Living while in quarantine is a challenge on an average day. There is the challenge of secure employment, availability of paper goods, and pending scarcity of food products. Then there is the fear of exposure to the dreaded virus even though you are super careful. Yes, it is a tough life and tougher more for others who are struggling with food and housing insecurity and, being honest, I worry about those families and try to support them through various community efforts.
However, as a divorced Mom, I have also felt the impact of the pandemic on our parenting plan. Thankfully, after many years, I am proud to say we peacefully co-parent, which means we were able to fluidly decide to swap our weekly schedule to our bi-weekly summer schedule. The swap also builds in the necessary 14-day quarantine period in case of possible exposure. The two-week plan allows our teen and young adult time to “settle” in and hunker down at one home for a chunk of time and limits their number of transitions. My former husband’s new wife and I joked that the two-week schedule allows us time to recuperate from the cooking and managing of pandemic life! One of the recent observations I shared with my 13-year-old is that the once a month swap breaks ups the boredom of being “home” since she has two “homes.” What is also nice is that each home has its unique perks and recreation options, which also serves as a pandemic boredom buster!
The two weeks the kids are with me are FUN. I cook a lot, monitor schoolwork, and we sometimes take long walks or indulge in frivolous television watching. We discovered we are not “puzzle people” even though we bought a fancy puzzle tray to hold our 1,000-piece puzzle. We decided it is okay not to love puzzles. I also use the time they are with me to encourage conversations with grandparents, look at old family photographs (yes, I once wore a bikini), and share family stories. You see, one of the many drawbacks of divorce is that the organic way those conversations happen in a traditional family structure doesn’t always occur in non-traditional families.
Our new normal started nearly ten years ago, and our two children are thriving. So, don’t feel sorry for us! Our children have always come first, and my two have finally figured out how to ask for gifts in a way that allows them to double their holiday loot. Initially, they would ask for a duplicate gift, even when we tried to show them how they weren’t taking advantage of two homes. It was a new day for them when they finally figured it out!
Now, the two weeks when the kids are not with me are not as fun. It is not that I don’t have fun or that I am not happy; it is just different. One of the main pieces of my identity is “mother,” so it feels odd when the children that I mother are not in my home. Our two-week schedule means that we swap homes on Fridays. Typically, before they leave my house, they spend time tidying up their rooms and packing up the transition bag (school books, medication, computers, etc.). They don’t pack clothing items because we have always maintained that each child should have complete wardrobes and playrooms at each home. It has been one of the best parenting decisions we have ever made, because it gives them their space in each home.
On the first evening they are not home, I wander around looking for forgotten favorite items and enjoying the memory of their presence. I am gentle with myself, and I have a quiet dinner with my partner or friends, followed by rest after a busy period.
The days that follow typically are full of “me” focused activities at a pace and time that are uninterrupted by the school, meal, and other daily life routines. I cook less, use fewer lights, and have fewer Instacart deliveries. I have virtual meet-ups with my family and friends, and my two sisters and I are setting daily text records.
But, it can also be quiet, and on those days, I am thankful for our golden doodle, Sammy, who also wanders around looking for them. After a couple of days, Sammy and I settle into our routine. He stops looking for food on the floor, and I indulge in mindless television shows while eating chocolate. The children and I text and chat almost daily, which is very brief and organic. My former husband’s new wife may text me about the kids, and we will talk through solutions to any problems that may come up. One of our best recent parenting decisions has been to have more consistency between the houses with respect to discipline and expectations.
By the beginning of the second week, I start asking about the food they want me to order and what meals they think they want me to cook. It is a fun way to bridge the transition. I will have groceries delivered by Friday so that when they return, they can open the fridge and pantry to find their favorites. Another interesting tidbit is that they have different preferences at each home.
I love how my children have settled into their double home life and how we have been able to support them.
My pandemic tips: rise at a regular time, get dressed every day, take a short walk, talk to a friend, drink water, eat daily meals, and find joy in something every day. I have found that even doing half of those can be helpful while piddling around the house. Yes, the pandemic “stay home” order has been a challenge for all of us. However, I would encourage you to look outside your bubble and think about those less fortunate than you, those dealing with parenting plans, and those who may have experienced a recent loss. Be well and stay safe!