Daniel Betts, Dad blogger, @The_Breaking_Dad tells us his experience and top tips for managing as a two-household blended family, during lockdowns and a year of COVID-19.
Fed up of lockdown yet? We certainly are. As we creep ever closer to the anniversary of the UK’s first national restrictions, the end is in sight… But we’ve still got a way to go. Adjusting to life as a housebound hermit has undoubtedly been challenging; a dynamic that becomes even more challenging when there are two households involved. I wanted to share some of our top tips for managing a two-household blended family.
First, a little about us
I’m Dan, proud father to Evie (4). Evie’s mum and I separated in March 2019 and since then, have been finding our feet in a new co-parenting setup. I have Evie just a little short of 50% of the time, often trying to balance working a full-time job with parenthood – like so many of us. I met Rosie in early 2020, and over time, we introduced each other to our respective children before introducing the children to each other.
We have three beautiful girls between us, Tilly,5; Evie, 4; and Liza, 2. They became ‘best friends’ from the moment they met and it’s so heartwarming to watch their little bonds forming. When the latest national lockdown hit, Rosie and I decided that we would create a bubble between her place and mine, which would mean that we could freely see each other and the children.
Support each other
One of the hardest things we’ve found with lockdown is just staring at the same four walls. It’s SO difficult to keep children occupied and, even if you have a long list of activities to do with them, boredom can set in at a moment’s notice, and behaviour can take a nosedive. Make every effort you can to make sure you’re supporting your partner as much as you can. Nobody chose this situation, but if you make it your mission to do so, you’ll see it through together. You’d be surprised how far a little moral support, a, “You’re doing a great job” and a cuddle will go.
For us, being in lockdown has felt more difficult during the winter months. Bitterly cold weather and the misery of being battered by the rain certainly don’t make going for a walk sound all that enticing. Do it anyway. Wrap up warm and brave the elements for a quick hit of fresh air, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel after it. Sometimes a change of scenery and a bit of movement is an excellent medicine if you’re suffering from a little “stir crazy”.
You don’t need a big budget to keep your kids entertained. Rosie and I both love to make things with the kids. It doesn’t matter whether we’re baking biscuits, cutting cardboard or sticking stickers – getting the children to work together on a little project is a fantastic way to keep them occupied. Arts and crafts or baking work particularly well if your children are at different ages and abilities because you can assign age-appropriate tasks and everybody feels included.
“You can assign age-appropriate tasks and everybody feels included.”
Let them sort it out
Children will have disagreements, it’s natural, and during a lockdown, it’s inevitable. Evie and Tilly play beautifully 90% of the time, but they still get upset with each other now and again. We try to avoid intervening as long as possible to give the girls the best chance to resolve their differences themselves; it saves our sanity!
Talk to each other
Communication is fundamental to an effective relationship, particularly during the lockdown. There will be days when you feel more down than others. During these times, talking to each other will be vital – never just assume your partner will know how you’re feeling. If your partner doesn’t know you’re feeling down, how can they be there for you to make it better? Try not to let problems fester; it’s a recipe for disaster. Instead, prioritise time for discussing these issues, and you’ll find it’s a fantastic way of offloading some of that stress.
Make time for date nights
When our two households come together, Rosie and I barely get any time together because we spend all our time trying to make sure the girls are all having the best time. With Liza being only two, one of us is usually keeping an eye on the mischief that she’s causing, whilst the other is occupying our older two. When the kids are in bed, remember to make time for your relationship too. Just because you can’t go out to fancy restaurants doesn’t mean you can’t have a lovely date night at home. Cook a fancy meal together, play a board game, do a puzzle – it doesn’t matter, the important thing is enjoying each other’s company!
We’re living in unprecedented times, the likes of which very few of us have seen. We haven’t experienced lockdown before; there’s no guidebook! Remember to take a deep breath, count to ten and do what you can to support the ones you love through it – even if they are incredibly annoying at times.
Take time for yourself
Balancing two households as a blended family is very challenging at times. The mountains of washing and the never-ending list of chores can often hang over you like a dark rain cloud before you start all over again the next day. Just remember to take time for yourself and your mental health. Meditate, have a bath, write in a journal – whatever it takes to help recharge those batteries of yours.
Daniel Betts is a parent blogger who runs the thebreakingdad.co.uk and Instagram account, @the_breaking_dad. Read more about how other people have managed to cope with lockdown and COVID-19 in our blog series of stories, activity ideas and tips to manage.