Q&A: equal time custody arrangement data points

A writes:

"As my ex and I try to work toward a more long term custody plan, I am
struggling to envision how a 50/50 custody plan and various
arrangements will work in practice. My network hasn't turned up anyone
with an actual 50/50 or even close to that plan. So I would really
appreciate it if you could help me to locate some folks with experience
with this sort of arrangement. I'm trying to think about what will work
for the kids in terms of time, predictability, etc as well as what will
let me feel like an genuinely engaged parent and to have some kind of
social life. I have realized that I'm struggling with giving up time
with my kids, how to help me and them to adjust and feel good about
whatever we agree to. But I also have practical questions like do you
split up weekends and how does that work on a practical level?"

This is a great question for today because I'm sick and can't muster much of an answer, which is convenient because I'm not allowed to talk about my divorce details on the internet because of a clause in my settlement agreement anyway.

I think I can say that we don't have 50/50. I wish we did. But living in New York with housing the way it is it's not super-practical, plus our work schedules would make it really hard. New York makes parenting, especially two-household parenting, brutal in a lot of ways.

I do know some other parents who do an alternating 3/4 schedule, with three nights at one parents' house, then 4 nights at the other's, with one night swinging so the next week it's 4/3. (If that made no sense, somebody please explain in the comments better.)

I also know people who do two nights at one parent's, the next two at the other parent's, and then alternate weekends. But this really only works because they live two blocks from each other.

I've heard of people who do alternating weeks, and it seems like that would kind of rock from all sides, especially if the parents lived close so the kids had the same lives the whole time, just different dinner companions (because that's what it boils down to anyway, as anyone with with WOH parents and kids in school full-time can attest).

I think, because I know A and her situation, that she could also use a little reassurance that it will all be OK. And that her kids won't come untethered to her if they aren't in the same house every day. And that the kids will come through this to be able to form healthy intimate attachments. And that she herself will go on to a happy life.

So, thoughts, please? I'm going to drink some TheraFlu.

What have you done?

This morning there was a knife fight on the subway my 4 1/2-year-old and I were on. We'd dropped his big  brother off at school and we on our way to his school, and two teenagers got on fighting with umbrellas. I tried to break it up, then noticed the knife and grabbed my son and ran. I'm so proud of how my little boy walked between the cars with the track rushing by underneath him, and pulled the other boy on the train behind him to make sure he was safe, too.

Friends are giving me lots of nice warm fuzzies about how brave I was, but I honestly didn't think. I just grabbed him. I think most of us would've done the same thing, too.

So let's talk about things you've done for your kids that took extra strength or bravery. Despite today's knife fight, I still say the thing I've done for my kids that took the most strength (and still does) is help them through living with divorced parents.

What have you done for your kids that you're not sure you'd have been able to do if not for them? What are you doing every day?

Correlation between sitting still and achievement?

Wendy posted this article that I think is extremely interesting. Basically, a major study (34,000 kids) found that there was no correlation between kids' ability to sit down and "behave" at age 5 and later success in school.


I thought some of you could use this news as much as I do today.


Q&Q: back pain

Angela wrote me a lovely note asking about nursing pillows. She is having a ton of back pain, and thought switching pillows might help.

But I don't think the problem is actually the pillow (she was wondering about switching from one kind to another kind that looked identical to me). I think the problem is the way she's sitting to nurse, combined with carrying a baby all the time, and pushing a stroller, and lugging around all the crap we lug around for babies.

That got me started thinking about the back pain *I* experience from carrying around my big mom purse full of crap, as well as carrying my younger son's backpack in the morning. It feels like I'm a pack mule. With shoulder tension and a backache.

*Then* I started wondering if all the insomnia everyone I know is suffering might have something to do with muscle pain.

It seems like it's probably all related. And that we'd be better off if we could figure out a way to lessen the strain we put on our bodies.

So, ideas? I'm vowing to wear more supportive shoes during my commute and wait to put on the heels until I get to work. I'm also going to make sure I take everything out of all of our backpacks each night and only carry the stuff we'll actually need.

