A huge challenge in formulating a Parenting Plan is often the thought of being away from your children for any extended period of time, for the celebration of a holiday, or to miss a vacation they might take with their other parent. Most parents say helplessly, “Nothing about any of this feels right. I didn’t have children to be away from them.”
You are right; when you and your co-parent created family, most envisioned a life-long relationship and enduring family. When separation/divorce occurs all those dreams, imaginings, and values have to realign in order for a constructive future to take hold. This may take time—and in time, acceptance replaces helplessness. We want to underscore that you are both always 100% parents, sharing your children on a duty-parent schedule, a residential schedule where they will reside with one or the other of you for certain periods of time. Soon a new rhythm, a new normal will replace this enormous sense of disruption.
But even as that happens, most two-home parents feel a river of grief underneath their newly established lives, a healthy regret that they were unable to raise a family together in one home. This doesn’t mean you should stay in an unhealthy marriage or that you’re doing anything wrong. This simply acknowledges that this is not what you had hoped for when you had a child together.
As you watch your child head off on their first vacation (and subsequent vacations) without you, know that you lovingly participate in giving your child a memorable experience by “letting go” and celebrating their time and experiences with their other parent. When we can “let go” and trust, we loosen any loyalty binds that disrupt our child’s fun and hurt their hearts. They’ll be back soon with tales to tell! And take this time to refuel and care for yourself.
Get help if you’re struggling with harsh judgments about your co-parent’s ability to parent or fear that your children are not safe/not OK when they’re away from you or plagued by interfering guilt, possessiveness, and anxiety when separated from your children. Discerning safety concerns from upset emotions related to hurt and anger over your marriage is important for your parenting planning process. Your kiddo’s healthy divorce adjustment depends on your healthy divorce adjustment—please get the support and guidance you need.
There are many times that being a good parent is ensuring your children have important experiences and meaningful relationships that don’t directly include you. Remember: Always in each other’s heart, not always together.
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Karen Bonnell’s book, THE PARENTING PLAN HANDBOOK, originally posted on Kids Before Conflict.