Moments of separation
The structure of shared parenting seems complex to those outside it. Friends try to remember the arrangements of who is with whom and look at you with pity – how do you keep it in your head? There are problems. Mostly, these revolve around stuff. His stuff. Her stuff. School stuff. Play stuff. If the kids go over to her place in civvies but come back direct from school eventually there will be no more clothes left in my flat. If the kids leave my place in uniform and come back in uniform then one day there will be no more uniform left at her house. If one kid needs x for school on Monday then where is it on the Wednesday before? There is also the question of the contents of school bags. This is a mystery to most parents but for us it cannot be because things in the wrong house cannot just be found upstairs. We need to check it every week and ensure that all the kit that will be needed is included. Things get forgotten, of course they do, but by and large it all works out ok. Most of it is indeed fine until it is time for them to go. Then the screen of normality and adjustment slips. The moments of transition from one family to the other seem to last forever. The tears are short-lived or absent these days, within half an hour, or sometimes half a second, they are in their other home, other room, other games, other reality. Though that is not quite right. It is not their other reality. Both sides of this life are one for them. From the inside of the shared custody life the meaning of normal is different. For them this pattern of life has endured for nearly five years. As they approach secondary school, this double layered existence is normality for them. The division between the two homes becomes standard. But for me, the still emptiness of the flat after they have gone remains an almost unbearable form of desolation. Divorce is a gift that keeps taking.