. I am hopeful for you to develop a friendly working relationship with him that allows you to still laugh and find joy in these two beautiful boys you have created together.
    And perhaps the private joy you find in not having to be married to him anymore will help you embrace him as a friend more easily. Hooray!

  43. My parents separated when I was 3ish, so I have few (and fuzzy) memories of them together. They lived near-ish to each other, and we had a split schedule, where I was back and forth almost every night/weekend. I get, as an adult, that they were trying to preserve some stability in their own schedules (Mom could see clients on the evenings I was with Dad, for example, which wouldn’t have worked if I’d been back and forth weekly instead) but think maybe two days here and two there would have been much easier. Flexibility was good – in high school I decided it was too much and cut back on my time at my dad’s, and he (outwardly, at least) took that well and didn’t make a stink about it. Turns out, my relationship with him improved from being there less.Good things: partnering on birthdays and other big events – even to the extent that I had a slumber party at Dad’s and Mom came to chaperone. Joint birthday dinners. Sitting together in the audience for shows and graduations.
    Bad things: competition over stuff. I wanted a stereo, so one got me a boombox, then the other got me a full stereo. One-upping. They did this with the guitar I wanted one year, and I promptly lost all desire to learn to play. Sad, really.
    But overall I think they made it work.

  44. Unlike a lot of previous commenters, I had no problem bouncing back and forth between homes. T, Th, overnight Saturday with Dad, rest of time with mom.My friends knew the schedule and where to call me.
    Packing for the overnight wasn’t a big deal. I kept jammies at my dad’s and had a toothbrush there. I just brought a bag with clothes for the next day.
    I don’t remember having toys at my dad’s, but he interacted with us a lot more than my mom so maybe I didn’t need to occupy my time as much.
    It did get more complicated as a teenager, because then I had friends and wanted to do things with them (and a part-time job and after school activities on some days), but it worked.
    There were (many) other problems, but I attribute most of that to my parents being very young when divorcing and not necessarily putting the children first.
    Today, my family is a model of blended family togetherness. It’s nice. My wedding was stress-free in that respect. THe holidaze (as I call them) are hectic, but it is not necessarily because of the divorce…just a lot of people to see as you would have in any large, extended family. I did host all six grandparents at my house for Christmas Eve brunch. That was nice for the photo-op.

  45. Yes, yes, yes to the ix-nay on the multiple celebrations of the same holiday! My husband’s parents divorced when he was 12. Now we are both in our 30s. Our record is six Christmas celebrations in four days. His parents live about 15 minutes from each other, so if we make the 12 hour drive from our home to see them it seems foolish not to embrace all the permutations. And yet we come home exhausted and resentful. Thus we only do it every third year (in rotation with my family and our own home). Something will have to give when we have kids, but I’m not sure what. Only his mom and stepdad actually visit us, so if we want a relationship we have to go there and we have to go for some of the holidays. Gah.It sounds like you are set up to avoid the other big headaches of my in-laws’ divorce: the remarriage after three months of dating, the second divorce that was handled by picking the kids up at school and taking them out for dinner while to the step-parent finished packing, the literal cutting out of the pictures of the ex-spouses at that parent’s house, the unilateral enrollment of the children in private school and then not paying for the percentage of the tuition specified in the divorce decree.
    Definitely do know that you won’t always be able to predict what will make your children sad or frustrated. My husband still has trouble explaining to his parents when he feels like their competing claims on our limited time during a visit are causing stress. They both view any time that we are not spending with the other parent as “their” time and so we don’t get any time off by ourselves or with my husband’s friends to recharge. It’s exhausting.

  46. Observations based upon my experiences and those I’ve witnessed:-stick to your no badmouthing. It may at times be harder than you expect.
    -make reasonable schedules, and then be willing to revisit them as changes in schooling, activities, events, etc warrant. Not everything is possible, but “because its the schedule” can be a really cruddy reason for missing something important.
    -consistency in rules, rearing and respect.
    -dating/significant others: this can be a really tough area. Obviously you want people in your lives that care about your children, but they are not a replacement. Make it clear to your kids that you know that, let them take their time getting to know that person. You get my drift.
    -The holidays are a big one. Several have touched on that, but remember this translates into many, many years of keeping that in mind. With my SIL and her ex, for a while they did Christmas Eve at one house and then Christmas Day at the other. That seemed to work well for the kiddo. Now he’s older, they’ve switched to both at one house. He HATES this. HATES it. He’s in his early teens and has said that at least before he felt like he was still getting to spend an actual part of the holiday with each, now he feels awful about it. They don’t seem like they’ll be changing it any time soon.

  47. One thing that made me cringe growing up was that my dad started calling my mom “your mom” while my mom kept calling my dad “dad”. First, the “your” thing is cold. Also, the fact that my mom didn’t say “your” made me feel there was some power differential between them or at least that my mom was still willing to be friends (or get back together?) and my dad was not. I think it’s ideal if you can BOTH keep calling each other whatever you’ve always called each other to your kids. If not, at least try to do the same thing.

  48. My {half}brother’s parents divorced when he was 7. 30+ years later he believes that he knows what happened and the timeline regarding the divorce – but his information is wrong. I also know that my version of the story is inacurate {yes, the stories are heavily intertwined}.The messy silly knot that is 1971-1975 ish, is a decision made to protect the adults in the situations, not the kids, and then they could never get comfortable with just saying “Ok, here is how it really went down”.
    So, if you tell the story of your family with specific, intentional, omissions figure out why it feels so important to omit something.

