“One of the things that is clear is that if it is the case that children who are under the age of 18 need to move from one parent’s home to another parent’s home, that is allowed” clarified Michael Gove on BBC Radio 4 on March 24th after initially stating the opposite on ITV’s Good Morning Britain much to my horror! As I watched Boris Johnson address the nation the night before I got very worried that my daughter would not be able to see her dad for weeks possibly months. Thankfully this was not to be the case!
My divorce from my American husband was finalised in July 2018 and since then our daughter stays with her dad every other weekend and about a third of the school holidays. Originally I was horrified at the idea of not seeing her every weekend but now I’m completely OK with it! I’m convinced it really helps my mental health and I believe it’s really important she spends time with her dad.
The first few days I worked from home were fine because she was still at school but the week after things quickly got a lot more “interesting”. As a single mum I relied a lot on “outsourcing”. However “outsourcing” isn’t possible during lockdown, no more cleaner, no more babysitters and even no more online food delivery slots! Add working from home full time and “home-schooling” a 5-year-old and it quickly became chaos so something had to give. I gave up on school work after 2 days. As per the Department of Education’s official guidance for children my daughter’s age, the first thing they say is “sit with them as they work”. Well guess what? I can’t do my job and sit with my daughter and when I tried to I quickly realised I didn’t have any teaching skills or techniques! So she spends a lot of time playing! If there were 2 parents at home, you could take turns working and doing school work but I don’t have that privilege.
The Advantage of Co-parenting.
The privilege I do have is that my co-parenting schedule with my ex-husband continues the same as pre-lockdown. I did a very “scientific” poll of my Instagram followers that does include quite a few single parents and 85% said they were grateful for the break that co-parenting affords but the rest are not letting their children go and see the other parent. I am sure there are some valid reasons for this in some cases but there definitely have been reports of parents abusing the situation to harm the other parent, which ultimately harms the children. In my opinion this situation is difficult enough without it being used as a weapon to inflict pain or revenge.
I had my daughter one on one 24 hours a day for 13 days in a row and it was tough for us both. The intensity of your child only having you to speak to and to ask for things and for you to only have them to speak to physically as well, can be overwhelming for you both. I was sleeping very badly from the stress and the pressure, I have never longed for bedtime so much!!! It made such a positive difference for us both when her dad came to pick her up and have her for over a week as per our original Easter holiday agreement.
Finally here are my tips for co-parenting and surviving lockdown as a single parent.
- Try and stick to your current co-parenting agreement as consistency will help everyone in the long term
- Make the most of any “breaks” you get from your children, I went into full Marie Kondo decluttering mode the minute my daughter got in her dad’s car.
- Frolo is a single parent community app and is a great resource for single parents so I’d recommend joining that.
- This is a hard, unprecedented and particularly difficult situation for single parents to cope with so of course it’s OK to struggle and be overwhelmed at points.
- Pick your battles and your priorities. I’ve chosen doing my job and not spending all day trying to force my daughter to do school work. Disney + and the iPad are my friends and if that’s what it takes that’s OK.
- Try and join virtual calls and meetups so as not to be too isolated.
- Treats! They are very important during these times, regular takeaways are a good idea, who wants to eat their own food day in and day out!
- Ask your co-parent for extra help even if it’s just FaceTiming the children more often, 30 mins peace can make a difference.
- Divorce and separation is very hard but we survived that!
- Remember one day this will end.
Adele is a guest blogger and we are delighted to have featured her article.
If you need to discuss any of the issues raised in Adele’s blog please contact any of Rayden’s solicitors either by email or telephone 01727 734 720. We are available for consultations via videoconferencing on whichever platform is preferred.