Divorce is hard. And co-parenting comes with its own set of challenges, even on a good day. So, when we have something like coronavirus front and centre, consuming our lives, some of those challenges become amplified. My ex and I share custody of my older daughter on a 50/50 schedule. We try to be as flexible as we can with each other, and that extends to current times.
There's no precedent for how to handle co-parenting right now. School is cancelled indefinitely, after-school activities are off, playdates are on hold for now, and life as our kids know it looks completely different than it did just a couple of weeks ago. The only thing we are certain of is that we want to maintain as much normalcy for our child as possible.
With very little in our control right now, my ex and I made the decision to maintain our regular calendar, so our daughter can keep a bit of her regular life. We did make a couple of adjustments to the logistical part of our schedule, but it does not affect the actual time-sharing aspect. When we divorced many years ago, we decided it was best for us to share a sitter to handle school pick-up and subsequent activities, allowing us to have some consistency in our daughter's day-to-day, regardless of which house she's scheduled for. In an effort to keep our circle small at this time, we have put her services on hold and instead are bringing our daughter back and forth ourselves on our designated days. Additionally, since I work from home and my ex does not, he drops her at my house every morning for her to spend the day with me.
We are keeping the same lines of communication open as we did while she was attending school every day. We both have all necessary information to communicate with her teachers and log into her distance learning activities. We copy each other on all emails regarding school, rescheduling orthodontics appointments, and other things we both need to be aware of. She has her own cell phone, and we have an ongoing group text with the three of us, keeping everyone on the same page, so as little as possible slips through the cracks.
I think the most important part of the co-parenting dynamic (in general, but especially in the midst of coronavirus) is transparency and communication. It's my right as a parent to ask questions that affect my child's exposure to anyone at this time. While two homes may have two sets of rules, during a pandemic, it's so much better to try and work together regardless of personal feelings toward each other coupled with the heightened sense of anxiety. I wanted to make sure that if our child was continuing to go back and forth that we were both following similar processes to keep her and us safe. I asked if he was still going to work, what grocery shopping looked like for him, and had a candid conversation about stopping any contact with neighbours and friends. I didn't want to just assume that we were both taking the same precautions and therefore asked questions I normally wouldn't even consider on a "normal" day. Our opinions did not always match up, but overall we were able to agree on the crucial details to limit exposure. We both agreed on no playdates or being around other people until things calm down and it becomes safe. We also agreed that if we did have to go out to get any essentials that she would not come along. And because our daughter is old enough to understand what is happening, she's involved in the dialogue. I that I think it's helpful and healthy to have age-appropriate conversations with my daughter about our new reality, especially since we don't know how long it will continue.
While there are some people who can co-parent without breaking a sweat and all parties always seem to be cooperative, that is unfortunately not the case for other families. The state of our world right now is absolutely adding another layer of stress to co-parenting and sharing custody. It has me on edge waiting for some glimmer of good news with each new day. And that edginess can bleed into all relationships, intentional or not — including the one with your ex. Everyone's co-parenting situation and relationship with their ex is subjective, and we just have to do the best we can and continue to put our kids first.
Emotions are high and shuffling your kids (even safely) back and forth in an effort to be consistent in a time bustling with inconsistency can feel arduous. With so much change, my ex and I both believe strongly in consistency for our child, so it was a no-brainer for both of us to keep things status quo with our custody arrangement. It didn't make anything better or worse in our relationship for each other; rather, it added an element of normalcy I think we all need. It's a constant amid chaos, and one of the only ways I have been able to feel any sense of control is knowing that our family dynamic is not affected. So, if you're struggling through this, too, just remember to breathe, take a step back from a text or phone call with your ex if you feel frustrated, and take it day by day. And know that you are not the only one trying to effectively co-parent with coronavirus creating further complications. Try and treat it like any regular day, just with much more Lysol.