In an ideal world, our children would grow up without having to split time between two parents, two households. Most of us didn’t venture into parenthood with that plan. But for those of us who’ve found ourselves there, it’s an even more challenging reality navigating shared custody during the stay at home orders and COVID-19. I’m right there with you. I have 50/50 custody of my four kids and it’s definitely not easy navigating what to do with their dad. Here are some things to consider in making your own decisions about visitation during the coronavirus and social distancing.
This is not intended to be legal advice. If you have any questions about your particular situation or orders, please contact your family law attorney.
Custody Orders Are Still in Place
Despite the fact that one parent may feel strongly about the kids staying at just one house during this time, custody orders and visitation schedules are still in effect. I’ve seen a number of online forums where divorced parents are saying that they refuse to let their kids go with the other parent at this time. It’s understandably stressful sending our kids to the other parent’s home during a time of such uncertainty, but you could potentially get yourself in trouble refusing to let your kids go.
Now, if both parents can agree to modify your visitation in writing, then you can certainly come to any agreement you choose to. I’ve seen some parents co-parent beautifully through this, making the decision to have the kids stay at one house with the option for the other parent to make up any missed time in the future.
Show Yourself (and Your Kids) Some Grace
Just like every other married mother out there with their kids out of school, it’s gonna be stressful. But if you’re solo parenting it when the kids are with you, there can be added pressure when you don’t have someone to tag-team home/mom/work duties with. I know for me, it can be easy to feel like I have to do all the things all by myself all the time. But we don’t, coronavirus or no coronavirus. It can still be a really important time to keep some semblance of a routine, but it doesn’t have to be regimented. My kids are watching more TV right now, especially when I need to work. But they’re also getting lots of playtime in our backyard, and I try to take them out for a walk or hike once a day (for their sanity and my own). We’re still doing chores. But bedtime has definitely been a bit lax.
This is not a time for mom guilt. If you’re focused on getting through this, facing financial troubles, and just feeding your kids each day without melting down, you’re doing great. There’s no need to be the perfect homeschool/work-from-home mom right now (or ever). This is the time to hone in on your intuition and do what’s right for you and your family, not compare yourself with what anyone on Instagram or Facebook is doing. But if social media is something that lifts you up and keeps you connected right now, have at it.
Getting Through the Days You Don’t Have Your Kids
Although I’ve grown used to the regular rhythms of having my kids every other week, it’s a completely new experience when they’re not with me now. Before, I would go into my coworking space and my favorite coffee shops to work. I’d get out once or twice a week with friends and go to events that I wouldn’t normally with my kids. These are all ways that I’ve built community and connection beyond my identity as a mother. None of those things is an option right now. So I’ve had to pivot. I have a couple of women’s groups that meet once a week for a Zoom call that I’m completely grateful for (and it’s a great reason to get cleaned up––or not). I get out for a bike ride once or twice a week (and keep a socially safe distance of 6 feet), and take walks with my dog, too. I’m picking up projects that have been on the back burner. And I’m binge-watching a lot more shows that I can’t watch with my kids. And I’m treating myself with to-go orders from my favorite local restaurants that are still open every now and then, too.
I know the time without your kids may sound like a dream to moms out there who aren’t divorced and have their kids all the time. But legally not being allowed to see your children half of the time is not something I’d wish on anyone. And not being allowed to see them during an international pandemic? I’d trade all of my free days for keeping them under my wing any day. Cheers to all the mamas everywhere navigating this new world, but especially to the ones navigating this solo. You’re not alone.