  49. Another child of divorce chiming in here. And I just want to say that all these suggestions about ways to support your kids during and after have made me cry. And mine did most of the stuff you’re “supposed” to do. I think it’s important to recognize that there will probably always be hurt there for your kids. I don’t mean spend your life feeling guilty, but recognize that your kids will experience divorce as a loss just as certainly as if someone close to them died. Once it’s processed it will get easier, but for most children, it will always hurt some. (A quote from a book called Adult Children of Divorce Speak Out by Claire Berman, who did extensive interviews with adults who experienced their parents’ divorce during childhood: “The most striking impression one comes away with is that for children, the divorce of the parents never goes away. It may be welcomed. It may be understood. But even when it is a positive solution to a destructive family situation, divorce is a critical experience for its children. Although there may be relief that a painful situation has been ended, there is also regret that a healthy family could not have been created.”)I am in total agreement with @Louisa when she says “Your kids are half mom and half dad, and they don’t want to hear that either half stinks.” I’ll go one further, too, and be careful about remarking on similarities between your kids and their dad, unless you can be VERY sure that it’s a positive observation. It’s so easy to, in one fell swoop, impart criticism of both. (Here’s an example: I recall my mom telling me that I “would make a good lawyer” and that she had said the same about my father. It always felt like criticism in a way that didn’t even understand until one day I realized that what it felt like she was really saying was, “you are just as argumentative as him”. To this day I don’t know whether she meant it that way, but it’s all about perception, you know?)
    If it’s at all possible, don’t force the visitation stuff. I had a good friend in high school who really hated it when she had to go to her dad’s for the weekend because it meant she couldn’t do anything socially. He wouldn’t allow her to skip weekends.
    My Dad (step) handled things about as perfectly as I think it could be with his boys. One of my step-brothers went through a period in high school (10 years after his dad married my mom) where he resented my mom, me, our younger half-brother, anything to do with his dad’s “new” life. Dad did what he needed to do to stay connected, even though it made his life more complicated. He allowed his son to choose not to spend time with our family, but made sure to take him out to lunch, or go hiking, or go to a show. He did NOT allow him to drop out of his life. (Eventually my stepbrother got over his anger and we’re quite close now, though I know that might not have happened.)
    As with most emotional minefields, my vote is simply to keep the lines of communication as open as possible. Try to hear what’s hurting them, let them know it’s normal to hurt, allow them to process stuff however it works best for them. Make sure you show them (more than you think you should need to) how very much this isn’t their fault or responsibility.

  50. Another only child of divorce chiming in, mostly just to back up a few things.A. My father did a lot of irresponsible things and made a lot of selfish choices. My mom DID acknowledge my frustration about this without badmouthing him herself (too much), and for me, that was much more helpful than pretending nothing was wrong with the way he was acting. I think it was her saying to me, “This is NOT OK” that made me up my standards in the men I chose for myself. This is a silly and pretty mild example, but once when I was really sick, I asked my dad for ginger ale and he just ran to the closest convenience store and gave me a Sprite. My mom and I talked later about how he ignored what I had asked for because it was easier for him and how that wasn’t a good quality. I am now married to a guy who would go — and has gone — to eight grocery stores for me and for our daughter to get exactly what we wanted, at least if we were pitiful and sick. Badmouthing IS in general to be avoided, but in some situations, remaining quiet can be seen as condoning or normalizing bad behavior.
    B. Acknowledge that your children’s pain over this will be out of your control and lifelong. I was, for the most part, a happy child of divorce until my dad remarried for the second time post-divorce … when I was 21, long past the age at which I really needed my dad to “parent” me. And yet most of the pain I’ve felt over the divorce has been as a result of that marriage and his wife’s behavior toward me and toward my mother. Both of my parents, because they are overall good parents, are still having to soothe me eighteen years later when blended family issues rear their ugly heads. So it’s never truly over.
    C. Don’t live with people until marriage is at least on the table. My dad moved in with a woman he’d known for two days (literally, two days) about a year after the divorce, and the first time I even met her was when I went to my dad’s as scheduled and all of her stuff was shoved into the closet that served as my room in my dad’s tiny apartment. Her stuff encroaching on my only space at my dad’s … that was a powerful (and shitty) message for a 9-year-old to have to process. He DID ultimately marry (and divorce) her, but I don’t think I ever forgave either of them for my introduction to her, and it could’ve been handled much more smoothly.

  51. Wow. Thanks for asking.1. Ditto on badmouthing.
    2. This is a hard time for everyone. Your kids may benefit from many aspects of the divorce, but it will always hurt on some level.
    3. Be prepared for your own feelings. My mom, who initiated the divorce, was much stronger/better before than after, and my dad was the opposite. It was awful to watch the marriage break down, then the divorce start and then to live with her.
    4. The best part of my parents’ divorce (I was 13, they were divorced for 23 years and then my dad died 3 years ago) was that I really got to know my dad. He was imperfect, but, boy, he loved me. He insisted on staying in my life, and I will always be grateful.

  52. My mom had primary custody and we saw my dad every other weekend. My mom always resented that she had to remind us to clean up, do our homework, take a shower, do the chores, etc., while my dad got to swoop into our lives twice a month and take us to movies, the zoo, let us eat what we want, etc. He never had to nag us to clean up (we were guests in his house) or do homework. He was always the person to have fun with, while my mom saw herself as doing all the unfun parenting stuff.Just try to make sure you both share all the parenting duties, fun or not.

  53. I was 12 when my parents split up (youngest of 3, sibs were 17 & 19). The major holidays were a BIG PITA because both parents made it clear they wanted all of us to be with them, but hello, that’s tough to do even when everyone was in the same town. It sucked to have to do xmas eve at one house as a consolation prize, and do xmas day at the other. Even when we tried switching the order each year, someone always felt stiffed.Re: custody — I would recommend NOT telling the kids, “You can choose who you want to live with.” Kids don’t need that kind of pressure! I wish my folks had just decided it amongst themselves, regardless of whether I’d have to change schools or whatever, and just told me what was going to happen. Instead, they wanted me to pick and again, I think it felt like someone was getting stiffed.
    I’ve heard of this living situation and always thought it really would be best for young kids — instead of making the kid(s) switch houses, let them stay put and the adults switch houses. Get an apartment or whatever, and you two deal with upheaving your belongings and schedules each time the custody arrangement changes. See how fast you realize it sucks, then think about how it feels for your kid(s).
    Last but not least, again in relation to holidays in particular, but other special occasions too, you might try to find a way to share them in a way that the kids don’t feel like THEY have to choose. Suck it up and have dinner together as a family unit, even if the parents are no longer married. Suck it up and go on walks together, go to the movies together, whatever. Maybe that’s unrealistic, but I think the attempt would be helpful.
    Just some ideas off the top of my head.

  54. Wow, it is so nice reading this and seeing how many parents try to do it right. I come from the “Mom invites you to go out for ice cream then drives somewhere strange and hands you a pair of binoculars and tells you, ‘Look through that top window to see your father’s whore!'” School of Parenting.I don’t think you’ll have a problem with this, but as others have said, be careful when you mention similarities between your sons and their father. Since you did ultimately divorce him, it’s important that they perceive that you find things in him still (thus, in them, also) to value. At the same time, I think it’s also really important to give a clear, consistent message about your future with him. My parents did a lot of back-and-forth bullhockey (when I was 14 and had a lot of other things on my plate) that was absolutely agonizing. There’s no point in going into all the other mistakes they made, you couldn’t make up a story that was much worse.
    Best of luck and presence of mind to you, Moxie, and your family.

