Articles Posted in co-parenting

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what the holidays will be like this year. Of course, the holidays are supposed to be a time filled with love and joy; a time spent with family and friends. This is true no matter what holiday you celebrate at this time of year. After all, that is what we see in all the holiday movies and hear in all the holiday songs. But, as most grownups know, even in normal times, as special as this time of year is, it is also a time that is inevitably more hectic and more stressful. But this year is different. Many are facing the loss of a loved one, in some cases, more than one loved one. So many people are separated from family members – in hospitals, nursing homes, or just keeping their distance to stay safe. Those who live alone are feeling the solitude even more while those who live with others are feeling the added pressure of the extra time couped up inside because while time together is wonderful, most of us are not accustomed to quite this much “time together.” And then there is the absence of so many of the holiday activities and traditions which we have come to treasure. As an Italian American from Brooklyn, for me, this means foregoing Christmas Eve in Brooklyn with extended family. As the mom of a two-year-old, it means no visit to see Santa this year. But I consider myself lucky. My family is healthy and I have not had to suffer the loss that so many have.pexels-nicole-michalou-5765727-200x300

Yet even as the pandemic drags on, we are striving to make the holidays a time of happiness. These are unusual circumstances, we tell ourselves. It is only one year and next year we will be able to celebrate again like we once did. These feelings of loss, loneliness, sadness, and hopelessness are not usual for this time of year and this too shall pass. But of course, this is not true for everyone. For some, the holidays are not a happy time, even when there is no pandemic. This is true for so many including those who are recently divorced or in the middle of a divorce.

Certainly, it is hard to be happy when the life you knew changes. Suddenly you find yourself dealing with the magnification of loneliness and navigating the stress and the hectic of the holidays alone. Maybe you are struggling with old traditions. Perhaps it is the first year that you will spend the holidays without your children. And added to the normal stress that always comes with the holidays is the need to manage parenting time schedules and feeling like you need to keep everything the same for the kids, while so much has changed.

Dear Santa:pexels-cottonbro-6140236-200x300

I know I wrote to you in October asking you for just a few things for Christmas. I know you are busy and that kids all over the world need you more than ever. I was looking forward to Christmas when Uncle Harry always come dress like you and my sister plays carols on the piano. I just want to let you know that I would like to change my Christmas list. It’s not that I do not like Transformers or Batman. I love them! It’s just that things have changed around here. Mom and Dad’s fighting has gotten a lot worse. I know they think they are keeping it from me but I hear them fighting and I see the way they look at each other. I heard Dad say he wants a Divorce and mom said she did too. I know what Divorce is My friend Tom’s parents got divorced last year. Tom did not see his Dad for a long time until he was asked a lot of questions by some Doctors. He was scared. I don’t mind if Mom and Dad divorce. If they Divorce like my friend June. Her parents divorced but did not fight over her and were nice to each other. June sees her mom and dad all the time and they even go to her soccer games. She says nothing is that different she sees her mom and dad and she likes that there is no more fighting in the house. So here is what I would like. I want mom and Dad to stop fighting. I want them to be happy. I do not want them to fight over me and I want to see both of them Dad was sick this year and Dad said mom was the best nurse and told me what a great mother I had. Mom said that Dad was a hard worker and I should appreciate all the things he did to make our family better. Could you please remind them about that? I know that usually, you give kids like me toys and that you have a magical workshop. It’s

really the magic I am looking for this year. So what I really want for Christmas is for my mom and dad to calm down. When I get upset my Dad always says calm down buddy and my mom gives me a hug. That really works. Maybe you could give my mom a magic hug and tell my dad to calm down. I figure they would listen to you. I told my sister who is really big that I was going to write to you. She said it was a great idea and she would get it to you or your elves. She said she would like mom and dad to calm down too. I see her cry sometimes so I know she is sad. We are usually happy this time of year even mom and dad. We didn’t decorate the tree together we did it with mom and dad sat in the room by himself. I could see mom was being brave like she tells me to be when I get a shot. Every year we drive around the neighborhood looking for tacky lights this year mom had a headache and didn’t go. It wasn’t as much fun cause mom laughs through her nose when things get funny. I know things will be different now. But it could be nice different that would be best. And if you think I should have the transformers and batman too that would be great. I have been very good.

As I sit here this morning working from home because I have a sick 23-month-old that cannot attend daycare, I find myself reflecting a lot about this experience that is being a working mom. It is most definitely nothing like what I could have possibly imagined two years ago when my husband and I were patiently awaiting the arrival of our first child. But as the cliché goes, right on his due date he made his appearance (he gets his punctuality from his father) and everything changed.

pexels-august-de-richelieu-4262414-200x300I knew being a working mom would be hard, but I also imagined having it mostly together – continue my career, breastfeed exclusively until my child turned one, take him to activities like My Gym, baby music classes and Mommy & Me swim to get him engaged early, read him a different story every day, make healthy meals and exercise, and have everything together for the next day before going to bed each night. Arrogant, I know, but hadn’t my mom and my grandmothers done it? Hadn’t they taken care of all the childcare stuff while still working because that is what we are supposed to do? And everywhere I looked it seemed there were working moms who had it all together. I wanted to handle it the way I thought they were handling this working mom thing. If you are a working mom or just a woman in general, you probably know what I am talking about. Women tend to imagine the women around them are doing everything right, while we are barely keeping it together. We tend to romanticize the women in our lives that we have looked up to and idealized.

When I think about it now, I usually find myself smiling, sometimes even laughing at these crazy ideas I had. And sometimes, I am still hard on myself and think that if I tried a little harder I could have it more together the way I thought I would. My days mostly fall somewhere on the scale of organized chaos to outright chaos. I have learned that most of the things I thought would be easy are actually really hard. I have learned that many of the women that seemed to have it all together are going through the same experience as me. So too I have come to realize that we almost never do it alone. Despite what I remembered, my mom and my grandmothers did not do it alone (it was, after all, my father who drove me to the skating rink at 6:00 in the morning and built pinewood derby cars with my brothers). I can still very vividly recall a female Judge telling me not long after I had my son, to make sure I let my husband help – you will succeed, he will succeed, and your children will succeed if you work together. Her point – parenting is a team sport. This is true no matter the status of your relationship. Parenting is a team sport whether you are married, divorced, living together or separated.