blended family covid

#4 Being a blended family during Covid-19

We are now almost 5 weeks into the Covid-19 quarantine. On the 16th March we decided to self-isolate as my eldest step-daughter had come home with a persistent dry cough.

The following week, the UK government ordered a 3-week lockdown of the country to try and stop the spread of the virus. Today they are expected to extend that by another 3 weeks.

Coronavirus. Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.

If the quarantine ends after that then we will have been isolating for 8 weeks.

We are all physically fine. Apart from being a bit fatter. I don’t know if my stepdaughter did have Covid-19, I just know that we are all OK. Our extended families are too, as are all my kid’s other parents families.

We are lucky.

You do learn some things about yourself, your family and your relationships when you are all stuck together for that amount of time.

Society isn’t likely to be the same again. Our family isn’t likely to be the same again. I know that I have changed and I won’t be the same as when I went into this.

I think most of that change is positive. We have had to change some things in order to get through this in one piece and some of those changes will stick around.

Secure relationships

I have a great relationship with my eldest son’s mum. We co-parent very successfully. We separated when he was 6.

My youngest son not so much. My marriage broke down when he was 3.

I have realised that I no longer fear my youngest son not knowing who I am. The poor relationship with my ex-wife and his fairly young age when we separated, coupled with the needless court case to have contact, has meant I was very worried that he would grow up not having a good relationship with me. In fact, it used to keep me up at night fairly regularly.

It did also mean I had some unhealthy behaviours when he was here. For example, I would let him get away with far more than the other kids. My fear of him rejecting me was driving my behaviour. I think I have overcome these inequalities now, Nicky does have to remind me every now and again though.

It’s only been the past day or two that I have realised this fear has mostly gone. Of course I am missing him but I am no longer in fear that extended time apart will adversely affect my relationship with him. The bonds we have built up over the last few years have allowed me to let go of that fear.

I know that we will be just fine.

Be confident in your relationships with your kids. Priotise their safety over your desire to see them.

Accepting my home is the second home

It’s always been important to me to make sure my sons know they have a home with me. I have always made sure they have their own space, nobody touches their stuff when they aren’t here and they return to how they left it.

They can always come here and as they get older and come over in a less structured way there will always be a hot meal, a bed and someone to listen. Always.

They have two homes. Two safe places they can go where they will find security, warmth and love.

I’m pretty sure they know this and that they feel it.

I have always held a belief that their two homes are equal. That given the choice they would want to be in either home for equal amounts of time.

I no longer think that’s true. 

I’m kinda OK with it.

It’s a fairly new revelation to me and one that was initially quite painful.

My kids seem to want to spend more time at their Mum’s. They have both been here but have spent more time at their mum’s. (To be clear they have only been here when it has been safe to do so. That has to come above my own desire to see them).

I’m OK with it because it isn’t an attack on me or our relationship. I am in almost daily contact with both of them. They seem happy and content and I am happy that they are.

Letting go of this belief is letting go of my ego. It doesn’t need to be a competition about whose home is better, who is allowed to do what where. We can just be. They will always have a comfortable, loving and secure home here.

They won’t see any changes. I am giving myself permission to feel OK about this. It doesn’t mean I’ll stop doing what I do to make sure they have a wonderful home here.

Better Communication

Me and Nicky have had to adjust too. We did go for about a week without really talking.

It just felt like we were disagreeing on the most basic of things – what to have for lunch, what order to cook things for lunch. You know, the real important things in life.

So we gave each other a wide berth for a few days.

Since then we seem to have started communicating more when something has pissed us off. Or communicating our mood. 

“I had a crap night sleep last night…”

“I’m struggling to find any motivation today….”

Little signals to not expect 100% out of me today. It seems we have both had to have a little more empathy. We are all having different daily struggles.

Stop giving all the shits

my deep dark cave

Picture the scene, I am knee-deep in meetings for 8 hours while Nicky and the kids have a day off. I emerge from my dark cave, bleary-eyed and bent double after a hard day hunched over my carpel tunnel inducing work tools to find the house a shit tip and no ideas for dinner.

