Shared parenting means also sharing the joys, the challenges … and, yes, even the discipline. When you share 50/50 joint custody, you have the opportunity to collaborate with your ex and back one another up on creating house rules and enforcing appropriate consequences. A team approach to discipline can be especially helpful as your kids get older and test the boundaries in new ways. Just don’t fall into the trap of relying on the age-old “Wait until I tell your mother” (or father) mantra. The point is to bolster your natural parental authority, not weaken it.
Granted, you may not want to share parenting time with your ex. But if the courts have imposed a joint physical custody arrangement, you’ll need to work together to determine how your time will be divvied up. The most popular joint custody schedules involve regularly alternating specific days of the week, but there are many options to choose from. Experiment with different schedules to see what works best for your kids. One you’ve arrived at a predictable routine, take advantage of the fact that knowing in advance which days the kids will be with you will force you to plan ahead, too. For instance, you’ll know which day of the week is best to meet up with a friend for coffee or go out for drinks after work with your coworkers. Even if joint custody isn’t what you would have preferred, you can still take advantage of your family’s new, automatic built-in schedule.
Again, this is not a reason to opt for joint physical custody, but it certainly is a perk. When you know exactly when your kids will be with your ex, then you know when you’re free to date without having to hire a babysitter or get home at a certain time. For many single moms and dads re-entering the dating scene, this helps to remove one more worry from the complicated logistics of single parent dating.
Here’s an extremely practical consideration. When you share joint custody, you naturally end up sharing more of the costs associated with raising your kids. Why? Because needs pop up organically. Someone’s always asking for poster board for a school project, a check to cover the next field trip, snacks to bring to soccer practice … and the list goes on. When your kids are with your ex on his/her assigned days, you can anticipate that your ex will likely be absorbing those incidental costs. That’s not to say that you should plan for your kids to announce that they need a $400 check for the eighth-grade overnight trip while they’re with your ex, because large expenses should still be shared or handled in the same way you handle other child-related expenses. But for the small stuff, it’s reasonable to expect that you’ll each handle the costs in the moment, as they arise.
It’s not just that you’ll have more ‘me time’ (which is hard to come by as a single parent). It’s that you’ll be able to plan for it. Granted, you may not always like it. Especially in the beginning, weekends on your own can leave you feeling lonely. But once you get used to planning ahead for extended overnights, you’ll figure out lots of things to do … from catching up on sleep, to spending time with friends and kick starting your exercise routine. Again, it may not be what you’d choose, but time to yourself can also make you a better parent.
When you’re together 24/7, 365 days a day, it can be hard to step back and get perspective. Being away from your kids in order to comply with a joint custody arrangement allows you to see the bigger picture, that your kids are indeed thriving and that the time they’re spending with your ex is good for them. Sure, he or she may not make every decision exactly the way that you would, but that allows your kids to see that each of you brings individual strengths to your relationship … which lets them, in turn, appreciate you during the days when you’re apart, too!
Joint custody can also give you the time and energy you need to take your career to the next level. Whether it’s dedicating certain days of the week to working late without worrying about who will pick up to kids, or finally having the time take a certification class that could increase your earning potential, using the ‘me time’ joint custody thrusts on you to your advantage can pay huge dividends in the long run.