Any single-parent who has ever had to deal with mid-week visitation knows that they can be experiences from Hell — for all involved. It is like trying to play eighteen holes of golf when you only have time for nine. It can work, but it is really ugly and the entire experience is way too stressful. Nobody has any fun.
Well, that is what mid-week visitation is like. You try and cram twenty-four hours into three. You try and relax and enjoy your kids, taking them out to eat and doing something fun along with the typical day-in-the-life stuff, like homework and sports practice. What so often starts off with the best intentions usually ends up with everyone stressed to the max and no one being happy.
You want to be present to your kids. You want them to enjoy this limited time with you. So, what usually happens is you chuck doing the boring stuff like homework and opt instead to relax and enjoy the precious little time you have. Then the crap hits the fan…
So you bring little Johnny and precious Susie back home (30 minutes late) to the searing glare of the other parent. Then you have to be the bearer of bad news and inform them that, “Sorry, we did not get around to the homework. But the kids had a great time and they are fed!” This usually does not win you any brownie points, and typically results in just digging a bigger hole.
You leave feeling like you just got detention from the principal and your kids have to serve it. Just not good.
There Is a Better Way
Wondering if there is a way to connect with your kids each week where it is a win for everyone, including the other parent? The great news is that there is! Let me explain…
Mid-week visits are doomed from the start. Clearly, the person that ever thought this up was not divorced. While the intention of staying connected with your kids each week is a good one, trying to cram an entire week of Q-time and real life into three hours is not. One little change can make all the difference.
Chuck the Mid-week Visit
I suggest eliminating the mid-week visit altogether. Yup, you heard me — bag that sucker! Instead, replace it with a Friday overnight visit. This has so many advantages.
Advantage #1: It gives more quality time for you and your kids
By picking up your kids after school on Friday and not having to return them until sometime the next morning, gives 18+ hours of time. That is six times better than the typical mid-week visit.
Advantage #2: You don’t have to deal with homework
Since it is a Friday night, you don’t (typically) have to worry about homework. And, even if you did, you have a lot more time to get it done. Can you say, “Less stress?!”
Advantage #3: It is a much more relaxing time
The combination of having more time and not having to deal with homework makes for a truly relaxing time. Instead of rushing the kids through some fast-food drive-thru so you can still have time for fun, you can take your time and actually enjoy a meal together AND still have plenty of time for fun. Plus, they are all sleeping at your house. Aren’t sleep-overs more fun anyway?
Advantage #4: It does not disrupt the kids’ week
Kids need routine — this is even truer after divorce since divorce forces so many changes into a kid’s life. The mid-week visit blows a hole in the normal routine. The typical homework-dinner-bath-bed routine is thrown out the window each week creating stress for everyone. The Friday overnight eliminates this disruption. A bonus for everyone.
Advantage #5: The other parent has extra time off each week
Not sure how important this is to you, but I will tell you that you will have a much more compliant and cooperative former spouse if you can remove some stress from their life. The Friday overnight does just that. It is like giving them a mid-week break, too. They get every Friday night off from the daily grind of the kids, plus they don’t have to pick up the fallout that the mid-week visit normally leaves behind. This is sure to put them in a much happier mood. That’s known as win-win, my friend.
Just to clarify, when you shift to the Friday night visitation, this means that the non-custodial parent will have the kids overnight every Friday night; it replaces the weekly mid-week visitation. If your divorce decree specifies a mid-week visitation, you may need to get this change in writing, but my experience is that when something has the support of both parties, it can be handled informally. If in doubt, check with your attorney.
Pick a Convenient Time and Place
Lastly, you will want to arrange a common meeting place/time to bring the kids back on the Saturdays when you don’t have them for the weekend. I have found that sports practices or other routine Saturday events are convenient times and places to make that happen. For me, my kids had horseback riding every Saturday morning, so I would meet their mom there and pick up the kids from her then. I was going to be there anyway, so it worked great. Plus, I was able to get the kids back early enough so it did not blow a hole in the day. With a little tweaking, you can make the Friday overnight simple, smooth, and enjoyable for everyone.