I’m sure you didn’t expect to be in this situation when you said your “I dos” and spoke those “for better or worse” vows. When you stood beneath the huppa, or kneeled in the church, or at stood the edge of the ocean. Wherever you were when you declared your undying love for one another, I don’t think you ever saw that love dying.

And I’m sure a future of shared custody and visitation rights didn’t occur to you when you were holding that newborn baby in your arms.

But somewhere along the way, your marriage got messy and out of control. The love departed and, in its place, arrived the need, the want, the necessity to separate. And that’s all very well and good. I don’t believe parents should stay together for the children at any expense.

But now what?

You are standing on the corner of unsure and unsettled (the opposite of that Walgreen’s corner of happy and healthy) signing papers and arranging dates involving your children’s living situation. Your custody arrangement could be a 5225 split. Or a 4223.  One week at mom’s. One week at dad’s. There are numerous options. If it’s confusing for you, think how it is for your child.

I’ve been on both sides of this situation. I’ve had stepchildren come on the weekends and summers. I’ve lived through the every other weekend visitations. I know how draining it can be, both emotionally and physically.

Currently, I’m helping my daughter with her two exes and three children. It can be complicated and messy.

Here are a few things to remember to make it easier on everyone, especially the children:

Don’t let your child live out of a suitcase.

It’s bad enough going back and forth. Taking a suitcase may make your child feel as if he’s only visiting the home he arrives with his belongings in a bag.

Each house should have the necessary items such as toothbrush, pajamas, clothes. Yes, you’ll need to buy these things in duplicate, but it’s a small price to pay to make your child feel at home.

Don’t make your child responsible for clothes left at one house.

It’s hard enough for a tween to remember where everything is when they only live in one house.

Don’t blame your child if the sweater Mom bought ends up at Dad’s house, and doesn’t come back. Go get it. This goes for Tupperware, silverware, lunch boxes, and any other item. These things are not worth fighting over.

Do keep track of books and sports equipment.

I know kids need to be responsible for their own things, but when one parent drops them off at school, and the other one picks them up, it’s unreasonable to expect your child to lug soccer gear around all day at school.

Without lockers, it’s hard to take that big heavy Language Arts book to school in order to get it to the other parent for the evening. As the parent, you should bring those things over after school. 

Do divide up medicines. 

With insurance the way it is today, it’s impossible to get double prescriptions. Divide up any necessary pills.

Don’t bad-mouth the other parent.

Don’t put blame on the other parent. Most importantly, don’t try to outdo the other parent. Just be yourself. And if you should remarry, put your children’s well-being first. Don’t marry someone who isn’t going to love your child.

With some preparation, hopefully, if it’s Tuesday night at Dad’s and there’s a math test on Wednesday, the math book is on your child’s desk at Dad’s house. And if there’s a hockey game on Saturday, and it’s Mom’s weekend, the sports bag is at Mom’s.

Scrambling around at the last minute looking for everything breeds bad attitudes and discontent. Not to mention, headaches and aggravation from driving around at all hours of the day and night looking for textbooks, and sweatshirts. 

If you approach the situation with maturity and thoughtfulness, you won’t find yourself inside that old joke, “Who’s on first?”  Instead, you’ll be able to keep track of belongings, and keep everything in it’s place. Especially your child’s happiness and sense of security.