I'm also going to do some stretching in the morning (my stretch of choice is the T-Tapp Primary Back Stretch).

Does anyone have any suggestions to lessen the strain? Or do you want to complain about your pains? Either or both are fine.

Q&A: new baby

Not exactly a question, this is more of a statement & answer today.

Erin, who has a 4-day-old baby, writes:

"This is hard work."

Yes. Yes, it is.

And it's not even the work part of it that makes it hard work. It's the unrelenting nature of it. It's just constant tasks, with the feeding and the diaper changing and the shushing and the holding and the rocking and the burping and the sleeping and the waking.

And the worry! Every single thing at this stage in high stakes. If a feeding goes badly, you worry. Of course the baby isn't sleeping at night yet, and you worry about that. You worry if the baby doesn't burp. If the baby burps too much. If the baby takes a pacifier you worry, and if he doesn't you worry about that, too.

It's really just a whole lot of emotion, combined with physical effort.

In addition, your body is healing from the pregnancy and birth. Your organs are going back into place. You're recovering from the marathon of labor and delivery. You might be recovering from a c-section or that E word I'm not even going to say. You're dehydrated and hungry, but can't seem to find the time to feed yourself or get a glass of water.

People are telling you what to do right and left, and you haven't had enough time to get to know your baby enough to trust your instincts yet.

Your whole life is different, and insane, and you wonder what exactly you've done.

It's a little bit like being Gregor Samsa and waking up one morning to find you've turned into a cockroach. Except that you also have this crying little person with you that you love fiercely but don't know very well yet.

It's like sticking your head in a blender.

Now for the good news: We've all been there. We've all survived. It sucks, but you will make it through.

My advice is to lower your standards. If you and the baby are alive at the end of the day, you're doing a great job. Instead of trying to do things the "right" way, pay attention to what seems to work best with your baby. And ignore most of the advice you get* from people. If they're not willing to come take a turn at 3 am, they don't get a say in what you do.

Now, readers! Please leave comments either of support for Erin and all other new parents, or tell us the most ridiculous piece of advice someone gave you in the early early days.

* Even mine, if it doesn't make sense with your kid or family. I know–I don't always know what I'm talking about! Shocking.

Don’t go

You are important to someone. Even if that person is too little to sayit to you yet. Even if you haven't talked to that person in years.
There is someone who will never recover from the you-sized hole you
leave if you go.

I know what it's like, the pain. Every minute of being alive tastes
scorched; every breath hurts like the slice of a knife. Knowing that
there isn't really anything good enough about being here, for any of
us, to outweigh the bleakness. Feeling the hurt of the whole world
channeled through the dull greyness of every 3 am minute.

How did any of us who've been there hold on until things got better? I
honestly don't know. For some of us it was a choice. Knowing something
was going to change, even a little bit, if we could just hang on. But
for others it's just not going. Wake up, go to sleep. Eat. Repeat that
enough times and one day it doesn't hurt as much. Who knows why.

You are not perfect. You may screw up on a daily basis. You may feel
like your efforts don't do anything. Like everything you touch turns
to crap. Like the people around you would be better off without you.
But that is not the case. It's just not. No one is perfect. Everyone
screws up. It's what makes us real and layered and interesting. You are
as special for your faults as despite them.

Someone I loved and lost once told me, "It's no trick for God to work
through someone perfect. The more broken you are, the more God shows
his glory by shining through you." Whether you believe in a guiding
force or not, the universe creates imperfection. You in all your
weakness are exactly what we need.

Please stay. Even if you don't know how. Just keep getting up in the
morning. Eat what you can. Drink water. Go to bed, even if you can't
sleep. Go outside and turn your face to the sun. If you can, do this
with Teresa for 3 minutes
a few times a day. And tell someone how you
feel. A friend. A stranger. Leave it in the comments here.

Don't go.

This post is for my friend Ray, who went.


I'm so sorry I've been MIA. I had a work trip, then 36 hours at home, then another work trip, which I'm still on.

