When LA schools closed down due to COVID-19 in March, I looked at my ex-husband as he was about to head into his bartending job and said, “I give it a few days before you have to shut down too”.
Sure enough, a few days later, he was called and told not to come in anymore and to file for unemployment. This wasn’t just a job; he had worked there for 14 years and it was a part of who he was. Almost immediately after, several of my marketing clients had to put me on hold. I couldn’t blame them; the whole world was moving into scary times and no one had the answers. So many families were experiencing the same difficult situation.
My ex and I share two boys. A 13-year-old and a 6-year-old (who had to have a quarantine birthday). I generally handle stressful situations well, so I was calm. Until the kids’ school started sending all of their communication regarding distance learning. My kindergartner had several things he needed to do every day. My 13-year-old had to be logged on basically from 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
The teachers, who are heroes for learning how to do this all on the fly, many with kids of their own at home, helped as much as they could. But it didn’t change the fact, that there was no way I could cater to my remaining clients, most of whom needed to totally revamp their marketing strategy now, while being teacher, chef, housekeeper, and nanny.
My ex and I have a good relationship. It wasn’t always like that, and we’ve had some really hard times. But we had learned to co-parent like champs. We realized very early on that we didn’t care what was “normal” for a divorced couple; we would do what we felt was right for our family. We had gotten to the point where my house had an open-door policy, we vacationed together, and he was over often.
I told him my fears of how I would do it all, and without having to ask, he said he would come and stay at the house and do the school work, cooking, etc. And just like that my ex was back. Full time, with a blow-up mattress in my youngest son’s room.
A Few Things I’ve Learned While Quarantining with My Ex-Husband
- The things that annoyed you when you were married annoy you even more when you’re not together. I am pretty sure I’ve said “this is why we aren’t together” like 5000 times. Mostly about the dumb stuff: chewing too loud, scraping the dish with his spoon, moving things around, etc.
- We spent more time in quarantine than we ever did when we were together. It’s easy when you can “escape” to work or go out with friends. But when you have nowhere to go, you start appreciating things you took for granted in each other before. I never doubted he was a good dad, but I use to think he was just always a terrible husband. Once you get into that mindset when married, it’s hard to think any differently. Now that we weren’t a couple, but together, I realized he has a lot of solid qualities apart from being a good dad.
- We created space for patience and encouragement for each other on a deeper level than we ever had. I wanted to go vegan and start cooking. He started taking exercise more seriously in my new garage “gym”. Things that would have seemed like a waste of time or money when married, we now encouraged in each other.
- Our kids always knew that we would do anything for them. But while quarantined together, we learned so much more about them. We realized that there are some issues we need to address, and some things to be so proud of, like my 13-year-old who started cooking for himself. And we got to try new activities we previously didn’t think we had time for.
- We started routines and traditions we never did in the Before Times; everyday life (work, sports, and school took all the time). I make a new dessert once a week and even though it’s vegan, they are good. Bike rides and walks are now an everyday thing. We planted a garden, we watched all the Marvel movies in chronological order, we did it all. We also realized, given our kids’ ages, this was the only time we would have complete control over what our kids ate, so now was the time to introduce new foods and healthier options.
- My ex, who worked almost every weekend before the lockdown out of necessity, realized he wanted to give those shifts up once life was back to “normal”. He missed out on so much and is now considering a career change to have the opportunity for more quality time with the kids. In quarantine, we all learned together that family should not only always come first, but now family was the only thing. And it is a gift.
Now I completely understand that not every divorced couple can do something like this. But if you can, and you’re looking to try an “unconventional” co-parenting situation like family dinners or vacations, I say go for it. There’s no rule book that says you can’t, as long as you are taking care of you and your kids first and foremost.
And to answer the million-dollar question that I get asked every time a friend calls…. No, my ex-husband and I are definitely not back together!
Rhiannon Dourado lives in Los Angeles with her two boys and two wild dogs. She runs a marketing company called HumbleBrag Marketing, loves beer, and supports social good whenever she can.
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