Moving is a serious headache of a process. There’s so much to figure out, so much to organize, and it can easily overwhelm you.
Not only am I undergoing this heinous process, but I’m also figuring out the logistics for the rest of my family. Figuring out the unique needs of two adults, a child, and a dog is a challenge. Factor in the added issues that arise when co-parenting and it’s total chaos.
This is the first time we’ll be moving away from my boyfriend’s co-parent, with whom he shares 50/50 joint physical and legal custody. We’ve never lived more than 15-minutes away from each other.
Now we’ll be about double that. With our 5-2-2-5 custody agreement, there’s a fair amount of back and forth. So while it wasn’t an interstate move, it was still one that required some figuring out.
Every step of the way, we’ve had to talk and determine how to handle this in a way that’s not detrimental to any party involved. It went well until we hit a point where there really wasn’t one.
Some families will stay living in very close proximity, or even together, to make things easier for their children. That’s great for the families it works for. When your situation is more complex and that proximity is unmanageable, you have to be real with yourself. If doing what makes things easier for a child is to your own detriment, and those detriments impact your daily life in a way that seeps into your parenting, is it really what’s best?
The fact is that we are all adults who live different lifestyles and have different priorities, which is no one’s fault. Everyone would have to make a sacrifice in some capacity to make this work. So instead, we had to hone our focus on what’s best for the little guy. It wasn’t easy, but now that the plan is in motion and to this point, going smoothly, I’ve figured out a thing or two on how it’s done, and I’m happy to share my learnings.
Moving, in itself, can be a major headache. Moving while taking into consideration the needs of your entire family isn’t a small task. When you also have to take into consideration the needs of a co-parent and a custody arrangement, it can feel overwhelming.
Each family is different and has different considerations to take into account. Before you start your house hunt, take a look at your custody arrangement in relation to the location you’re looking in. Try to anticipate what kind of problems could present themselves, and be realistic about whether these are issues you’re ready to deal with in the long term.
During this time, it’s also helpful to be realistic about your relationship with your co-parent. While some splits are amicable, some are not so much so. If your co-parent is someone you can share things with without fear of retaliation or backlash, it’s best to be honest about your situation as early as possible, keeping the lines of communication open.
In our case, we’re somewhere in the middle. While we strive to co-parent, there have definitely been periods of time where our arrangement more closely resembles parallel parenting. There were concerns about sharing our news, but by sharing it before any house was chosen or anything was concrete, we were able to talk through potential issues and give the other party time to get used to the idea.
Once you’ve found a home, you’ll feel like you’ve already won half the battle. Another important decision awaits you, however. Who do you tell first, your child or your co-parent? A lot of different factors come into consideration here.
You should consider your child’s age, maturity, and mental state. Some children learn to deal with divorce and parents living separately easily, but others struggle with the changes that this entails. Whether this move is coming fresh after the separation or years down the line, it’s important to be honest with yourself about how your child might take the news.
In our case, we told my boyfriend’s co-parent first. Since my stepson is 7 and has a tough time dealing with change, we wanted all the adults in his life to be aware and to keep an eye out for any concerning behavior. This also meant telling his therapist, who was all too happy to report he was excited about the move.
While all things went relatively smoothly, there were definitely some hiccups along the way. The move would bring us farther from my stepson’s school, afterschool, and extracurriculars. It’s important for us to keep his schedule as consistent as possible, so we agreed we would take on the extra travel where necessary, and table the possibility of changing schools until it made more sense.
During this move, we’ve also learned the art of the information diet. See, different adults in my stepson’s life like to encourage him to scout out details they’re interested in knowing. It may seem confusing, but there are just some pointed questions that you can tell a 7-year-old hasn’t come up with on their own.
I have to give credit where credit is due. Ours is not one of the most volatile co-parenting scenarios out there, for one. I know people who have had it much worse; I’ve witnessed it firsthand and have supported them through it. So for my part as the stepparent, I try not to let these things get to me too much.
It is, however, kind of frustrating. As a kid who grew up in an unconventional family situation, I’m all too familiar with how adults will share their (unwarranted, unsolicited) opinions with kids in hopes that they’ll go back home and repeat the message.
My stepson shuts down in all matters of confrontation, so all that asking where those questions really came from will fill him with anxiety. Instead, my boyfriend and I stress to him that he’s a big part of our family and involved in all major decisions, but that some things aren’t for kids to worry about.
By keeping an eye on what we say around him and sticking to our guns when he asks or comments about something directly, we’re keeping him out of a situation that ultimately stresses him out and weighs on him heavily. It may not be a perfect solution, but it’s the best we can do by him as parents.
Really, with moving or any other sensitive situation that a co-parent or members of an extended family need to be made aware of, that’s the best you can do. If you can look at your situation and know that you’re doing what’s best for your child, you’re doing your best.
The adults involved may feel like their needs are the most urgent, but adults are adaptable in a way that children of a certain age haven’t learned to be. By putting the best interests of your little one first, you’re doing your job as a parent, and that’s all anyone can expect from you.