Ten years ago, if you’d asked me where I thought I’d be in my life right now, the answer would not have been a divorced mother of an 8-year-old boy, currently having to work from home and home-school because of a worldwide pandemic, while also trying to juggle co-parenting with my child’s father, while also trying to keep my anxiety at a manageable level, and keep some income coming in without being allowed to leave the house unless absolutely necessary.
And yet, here we are.
So much has changed in the world over the past few weeks. Hell, over the past few days, even hours. This ever-evolving new world we live in is something that’s not only scary, but overwhelming and downright intimidating.
And now, more than ever as a parent, I recognize how important it is to take it one day at a time.
However, that one-day-at-a-time often involves time away from my son – and for more than one day. That’s something I’ve always struggled with, but on a different level.
I have been a co-parenting mother since my son was 2 years old. At that time, he would spend one weekday night and one weekend night and day with his father. We felt it best that he spent more time with mom than dad at that stage, plus daycare was closer to me. Faster than we thought, kindergarten rolled around, and his school is situated near dad (on full agreement from both sides). So, we agreed on a full 50/50 split. Friday to Friday. It worked brilliantly. We agreed to keep the same schedule at both homes, even the same activities, down to the same bedtime routine and weekend commitments.
A week ago, when I picked my son up from his father’s, we had no idea what the following weeks and months would hold. We knew that schools were closing for two weeks as a precaution, and I’d agreed to work from home since Owen was with me and I didn’t want to put us both at risk by going to the office (normally I would have brought him with me).
Our week together was brilliant. I have never seen my child happier. He was eager to learn (you bet I gave him daily lessons and work to do and art, and we even created a daily schedule, hour by hour, created a school name and even a school crest, thanks to my very talented and artistic mother), he was grateful to have the time with me, and respectful of the time mom needed to work. We prepped healthy meals, went for walks, worked out in the living room together and learned about everything from spiders to crayons, and learned cool new art projects with lazy lines and colours.
Then Friday came.
It was time for him to go back to dad’s.
In a week’s time, COVID-19 went from bad to worse the world over. With Italy and Spain in dire straights, Canada is desperate to curb the virus before it gets out of hand. Daily updates from Trudeau and Legault left me feeling hopeful but anxious.
My immediate thought: What happens if we are asked to self-isolate like China and Italy and Spain and so many other places and Owen isn’t with me? What happens if one of his father’s family members gets ill and Owen is in contact with them and he’s not allowed to come back to me? What happens if it all gets so bad that all I want to do is go to the country where my parents live to escape the madness of the city?
And secondary to that is: His father must feel the same way.
Sharing a child/children is difficult enough. It can be frustrating at times having to deal with someone you no longer live with, someone you no longer share a daily schedule and routine with, and perhaps someone you no longer particularly like. But you do it. For the child. And you do it to keep them happy and grounded and structured. And you do it because no matter what BS there is between the two if you, that child (or children) should not pay the price for it all.
But things change. The world changes.
So, how do we adapt?
I know neither one of us will ever want to keep our son from the other. No matter what. But with all this enlisted social distancing and self-isolation encouragement, how long before we are told co-parenting hand-offs are no longer safe?
I need to trust that when my son is with his father, that they are practicing the same level of safety and self-distancing that we are doing here in our household. And his father needs to trust the same of us.
But what happens when we don’t?