As my little one and I work on our art project, we talk about her family. She talks about her time with her sister and the silly games they play, and then she talks about her mom and stepdad. She confesses she’s sad that she hasn’t seen much of her stepdad recently.
Her stepdad took a new job at a car dealership a few months ago, and he works very long days with usually only Sunday off of work each week. And because we usually have K on Sundays, except one Sunday each month while my husband is on National Guard duty, she wasn’t seeing much of her stepdad.
Hearing her say she missed playing with her stepdad hurt me to my core.
If I had accepted a new job that wouldn’t allow me to see K very often, I’d be devastated. I don’t want to know what it would feel like to be in her stepdad’s shoes, having to make the sacrifice of seeing his stepdaughter so he could support his family.
Why I Suggested We Change the Custody Schedule
So I got to thinking. How can I fix this? (I’m a fixer, guys. I can’t help it.) I told my husband about the conversation I had with my stepdaughter, and I suggested we transition mom’s days to cover Sunday, the one day each week we knew that stepdad would be off work and able to enjoy family time. He heard me and was on-board from the very beginning.
My husband and I were both happy with the schedule how it was, but if changing the schedule would allow our daughter more family time at both houses, then we could absolutely be accommodating. We set to work figuring out what a new schedule would look like, and then he called his ex-wife and asked if she would like to shift her custody to include Sundays.
I want to break from the story for a second to tell you why this scared me. I absolutely believed it was the right thing to do, but it terrified the mess out of me.
A few months back, we had a disagreement about a pickup. It turned into a much larger conversation, and Mom said she feels like she’s always asked to compromise and give more.
I was completely taken aback. Had she forgotten she lived in our home? Yes, we requested changes to the schedule in the past, but we always offered Mom more time than we ever asked for if we needed a swap because she was willing to accommodate our special events and the days we wanted. In fact, just the month before when we went to celebrate our anniversary in wine country, we didn’t even ask for a swap and just offered those days to Mom we’d be out of town without any expectation of reciprocation (After all, those days are not “ours,” they are my stepdaughter’s).
After that disagreement, we vowed not to request any other changes to the schedule so we could keep the peace. And now, just a few months later, we were going to propose ANOTHER change to the schedule? Even though it was 100% about Mom and 0% about us, it was still a proposed schedule change. And it could majorly backfire.
Back to the future. Mom said yes, she’d be thrilled if we could shift the custody schedule to allow her family to spend Sundays together. So here I am, preparing to spend my first Thursday during the school year EVER with my stepdaughter because we made a schedule change. And even though Thursday has no real significance to me, I’m extremely excited!
And even if Mom hadn’t graciously accepted, even if she had told us she was angry we were suggesting another custody schedule, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I would have still thought through how to fix the situation for my stepdaughter. I would have still offered the schedule change.
Because it’s not about me. It is about my stepdaughter. 100%.
She missed her stepdad, and that’s all I needed to know. I didn’t need to hear anything further. End of story, that’s all she wrote.
Co-parenting doesn’t mean doing what’s comfortable. It doesn’t mean getting your way. It doesn’t mean counting your hours and ensuring everything is always even. Co-parenting doesn’t allow for using your children as pawns or focusing on yourself or your ex-partner.
It’s about the children and doing what’s best for them, always.
So I suggested we change the custody schedule, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
PS: Here are my thoughts on divorce and children and why I suggest you should get over yourself.