“I am often astounded at the parenting arrangements I see that are anything but shared.”
Longtime Fathers & Families supporter Lisa S. Ebert, JD, Director of Sponsored Programs and Research at the City University of New York, is a mother who shares parenting. Below, she tells her story.
Shared Parenting – It Should be the Norm
By Lisa S. Ebert, JD
My marriage ended almost five years ago. And of course we share the parenting of our two children equally. I say “of course’ because I can”t imagine it any other way. I am often astounded at the parenting arrangements I see that are anything but shared.
My children, like so many others in society, have had to face the pain of parents who decided to divorce. Ours wasn”t a marriage where there were loud fights or infidelity or issues of drug or alcohol use, the kinds of issues where the children, while upset at the ending of the marriage, might also welcome the respite from some of those issues.
Rather, ours was a quiet ending to a good marriage that went bad. Our marriage was mired in painful and confusing issues which, from our 20 years together, seemed to both of us insurmountable. After it ended though, I never thought of us as a broken family. I thought of us as a family in which the parents were no longer married to each other.
We divided up the assets quietly and fairly among ourselves, and we share the custody of our children 50/50. Each month requires the two of us sitting down to coordinate calendars (he travels for work, I also travel occasionally) with the following rules in mind: the kids must have 3 nights in a row in one home, and we each have an equal amount of time with them. We split costs like tutors, clothes, summer camps, birthday parties and sporting events. For vacations, splurges, and other non-necessities, we are on our own.
Is it blissful? No, of course not. We sometimes have disagreements involving money, and parenting, as most parents do. Is it painful sometimes? Yes. My ex-husband and I were best friends for 20 years. Today, we hover between good acquaintances and captive co-parents. It is still difficult to hear my son”s occasional sorrow at not having both of his parents together for vacations anymore, or under the same roof for family game nights.
But we try, both of us, to make it easier on them and ourselves, in small but significant ways. We have “family nights’ occasionally, playing a board game or watching a movie. We go out to dinner together about once a month, and we share traditional celebrations (with extended families) on birthdays and Christmas morning.
Granted, this is unusual. But it works for us. And my children seem to be thriving. I think my kids have learned, through this gradual process of replacing old traditions with new ones, that they are loved and secure and have two parents who are equally devoted to them.
Anyway, it”s not heroic. It shouldn”t be newsworthy. It”s simply co-parenting–putting the needs of your children front and center stage, over your own, to help them recover as best they can from the trauma of divorce. I hope to see it become the norm. I have every confidence that it will.
To read of other mothers’ experiences sharing parenting with their ex-husbands or ex-boyfriends, click here. If you are a woman who shares parenting and would like to share your experience on our website and E-Newsletter, please tell us about it here.