  55. I’m a child of divorce and we had a 2 weeks at each house arrangement that was awful for me. Not only that, but my dad moved frequently which made it feel even more like we were spending half of each month in an extended stay motel. Rather than feeling like we had 2 homes, I felt like we had none. I packed so much stuff every time we switched houses: books, my big heavy quilt, stuffed animals, everything I could possibly think of in the effort to take my sense of home with me. I didn’t want to go to my dad’s and I’m pretty sure everybody knew it, but there was no negotiating about it. It did not feel like anybody was interested in my wants or even needs. I felt guilty leaving my mother, as though her heart was broken without us, and guilty arriving at my dad’s, as though he was being (nominally) dutiful in having us, but it interfered with his life with his new wife and later, child.As a result, my view with my own child has been that she deserves and needs ONE home. I think there are people who let the kids live in one house while the parents switch in and out, which I think would be preferable to making the kids move but still unsettling.
    Also, my father remarried someone who did not like me (and I have to say it was mutual), or the fact that her new husband had kids or an ex-wife hanging around getting in the way. The rules and expectations were maybe not radically different in each house, but not identical and that required an internal regulation for me that encouraged me to compartmentalize my emotional life even further than it already was.
    My bottom line is harsh: kids did not ask to be born, they did not cause the trouble between their parents, and they have no choices or control over the circumstances of their lives. To me this means parents have a responsibility to do more than just pay lip service to ‘what’s best for the kids’. This may mean that parents have to give up things they want – including (in my parents’ case) joint custody, marrying someone who isn’t interested in your kids, and sucking it up and being nice to your kids’ other parent no matter how you feel.
    I hope I haven’t offended anyone with this view and I know lots of you guys are much more functional and sane than my parents did.

  56. I haven’t had time to read everybody’s comments, but I just wanted to add what I got from my parents divorce. I was 5 and my brother was 7 at the time. My parents were fantastic at keeping a friendly and warm connection with each other and that meant the world to me. We spent many holidays and birthdays together in spite of the divorce. I always felt welcome and loved in either home. The things I wish they had done differently:*I wish they had let me and my brother live together. My brother lived with my father and I lived with my mother and we spent the weekends together at alternating parent. I missed him and weekend living is not the same as being together full time. I think it was a good solution for my parents, financially, and that neither had to go without kids for an extended period, but it was not good for me an my brother.
    *Never make the kids make the decisions on where to stay or with whom to spend the vacation/evening/whatever. Even when I was a lot older I carried around tons of guilt for choosing one over the other, even though my parents did nothing to try to make me feel guilty other than asking for my preference.
    *Tone down holidays. It is hard work to keep up with one family with grandparents and relatives. Doing it twice or more (blended families) is exhausting and slightly nauseating.
    *You are going to have to give up some control over where your kids are and what they are doing due to the divorce. Teenagers will take advantage of this and whether this is a good or a bad thing I am not really sure of.

  57. I have a slightly different story, as my parents separated and then my mom died in a car accident shortly thereafter. But in terms of dating someone new and introducing that person to your children, I do have some insight. My dad did nearly everything wrong in that respect (including remarrying very soon after our mom’s death).- Be as upfront as possible. My dad insisted that my future step-mother was “just a friend”. We knew she was more.
    – Your childrens’ timeline may be very different from yours. Since you’ve been thinking about this separation for quite awhile, you’re further along in the process than your kids are. So even if you feel like you’ve waited a *very* long time to date someone new or introduce someone new to them, chances are it won’t seem long enough to them.

  58. So much good stuff here, great advice; I’m just going to add this horror story to offer perspective.My husband’s parents divorced when he was 14 and his brother was 7, and they split the kids. Mom took little one, Dad, who was kicked out, took older one. My FIL *still* chuckles at his “win” over his then-wife, taking one kid from her, completely oblivious and uncaring of the longterm trauma caused in so many directions.
    You know this, but, keep the kids together.

  59. I’m a first commenter too but this subject is very close to my heart so had to chime in. My parents had a very ugly divorce when I was 10 (my mother cheated on my father with the guy next door). We live in a small town and everyone from the mailman to the teachers at my school seemed to know the details and took sides. It got to the point that when I babysat for a family down the street the father wouldn’t come into the house to pick me up because he was angry at my mother. My father was very very very angry and even 25 years later and remarried he still won’t mention my mother without calling her a horrible name in the same sentence.I think most of my feelings echo the above sentiments said by most of the commenters but I will reinforce one thing: In my opinion, joint custody sucks. A lot of people think it’s the “pc” way to do do things and that children want to split their time between both parents equally. In my case, I spent most of middle and high school with a duffle bag in my locker shuffling from one house to the next. It was very hard to plan time with my friends and I hated holidays since I had to go to at least two places for Xmas, Thanksgiving, etc….and one parent ALWAYS seemed unhappy about the holiday situation and angry that they didn’t have the whole day to spend with us. I still have a hard time with the holidays and hate having to go anywhere on holidays because of those memories.
    But the fact that you are asking for data points is HUGE- you are already way ahead of the game because you are thinking about your actions and words in front of your children. My father never understood how his anger and bitterness towards my mother and the divorce has affected me. He never wanted to talk about it when I brought it up (as a child and an adult).

  60. I am in my late 30’s now, I was 10 when my parents separated and 15 when they divorced.Things they did right: I always knew that they both loved me and that they were there for me if I needed them. They never squabbled about money around.
    Things they (okay mom) did wrong: I met every single one of the men that she “dated”. She would turn into goo with each new relationship and I would lose her to the new guy…Somehow that sounds wrong…for example, one boyfriend broke a plate getting up in the middle of the night, the next morning I got yelled at for breaking it and not cleaning it up-all the faith in the boyfriend, none in the child.
    After relationships ended, I was the one picking up the emotional pieces. It is not a great position for a 12 year old.
    Somehow, I am married now (and have been for over a decade), but every once in a while we have a fight where I realize that I am that 12 year old again fighting something that is not my husbands fault.

  61. My parents divorced when I was 24, so I only know about this from an “adult” perspective. But, it’s really important for parents to take control of their own mental health during this difficult time. Of course nobody’s perfect, and it’s okay to have moments of weakness…but my mother absolutely fell apart after her divorce and this has proceeded to make a mess of our entire family. The fallout ruined my wedding, cast a pall over my pregnancy, made it impossible for my child to have a healthy relationship with his grandmother and even, for a time, threatened my brother’s marriage. But you’re already leagues ahead of my mother, who has never once stopped to consider that it’s not all about her all the time.Anyway. As much as it all hurts, at least I’m old enough not to “need” my mother anymore. I don’t know what I’d do if this all happened while I was still under her roof.
    Otherwise, I’d just be careful to keep your two boys as a unit, as much as you can. If one gets more alone time with Dad or Mom than the other, there will be jealousy and it can be really bitter and long-lasting.

