I don’t travel much for my job at Microsoft but as I’m heading to Minneapolis to attend this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration Conference, I’m feeling grateful for one of the few benefits of having a split family: the flexibility to travel worry free.
I share custody with my kids’ dad. While I’m at the conference, focused on learning, networking and recharging my batteries, I won’t be worried about my kids because they are in great hands. And they are literally at home. Since their dad handles things just fine on his own all the time, the routine isn’t even that out of the ordinary.
My son has Autism so changing the routine can be especially difficult for him. We plan these trips well in advance, put the information on the family calendar as well as our shared Outlook calendar that my son can see on his phone. When he knows what’s coming, he can anticipate the change in the routine and handle it quite well. As he headed to his Dad’s after school yesterday with our babysitter, OFF our normal Monday schedule, he sent me a text message, “Have a good time on your vacation.” 🙂 He knows the routine is different. He knows why. And he’s just fine.
It’s not always easy for spilt families to get along. And things aren’t always coming up roses for us either. But one thing we’ve never argued about is knowing that we need to do what is best for our kids. Part of this is a fundamental understanding that supporting one another in our careers is one big way that we can do what is best for our kids.
Two weeks ago, my ex-husband had a business trip AND needed to be in a wedding in another state. We give each other advance notice. We adjust the schedule. The kids stay stable in their home and school routines and we are able to do the things we need to do for work and even our personal lives. It works. Sure, I could get help from other family members in a pinch but since being with their dad is also being at home for my kids, it’s the best option for them, which makes it the best option for me.
How do we keep track of all of these exceptions in the schedule? Outlook Calendar. I keep a calendar that I share with the kids AND our babysitter. I share appointments with my ex that show what day the kids are with him, what day they are with me, and any other appointments related to the kids. He can see all of these appointments in his work calendar, his single calendar. We’re always looking at the same calendar and it helps keep things straight.
As I travel this week, it will cause OTHER exceptions to the weekly routine. My husband is traveling with me (ANOTHER bonus!) so he won’t be going to guitar lessons with my son this week. We’ve updated that appointment in the calendar to say “No Guitar Lesson / Jeff is out of town”. This will serve as a reminder to the babysitter and will also remind my son of the change, making it easier for him to handle it that day.
So if things aren’t this smooth in your world, I highly recommend making changes so you can find this same level of flexibility and coordination with your ex. It will help get both parents focused on a common goal: stability and predictability for the kids AND it will let you both focus on your careers or whatever personal goals you’re working on. Happy parents = happy kids. Isn’t that what we’re all working for anyway?