Where has the white picket fence family gone?

You did what you thought you were supposed to do. It’s all part of the script – the formula for life, right? You grow up. You go to school. Get a job. You fall madly in love. You marry. You buy the house with or without the white picket fence, get the dog and have babies. You’re living happily ever after, right?

Hopefully, some of you are.

Vintage Schwinn Bike & White Picket Fence by csterken

Vintage Schwinn Bike & White Picket Fence by csterken

There is nothing more heartwarming than that couple, we all know them, the couple who makes it 50 or 60 years together. The couple that sticks by each other through thick and thin and who remain faithful to one another, always. And they do it despite all of the challenges that a lifetime can bring.

But admit it. Even when our parents parents were young, not everything was rosy. Affairs happened. Folks left each other. Dads, decades ago, were most likely the ones to walk out the door because, well, because mom’s job was to stay at home with the kids.

Times have changed, folks.

Love far too often fades in today’s society. In part, because we’re told, always, that we’re supposed to ‘be happy.’ Few seem to want to put in the work marriages and raising kids together often requires. People grow tired of the same old thing. Couples grow apart. Jobs get in the way. Affairs still happen, on either side. More and more, moms are not only going to work but also becoming the breadwinner. They’re not at home, any more than dad. Depending on the situation then, mom or dad leaves whatever house they’re in because if you’re splitting up, someone has to.

But that means the couple is broken.

The family as a whole, doesn’t have to be, too.

Ask just about any fit (willing, able, wanting, non-abusive, not chemically dependent) parent, and they’ll tell you they love and want to care for their children moving forward whether it be in one or two homes, as much as they have since the day their child was born. Not just the financials of it all. But actually helping raise their child.

And, given it has been shown time and again to be what’s best for kids, we all have some pretty important choices to make in how we handle divorce and custody discussions, decisions and litigation should we (as a family choosing to separate) not be able to reach a workable solution for everyone involved, on our own. North Dakota voters specifically, at this moment in time, have an unbelievable opportunity before them. ND; what you need to know about Measure 6:

  • 110 world experts endorse shared parenting in family law and say current law is based on “flawed science”.
  • Too many children are growing up without one of their parents; usually the dad. There are tremendous, documented physical and emotional consequences to this.  
  • Shared parenting is popular in poll after poll achieving over 70% approval and with equal support of men and women.
  • Lawyers only get paid to draft documents and “argue”, so they have a financial incentive to create conflict.  Who ever wins in this situation? The legal system. Not your family.

I told my ex the entire time we were married and discussing how the marriage wasn’t working, that if we ever separated, I wanted to be that couple. The couple that still gets along, that has holidays together, that invites each other over for whatever. There was no way we were going to be that couple. Not from the get-go. But we still shared everything when it came to our daughter – the responsibility for raising her, time, decisions and when we couldn’t agree, we sought out mediation. While we didn’t always agree on how it looked, we absolutely did our best to do right by her. Not by what one or the other of us wanted. It’s why, when we went through the divorce, we sought out ‘collaborative’ attorneys. What, haven’t heard of it? It’s a common practice in Wisconsin, among other states. But, it’s rarely heard of in states that want to perpetuate the fighting. Like you, North Dakota. Think those attorneys throwing everything they have including 70k of their own money against Measure 6 have your children’s best interest in mind? Think again. Think of all the other good that 70k could do? Or how much of a break they could cut families who do need to litigate? Think of how commonplace Collaborative Divorce would be in your state if they truly wanted what was best for a child? About $3,000 each got us both through the actual divorce process, which was cordial and vetted out one of the most thorough and well defined placement schedules I’ve ever seen, leaving little to question or fight over. How many of you have ever even heard of a collaborative divorce?

For what it’s worth, some thougths – and not just on Measure 6 in North Dakota but for folks in any state or region where #sharedparenting reform is being discussed and on the table:

– Talk with others. Moms and dads. Grandparents. Professionals in the field. If you really want to educate yourself, seek out dads that you specifically you know are good dads – good people, who have gone through divorce and get their first hand account. Be interested in their experience if you truly want to become an educated voter. All sides of this complicated family situation are throwing a lot of statistics around at you and a lot of anecdotes. To know yourself for sure, what is best for families (and every situation will be unique other than this;  when two fit parents are involved and their locations make it physically possible to share custody, shared parenting has been shown to be most effective. Always.) ask questions, do the research and ignore the rhetoric.

– Trust that very few adults are better at raising a child alone, than together. No one’s role as full-time parent should be diminished just because there may now be two homes instead of one.

– Kids do need both parents. Which, when possible, includes equally a mom and a dad. Or in some cases, two moms, or two dads. And grandparents on both sides. And a school that trusts and shares information with all parties. And neighbors wherever they are, helping watch over them. Raising kids well requires a team effort. It does actually take a village. Those who think they can do it alone or that they’re better off shutting out another good parent, your children are simply missing out. You are also putting your child at risk of a whole host of problems proven to arise when good dads, in particular, are absent. Statistics back this up.

