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The Upside of Shared Custody

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As I write this my husband is moving into a rented one-bedroom apartment two blocks away. Our son AJ is almost 3. He will soon be bouncing back and forth from mommy's to daddy's and back again. Very much like my 7-year-old daughter, Aria, who has been doing this since she was 8 months old. Her daddy lives two blocks in the other direction. My neighborhood is the Bermuda Triangle of my failed relationships with my baby daddies.

The pinball home life has been hard on Aria, and I know what's ahead for AJ. So while my heart is as fragile as a hollow Easter egg, I am going to look at the bright side of things. There are a few dirty little secrets of shared custody that no one tells you about. The downtime when your kids are across town can be used for all of these fab activities, and more!

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Toss it. Kids' crap piles up. And up. Even my attempts to talk to Aria about tossing something—or even worse, giving it away—results in tantrums and tears. It's life or death to see even the most soiled, hand-me-down stuffed rabbit put in the Goodwill pile. But when she is at her father's house for a few days I seize the opportunity to clear the land mines. It's a thrilling covert operation that I've been practicing for years. It works. Nothing is ever even missed. Note: This also goes for clothing and furniture.

Cash in your winnings. Got a calculator? How much does it cost to grab a bite and see a movie when you're on the babysitter clock? Enough to furnish a cute little shopping spree at Forever 21. Maybe even Zara during a sale. Now you have two, maybe three, even four nights to yourself. Go to a movie, have a girl's night, get a massage. Or, stay home, catch up on Girls, eat a pint of ice cream out of the carton (no one's watching) and, yes, soak in the quiet of a toy-free tub. Then, tally the money you've saved and book a Botox appointment with the winnings!

You may wake up at 6:30 in the morning because you're used to it, but you don't have to.

Soak in the dusk. Being free of the school pick-up adds hours to the day you never knew existed. I don't grab my kids until 5 p.m., but I start thinking about picking them up around 3:30 p.m. The "me brain" shuts down and the "mommy brain" takes over. What am I making for dinner? Do we even have any food? Should I shop now? Will AJ want milk when I pick him up? Did I buy diapers? Should I clean up before they come home? And so on. When Aria's dad picks her up and it's his night of the week, the day gets six hours longer. Take an evening stroll, a candlelight yoga class, go to a movie and eat a large popcorn for dinner! And guess what, you may wake up at 6:30 in the morning because you're used to it, but you don't have to.

Get out of town. This one is unusually novel. If you have kids, you probably haven't squeezed in much solo travel since you had them. Hello, Amex Mileage Points. Hop online, find a cute little hotel somewhere, cash in a few points and GET THE 'EFF OUTTA TOWN, MAMA! It goes without saying, you deserve it. Toss the child seat in the garage, fill up the tank and take off. Drive, fly, bike. Who cares where you land? You will know this: There will be no butts to wipe but your own when you get there. And that's a win-win.

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Get high. Relax, I'm not advocating drug use. After all, I'm a super lightweight when it comes to anything conscious-altering. After two glasses of wine, I'm doing the "Bus Stop" with the bus boy in a restaurant kitchen. But when I'm on the mommy clock, I can't bear being altered. I need to be on top of my game and ready to jump out of a burning building. There's always some kid in the bed, and several middle-of-the-night wakings for everyone. When I punch out, I can dose up a full 8-ounce glass of pinot. I can even share an entire bottle with a friend, without fear of forgetting how to dial 9-1-1. When I ultimately conk out into a deep sleep, it's OK, because I know Aria is safe and sound at her dad's house. Her needs are being met, she's being loved and protected, and most of all she is happy. I can finally, well, sleep.

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