  62. Okay, I’m back. I wanted to weigh in on the holidays. As much as I minded the regular visitation, I *never* minded the double celebration of things. I did Christmas Eve and dad’s and then Christmas morning with mom. I seem to recall a birthday cake at each house (though the formal party with friends was always at mom’s). Splitting an actual day wasn’t always fun (Easter morning with mom and then Easter afternoon with dad) but in the grand scheme of things I thought of as hard, that was not one of them. (I will add that my dad usually took me Christmas afternoon to my grandparents and I hated that–though I adored my grandparents–because I wanted to stay home and play with my new things, but I think my parents would have done this together if they hadn’t been divorced. So, that sort of falls into the basic holiDAZE category).With my own kids, they spend Christmas Eve with dad’s family (something we did even when married b/c dad grew up celebrating Eve rather than Day) and then he brings them back to me that night so they are with me on Christmas morning (when I grew up celebrating). So far, that has worked really well and hasn’t meant a disruption at all in their expectations (except that I am no longer there on Christmas Eve). We try to make them split any other holidays during the day if we can help it.
    One last thing and then I’m going to bed. I read somewhere that you have to be careful with the “I missed you” when you child returns from being with the other parent. I find that hard to balance b/c I want my kids to know that I think about them when they aren’t here. But I also don’t want them to carry a burden of my being unhappy when they aren’t here. Does that make sense?
    Oh, and phone calls. Dad calls every night when they are with me, and I call every night when they are with him. We don’t actually always manage to get them both on the phone. And sometimes we end up leaving voice mails b/c the phone doesn’t get heard or whatever. I also make a point to remind the kids that dad is always a phone call away and they don’t need permission to call him… just pick up the phone any time day or night and he has done the same. This was one thing my dad did wrong… when I was at his house, I was at HIS house. I want my kids to know that we are always a family… even if we aren’t under the same roof.
    Man, this topic has really hit me hard.

  63. Oh, goodness, so much to say from so many different perspectives. My stats: parents divorced when I was 11, brother was 9. I also teach first and second grade, and about a quarter of my students have divorced parents. I definitely support everything everyone else has said, but wanted to add something no one has mentioned, that I have learned from a student’s family:If the divorce is not the children’s fault (which all the experts seem to think is an important message), then having two homes is not the children’s fault, and therefore the extra logistics and hassles created by having two homes needs to not be the children’s fault or problem. What they mean by this is:
    -Children forget things. Often. Having 2 homes provides them with double the opportunity to forget things. In the most “ideal” divorce situation I have ever seen, the parents made an explicit agreement with one another to never get upset with the kids when the shared custody situation created extra errands, logistics, and hassles. Ballet shoes forgotten at Dad’s? No problem, let’s call and go get them. Geometry set left at mom’s? No problem, let’s buy another set so you have one at Dad’s, too. The parents in this situation have keys to one another’s homes, and an understanding that, if they call and no one answers, it is okay for the other parent to let themselves in to pick up forgotten items. They still expect age-appropriate levels of responsibility from their kids, but the kids are never punished or made to feel badly for situations that exist ONLY because of their dual-home status.
    -Another part of the same agreement I mentioned above: Children should be able to make plans for their lives regardless of whose house they are at. If a child gets a birthday party invitation during Mom’s week, for a party that occurs during Dad’s week, then it is Mom’s responsibility to check with Dad (to make sure he doesn’t have something else already planned) and then have the child RSVP on time. Ditto for field trips, sports tournaments, etc. Conversely, the parents don’t limit their involvement in their children’s lives to their respective weeks. Example: we had an overnight field trip that fell during Dad’s week. Dad was unable to attend, but Mom came along even though it wasn’t “her” time.
    The parents who made this agreement with one another talk to each other nearly daily, either by phone or e-mail, so that their six-year old never has to be the messenger between them. They have a shared google calendar (which they also share with the children’s teachers) and use it consistently. Our school has uniforms, and they both have a full set of all uniform pieces in their homes. Basically, although they live in different houses, they try to parent as if they lived in the same house, and when they can’t, the adults deal with the inconveniences, rather than asking the kids to deal. They have actually told me that, if they are unsure how to manage something, they will ask themselves: “If we were still married and living in the same house, would this situation even exist, and what would we do about it if it did?” I wish all parents (including my own) had this kind of perspective…

  64. God, everyone here is so smart. My parents divorced when I was 12 (entering puberty + dealing with divorce = pure, pure hell). They mostly did the “right” stuff, but there were two things I remember being hardest about the split: 1) the dissolution of the parental “unit” into “units.” I can vividly remember breaking down in tears one day with my mom and saying “it used to be that when there was a question about anything, I just had to ask my parents and get one answer. Now I have to ask my mom and ask my dad and I might get two different answers.” For some reason, this was really, really hard for me – maybe just because it was symbolic of the split as a whole. Of course, there’s not much you can do about that, realistically – no matter how much you try to synchronize your parenting styles and rules, you’re bound to diverge at points. I guess just maybe recognize that this can be painful even for matters that seem fairly “low stakes” in importance. Just be sensitive to it. The second thing that was difficult for me was that, as the oldest child, I very quickly became a surrogate parent for my siblings and step-siblings (six of us, all told). This was important and positive for my sibs, because I was a stable presence in their lives when our parents could not be, but it was not a good position to be in as a 12 year old. My parents didn’t exactly mean for it to happen, and I can remember them acknowledging that they sometimes forgot how young I was, but it happened nonetheless. I don’t think this will be as much of an issue for you with just the two kids, but it’s another thing to watch out for.

  65. @Janel….YES. “Your Mom” and “Your Dad”…..hated that. Felt so cold and distant like one or the other had NOTHING to do with the matter. Once a Mom/Dad, always a Mom/Dad please.

  66. I don’t know if you’re kids are old enough to ‘plan’ playdates aon their own? My son (6) is very shy of asking friends with parents who co-parent. He finds it scary that he doesn’t know at which house the kid will be and although he likes both parents it is just to much uncertainty. So I asked the parents of two of his best friends for clues on the schedule. It never occurred to any of us before he told us..

  67. Moxie, that’s great you and your ex are so aware of two of the biggest problems: badmouthing and bribery (or inequality in material things).My parents divorced when I was 9, but I only started living with my dad part-time when I was 14. I’m repeating some previous comments, but here’s what I think is really important:
    -don’t send any messages, no matter how small, through the kids.
    -bedtimes, rules, food, etc, should be more or less consistent.
    -celebrate holidays once, and try to be flexible about who gets which holiday.
    -if you can help your kids stay in touch with your ex’s family, then so much the better. My mom did a better job than my dad of making sure I called his parents, and I really appreciate that she did.
    It’s hard, but as long as your kids know you’re physically and emotionally there for them, and that they’re surrounded by people who love and support them, they’ll be just fine.

