Co-parenting in a crisis: Parents share how they handled the lockdown

"When the chips are down, my son’s dad loves him with his whole heart and it shows in how he engages with him."
"When the chips are down, my son’s dad loves him with his whole heart and it shows in how he engages with him."

Having been through most of the lockdown stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, baking, cleaning, and crying, I’ve been casting around for something positive to have come out of it all.

You’ll never guess what made it to the top 10.

Go on…

Take a guess…

My ex.

Didn’t see that coming, did you? 

Premature empty nest

It didn’t come as much of a surprise to me. My kids’ dad and I have a good relationship and we’ve always agreed that our children come first.

We respect each other and make joint decisions on matters that affect them. Which is why, at the beginning of lockdown, the kids went to their dad’s for the duration.

His is the bigger house, the one with a pool, and also where my eldest lives. It made sense for all of them to stay together and to be somewhere where they would be comfortable and get some exercise.

I also trusted him to provide a safe and happy environment. 

He didn’t disappoint.

There was a proliferation of news articles at the time about what to do if you and your ex couldn’t agree on who should have the kids, or what recourse you had if your ex wouldn’t grant you access to them.

I was spared that anguish. I struggled emotionally, having been thrust into a sudden and premature empty nest syndrome for three weeks, but I didn’t lose sleep over whether the kids were ok.

Throughout, they were well fed, calm, and in good spirits. 

It’s all about compromise

Ours isn’t a unique arrangement. Anja, single mom to a 12-year old boy, says that her relationship with her ex has always been amicable.

“We never argue about who gets to see our son and who doesn't. It’s all about compromise and doing what is best for him.”

Lockdown has been no exception for them.

“When lockdown started, we agreed that I would look after my son, as my ex is diabetic. Three weeks did not seem to be too long. When the lockdown was extended indefinitely, we changed the plan, and agreed that my ex would look after him sometimes so that I could go grocery shopping. Recently, he started spending one night per week at his dad’s house.”

We’re in this together

It hasn’t been as easy for Kim, divorced mother of three from Cape Town, who doesn’t always see eye to eye with her ex regarding visitation and child access arrangements.

But lockdown has brought with it an unexpected benefit: “We have always tried to remain committed to what is best for the children. I have found that the lockdown period brought about increased communication between us, as we are all (myself, my ex, and his wife) navigating home schooling, the kids’ emotional needs and our own difficult work situations. Very much, in this together!”

Getting creative

When your five-year old son has an immunodeficiency, finding a child access arrangement that will suit everyone is particularly challenging.

For single, working mom, Kate, this meant ceasing physical contact between her son and her ex, who has a high contact job and is out on the road during Level 4 of lockdown. 

But this hasn’t stopped them from seeing one another. “My son and his dad have a really close bond, so we’ve made every effort to keep contact through voice notes, video calls and exchanging pictures. We even sometimes eat meals “together”.

My son’s dad knows how to make him laugh and they have hilarious conversations with much snorting and giggling. It definitely lifts my son’s spirits.  When the chips are down, my son’s dad loves him with his whole heart and it shows in how he engages with him.”

It’s not all doom and gloom

Which all goes to show that lockdown hasn’t been all bad and also that my ex and I aren’t the only weirdos to have managed to navigate this period amicably.

While it had the potential to add yet another layer of stress to what, for some, was an already fraught situation, some co-parents have found a way through it by applying a little creativity and a lot of empathy and understanding. 

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