Here's a brief background...Ex and I split when DD was only 1yo. We live pretty close to each other (about a 10 min drive). At first DD would spend a few hours at his house here and there because I was still BF. When DD turned 2 she began spending overnights. I have always been fine with her going to his house. He is a good dad, I like his girlfriend and his house is fine too. Lately (about the last 3 months or so) I've been really missing her while she's gone, like to the point where I am crying. Right now the current situation (DD is 3) is that she goes to his house Sun at noon- Mon @6pm. Then Wed morning until Thurs at 4pm. Over the last few months he has started constantly arguing that he should have her 50/50. I wouldn't mind giving him her for more nights, but he works until 9pm Monday to Friday and that means that his girlfriend is the one putting her to sleep. Although I like R, I would really rather be putting DD to sleep myself. Ex does not seem to get this.
DD has been complaining about going to ex's house for the last month or so, but won't give me any specific reasons. She always brings it up on the way to his house, and I tell her that her daddy and R love her and she's going to have so much fun and try to hype it up. The first time she did this, she was insistent that she did not want to go to the point where when we got to his house I had to stay for an hour just to get her to stop crying. I don't really know what to do because I already feel like our week is so split up, and there's so much travel for DD. I am considering a schedule where they take her for 48 hours, then we take her for 48 hours etc.
So I'm looking for any advice about the following issues:
Do you think it's better for a child to have a main home at 3.5 yo and then visit the other parent, or does 50/50 work?
What can I do to cope when she's away?
Should I be worried about her reluctance to go to daddy's?
I have no advice to offer.. just wanted to send you some hugs. It sounds like a really difficult situation, and I can understand wanting her with you to go to sleep if your husband is working.
BTW I'm near Peterborough too!
My husband and his ex have been apart since my step-daughter was a baby. They've had joint custody the whole time, but started a solid 50/50 after she was done BF just after a year old. She was with us M T, mom W Th, then alternated F-Su with a visit somewhere in the middle from the other parent... so she never went more than 2 days without seeing either parent, but we each had a longer 5 day stretch every other week.
She always did really well with it, but when she was around three it started to seem like it wasn't working for her as well. Mom wasn't willing to look at any other arrangement at the time, so we just did our best to make transitions easier, make the schedule predictable, etc, and pretty soon things settled back down for her. I think age has a lot to do with it-- it is really hard to be a three-year-old, and lots of things about your world are tough. One thing three-year-olds need is to know that the grown-ups around them are going to make the big decisions... while three-yr-old want to have some control over their world, it is scary to them to be in charge of "big stuff"... Whether or not to go to dad's, or whether or not to come back to your house... those are not things that she should be in charge of.
Some of the things we did to help with the back-and-forth: The night before she was going to the other house, she would talk to the parent who would be picking her up about what they would do the next day. We got out her clothes the night before (something "from mom's house") which was a cue to her that she was going there the next day. When we picked her up from mom's we always did the same thing so she knew what to expect (in our case we always went out for bagels after we picked her up). She had a bag that went back-and-forth with her that had some transition items (a doll, sometimes toys from one house or the other, sometimes other things that were special to her at the time, a notebook that mom and dad used to communicate about when she'd last had a bath, what she'd had to eat, when she woke up, etc).
I don't know how transportation works for you guys, but we always found it a lot easier to have mom pick her up than to drop her off with mom. The days that we dropped her off were the ones that we heard a lot more "I don't want to go to mom's." We let her be the one to take the lead on pick-ups, so she walked out the front door on her own and walked over to the other parent. It seems like a little thing, but it worked SO much better for her than being handed off from one parent's arms to the other.
I think being matter-of-fact while still acknowledging her feelings ("I know it can be hard to leave. You'll have a lot of fun with Dad and R and when you come back on X day we can [whatever she's looking forward to].") The phone call the night before can help you to know if there is something specific you can talk about that she is going to do there. I think giving it too much attention or sympathy can work against you... especially if you are feeling anxious or upset about her leaving, she can absolutely pick up on that, so the less you say the better.
As far as you wanting to put her to bed and not her dad's GF, I think that's just something you should find your own way of getting past. Even if you ex was the one there, you don't know that he is the one putting your daughter to bed anyway... I often put my step-daughter to bed when she was little, because it was something nice to do together. You know what a special bonding time it is for you, and I totally understand that the only person you would want to give that up for is your daughter's dad. But the more opportunity she has with dad and R, the easier it will be for her to make the transitions back and forth. And your job is to make things easier for her and to put her needs first, even if that means doing something you'd rather not do.
As for coping with separation, I will leave that for someone else... my situation is much different from yours so, while I miss my step-daughter terribly when she isn't here, I know it's not the same as what you are feeling.
It is really nice to hear someone say something positive about 50/50 parenting. All over the net I find nothing but negative comments. I think it takes a lot of important thinking, planning and effort to make 50/50 work for the child, but that it is well worth it. Especially because both parents will feel equally involved, and thus have a more amicable relationship, which would only benefit the child.
Your post makes a lot of sense. I really agree with you about the cues, and I always try to mention activities which I know she will be doing with Dad and R, any visits etc. We are going to give 48 hour intervals a try in January, and see how it goes. I have told Dad and R that I would like them to pick her up when it's their visit, and I'll pick DD up when it's our visit. It makes sense that the picking up dropping off should be done by the parent she is going to be with.
