It has become monotonous over the years trying to get the kids’ stuff back and forth with them spending a third of their time at one home and the rest of their time at another. It’s especially difficult when they go straight from one house, to school, to the other house. The logistics of snow pants, special toys, and laundry can take more time than landing a space craft on Mars. Lucky for us, we have been able to work well together in communicating about what goes and what stays and how to get it from one place to another.
Some items it’s just not economical to for the kids to have more than one. Like: backpacks, cell phones, golf clubs, life jackets, etc. But there are other things that are easier to just have at each house because you need it every day or don’t want to be without it when you do need it. For example: snow boots, car seats, swim suits, toothbrushes, braces elastics, etc.
Items We Share
- Fishing poles and other miscellaneous outdoor gear
Because both homes like outdoor activities, a lot of this stuff is at each house (like sleeping bags), but the kids have collected some of their own camping and fishing gear. When they have a camping trip coming up, we just text to ask for the stuff to be sent one direction or the other. The kids love their multi-purpose eating utensil and their knives so we let those kinds of things travel from house to house when the other parent requests. Life jackets are also shared between homes because, dang it, they’re expensive! A kid can’t wear two life jackets at once so we sure don’t need two.
- Sports gear
Baseball bats, gloves, masks, etc. go from house to house between games and practices. These are the things we chase down the most often because of how crazy it is during baseball/softball season. We also share track clothes and shoes, karate uniforms, etc. We actually had the experience of watching a co-parenting couple fighting at a little league game over who has the kid’s belt. It reminded us to be grateful we can easily share stuff because that looked like a sad thing to have to worry about. Life jackets are also shared between homes because, dang it, they’re expensive! A kid can’t wear two life jackets at once so we sure don’t need two.
Our kids have acquired a collection of electronic items that have become a double-edged sword for us, just like they do in every family. This is the first school year we’ve allowed our daughter to carry her cell phone. Most of the devices live at one house but once in a while (especially before road trips) the kids ask to take it to their other house. Between parents, we share the kids’ usernames and passwords for everything they have access to online. We all monitor the blasted cell phone and we all are on the same page about how often it can be used and when it needs to be put away.
How We Buy or Replace
A couple of times a year, especially at the beginning of the new school year, we kind of inventory what the kids have and what they need. The kids have clothes at both houses but there are some things we try to talk about and switch off turns to purchase. We switch off on winter coats and back packs. Sports gear and shoes we split. One of us gets the bat and the other buys the cleats. When we have extra pajamas, or whatever, at one house or the other we send them to the other house. Now that the kids are getting older, they have some regular clothes they like to have at both houses and we leave that more up to them than we did before. And, with that they have learned the responsibility and consequences of having what they need at the right place.
- Big-ticket items
We share the life jackets and sports gear, so we either switch off each year buying what the kids need or we split it. Once, we split a set of golf clubs for our daughter. There are lots of times we talk about big-ticket items we might be buying as a gift to make sure the other parent isn’t getting it, too, or to see how the other parent feels about it. And, we keep up with each other on how it’s going so we can support and encourage the kids while all four parents are on the same page. “Cool new iPad? Great! Here are the boundaries we all agree on…”
- Registration and pictures
The beginning of the new school year comes with a lot of fees and new supplies. Supply lists can be cut in half and registration can split, too. The kids seem to enjoy doing a little back to school shopping with both sets of parents so we split the list and all of us go to Back to School Night. When it’s time for pictures, we choose a package that we can split. We could each just order our own but this has been working for us. We do the same with registration for sports, summer camps, field trips, etc. Keeping track of school lunch balances online is awesome. We just take turns depositing lunch money.
Why This Works
Let’s be honest. The arrangements that are working for us would not work for every co-parenting family. It works for us because we don’t have hostile relationships, we have pretty open communication, and we all have the same goal – to take care of the kids. There are a few bumps along the way but no bruises because we are all willing to get on the same page if there’s a hiccup. Co-parenting is 100% about raising children and 100% not about the past.
If you’d like to be able to share more things (or expenses) between houses, start small. Keep everyone comfortable. Then, add where you can. Don’t fight over a seven year old kid’s belt! If you’re not in a place where you can share stuff, don’t sweat it. Start where you are and build where you need to. Stuff is just stuff. Don’t let it get in the way of being a good parent or taking away from your own happiness if it’s too hard to work it out with the other side.