When discussing parenting plans with divorcing parties, I often wonder what is the motivation behind their wants and the posturing that goes on. Some parties want the kids the majority of the time to satisfy their ego that he/she is the better parent. Some want to restrict the other's time with the children as punishment. Some want equal time to reduce child support. And yes, some want equal time with the children for both parents as they perceive that the children are entitled to have both parents as very interested parties in their lives. They go into the negotiations considering what is best for their children.
In a video by IKEA Spain,10 families were asked to participate in an experiment where their kids revealed what they really wanted for Christmas. Children ages 4 to 9 were asked to write two letters: In the first, they wrote to The ThreeKings (Spain's version of Santa) stating what they wanted for Christmas. As you can imagine, the lists were pretty extensive. In the second letter, the children wrote what they would ask their parents for Christmas. What they said isn't what you'd expect: spend more time with me, have dinner as a family every night, tickle me, play soccer with me, read me a story. When asked if they could only send one letter all of the children responded they would send the one to their parents. The letters were given to the parents, all of whom acknowledged the need that their child had expressed.Times have changed - or have they? The greatest gifts of all - caring, love and time with those that we love are something we all want.
When parties are in the process of separating and divorcing, parents should remember the experiment above. Wanting to have an equal shared parenting plan can be beneficial for the children if each parent cradles the children in love and personal attention; it is not beneficial if the driving force for equal shared parenting is just a numbers game (if I have 50% then I must be just as good a parent as the other) or if it is just to reduce the child support payments. Children crave the love of each parent and not just the toys given to them.