Nicky tells me I can be prone to dramatics but I’m not convinced.

Anyway, to combat this (completely non-dramatic) upset I have quite simply stopped giving so much of a shit.

The house is going to be messier. Shit isn’t going to get done. There is a slower pace to everything.

Right now its a wonder anyone is getting out of bed at all. I would guess that most people are at 40-60% normal mental capacity and motivation. On a good day.

Also, why isn’t now a good time to enjoy sitting in the garden with a book? At what other time do we get back our commute hours to spend as we wish? The grounding little things are really important right now.

All of our lives have changed in some way and it is affecting all of us differently.

I am being overly sensitive about it and Nicky is actually chilling out. We are normally on the same page about these things. It’s really interesting to see the way we react differently during periods of stress and anxiety.

So by giving myself a break I have given everyone else one too.

Go me.

It could be so much worse

I have become so grateful for what we have as a family. We have a house where everyone has the ability to have some of their own space, we have a garden big enough to have a ride around on bikes and we have each other.

Despite the no talking from last week I would not want to be isolating with myself for this amount of time. That’s a scary thought.

I mean if I really think about it, this isn’t so much of a hardship. We can go outside whenever we want, we can escape each other whenever we want and we have Netflix, Disney+, Satellite TV, a PlayStation 4, an Xbox One, a Switch, countless board games and books…..

There are people with children in this world doing a lock down in a tent in a refugee camp.

Can you imagine? 

I am reminding all my kids daily that we have nothing to complain about.

Routine is King

You should be making every effort to look after yourself right now. Give yourself and others a break.

Don’t sweat it if you aren’t sticking to your normal exercise and food regime religiously. Just don’t give up completely.

Try to:

  • get out for a walk every day
  • eat your fruit and veggies
  • come up with a daily routine that works for you and stick to it!
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour so that you can get out of bed at a reasonable hour

Routine is the king. It’s going to ground you in normality. At the moment it’s hard to keep track of what day it is.

The normal daily/weekly rhythm has been completely lost. I have found my motivation is directly linked to this rhythm. If I lose my routine then goodbye to getting anything done for 48 hours.

My day looks like this:

06:30 – Get up
06:30 – 08:00 – Self care. Meditation, Journal and exercise
08:00 – 08:30 Get ready for work. I still get ready as if I was going to work (nice smells and all!). Get family up with a cup of tea.
08:30 – 12:00 – Work – check-in with kids often
12:00 – 13:00 – Lunch with Nicky and whichever children are here.
13:00 – 16:00ish – Work – check-in with kids often
16:00 – grab a beer from the fridge.
16:00 – 22:30 – Catch up with Nicky, get outside with kids, cook dinner, watch TV shows (currently bingeing Ozark), read etc
22:30 – Journal and bed

It’s tough juggling work and keeping the kids occupied and sane. They have a similar routine that involves time outside, some school work. I am somewhat jealous of the people who can’t log in and do work!

The routine however, is keeping me sane. By giving my day structure my work day isn’t bleeding into home life and vice versa.

I didn’t really do this for the first couple of weeks and it showed. I’m far more productive at work this way and better able to relax too.

Mood is also vastly improved, both for me and the kids.

Don’t regret

Finally let me ask you a question. How do you want to look back on this time? 

Do you want to cringe as you remember all the eating, staying in bed till midday and not getting dressed for days at a time?

Embrace this time. Use it to grow. Come out of this a better person than you than went in.

The University of Colorado had this to say and produced the amazing graphic.

Who do I want to be during Covid-19?

Me?

I’m working on my self-care by meditation, learning a new fitness method (more to come on this later no doubt), working on the house (zen office for productivity/Nerd Nest) and doing stuff in the garden.

When normal service resumes I’ll look back knowing that I spent my time wisely. That I kept a happy emotional state for those around me and that I chose to turn a difficult time into one filled with growth and positivity. I’ll look back and be proud I was in the growth zone.

What about you?

L

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