  68. My parents separated when I was 15 years old. Each child was allowed to chose where they wanted to live. My 18 year old brother stayed with my dad, and my 17 year old sister and I went with my mom. After a few weeks, my sister realized that it wasn’t going to work for her, and she moved back in with my dad. My mom was devistated. She made comments like, “I wouldn’t have done this if she wasn’t going to come with me.” And she fell into a very deep depression. I was the one that got to pick up the pieces. Not only was it extremely difficult dealing with a seriously depressed mother, but I also felt very hurt by her apparent love of my sister that I could not fullfill.Moxie- I don’t think this provides you with anything useful, but it feels better to have said it.

  69. I still maintain that my parents (on going for the last 5 years) divorce is the worst one I’ve heard about. After a rocky relationship and marriage that started for all the wrong reasons (mom getting pregnant with me) finally blew up repeatedly, my parents have pretty much done everything you’re not supposed to do. There have been court cases and custody battles and badmouthing and severing of all communication and making the kids be the go-between and using them as an emotional crutch and fighting about money and god knows what. Yes, my parents were going through a major crisis in their lives, but the way they handled it is appalling. I’ll put down the big ones that I find are relevant to how to deal with the kids:-don’t expect their teenage/young adult children (I’m 24) to be rational grownups in the situation and talk to them for their own emotional release. I HATE HATE HATE when my dad tries to tell me about how my mom is a bitch who cheated on him, and how my mom tells me that she’s suing him for this much money etc. My dad has had a really difficult time with this all (understandably) and sometimes when he feels down he calls ME and tells me about it. I am so not ready for that role, he should be talking to his friends or a therapist, not someone who is involved in the situation.
    -Try to make me and my siblings take responsibility for other people’s actions. My dad asked me repeatedly to basically spy on my siblings and report to him, why they didn’t return his calls, why they didn’t want to talk to him, and I of course tried to make my dad happy and spoke on his behalf to my siblings, which only strained our relationship, and made everyone feel worse. I am not a messenger, and although I am the oldest and do feel responsible in many ways for my siblings, this was too much.
    -not communicating about the big things, and make the kids be the go-between. My youngest brother (almost 10) is the only one who goes between both my parents’ houses, but since mom and dad don’t talk, HE is the one who has to organise who goes to what soccer game, who picks him up where, etc. It’s WAY too much responsibility for a child and I feel so sorry for him, but since I live in a different country I can’t really do much about it.
    -subtly or overtly badmouthing. Of course actively badmouthing the other is a big no-no, that’s obvious, but it’s the small stuff that people often overlook. My mom often says “have you talked to your father recently?” or something, and the tone she uses with “your father” is just dripping with venom, although I’m sure she doesn’t mean to. And just things like not encouraging my siblings to talk to my dad, but allowing them to let the relationship lapse (of course it’s easier to pretend he doesn’t exist… then they don’t have to deal with anything difficult) gives the message that my dad has screwed up beyond repair and is now scum of the earth.
    I guess that’s most of it. Good luck to everyone and I hope no one’s divorce stories end up like mine…

  70. My parents divorced when I was a baby. I had double holidays my whole life. I never minded and looked forward to both. As an adult, organizing and dividing the time for multiple visits on a single day is tiring and something I don’t look forward to but it doesn’t seem to bother any of the kids. Last year our seven year old proudly listed the four christmases he celebrated – and the presents at each one. Halloween has always been a holiday he celebrates exclusively at our house. This past year he asked if he could split it between the two houses. He wanted to go trick or treating in both neighborhoods. I’d say his biggest frustration is his stuff. He has toys and video games and pokemon cards and it’s all very important to him but he’s seven and loses things so it’s a tough balance – letting him have his stuff wherever he is and trying to keep some of his stuff for him so he’ll have it when he gets home (to our house).

  71. My parents divorced when I was six months old.A lot of things were hard, but there is one thing that still happens today. I’m thirty.
    It came time to tell my parents I was pregnant. I called my dad first just because I felt like it. Then I called my mom to tell her, and one of the first things she said was “have you told your Dad yet?” In a “nice” way, except that there is no nice way to ask that question. Even if it’s asked out of idle curiosity, the child (no matter how old) still feels it as a tug of war.

  72. No time to read all the comments, but I’ll add this. My husband’s parents divorced when he was a teenager, but they maintained a comfortable relationship, enough so that all holidays and birthdays and whatnot were held as a family with both present. This helped enormously once we had children – it was wonderful to not have to schlep from one house to the other for a gazillion meals with all the kids.Good luck to you – you are both amazing people and will get through this smoothly…

  73. My parents were divorced when I was 4 and my brother 2 1/2.Personally, we enjoyed having 2 Christmases, 2 Easters, etc. and then it turned to 3-4 of each once our mother remarried (to a wonderful, kind, caring man, by the way!) and our father dated a woman for several years.
    The thing I would advise against (if I may be so bold) is that we had to do the traveling thing every other weekend to visit our father. My brother and I hated it. We would miss birthday parties, baseball games, etc. while we were out of town, and as we got older we began disliking our father more and more until we both finally cut ties with him completely when we became adults.
    I used to beg my mom to let me stay home instead of traveling the 8 hours by car (then it became 4 hours by plane, and then 6 hours by car as we moved around the country) to visit him. And our father was maniacal on the road. we had to get up at 4am to drive and we would only stop once or twice along the way and only for a couple of minutes. By the time I was in jr. high I began having panic attacks but I was still forced to make the trips. Only recently, after 3 years and thousands of dollars worth of psychotherapy have I been able to make a car trip without freaking out about it.
    The moral of the story is, if your kids ever say they don’t want to go visit either one of you and are obviously having a tough time with traveling or visiting, listen to them and what they have to say and try to work something out with them. My mom’s only answer was “my hands are tied by the court, if you don’t go I’ll be arrested” which only adds to the anxiety because you don’t want your mom to be in jail!
    Otherwise, you guys seem to have it together, I wish I had been so lucky!

  74. Can I vote for not dating and not remarrying until your children are adults? Is that even a valid/possible option?I’m thinking about some of the things that made everything worse and that would be it.
    Also, my parents did split the kids (Dad had my sister and mom had me). It worked well enough. Mom and sister were like fireworks together so this made my homelife calmer. I saw my sister a lot. My mother saw her less, but that’s not a bad thing.

