The paradigm of the cozy nuclear family, with mother and father and 2.2 children, is far from the norm. Especially in these perilous times, all kinds of relatives, friends, and acquaintances find themselves in motley households, out of necessity. But there are still many parent couples left, and what they need to do is buttress, and not undermine, each other. More than ever, parents need to cooperate, and that holds true whether they are together or apart.
Parents are going crazy, at a time they most need to keep their heads. In parts of the country where circumstances are really rough, it’s all about day-to-day survival. In other places, food shortages have barely manifested, and the easiest thing to do is stay in, eat, sleep, consume media, and possibly even engage in a bit of substance misuse. Most of the outlets through which people let off steam and regain their emotional equilibrium are not available.
Being half of a partnership makes everything more fraught. Parents need to have private conversations and opportunities for other sorts of intimacy. If at all possible, they might find ways to give each other relief from child care, even when everyone is unavoidably together. If one parent can give the other even a half-hour break, that can be a blessing.
Of course, professional help from a therapist (virtual or otherwise) is very much to be desired, but even though online consultation with a professional is easier than ever, many factors keep people from taking advantage of the available opportunities.
Turn it up to 11
As if all that was not stressful enough, what about the former couples who have moved apart and moved on, but who share custody of a child, or children? Co-parenting can get incredibly messy. When kids move from one household to another, especially with an expanded cast of characters, things can become complicated.
Even at the best of times, divorced parents can tend to be careless about things like allergies, junk food, sleep schedules, and screen time. Often, they get up to real mischief, trying to outdo each other as the beneficent dispenser of treats. They might curry favor by neglecting to set boundaries or behavior standards. They might ridicule such ideas as serving vegetables or measuring food servings. Prompted by insecurity and hostility, they might expect the children to be little snitches.
In the pandemic scenario, indifferent parents might let the handwashing slide and the masks get lost. The kids mingle within the alternate household’s exclusive “bubble” which might — who knows? — comprise 100 people. Will they take the kids’ temperatures? Do they know the warning signs that should trigger serious concern?
Parents who share custody can’t be blamed for wondering, “Can I trust those people to keep the kids — and, by extension, me — safe from contagion? Or are they going to do something stupid, just to prove some goofy point?” Natasha Caleel wrote of people she knew,
There were parents who were using COVID-19 as leverage in custody battles, parents unable to take time off from essential jobs, parents losing their jobs altogether, or even worse, parents who were worried about matters such as neglect or abuse.
Nobody wants their child to get the virus, because of its intrinsic danger, and also because being sick is one of the gateways to meaningful obesity. Nobody wants their child to become obese, for all the reasons that existed before, and because the virus targets people who are carrying extra pounds. It’s an all-around raw deal.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “My Ex And I Are Co-parenting Amid COVID-19, And It’s Full Of Unexpected Challenges,” HuffPost.com, 12/31/20
Image by spader/CC BY 2.0