Note: Marieke and I got divorced in 2020. This post might not reflect the current situation.
We try to lunch and have dinner together every day, which are perfect moments to discuss the day and discuss how we all feel and what we need from each other. It is quite interesting to see how more and more, the kids are bringing up their own ideas. Like “oh, mom, it would be really great if we could go dancing in the rain again” or “oh, I would like to eat that pasta next week”. It is also the perfect moment to discuss things like “how long will this Corona virus take” and at least give a simplified version of the reality that nobody really knows and that it depends on how the virus spreads and how the hospitals are being able to deal with the massive challenges they have.
Also discussing “big” things openly helps them prepare. We have discussed several times now that it might be the case that they won’t be going back to school – at least not until summer. Although that is not a nice message, it seems to help them mentally prepare. They now – over the weeks – have gotten used to the idea. Same goes that we probably won’t be able to go on holidays this summer – but we spent already quite some time planning “even cooler” things – we’ll have a night in tents in our garden, we’ll have a movie night with popcorn in our living room and we’ll be creating a fortress from a carton box in the attic.One of our first meetings with the family was discussing what each of us would need for the coming weeks (or months … or whatever).
- What do you need to be happy now?
- Are there other things you need?
- Do you need some time on your own?
Doing this openly, helped see what everyone’s needs are and open up the lines for future communication. It would allow Ella to say that she really needed some time on our own in her own room, just to relax. To have the kids tell us they really needed some new markers because they were running out. To have Marieke tell she needed some time on her own to call some of her friends, etc. Just being able to tell what you need from someone else helped us a lot to stay sane.
It also helped us define things that we agreed on would help us keep sane. E.g. maximizing playtime outside in our small garden (in any case, there would be more than enough time inside, so every moment outside would be a win). Going to the bakery together with the kids, the importance of being able to do schoolwork, etcetera.
For me, over the years, I have learned I need structure and clarity in my work, so one of the things I asked for is a clear week plan – who would be able to work when. That would not only help me to get any idea how much work I would be able to get done, but also would help me communicate clearly to clients what they would be able to expect from me. E.g. that there would be moments on specific days that I would only be able to call with our kids by my side.I think one of my proudest moments in one of these weeks was when I was putting Ella to bed and she started crying. I asked her what was going and she told me “I am sorry daddy, but I am just having a tough moment, I really really miss my friends from school”. I really appreciated the fact that she was so open about that. It was one of the moments that helped us normalize just being sad for a moment. That it would be ok to cry because you hate the situation. It helped us create some sort of family principle “it is ok to whine for five minutes, then we move on”.
It also makes it ok that Marieke and me are sad for some moments. Our kids will even come to us, comfort us and say “it is ok to whine for five minutes, then we move on”.One of the first things we did, was creating an overall week plan, mainly focussing on work. From the start, we had realized that minding the kids while working would not make any sense. Being able to do some deep work during the week would be essential. As my work as a freelancer was more flexible, we started out from Marieke’s working hours and starting to plan for the week.
So, several things we decided on:
- Marieke would be able to have her “normal” 22 working hours.
- My hours would be flexible, but I would still have at least 36 hours of deep work per week.
- We would be able to get some work done while attending the kids.
- Tuesday afternoon would be our set moment to go grocery shopping.
We discussed this with the kids so they understood the concept behind it. They were not to disturb the parent that would be working in our home office and the week schedule gave them a clear idea of which parent was working when.
The exact same might not apply to your situation, but expanding the workweek to 6 days and deciding on deep work/focus moments might help to at least get some work done.make a day plan during breakfast. It would incorporate things like school work, going to the bakery, play time outside, specific tasks to be done that day, etcetera. Again, by including the kids in this, it will help them embrace whatever we’ll have to do that day. This at least helps to focus on day to day activities and enjoy every single day, very useful to stay sane during Corona times.Apart from the practicalities, we believe it makes sense to have some highlights in your weeks, some things to look forward to to stay sane during Corona times. It can be really simple – as simple as the dinner plans that week.Our kids love food and cooking. And in the first week it was their favorite question: “What’s for dinner tonight?”. So every week, Marieke (yeah, my cooking skills are limited to heating specific kinds of food – like eggs) involves the kids in what the dinner planning for that week will be. It helps us limit our visits to the
- We sometimes use a surprise bowl with kids activities, we have not used it yet.
- A similar thing: IKEA sells lottery wheel / wheel of fortune kind of things (see picture). I have had the idea to use it for kids ideas as well, but have not used it yet.
- No alcohol during the week. In the first two weeks, we would be drinking a glass of alcohol pretty much every evening. We decided to stop that and only drink during the weekends.
For us, basic things like open communication (including the kids in the discussion, make it ok to complain) and a clear structure with week and day plans helped us a lot. I hope it might inspire you, but also looking forward to your tips and ideas.