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Challenge: Pandemic Parenting

When a pandemic provides the gift of time for a parent sharing custody

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The laundry list of pandemic gripes is vast and deep. Restlessness has infiltrated daily life. Impatience continues to manifest in a variety of ways. Covid fatigue is real and nobody even knows what “normal” is anymore as the term “new normal” is tossed around like confetti in regular conversations. This pandemic has absolutely flipped the script on parenting.

But it’s not all bad.

With nothing but time, we personally accomplished some big things in our little corner of the world, like potty training a toddler and moving her out of a crib into a big girl bed. And among these little silver linings we have collected like imperfect seashells along the way, the biggest win by far has been the time. I don’t mean that in the cliché way either. As a parent sharing custody of a child with my ex, time with her that I normally wouldn’t have is the ultimate gift. It's time none of us in our blended family would get in normal circumstances and is completely based on logistics, but it’s tangible, plentiful and has changed everything.

I’m on a 50/50 custody sharing schedule with my 12-year-old daughter. Since the pandemic resulted in her starting her first year of middle school virtually, we had to make some changes to our plan. Her dad works in an office and I work from home. So, she comes to our house every day for school. She hasn’t been in my house every day since her dad and I divorced roughly a decade ago. So, getting to see her daily (even if she’s rolling her eyes at me telling me how uncool I am) has been a huge shift. A welcome one.

The gift of time goes even further than just the two of us. Three plus years ago, my husband and I welcomed her little sister. When there are siblings involved, they essentially share custody too. She doesn’t get her big sister here all the time. However, our pandemic plan has given two sisters so many more moments together. An increase in bonding and bickering. But an increase I will take a million times over.

The fact that this is all happening during a pivotal school year is also a huge bonus. Middle school is rough. I’m not naïve to forget the social pressure, the mean girls and the inherent drama that comes with the middle school rites of passage. The dynamic is a major change from the childish undertones of elementary school and it’s something that has been top of mind for me as a mother watching my older daughter carve out her own identity. Even amid the daily frustrations of virtual learning (and there are A LOT), I feel grateful that she can truly use this time to focus on the academics of school and not get deterred by the social complications that accompany middle school.

I know there are countless jokes about our kids driving us mad during this time in history. And I get it because emotions are high and people are on edge more than ever. Despite all of it, the fact that I get my blended family under one roof for far more time that I would normally, is unequivocally the biggest blessing this pandemic could ever provide and it’s something I will never take for granted.

Covid has changed everything about parenting. But it’s not all bad.

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