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Sharing Isn’t Easier As An Adult: Surviving Co-Parenting Through the Holidays

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“What’s E going to be for Halloween?”

“She wants to be a kitty cat, she’s obsessed!”

“Are you going to take her trick-or-treating?”

……

Here comes the awkward part – the part where I get to explain that my ex-husband and I alternate holidays. We have to share some of the best days of the year.

The holidays are a time to spend with family. Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, waking up on Christmas morning, sharing family traditions, etc. But what happens when you have to share your family?

When my ex-husband and I went through our divorce, we decided to keep it pretty civil when it came to dividing up the holidays. We both wanted to spend time with our daughter and we thought it was fair for her to get those special moments with each of us. So we share. Some holidays, like Halloween and Thanksgiving, we alternate; while others, like Christmas, we share time on the actual day.

My parents got divorced when I was in my twenties and while I understood and had an easier time coming to terms with our new normal, the hardest part for me was the holidays. Trying to see everyone and spend time with them, making sure to fit it all in.

But, as with life in general, trying to do it all isn’t fun or realistic.

Last year my ex and I were separated but not yet divorced and we still kept it civil and shared the big holiday: Christmas. I was fortunate enough to have E on Christmas Eve and wake up with her on Christmas morning. What a joy it is to watch your child come downstairs on Christmas morning. She couldn’t have cared less if there were any presents under the tree; I think she just fed off of our excitement.

It seemed only fair that since E was with me in the morning, she’d spend the rest of the day with her father and his family. I’ve never felt so alone on a holiday. I mean, I wasn’t completely alone, but I felt like part of me was missing. I know she was having fun and seeing family that she doesn’t get to see on a regular basis, but selfishly, I wanted her all to myself. I didn’t want to share her.

She’s two and half right now and sharing isn’t something that always comes easy to her. We’re learning how to share our toys, our crayons, our space and it can be a battle. Going through a divorce and figuring out a “parenting plan” is very similar.

You have to adjust to sharing and giving something up – in this case it’s time with your child.

Selfishly I want her all to myself. I want to see her every day and put her to bed every night, but I also know that I’m not the only person in her life, there are two parents who want the same thing. We’ve gotten into a routine, sharing time during the week and alternating weekends. Holidays are still the hardest part. Taking your kids trick-or-treating might not sound like fun to some parents. To others, the process of dressing them up, taking them around, watching their faces light up when someone puts a piece of candy in their bag – that is fun. (Though I must admit, trick-or-treating last year for an hour and half and getting only 15 pieces of candy felt like a rip off… but that’s a different story.)

Since I didn’t get to take E trick-or-treating this year, I made the effort to leave work and show up at her Halloween parade and party at daycare. I could tell how excited she was when I got there, and I knew she would be just as excited with her father later that night.

Maybe it’ll get easier as time goes on, much like sharing gets easier when you’re a child. But I do know that E will grow up knowing both of her parents love her and are grateful to spend whatever time they can with her.

For those of you that have to co-parent, how do you manage the holidays? Does it get easier? What do you do to make it easier on yourself?

For anyone who will be without his or her child during part of the holidays, you’re not alone. I’ll be over here, thinking of you and just scrolling through the 7,000 photos of my daughter on my phone until it’s time to go pick her up….

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