50/50 – a fair share of childcare
by Alan Matthews
Having been with my ex-wife for over twelve years (seven of them married) we sadly realised we didn’t love each other anymore. We agreed on an amicable divorce and originally a decision that our four-year-old son would stay with me. After solicitors got involved my wife changed her mind about leaving our son with me and a 15-month custody battle ensued. I won’t go into the details other than to say that it was a torrid time and would strongly recommend parting parents try very hard to reach a suitable, fair agreement outside of court.
Eventually the courts awarded a Joint Residence Order on our son, meaning that we would share custody of him. For more than ten years now he has alternated between the two of us, one week with his mum and then one week with me. We also share school half terms and holidays.
Right from the outset I made it clear that I didn’t want to be ‘a weekend dad’, taking him to the cinema, for a quick burger then home to his mum. I always believed, and still do, that he – and children in general – need two parents. If they can’t have them under one roof the next best thing is to have them under two!
After the initial set-up and a certain amount of bitterness, my ex and I still both go together to James’s school open evenings and quite often to watch him play rugby for his school or local club. While he was younger we also jointly took him out for his birthday and sometimes on our own birthdays. We talk, when necessary, about how he is doing at school and in life and talk over any problems we have with him, and invariably agree a plan of action.
It hasn’t always been easy and I have had to change directions work-wise several times over the years to make sure I made myself available for him before and after school. My current job as a life coach, using my experiences to help others, has given me that flexibility.
I have had to learn to cook and do the washing, etc. during the last ten years (you can now add chauffeur to that list!). But when he leaves me after my week, without a suitcase full of clothes – he has a duplicate of everything to avoid the need for changeover suitcases – I know that I have had a big part in helping with his growth and development. If I had the choice again I would not change the decision I made to fight for a joint custody.
James is now a strapping 6ft tall 14 and a half year old and just started his GCSEs. He continues to represent his school and various clubs at rugby and athletics and, although he has a certain amount of ‘teenage attitude’, I am continually being complimented on his manners and upbringing. I now see a young man whom I look upon with great joy and pride and one who has coped brilliantly with the upheaval in his life.
Two parents are better than one, even if they are not under the same roof!Alan Matthews can be contacted by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website, www.reallife-coaching.com