Following a divorce, there is an often extended period of adjustment for everyone, having the children live between two homes. It takes quite some juggling of schedules and serious communication skills to manage and keep the children’s routine as near to being in a traditional family set up where both parents are actively involved. It is difficult, but not impossible, to keep everyone happy once the new living arrangements have been established.
However, to keeping stress and disharmony to a minimum relies on both parents having being willing and flexible to help out as the first port of call with the (often chaotic) schedule of the children (assuming both parents are living in close proximity to each other). If I think back to when I was married, even then, the after school extra mural, parties, play dates dental/doctor/haircut/physio appointments for the children were scheduled as they still are today, ie: Monday to Friday chaos! The difference back then, was that my ex partner was willing (and often offered, when he was able) to pick one child up from a sport, while I was fetching another from elsewhere. This helped me immensely and I probably underestimated (or took for granted) this back up support.
Fast forward to being a single parent (and dad lives close by) that has all changed. We have a common visitation set up (every other weekend and every Wednesday night, as long as he is in town) but what has been noticeable is his distinct lack of interest in the activities/sport that the children are participating in. Whilst he is more than willing to shell out the money for each child’s particular extra mural, it is the visible support and encouragement of their progress that children will remember. I know I grew up taking part in many extra mural activities, one of which was playing the violin in an orchestra. I enjoyed it immensely, however, I do not recall my parents being at any of my recitals.
Which brings me at last to the reason for the heading: “Parenting in different currencies.” Children need nurture, Number 1. It is not enough to throw money at your children post divorce and spoil them with every materialist new fad on the market, in place of actual involvement in their lives.If you are able, it means more to children to have your time and show an interest in, not only their academic life, but also their outside interests, particularly the parent who no longer resides with them. As my children grow up, I realise how fast this precious time with them goes by. Whilst I often bemoan the extra driving and stress of traffic to ensure they can take part in sporting activities (not to mention constant exhaustion!), I know it means the world to them that I am there, watching, storing precious memories in the memory bank.
In summary, whatever your ‘issues’ with your ex partner, there is no denying that parenting involves even more careful planning and thought, post divorce, to ensure that the children enjoy as stable an upbringing as we can give them. Putting your differences aside for their formative years especially, is probably the greatest gift you can give a child, whose parents are no longer together. Years spent fighting, avoiding each other, being bitter and angry are years wasted and can only damage a child’s self esteem. Before we know it, they are writing their final exams and leaving home. At the end of the day, a little sacrifice and biting of tongues is worth it, to have happy children!