At its core, sharing custody comes down to one simple fact: part of the time you have your child and part of the time you don’t.
Sounds simple, right? Theoretically, yes.
But in practice, it’s a lot more complex. Every time you receive an invitation, you have to check the calendar and see if the kids are with you. You alternate between a full house and a quiet house. There are different house rules your stepchildren adjust to when they return to your home. On top of all of that, you miss them when they’re at their other home.
So just like your college Facebook relationship status, it’s complicated.
How Cirque du Soleil Changed my Mindset about Sharing Custody
“I’m going to be an ice skater when I grow up!” my stepdaughter Krista proudly proclaimed from the backseat.
We were on our way home from Cirque du Soleil Crystal where we saw the most incredible ice skating tricks, unbelievable acrobatics, and truly talented performance all around.
Krista has been in ice skating lessons for about four months now, but evidently this show put her over the edge and now she is certain she’s going to be a professional ice skater.
My husband shot me a smile, gave my hand a little squeeze, and encouraged her to pursue her dream, knowing it would change again in another three months.
I reflected on the fun evening as a family of three we had shared, knowing she would soon be transitioning to Mom’s house, and it hit me.
My Favorite Part of Sharing Custody
When you have joint custody, your parenting becomes less about quantity of time and much more focused on quality time.
Because we have less time with my stepdaughter, we make up for it by giving her our full attention during the time we do have.
When your time is limited but your love is not, you cherish and maximize the time you’re given.
We can’t change the fact that we don’t see her every single day (and we don’t want to!), but we can give her enough love that it extends to all 7 days of the week.
It’s not possible for us to increase the number of hours we have in a day. However, there are infinite possibilities to increase the quality of our time together.
Wouldn’t you rather have true quality family time instead of more unfulfilling time?
Making the Most of Everyday Tasks
Every moment together is an opportunity for quality time. It doesn’t have to be a scheduled event.
For example, instead of eating dinner in front of the TV, we choose to eat dinner at the table and talk about our days. My stepdaughter discusses her day at school, and my husband shares about his work day. We ask each other questions, we make jokes, and we enjoy a meal together.
When we’re in the car on the way to school, church, ice skating class, or any other event, we take advantage of our time together. We share stories, play games, and tell jokes.
At bedtime, we don’t send my stepdaughter up to bed on her own with a kiss on the cheek. One of us follows her to her bedroom, literally tucks her into bed, reads a bedtime story, says a prayer with her, and kisses her goodnight. (Well, unless it’s my husband tucking her in, in which case there’s playtime somewhere in there where she gets all riled up again… but I digress)
It’s all about maximizing every single moment you’re given. Life isn’t going to happen for you. Memories won’t be made for you. You have to make them happen!
And in my experience, that’s most true in blended families where time is limited due to custody schedules.
Seek out New Experiences
In addition to making the most of everyday tasks, I seek out new events like the Cirque du Soleil Crystal show so we can bond over new experiences. It opens up new conversations for us as a family.
My stepdaughter asks questions (How do they keep the ice cold? How did they learn to do that? What if she falls? Do these people live in Dallas or somewhere else? How do they do that?!) and we are presented with an opportunity to teach her. Those conversations end up some of our most beautiful moments as a family.
I know my stepdaughter will remember the daily routines we have like our dinner table banter and our car ride shenanigans, but I think what will stick out to her most when she reflects on her childhood is all of the fun we had at random events.
We try to find some larger, unique, and more expensive events throughout the year like Cirque du Soleil, but it doesn’t always have to be something expensive or elaborate! We also attend local free festivals in our town, $1 movies at the local theater during summer, or “dive in” movies at the city water park.
It’s not about what you’re doing, so much as with whom you get to share the experience.
When you’re sharing custody, don’t think of it as being forced to have less time. Choose to see it as you’re being encouraged to spend more quality time.
It has certainly worked out that way for us!
P.S. Looking for some fun and inexpensive things to do this summer?
P.P.S. If you have the opportunity, you absolutely need to go see Cirque du Soleil Crystal! I was in complete awe the entire show! Between the phenomenal ice skating skills and the acrobatics, the show had us all on the edge of our seats.