  75. Hi Moxie-My parents divorced when my sister and I were 5 and 6. They had a split custody arrangement, whereby we spent 4 nights at one house and 3 nights at the other.
    Things that worked: Both my mom and my dad really were involved in my life. We lived equally with both of them, which worked really well when we were younger. They lived in the same town, so we didn’t have any issues with spending time away from friends. They both attended school functions as well.
    Things that didn’t work: Once we started high school, we really didn’t want to live at two houses. Our friends never knew where to reach us, our clothes were split between two houses, and it was difficult for us to make plans because it was always someone’s night.
    So, although these things probably apply more when your kids are older, I would say that it is really important to respect how difficult this is for them. Even with the gift of seeing both of you, living in two houses, splitting your time between two parents, it just isn’t easy. I think we felt like we had very little control over our lives, and that our parents didn’t necessarily realize how hard that was.
    Although it sounds like you and your husband are on the same page, I think it is really important to be consistent with expectations, discipline, etc. It can be really hard when things are ok at one parents place but not with the other.
    Eventually someone new will enter your life. Thats ok. I love my stepdad and his presence in my life has been nothing but a huge benefit. That being said, it is always hard with step-parents. It is important that the step-parent be treated with respect and kindness at all time. You can’t force your kids to like them, but if you permit them to be rude or disrespectful, those feelings will linger and will create hard feelings on both size.
    Other little things… be kind to each other, show your kids that divorce WAS the best option by being content with the situation yourself….
    Also, be honest with your kids. They are smart enough to know that something is wrong and it will never be the same. Its ok to acknowledge that and to tell them that yes, it will be hard, but it is for the best. Its ok to be angry with mom and dad, its ok to be upset.
    Thats all for now…

  76. I’ve been reading some of the comments and just have to chime in about holidays….I think it’s unreasonable to think that one parent should have to “give up” a holiday (at least a major one)because of the divorce. That being said, sharing holidays is really really hard. It was as a child, and it is now as an adult. Everyone feels pulled, and I always feel like we slighted someone.
    One thing that worked really well was that my parents used basically the same holiday schedule my entire childhood. We did christmas eve at mom’s, then woke up there christmas morning and went to my dad’s around 10 or 11. Because it was the same every year, there was never any drama and we always knew what was going to happen. Plus, we got two christmas mornings, which was awesome.
    other holidays are more difficult, but maybe each of you have one that is more important to you? Maybe Thanksgiving is always with mom, but the friday after is a special breakfast with dad? Or for passover, the kids always do dinner with dad and his family, but do something special with mom earlier.
    For birthdays…. they should ALWAYS be about the kid. If you have a party and you both want to come, awesome. If one of you is going to chaperone the trip to the zoo, great. There should never be any conflict surrounding birthdays, whose day it is, and who gets to “do” the birthday.

  77. @Maria Wood, one of the great things my dad did was choose to NOT fight for alternating custody and let us have our mom’s house as our HOME. This meant later that when there were issues between my elder brother and our step-dad, that the only logical option was for him to switch to having his dad’s house be his HOME. Mom really hasn’t gotten over this, period. Granted, dad didn’t handle it as well as he could – he let my brother carry the message, make the argument for the case, and so forth, and so my mom thought he’d been manipulated into it (especially since his arguments weren’t ‘I feel at home here, we don’t fight all the time, and this is where in my heart I know I need to be’ but ‘there’s cool STUFF, and I can do cool THINGS, and there’s this cool SCHOOL, and…’ the things a pre-teen boy thinks are ‘the things people would notice and think important’ (and oh, totally dodges any mention of the fighting issue at home with step-dad which he knows won’t go over well, yadda yadda).My dad actually sent a private investigator to observe us to see if he should fight to get shared custody (he’d been too depressed to fight for it initially, plus I was just 2 and he felt that 2, 4, 6, and 8 or so was too young to live away from your mom, no matter WHAT you thought of her personally)… the PI was a good one, and said, ‘look, they’re happy. They play, they wrestle, they get in scraps and make up again, they relate to their parents well, they have friends and are doing well in school… if you love them, don’t break that.’ And so he swallowed all the things HE wanted, and let it go – just seeing us for a while in the summer as a block of time. He really needed me to know (when I was grown) that it was a conscious choice on his part to live with missing us, and NOT spend a lot of time telling us how much, and that he was willing to fight to get us into his home IF it seemed like it would improve our lives, but he was also willing to let us be and stay at a distance if it seemed to be working well for us.
    Really understanding that he gave up what HE wanted – and wanted badly – because doing so served our lives best, that was the beginning of me being able to have a whole and real relationship with him as an adult. There was a lot more work to do, but it made it clear that no matter how he felt, parenthood wasn’t about his needs. It wasn’t solely about ours, either – but doing it well was predominantly about making his needs *not* our problem.
    Anyway, that was just supposed to be a big ‘YES. That!’ to what you said about parents having to still carry that same burden and hold that same line – my issues and needs (parent) exist but are not your responsibility to meet/resolve, and your (child’s) needs are things you cannot meet/resolve without my help so I’ll support them while you grow.

  78. I have to agree with everyone who made the point that comments about the other parent that seem completely neutral to you can come off as negative to your child. I only recently was able to tell my mom how much it hurt me when she would make off-hand remarks about my dad.Other than that the biggest thing for me is to make sure the two of you are on the same page about the big stuff and make sure your boys know where they stand. I never realized that when my dad was saying “I don’t see why you want to go to college A when you could go to college B for the same major” what he really meant was “College A costs 4x as much and you’ll be paying student loans for the next 30 years. I’ll pay for college B.” And my mom was under the impression that he was paying for it all.

  79. Alot of people keep talking about one home only, but I disagree. My parents divorced when I was 13 and I spent 3/4 nights at one house, then the other 3/4 nights at the other. I had two sets of everything so I needed to carry nothing (or minimal) with me. It worked, because I was still *living* with the other parent, not just *visiting* every few days (or every other day, I think that is the worst schedule ever). It really sucked that I had two sets of chores to do, but my life was as normal as it could be. When I turned 16 and got a car, I was allowed to make up my own schedule (every week, then every two weeks,ect). Both parents were flexible, which was nice. If my dad wouldn’t of fought for that schedule, I would not be close to him today, I know it, and that means I would of missed out on a great father.Bad things about divorce (from my perspective). Parents (mostly mom) not hiding sadness/disappointment when I wanted/liked to spend time with my dad. Parents badmouthing another. Not knowing (even to this day) the reason for the divorce, but being told “if you only knew . . .”
    My friends not knowing what house to call to reach me, so just not calling me. This might be solved now that we have cell phones, but back then, they didn’t want to call two long distance numbers to reach me. I was already an outcast, new school, parents divorcing, lonely, living in the middle of nowhere, and on top of that, my friends that I did make couldn’t find me to ask me to hang out. But I made it through and am actually very well adjusted.

