Is Shared Care for You?
Dads are more ‘hands on’ than ever before but the fact remains that in the UK, children are mostly cared for by mums. Most people’s work commitments are the big barrier to a more equal sharing of time with children. Although there are parents with flexible or shift work that allows them a more equal role in bringing up the children, for most of us families follow the traditional model of dad being the bread winner and mum looking after the children.
Many parents are forced to question this arrangement when they separate. If they have shared the upbringing of the children before the separation what’s to stop them carrying on this arrangement? If they didn’t share care equally before, what’s to stop them starting now? These are tough questions –
Mums will often ask why change what the children are used to, especially if they’re already coping with lots of changes around the separation. They often feel it’s best for the children to have a main home with mum and see dad mostly at the weekends.
Dads will often question whether this is really fair and if they only see the children at weekends worry they will become less important in their lives?
There really are no easy answers to these questions other than to remind parents that whatever arrangements parents come up with for their children, the children’s needs are more important than the parents needs.
Research has also found out that if parents are to share the care of the children, it only works well for children if parents can communicate about them and generally get along. A shared care arrangement for parents who are in conflict won’t work for the children even if it suits the parents.
So how will you know if it will work for you? Try and answer yes or no to the following questions:
- Can you communicate and negotiate fairly well about the children?
- Do you basically respect your ex as a parent despite your relationship disappointments and personal differences?
- Can you put your personal disagreements and conflicts to one side and focus on what the children need in a given situation?
- Is there compromise and give and take when there are disagreements?
- Can you share control and respect the autonomy of the other parent’s household?
- Are your fundamental child rearing values and practicalities similar?
- Can you tolerate your differences without seeing them as detrimental to the children, and can you distinguish between the important and unimportant differences?
- Do you value what the other parent has to offer your child?
- Are you willing to tolerate the personal inconvenience and extra work in coordinating schedules?
- Is your child able to handle transitions?
- In the married family were the child rearing tasks shared (not necessarily equally) if not, is there a commitment to increase sharing now?
This is just a guideline but if you answer ‘yes’ to most of them then shared care may work for you. If there are some important no's then it might be better to think about another type of arrangement that would suit your children better. Or, you could work on the problem areas with your ex. Using Family mediation may be helpful.
Follow this link for further information on children in the middle after separation
Or read about shared care disputes in mediation. This article was originally published in the Family Law Journal, December 201. It was written by Bernadette Davis, one of our forum's resident moderators, who explains some of the emotional and practical complexities of shared parenting.