I agree that I have to find a way to cope with R putting her to bed, but honestly I don't know if I will ever feel totally ok with it, because I cherish bedtime. Of course this is something that dd will never hear about. Whenever DD says that R and her did something together, or shares anything about R that makes her happy, I always reciprocate the enthusiasm, and honestly I am happy when dd is happy with R. R is a good woman. She's thoughtful, gentle and intelligent. I am grateful that my ex is not with someone I dislike. I want her experience at Dad's and R's to be just as wonderful, loving, warm, fun and educational as her experiences with us, and I know that if DD senses any sign from me that I am bothered or sad, she will not have the whole experience she should be having there. I am exceptionally sensitive to creating any guilt/ bad feelings in DD about either one of them, or their home.
Thanks for the support HappyMonkey and thank you for the wonderful advice aricha.
I hope you don't take this as a knee jerk reaction against 50-50 custody arrangements, because I'm not against them. But to me this doesn't sound like the best time to switch to 50-50. If both of you are feeling uncomfortable with the level of separation you have now, why would this be the time to increase it? Feelings aren't meant to rule our lives and make all of our decisions for us, but it may be wise not to rush into something that is in direct opposition to what your feelings are telling you right now. If it's an age thing on her part, it will have to pass. If it's not an age thing, and if something else is happening, taking the time to assess the situation before changing it will help you understand what's going on. Sometimes feelings are there to clue us in to something we're not conscious of- not that anything is necessarily fishy, mind you, but as parents we have a responsibility to make sure everything is really ok before discounting our kids' stated protests against a situation. I do NOT advocate quizzing her, obviously you are very aware of the importance of not putting her in that kind of position.
I say proceed with caution, because my dd was protesting loudly about going to her dad's for a while, but only in the car on the way there. I thought she just hated being interrupted in her play with the neighborhood kids. I drove her there for many months before I found out that he was treating her very inappropriately, even violently. She was nine, and she didn't have the words to really articulate what was going on in a way that didn't sound unreasonable. I didn't suspect anything, because everything seemed ok to me. Finally she came home with a mark on her leg because he had picked her up and dropped her and she had scraped it when she fell. He's the one who told me, obviously still angry at her. It was very hard to find out that she had been trying to tell me something and I wasn't listening.
Step mom to Malakie, Cameron , and Aurelia
we have a 50/50 custody, have for 2 years. mine are newly 8 and newly 5. so this has been going on since they were 6 and 3. we live a mile or 2 apart, and switch frequently. alternate weekends, and 2 weekdays each. our situations are similar as my ex (we were together for 13 years, married for over 10) has had a live-in girlfriend since I moved out. she has 3 children that live with them. it seems pretty complicated, but works for us.
I had to relinquish control, and as an AP sahm while married, who NEVER was alone except for a movie by myself once in 4 years....that was a hurdle. knowing the girlfriend, A, was taking the role as 'mother' (they call her their stepmom...and her children their 'sisters') to the children I birthed and breastfed for years, in MY home, was a struggle that I had to get over so I did. It helped that I ended the marriage. it also helped that I know my ex can't be alone, and it was easier for us to get along if he had someone. I would worry about his emotional and mental health otherwise.
He is a good man, and a wonderful father. He treats the stepchildren as his own. this is a good/bad thing, because our children are precious ;) and I want them to feel with their father as they feel with me...like a priority. but at least they have that at my house.
they complain about going back to their dads, or the situation at their dads, frequently. that her daughters arent nice to them, and I know and have heard the girls (the stepsisters) say cuss words and terrible things to my children. they are older, and I realize they have some resentment and jealousy because of their situation with their father. They say bad things about me....that I am a bad mom, don't cook decent food, and am 'poor'. LOL
I don't let any of this bother me. I know I love them and take wonderful care of them. we have fun and they are growing very well...strong, healthy, feisty, well mannered, etc. despite our strange situation. They feel amazing closeness and connection with me, as we live in a one bedroom apartment and sleep together...we are ALWAYS in the same room, because my apartment is small. we LOVE it. at their dad's they sleep alone and play in the garage while the adults are in the house...lots of separation and alone play.
I realized that my children need that polarization. they need different experiences and perspective. It helps their behavior and character. They have attention, closeness, and suffocation, even, with me...and physical freedom, messy chaos, yet strict rules, with their dad/stepmom.
I do miss them when they are gone, moreso when I don't have an active social life. but not being the center of sometimes world on alternating days keeps them from being spoiled. so when they bitch about going back to dads, I laugh and tell them that their wacky lives will make a great book someday. and they are lucky they have 3 adults who care about them all the time, and in different ways.
I hope I don't sound like my ex is distant and dismissive with them, he is just spread thin with attention and doles it out equally to the children, with him and his girlfriend getting the largest chunk of attention first. lol. my children do love him, and he is always holding and kissing them.
I am not sure if any of this is helpful. I just have a really great arrangement, and the adults getting along is KEY. no matter what, the kids deal better when we are all smiling and MORE than civil with each other. we have our tense times, but mostly we are friends. REAL friends. the 3 of us. and it shows in everything I say and do, which HUGELY affects the kids handling this arrangement and thriving in it.