  80. Thinking on the issue of the split holidays – something that wasn’t an issue for me, either way…BUT, one of the things I learned about kids and resilience is ritualized events are IMPORTANT. Kids whose alcoholic parent obliterated Christmas fare worse than kids whose alcoholic parent managed to hold it together for the ritual days, even a little. Or birthdays, etc.
    It seems that the kind of mangled alternating or variable events were the most problematic for most kids. And the ritual ‘we do it this way’ and it always is that way – whether doubled or shared – works better. Even if it isn’t always perfect, it works better.
    Enhancing the ritualization of the event may also help. And also adding in rituals or increasing participation/note of smaller ritual events in the year. Santa Lucia Day, for us, was (and now still is) kind of an important touchstone day. It was the herald of Christmas. Adding them in EARLY in childhood and then relying on them for the rest of the time seems to help most – my mom added in more post-divorce, and those of us who were younger (2, 4) found these to be nice reliable rituals that we could hold to as resources. Those who were older (6 and up) found the addition a bit disruptive – they never felt like ‘ours’ to them (finding a way to have them help create the ritual may help?).
    Even little games and private jokes become family rituals that help produce that sense of sanctuary. I know that if ep and I ever split up, I’d still ask the kids to say Honk Bag! when they were buckled up (don’t ask.), and we’d still play ‘yellow car no hit-backs’ and ‘punch buggy’ (again, don’t ask) in the car. And we’d still regularly do grace by holding our hands up towards each other like rather than taking hands (okay, that one is because of twin girls who would grab at food before grace and older sibs who didn’t like taking YUCKY hands)… Because these are rituals, not just games. They’re a string of beads that carries back forever to the time we were little, and forward forever until … whenever. They make life feel the same in a totally unimportant and at the same time really profound way. It’s like sometimes the older child feels the most safe and okay NOT when you’re playing with them and not with the new baby, but when they just glance up between activities and catch you looking in their direction with a smile. Those little blips in between create the peace and ease in the process, for me. They’re the micro-rituals that kept life continuous, rather than broken into chunks.
    Not sure if that makes sense…

  81. I’m a little late, but I’ve been thinking about this for a day or so.My parents divorced when I was a teenager. They did all the bad-mouthing and guilting that you and your kids’ dad will obviously NOT be doing, and I thank you on behalf of your kids.
    One thing that I think will always be difficult is handling holidays. Until we established a predictable pattern, holidays gave me hives. If you and the kids’ dad can come up with something that’s somewhat equitable that everyone is happy with, then do it and stick to it, year after year after year. Once the boys are older, having those holiday rituals already in place will really make it more enjoyable and stress-free for everyone.
    I know you’ll be relieved to have the transition phase over and done with, and I also know that it, too, will have its bit of pain. I applaud you for keeping your boys’ interests #1, and I keep you in my thoughts and prayers as you embark on what will surely be an exciting new beginning.

  82. I too am a child of divorce. My parents divorced when I was nearly 20 – they stayed together for 18 years “for the kids”. Not a happy situation.1. I have to agree with Anon that leaning on your child for emotional support/a sounding board is rather harmful. My mom started this when I was 8 and it took nearly 20 years to break her of the habit. I guess my point is that an adult should have their own support system – even if that person is a paid professional. Kids don’t know what to do with the emotional complexity of adulthood.
    2. Louisa brought up not mining kids for info on the ex/new relationships. I watch this happen to my neice and nephew. I wish that I could protect them from the inquiring minds, but also – I wish it were ok for them to say “this cool thing happened with/at Dad/Mom’s and have that experience celebrated. My 10 year old niece looks so guilty when she brings up Dad.
    3. Be aware that there will be a change in status when the adult relationships change. Adding another child due to birth or marriage in a new relationship may bring up confusing emotions/roles to the eldest who has been ‘co-parenting’ a younger sibling when the new spouse-parent does not wish for this extra care.
    4. One thing that I wish is that my sister and her ex, their parents, & aunts/uncles (the ones heavily involved in my niece and nephew’s life) would have sat down together to talk about how they could be supportive of the kids durring the transition and going forward. I hear my mother or his mother-in-law making snide remarks about my sister or brother-in-law. So do the kids.
    5. If you have a friendly relationship with an in-law don’t neglect it. Make it ok to have relationships with the other family.
    That said, I concour with the previous posters who agree that just by asking about this you are on a better road.

  83. My parents are divorced. I would say that the number one thing that they did that directly relates to that fact (as opposed to just my issues with them individually) that negatively impacted me then and still does was to put the onus on me to juggle two separate worlds. I had to shuttle between the two of them and had two distinct, non-overlapping realities in which I was expected to be two totally separate people according to each parent’s idea of what a girl, or a daughter, or the hypothetical “me” was or was supposed to be, and had various relatives and houses and churches and you-name-it associated with those separate worlds (this, of course, is problematic in itself). But whenever I was with either one of them I was required to act like the other parent, and accompanying family and world did not exist (and I was especially not supposed to talk about the other parent etc. to grandparents or friends of parents or other members of the distinct parental world), or whichever parent I was with would get either mad or uncomfortable. I felt like I had to comply with this or they would divorce me too, and quite frankly I still do.Needless to say this is not good.
    I can’t imagine you would ever do this. But I just thought I’d weigh in.

  84. Another child of divorce here. Ditto to a lot of prior comments. Also:Don’t think about “mom’s time” or “dad’s time”. It is ALL the child’s time. If you can hold onto that, you’ll all be fine.
    Also, I am thinking about how many children of divorce there are here. Maybe it’s just selection bias for the commenters. But I have to wonder whether whether coming from divorce has made us grow stronger and more committed to conscious, present parenting, a drive to do better for our kids. I have to think it’s not all bad. Best of luck (and skill) to you!

  85. I haven’t read through all the comments yet, but I wanted to add something that I hadn’t seen yet. My sister and I actually went through two divorces – one between our mom and our biological father (when we were 2 and 3), and one between our mom and the stepfather that raised us (when we were 15 and 16). Both were pretty traumatic and horrible, just because of our parents’ inability to act responsibly.I really, really wish that my mom would have sought counseling for my sister and I through these divorces. And honestly, I think that even in the most amicable divorces, kids can benefit from having a safe third party who they can discuss their feelings with. No matter how open you make yourself, there is still going to be some point when they feel like expressing their feelings may hurt yours. The children of divorce that I know who were given a safe place to talk were the most undamaged.
    I am sure you will do an awesome job though, because you are taking the time to think these issues through.

