Divorce is a fact of life. At this point, if it hasn’t directly affected you, it has definitely directly affected someone you know and love. The trend in the past decade shows that the rate of divorce in the U.S. is going down, but so is the rate of marriage. This still means that whether by divorce not, there are a lot of families figuring out how to best co-parent their kids together.
The following isn’t about the effects of divorce on a family or even a how-to in navigating co-parenting while divorced. There are other professionals that are better suited to answer those questions. However, we do want to help you start to think about child care as co-parents. This isn’t one-size-fits-all, but rather a general guide to remind you that it’s important for all parents involved to be aligned on child care arrangements.
Understand what your child care needs and expenses will be, not only in the short term, but a few years down the road. Make sure child care and who pays for what is a topic for discussion in the early stages of your separation. Involve your lawyer or financial planner for guidance as well. A joint child care bank account is one potential option to explore.
Build a Strong Network
Especially in the transition period, it’s important to have a good circle of people you can trust to call on. That circle can be comprised of friends and family but it’s also good to have a solid base of child care professionals you can call. When schedules and routines are in flux, holes in child care are more likely to leave people scrambling.
Interview a Lot of People
This is always an important tip, but even more so when going through a divorce. Make sure you find the right people for your family. Take more face to face meetings to figure out who you can easily sync with in the long run. Invest time in finding a lasting child care partner and not in-a-pinch finds. The stability of consistent help will make life easier for you and for your kids.
Hire for the Long-Haul
Having great caregivers is typically a critical component to the success of a family, but after divorce, sitters take on a larger role. Essentially the glue between two households. Hiring a stellar professional can help ease the kid’s stress of having their stuff spread out by bringing essential items between our houses (piano books, Nintendo switch, books, etc.)
Share the Sitter
No matter the status of your relationship with your ex, don’t play keep away with your child care team. Having the same network of familiar faces for your kids can help ease some anxiety when you can’t be around. The child care team can also better care for your kids when they’re involved in multiple aspects of their lives.
Share Your Parenting Philosophies
Take time to align on your core parenting philosophies (screen time limits, our values, etc.) write them down and share them with your sitters and other people who help out with childcare. Work with your ex to create a manifesto of sorts that you can share with sitters when we are interviewing so they can assess with they can align with your shared parenting values. This helps them feel empowered to make decisions while on the job. Taking time to work out what you agree on and having some consistent rules, values between houses helps everyone with the transitions.
Look for help that’s centrally located for both parties. You can easily search sitters by zip code. Having a centralized back-up will help alleviate some of the stress when both of you are in a bind. It will also make things easier for the sitter—it’s easier to work for both families at the same time when their time isn’t consumed by their commute.
Be Transparent About Schedules
Even if you and your partner have split, you’re still connected through your children. Keep a shared family calendar, so you have a clear picture of where coverage is needed and when. Even if it’s as simple as someone to help with after-school pick-up.
Your marital status may have changed but for better or worse, your parental partnership remains. To simplify your life and your kids’ schedules, approach the relationship like a business partnership. Keep each other in the loop and lean on the help of friends, family, and professionals to help everyone adjust to the transition. And at the end of the day, it’s about the kids and finding the freedom for your family to do more of what they love.