Co-parenting During COVID-19
This past weekend was the first time my daughters got to spend time with their dad since spring break. Eight solid weeks with me, so it was definitely time for a breather. While I haven’t written much about it, we have a blended family. Actually, we have a super blended family. My ex-husband, Mr. X and I were married for eight years, and together we had Miss Double Digits and The Diva. After we divorced, we both found new love. Insert, my husband, “The Hubs”, and to this union Stinker was born. Mr. X and his wife have three children as well. Basically, there are kids everywhere! Generally speaking, our co-parenting has grown and evolved over time. We have figured out a happy balance and can communicate clearly without much conflict. This has been years in the making, so I don’t take it lightly or for granted.
Fast forward to March 2020. The coronavirus was making its way through the U.S., and every parent had to make some life decisions. School was cancelled just days before spring break. Mr. X and I had a conversation about whether or not we should keep our existing visitation schedule. (Currently, we follow the state recommended order of 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends with alternating holidays which is listed in our divorce decree.) We agreed pretty quickly that after spring break we would pause visitation until we could see what would happen with the spread of the virus. At the time, the school district had only cancelled school until April 10th. As things progressed and school closures were getting longer, we maintained that the girls would remain with me until the foreseeable future.
Back at my house, initially I thought, “This is fine. We’re going to be fine.” But as I outlined in last week’s post, “The First 48 (Days)”, we weren’t exactly fine around week three. It was organized chaos! Three kids with different schedules using technology in five different platforms. Plus, I was working from home. Yikes! Aside from managing virtual classroom attendance, assignments, food consumption, and having time to get some fresh air and sunshine, I was also fielding questions like, “So when are we going to see Daddy again?” and “You mean I won’t get to see ANY of my friends?” I was juggling so many things that honestly the visitation schedule wasn’t my top priority. Daily survival and staying healthy was!
As I spent time reflecting on this overall experience, and I put myself in my girls’ shoes, I knew that this was hard for them. But it was also for their best interest, even temporarily. So how was I going to explain that to them? I found the words, and I kept repeating them: “I know that this is hard for you. This is hard for all of us. We honestly have one thing in common – your health and safety. That’s what is most important and we are doing what we feel we can do right now. This is hopefully a temporary situation but we will take it day by day.” Miss Double Digits was “fine” and was slightly dismissive of the conversation. The Diva cried, but she is my emotional “people-person” child. She misses the daily interaction with her teacher and friends. We have more Zoom calls (i.e. playdates) for her than anybody else in the house.
Luckily, the communication with Mr. X and the girls’ siblings increased dramatically. They started Facetiming daily. They play a “Battleship” game on Miss Double Digits’ cell phone. The girls have made plans for redecorating their room once they returned to his house. They even painted some new artwork to take to his house. While I didn’t suggest these communication pathways, I’m certainly glad that they have them. Now more than ever, finding ways to be close to the ones we love is critical to filling that void that the lack of physical touch leaves behind.
As the weeks turned into months, and I spent a little (maybe alot) more time scrolling through all my social media timelines, I was beginning to notice that some of my mom friends were either (a) having similar experiences of having all of their children under one roof or (b) had gone strangely radio silent. I wondered how things were going with their co-parenting experience. If they were able to have a stress-free conversation regarding co-parenting or if I was on an island?
I get it. These are unusual circumstances. Face masks and gloves have become the accessories for our wardrobes. Being in the house all day, having these physical restrictions is just as tough as the mental challenge of processing it all. Managing “adulting during a crisis” is enough to make me cry. Now add in children… Everybody is crying! Helping my kids process life during a pandemic has been more than I imagined and I know that I’m not alone. But the part that no one is talking about – and more specifically, not many people are even acknowledging – are the concerns of those parents who have children who live in more than one household. How can you co-parent effectively when a “stay-at-home” order is in place? And what if each parent (and bonus parent) has a completely different view on… well, every aspect of this pandemic?!
I asked a few Moms if they would be willing to share how they have been able to manage co-parenting during COVID. Several Moms shared with me their successes and their (perceived) failures, as well as creative measures they have used to keep things interesting for their kids. I will share their thoughts in Part 2 of “Co-parenting During COVID-19”. In the meantime, everyone stay safe and healthy.