Co-Parenting During a Pandemic

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My husband and I co-parent our two girls from a previous marriage. They are 13 and 16 years old, and they have been living with their other family in a small west Texas town almost an hour from us. Most of the time, things are smooth sailing between our two households. We are very grateful for this.

Typically, the girls stay there during school weeks to attend school. Every other weekend the girls come to Lubbock to stay with my husband and me. We rotate holidays, and they spend each July with us. If ever we want extra time or some flexibility with weekends, this is easily arranged.

How a Pandemic Affected Co-Parenting For Us

When COVID became a common word in our lives, our regular routines started to shift, and some differences between the two households became more apparent to us.

Firstly, since there was no more in-person school, the girls started spending every other week here with us. It was lovely to have their presence around a lot more, mainly because our outside-of-the-home activities were restricted when Texas started to shut down.

I found that we played a lot more board games. We put together jigsaw puzzles. We went on family walks and rode our scooters around the neighborhood. The girls and I sang along as my husband played the guitar. We have had a lot more quality time together, and it has been awesome!

When it came to schoolwork, the first significant difference between households showed up.

We had some school rules in place during the weeks the girls spent with us. They each had a Google Chromebook to do their schoolwork, and they were expected to be at the kitchen table each morning by 9 am. We asked that they sit and complete their assignments until done – which was usually around 11 or 12.

We frequently asked them to show us what they were working on to ensure the assignments were done and see if any help was needed. It never was. They are good, A students. Yay! They would have the rest of the day to do as they pleased and waste time, and nap as teenagers often do.

After a few weeks, one of the girls mentioned how much they appreciated the structure we provided them for school time. Firstly, they slept in as long as they wanted each day at their other house. Secondly, sometimes days pass without them logging on to their online school program to see what assignments or work need to be completed.

It turns out that being behind and having to use up an entire day to finish the past few day’s assignments wasn’t much fun! 

Another significant difference between how the two households handled the virus was in taking precautionary and safety measures to keep our humans and our homes safe. At our house, we did not go anywhere for weeks and weeks. Seven weeks to be exact.

Slowly, the state and local officials lifted some restrictions. We wore our masks. I made sure that every car was equipped with a hand sanitizer. Sometimes the girls would show up for their week with us without their masks. It was okay; we had extras. No one was leaving our home and entering any business sans mask. Nope! Not on my watch!

The girls started to get invitations to hang out with friends, get Boba Tea, or have sleepovers. We said, “No. We cannot let you go just yet. Please, trust us. This is the way it must be right now.” Sorry, not sorry.

Things were different for them at their other home. No one quarantined or worried about a stay-at-home order at all there. Granted, they live in a smaller community than ours with less positive cases and the chance for exposure. No one wore masks when they left the house, and people were not taking it as seriously as we were here in Lubbock.

This was pretty concerning for me. I worried about the kid’s health and safety. Plus, they have aging grandparents on that side of their family. My husband and I talked at length to both girls about the importance of wearing the masks, using hand sanitizer, washing their hands, etc. We explained it might be wise not to visit their grandparents as much (or at all) while all of this is going on.

The rules were different there. They have other parents who make rules and set expectations when they are with them. And, those expectations may look a bit different than our own.

We were so careful and so particular about staying away from others. What if one of our kids brought the virus inside of our home – to us? There didn’t seem to be much we could do aside from exhibit best practices, sanitize and protect, and drill it into their heads each time we saw them! The rules differed between the two homes. We did our best.

We provided vitamins to keep our immune systems healthy. I always kept extra masks on hand in case anyone needed them. I cleaned all the surfaces of our home and sanitized them with frequent touch-ups.

When we went out in public, I kept reminding them to stay socially distanced from others. “Hey, that’s less than 6 ft.” “Remember, don’t touch anything.” “Did you wash your hands?” I’m sure I drove them kind of nutty, now that I think of it.

The girls have now gone back to their regular routines of coming to see us every other weekend. They are still a little too loosey-goosey with their comings and goings for our liking when they aren’t staying here. It still bothers us but is what it is.

How IT Happened

Recently, their other parents allowed one of them to attend a swimming party for a friend who was moving away on a Friday afternoon. That weekend was our weekend to have the girls. 

After the party, my husband and I picked her and her sister up and brought them to Lubbock. We made tie-dyed shirts in the back yard and played disc golf. As usual, we socially distanced. We wore our masks each time we went inside any place that was not our home. We used the hand sanitizer often.

Upon returning them to their other house, we found out that one of the other kids who attended the swimming party had presented with a fever over the weekend. His test results were positive for COVID-19. Our daughter had been in direct contact with her friend at the party.

Can you say Panic at the Disco?! Holy Mother of all things righteous. THIS. This is precisely what I have been worried about.

The next morning, I called the Health Department. The officials recommended our daughter get a Coronavirus test on day 5 or 6 after exposure. The Health Department said the rest of us were considered secondary exposures. They suggested we await her test results, and only go in for testing if she tests positive or if the rest of us begin to exhibit symptoms.

My husband wanted to be tested, also. He insisted she not go through this alone. Bless him. Thankfully, both tested negative! Hallelujah! We are now several weeks post-exposure, and no one ever had any symptoms present! Hopefully, we all continue to stay out of the woods. 

I will say that now I believe both girls have a new appreciation for our persistence on mask-wearing, social distancing, and sanitizing. Finally, they get it. I think.

Are you co-parenting during the pandemic? Do you and your baby momma/baby daddy agree on house rules? How do you handle not having visibility on the house rules of the other household?