One of the hardest things to get used to when you first spit up with your ex is the whole change in lifestyle. Not only are you dealing with your newly single life, but if you have children together, you now have the added complication of shuttling them back and forth around your already busy schedule. Between work extracurricular activities, birthday parties and family events, things can get frantic pretty easily. Here are just a few tips to help things run a little more smoothly, logistically-speaking:
Share a Calendar - There are a lot of great calendar-sharing sites out there for divorcing parents that will guide you through the process for a small fee, but you can also use Google Docs or various other free online document sharing tools just as easily. Or maybe you're old fashioned and a plain old paper calendar works best. Whatever you choose, load it up with information for schools, neighbors, pediatricians, dentists, playmates, etc. and update it with events on a regular basis. Keep each other - and the kids - in the loop about upcoming school and family events. Don't forget to include the mobile numbers for your kid's friends as they get older. A lot of kids have cellphones now, and it's been really helpful to me to have all of that at my fingertips, in case my daughter is off with a friend when Dad shows up to collect them.
Decide ahead of time how you're splitting incidentals - This might already be addressed in your parenting agreement, but probably in vague terms. It's best to nail this down early and get a system together to keep track. If one parent has primary custody (vs joint physical custody), it can be easy to get hit with the little stuff more than the other partner. Field trip money, picture money, pretzel day at school, birthday gifts for friends, outings with friends...it all adds up. Do you want that folded into the amount of child support or calculated separately? You might want to keep a running tab and divide it up weekly, or monthly. Some couples have one parent pay for everything school-related (pictures, field trips, etc.) and another covers friend and neighborhood-related incidentals. Find a system that works for you and agree upon it ahead of time. You'll be glad you did.
Be considerate about time and schedule - This is a personal pet peeve of mine because it's all about common courtesy. If you're going to be half an hour late to a friend's house or to work, you'd call and let them know, wouldn't you? Picking the kids up late is unavoidable sometimes, but show some courtesy and let the other parent know as soon as possible. Same goes with day-changing. If you need to change your overnight or swap weekends, do it infrequently, and do it with as much notice as you can give. You might need that favor back sometime.
Make sure they have clothes at both houses - I send my kids with enough clothes to cover their weekends with their father, and if the weather looks iffy, I add extra, just in case it's too warm or too cold. Still, I invariably forget something once in awhile. Having a small amount of "fallback" clothing is a must. Tee shirts, pants, socks, and underwear are good staples, and they come in handy sometimes. You never know when a kid's going to spill, rip, or God forbid, get sick and mess up their clothes. And that brings me to my next point:
Let your ex know if a kid is showing signs of illness - Even if it's just a head cold. There's nothing worse than getting a slightly snuffly kid home and having it turn into full-blown sinus Armageddon on the overnight - and you're fresh out of children's cold medicine. Forewarned is forearmed. Same goes if your kid has been exposed to something. I hated having to call the ex on his weekend once and let him know that one of my daughter's friends had just been confirmed to have head lice, but it had to be done. He took care of the kids and I fumigated my house and we dodged the bullet, for the most part. Neither one of us has time for that kind of nonsense, and we each deserve to know if something like that has been brought into our household.
These are just a few of the things that can make the whole kid-shuttling ordeal a bit less bumpy for both you and your children. What other pointers can you share? Let's get a list running - I'd love to read them!
[Follow Ellie on Facebook and Twitter]