Can we talk about the process of separation from your children? I've been thinking, while I've been away from my kids so much this week, about how when they were infants I couldn't imagine a time when I would ever be away from them.

Then they started to walk away from me. Then they started to run away from me. Then I realized they had emotional lives that were separate from mine.

It's a strange thing, to realize your kids have lives that you are not the lead character in. (I was particularly surprised to realize that my son had an extensive knowledge of and interest in Yankees baseball, which I don't care about at all.)

Is anyone else thinking about this? How do you manage the knowledge that they have to separate, and you need for them to separate, with this longing for the closeness you had and the primacy you had in their lives?

Puppy love: I’m confused

First of all, I'd like to think I coined the word Nobelama at 10:09 am Eastern Time today, but maybe someone else beat me to it.

Now, for today's topic. Young crushes.

I happen to know a boy in second grade who has been the recipient of some slightly amorous attention (a kiss on the cheek at recess) from a girl. He seemed conflicted about the attention ("I kind of didn't like it, but kind of liked it."). And then a few days ago he told me how beautiful the girl's eyes are.

Then today I heard about another boy the same age who had a mash note from another child in his class in his school backpack.

This is all too soon!

I'm not talking about early sexualization, which we all know happens and is not good. I'm talking about crushes and puppy love and developing romantic attachments to other kids the same age.

When does it happen? When should it happen? Are we faster here in North America than in other places?

Should I be worried about this? Should you be worried about this?

If 40 is the new 20, and I'm 36 right now, does that mean my son and I could be going through adolescent romantic woes at the same time?

Who was your first real-life crush? (Mine was a kid in the fourth grade, when I was in second grade, who sang "Longer Than" at the elementary school talent show in 1980.) Do you think having crushes like that helps us develop emotionally, or hurts us in the long run?

Talk to me.

Funny lies, and lying in general

Congratulations, hush! (She had her baby–announcement is about halfway through yesterday's comments.)

The Release the Yelling class first email goes out today at 3 pm Eastern time, noon Pacific time. So hop in now and click through the validation email so you get the first email. Discover your triggers, figure out how much of an impact your yelling ishaving and on whom, and make a plan to manage your yelling more effectively.

This is not at all a serious topic, but it seems like I've been hearing about it all over the place lately, so I thought people might be interested. The idea is funny lies you tell your children.

Years ago, one of the moms in my playgroup wanted her daughter to drink soy milk, but her daughter refused to try it until she told her it was elephant milk. It's been 5 years, and I'm still laughing at that.

Have any of you lied to your kids on a scale like that? What did you tell them, and did they believe it or see through you?

A more serious follow-up is asking if it's ever acceptable to lie to a child, even along the lines of an "elephant milk" lie. If so, what are the boundaries you'd draw?

I'm still working through this one myself. I think lies that can never be found out and that help a situation are OK (like saying it's time for bed when a kid is overtired, even if official bedtime is not close). But on the other hand, it does seem to be a slippery slope.

What do you think?

Yelling, the class and the constant process

I still don't know exactly what happened with the first More Moxie class, but all the emails have been resent so everyone in that class should have gotten them by now. I apologize for screwing it up.

I've been working on reformatting the questions for the Release the Yelling class. (Starts this Thursday and runs for 3 weeks M-F. I email you a question every day to help you identify and work through your yelling issues. $21, and sign up here.)

I'm wondering if people who've taken the class in the first two sessions would chime in and talk about how it helped them or not.

I know I worked through some of my issues with yelling, particularly about the morning routine, and have largely conquered that now. My big yelling trigger was when it was time to put on shoes in the morning and they wouldn't and wouldn't and wouldn't.

However, my other big trigger is when they physically fight with each other. I'm having more problems with this one, and am trying to work through it. So I'll be doing the exercises for the class along with everyone who takes it in an effort to get over that yelling as I've largely gotten over the footwear-related yelling.

Anyone who took either of the first two sessions want to talk about what happened with you during the course of the course?

Or anyone else want to talk about triggers?