The Splits: Parents, Kids, & Holidays

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, I can't help but think about all of the children of my clients who will only be celebrating with one parent or who will be splitting the holiday between their parents. Last year, I heard a family law mediator ask a question that I keep repeating in my mind: "In fifteen years, do you want your child to have to decide which parent to invite to their wedding?" This question can also apply to holidays and other special occasions: Will your child have to choose who to celebrate their college graduation with? Or which parent to spend Thanksgiving with each year? Will your child have to explain to your grandchildren why they don't get to see you on Christmas? Holidays and special occasions are difficult when families are breaking up or have been separated for a while, and it is difficult for two people whose romantic relationship is over to stop seeing each other only as exes, but instead as co-parents to their children. As difficult as all of this is, there are people who find ways to have cordial relationships for the sake of their children, no matter how difficult it might be. It probably even makes them feel better to find a way to let go of the hurt and negativity towards the ex. Most importantly, however, is that doing this teaches your children that they are loved by their parents, that it is possible to work through conflict and disagreement, and that it is possible for them to have both of their parents in their lives.

While thinking about all of this, I came across the article "Giving Thanks After a Split," by Aisha Harris. The last two lines of the article are particularly striking: "When exes bring good intentions to the table, it’s the perfect occasion to open the door to a healthier relationship. It gives parents, and their kids, more to be thankful for all year round."

Stay-at-Home Parents & Child Support

I read this article, Moms in 'Survival Mode' as US Trails World on Benefits, which provides the statistic that only 12% of workers get paid time off to care for a baby or a sick parent. Most people I talk to about taking time off when they have a baby have explained that they do not get paid leave from work unless they use up their paid-time-off...and even then end up depleting their savings to survive during that time. But what about people who don't have PTO or savings to rely on?

This also makes me think about child support in Washington. Child support is calculated based on the ages of the children and the income of the parents. If a parent is not working, that parent's income is imputed if the court determines that the parent is "voluntarily unemployed or underemployed." (To impute income means that an income is listed for that parent although the parent is not actually earning it.) In the majority of cases, parents who stay home to care for their children are considered voluntarily unemployed (there are, of course, exceptions). I understand the state's interest in making sure that children are supported by their parents instead of by public benefits when possible, but I also can't help but think that this policy of saying that a stay-at-home parent is voluntarily unemployed helps support the idea that parenting is not considered important or respected by our society.

Too many times I have heard from stay-at-home parents that they are often faced with comments and questions about what they do all day, and there seems to be this idea that they sit around eating bonbons all day. This general idea that stay-at-home parents are doing real "work" or that what they are doing is not as "valuable" as what parents who work outside of the home are doing must affect the lack of policies in place to provide paid time off for new parents. It also means that parents really need to do a cost/benefit analysis about whether or not working in the home is worth working out of the home, especially if there is a possibility that you might end up needing child support at some point.

Infant Safety Class

Keeping your children safe is probably one of your biggest priorities. If you are expecting a new baby or have a newborn, consider attending a baby safety class. Parent Trust offers a class for expectant families and those with babies under 1 year old. They appear to offer the class about once a month in multiple locations in both King County and Snohomish County.  The class focuses on the latest in injury prevention in the first year of life, as well as infant CPR and choking rescue (AHA guidelines) practice. Parents, grandparents, nannies, and other caregivers welcome!

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