  86. @ Norman: “be careful when you mention similarities between your sons and their father. Since you did ultimately divorce him, it’s important that they perceive that you find things in him still (thus, in them, also) to value.”I know I just wrote a comment, but I want to reiterate this. My mom would continuously point out similarities in my bio dad’s and my personalities. And not the good ones, of course, but our quick tempers, our stubbornness. At times she seemed completely flustered by the fact that she had left this man that she hated, who in many ways was abusive and awful, only to be stuck with a little girl that was just like him. In the end, her frustration with my personality, even when I was four years old, created most of the issues that still plague our family today. It was easier for her to relate to my younger, less challenging sister, and her preference for my sister was quite obvious to everyone. (And many family members tried to approach her about this, but were unsuccessful.) And even today, I am a bit of an outsider in my mom and sister’s happy little family.
    Honestly – one of your boys could end up with all the personality traits that you disliked in your husband. And it may drive you crazy, but I have faith that you’ll see the whole picture, not just the parts that frustrate you.
    On a side note, I haven’t had contact w/ my bio dad since I was four years old (I am 28 now.) This probably complicated the situation because my perceptions about him were based only on the information my mom provided. I had no choice but to believe that he was a crappy person, and by golly, I was just like him.
    Your kids will have a chance to draw their own conclusions about their parents, which is one of those important growing-up things that everyone has to do. Like when you figure out that your parents actually had S-E-X. The horror!

  87. Jumping back in to ditto the statement that each of your homes is your children’s home too and your children should be welcome at any time.Home is when you don’t have to call first before coming over. (My dad and stepmother don’t agree)
    Home is where your room is not “the guest room”.

  88. My parents stayed friends. They split when I was seven…I am now 31…and they are still friendly. I only saw them fight two or three times after the divorce. They made sure that their subsequent partners/spouses were okay with them being friendly. In fact, my mom and my dad’s next wife (they divorced after 10 years) are still friends now too.I know it’s not always possible. But most relationships have a friendship component and that can often be salvaged even after divorce.
    It has made my life remarkably easy that they are still friends. They even gave a joint toast at my wedding, to my surprise. They are my parents after all, so I guess it makes sense that they wanted to continue to share things like that in my life together. I connect them forever and they are pleased with that and maintain their relationship for that reason.

  89. My situation is a bit different both from many of those described above, as well as from Moxie’s own. I, and then my mother and brother, left a frightening, physically and emotionally abusive, truly awful situation. My mother had to go into sheltered housing. I moved out on my own, my brother and mother went into sheltered housing – there was no question about custody as my brother was over 16. There was no sharing of houses – nobody could tell my father where they even lived.Somehow, out of this awful quagmire, came one of the better divorces I’ve ever seen. They get together, they go out for breakfast (this morning he went *berry picking* for her), and if she needs something and can’t get help any other way, she knows she can call on him. while they weren’t comfortable being around each other on what would have been their 35th anniversary, they in general get along.
    And yet they still do everything wrong. mom overshares, they use me as an intermediary, dad badmouths mom – I think it’s just the idea that sometimes it’s far easier to all haul together and just get things done, each according to their ability, and has far greater to do with the personalities at play

  90. I think it’s important to recognize that you are imposing a hugely time-consuming pain in the ass situation on them, which will continue until one of their parents dies, and will affect their partners and children as well. It’s not easy to have to schlep back and forth and make arrangements separately with each parent, and it only gets more difficult as I age. I don’t know what I’ll do when both my parents are infirm and depending on me. I also feel guilty for the burden it imposes on my partner, especially on the holidays, running back and forth trying to keep each happy. It feels like a lot of wasted time, and it’s expensive. It really pisses me off if one of them expects to be thanked for giving me a ride to the other’s house, like I asked to have to make the trip. Your divorce, your driving, parents.So don’t be surprised if they never get over it, because it’s never really over. Maybe it’s over for you, but they (and their kids) are still wearing a path between the two houses and wondering how much worse it will get.

  91. this isn’t really directed to moxie (because i don’t think it speaks to her situation), but maybe to someone who reads later.while i certainly agree that the non-custodial parent’s ‘time’ or ‘weekend’ should not be ‘all-disneyland-all-the-time’, my father made the opposite error. (not really with me – i was 18 when my parents had the ultimate ugly divorce and custody stuff wasn’t an issue – but he & his second wife divorced when my half sister was about 9 and i was about 33.)
    he and his second ex lived within a mile or so of each other, and mandy started off visiting quite frequently. daddy would do whatever he had on his agenda to do. i mean, he was retired. he could mow the yard another time… but if he had decided to mow on tuesday and she was there, she’d sit in the house and he’d mow. he was an older dad (50+ when she was born) and made little effort to know her or follow her life. in short, my perception is that she felt he didn’t care if she were there or not. that isn’t entirely true – my perception of his side is that he’s not good at putting himself out in any way and if you’re not right in front of him you don’t exist and he’s not gonna call you much *but* as weird as it sounds he does care and he does love her and is/was hurt when she – the *child* in the equation – didn’t keep up her end of the relationship. i’ve pointed this out to him. he’s the adult. it’s *his job* to keep trying to communicate that he cares and thinks she’s special. part of that is actually making time with her. yes, the extra generation gap makes that tougher, but that’s not a valid excuse. it’s *his job* to find and cultivate special things for them to do together and make her feel cared about.
    the story so far is that after a few years of this – living in the same teeny town and not feeling as if daddy cared if she were there or not – mandy asked her mama to move back to her mama’s home state a 12-ish hour drive away. daddy still doesn’t really get it and gets his feelings hurt without really understanding that she has feelings, too.
    so of course, there’s a balance between too much attention and too little.

  92. I remember the very first night I spent in my mom’s house hearing her on the phone laughing and saying how relieved and happy she felt (and my dad was not a monster– they grew apart and she cheated). I was there, split in two, hearing my mom say how happy she was about something that was making me miserable. The feeling of rage I felt then has never left me. Yes, I wanted her to be happy, but how dare she say that only hours after I cried as my dad dropped me off.I can see that I’m not going to be able to leave a productive comment, so I’ll just end it with obviously it’s okay to be happy or nervous or relieved about beginning your new life, but when you’re with your kids, think about their feelings and try to help them. Do NOT talk about finances with them. My parents do this endlessly, and it made me feel like a burden. Be careful of the language you use, especially at first– I hate it when I heard my mom say, “And then this week I’ll have them; next week you’ll have them…” As though we were something to “have.” NEVER make it seem like your kids are interfering with your new social life. My mom actually tried to pawn us off at our dad’s on nights when we were supposed to be at her house so she could go out. Do that when they’re not there.

  93. Oh, and try to keep “special” things special. We always slept over at my dad’s house on Christmas Eve so we could wake up on Christmas in the house we grew up in, like always. My mom would come over before we opened any presents.The comment someone left previously about the dad sleeping over so that they could all wake up on Christmas as a family almost made me cry. That is what family and sacrifice is about.

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