As a divorced Dad, I find myself especially sympathetic to my clients and their children. Parenting is not easy by any means. Co-parenting can be even harder. Throw in a pandemic, and you are dealing with an entirely different beast.
Does it make sense for your child to travel back and forth between both homes? Or perhaps they are better off having two homes to keep things dynamic and fresh? How do you navigate home schooling? What if one household has an essential employee exposed to a lot of people? What if the parent’s views on social distancing are not in line with each other? Do they need to be?
During the past month of sheltering in place I have learned a lot about co-parenting. My eldest daughter, whom lives half of her time with me and half of her time with her mother, said to me unsolicited “if I had to only be at one of my houses during a pandemic, I would go nuts.” So that answers that. We are fortunate that the family members in both of our homes are healthy, none of us need to go outside of the home to work and we largely believe in common principles when it comes to the current global situation. Not everyone is so fortunate.
Often times, as a parent, you have to step outside yourself. You have to be open to new ideas, concepts or changes brought on by life’s unexpected curveballs. As a divorced parent, this is even more profound.
Last week, I did something I never imagined I would do and I am certain my ex-wife never saw it coming. When it was time for my daughter to be picked for her parenting time, her mom brought her younger daughter along for the pickup. My four year old son from my current marriage greeted them at the door and was thrilled to engage with someone his own age. The pure joy on his face in that moment was all it took. I offered to host my ex-wife’s daughter for a play date at my house. Since our daughter was already traveling between homes, we all felt comfortable allowing them to run around in the backyard for thirty minutes. I share this not because I am a co-parenting expert or know the best way to approach these unique times, but to encourage us as lawyers and parents to think outside of the box for the benefit of our children. When my son shared that the favorite part of his day was the playdate, I knew we were doing something right in our co-parenting journey.
Situations like that described above would not be possible without understanding and caring between parents (and step-parents), which my daughter is fortunate to have in both homes. The focus of my next blog article will be on the importance of the step-parents when it comes to raising children in two homes.
On our 40th day of quarantine, my four year old informed me at breakfast that he “wants it both ways”. He said, “I don’t want the bug to go away because I like having you home all of the time, but I do want the bug to go away so I can be with my friends.” There is a lot to be learned from our children. Listening to them adds breadth to our perspective as parents and people. During a pandemic, our children may benefit from us listening a little extra.