– Collaborative divorces are what is best for a child. It requires parents agree to sit down at the table, together, with their attorneys, and work things out. Always, deliberately, with the best interest of the child in mind. Encourage your state bar to promote this kind of law practice.

We now just need the court system and family law to recognize what we, as a society, should already know and value. Kids do need both parents – equally where and when possible – and the best possible alternative otherwise. It shouldn’t be a mandate. It shouldn’t be a ‘no matter what’. It shouldn’t tie judges hands. But it should be a starting point.

Measure 6 lives up to all of this.

Still stuck on that script? Still trying to live that picture perfect life? Those of you with primary placement still feel that less than 82.2% (national average) time with your kids means somehow you’re less of a parent? Or that you’re giving the other parent way more time than they should be given for some unknown reason – or ‘just because’? Let go of that old script. It hasn’t fit the storyline now for decades. You can do it. Figure out a better way for you, your ex and your kids. Appreciate another parent who wants to be a part of your kids lives and work to be inclusive versus the opposite. It may not look or seem easy, but if 110 world experts are right and experience speaks for anything, the rewards can be phenomenal once you let go of the fear, especially that fear of losing control. For your kids. For you. For everyone.

No good parent should be deliberately minimized in the life of their child. Kids love and need both parents. They don’t want to have to pick and choose. Our courts (in any state) shouldn’t be allowed to either.

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co-par·ent

The Cowboy teases me all the time, “You know how I knew I had found a good woman? I saw what kind of ex-wife you are.” 

..…………

I’m not sure that my ex would agree with the above statement and I’m not trying to blow smoke up anyone’s #*s. Especially my own. I sincerely have tried, from the moment we realized we were going to become parents – to this day – 8 years post our divorce, to be the best possible co-parent that I can be. Which means doing my best to ensure we are both as involved as possibly in raising a healthy child. To always try and do right – by her.

Over the years that’s meant finding a better way when she struggled with direct transitions. To make sure when she’s with me she has the ability to talk with her dad every single night because, well just because if she wanted to she should be able to. To never talk bad about him in front of her or, ever at all if I can help it. Rethinking our 2-2-5 schedule and was that best for her as she got older. Attending school conferences and doctors appointments together so we would both (hopefully) hear the same challenges and accomplishments. Seeking together – advice from a jointly agreed upon 3rd party when we couldn’t agree on something. To make sure she feels safe to love us both equally. The list, as many of you know because you’re in the same boat, goes on.

I’m not saying I’ve always done it well. Or that he has either. In fact, we’ve struggled. A lot. But we try.

…………..

Picking up where I left off the other night .. I would have thrown all this and the kitchen sink into that post about why co-parenting well through and after divorce is critical but I didn’t want it getting too long and it seemed it was already. And it seems perhaps we need to start with the basics because there appears a sincere lack of knowledge this word even exists in many families let alone the current family court system.

co-par·ent
kōˈpe(ə)rənt,-ˈpar-/
verb
gerund or present participle: coparenting
  1. 1.
    (esp. of a separated or unmarried couple) share the duties of parenting (a child).

Here’s the deal.

Co-parenting was most likely important to you in marriage (or family unit). You both had a role. The kids relied on you both to be there for them. If there is anything still worth doing in a family that’s being torn apart, it’s to let those kids have that same access to both parents, assuming both parents are fit, loving, willing and able. At a time when the two adults involved along with their extended families are most likely hurting the most – that is the most important time to try and make this work. It shouldn’t be a forced, last resort for those wanting to get back at any other party for whatever hurt you may be going through. Far too often, it seems, this is the case with little acknowledgement you’re not the only one somehow hurting in this situation. It’s not all about you.

Sharing as equal time possible as well as the decision making with your soon-to-be or long done and over ex, is collectively what most experts in the field will tell you is in a child’s emotional and physical best interest. Again, this is assuming most parents want to be as much a part of their children’s lives as possible and that you are both fit, loving, willing and able (especially in regard to distance). Sharing this model of parenting is increasingly is shown to trump any concerns about a child ‘living out of a suitcase.’

There are incredible resources out there for families going through divorce or struggling with any issues post divorce. Among them, is this really nice co-parenting how-to-perhaps-do-it-well-despite-wanting-to-poke-the-other-parents-eyes-out-with-a-sharp-stick checklist at helpguide.org

If you get a chance, read and seriously consider why co-parenting through divorce is increasingly what is recommended and just extremely important overall when and where possible. What taking that advice to heart could mean for you and your kids.

Other helpful resources (a mix of just a few that can easily be found online) and if you have any you might recommend, please share. Thanks for stopping in.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/co-parenting-after-divorce

http://www.drphil.com/articles/article/534

http://ourfamilywizard.com/ofw/