To say I am a bit obsessed with routine would be an understatement. I have always been that way, my diary full, every moment marked out to the exact minute – almost to the point that if I am even a minute late for something I panic.
Even when we were able to take Lily to school, I remember one morning – (I take Lily to school Monday-Wednesday and Chris picks her up on Mondays and Tuesdays), I had left to take her to school at 8.15am… it was 8.55am and we were still not there, traffic was awful and I ended up ringing Chris crying, an emotional wreck thinking I was going to be late dropping her off and that she’d get a late mark all because of me.
Turns out I was still 3 minutes early and I had panicked over nothing – as per usual, but at least I can continue to say she has never been late for school!
In terms of our regular routine, this has been the same for us for almost five years, and that has really helped both families get used to how things are during the week.
We are lucky enough to have Lily exactly 50/50, so usually, when the world hasn’t been taken over by a virus, we will have Lily Monday-Wednesday and every other weekend, which, honestly, is perfect.
It means we have every other weekend to have quality time together or to do work, but we still get that much needed quality time with Lily also.
If you have read my previous blog about the ‘daddy/daughter’ relationship, you’ll know that I really like to push for both Chris and Lily to have that one to one time, as well as us having family time also.
In a usual week, Chris has time after school with Lily while I work and go to the gym. On a Monday, Chris takes Lily to her swimming practice, and it’s something they have really bonded over. Both of them get excited to tell me about how Lily did during her lesson and Chris is so proud of her, it’s lovely.
It’s something they really miss during lockdown I think. Swimming is their ‘thing’, alongside many other ‘things’ we have, it’s the one that is just for them, that I leave them to – partly because no matter how hard I have tried over the years, I can’t swim, I panic in water and embarrass myself – to the point Lily once shouted that she’d give me lessons when we were in the pool and everyone stared at me.
I’m quite happy to grab a cup of tea and sit and watch as they have hours of fun splashing and Lily jumps on Chris’s back as he carries her round the pool – thinking about it I’m not sure how much Lily actually swims when they both go together but they have fun which is the main thing!
But when lockdown hit, a lot changed. Chris and I are both still working from home, and although Lily’s step dad is still at work, working shifts, her mum is at home during the day with Lily’s little brother, meaning Lily is able to have that attention at her mums, that we have trouble giving her 100% of the time here.
Building a new routine to overcome that has been vital.
At the start of lockdown, as parents, myself, Chris, Lily’s mum and step dad all agreed to move our usual routine to five days on, five days off. This was to reduce the movement between households during the outbreak and so far that has worked really well.
Not only have the days changed, but I think Lily initially struggled to understand why we still had to work, even though we are all at home. This current situation in the world is hard for me to get my head around – never mind a 7-year-old!
We had to sit Lily down and explain that she should technically be at school, and we should technically be at work, and so during the days we’d have to try and follow that routine from home.
What was most heartbreaking was explaining that on weekends when the sun is shining, that she wasn’t able to go next door to see her friend of the same age, that she couldn’t play with him, and that they’d only be able to speak over the fence at a distance.
But I’ve got to hand it to her, Lily has been amazing. She has been SO well behaved, she’s done her school work and taken to lockdown life pretty well!
However, I know she has been upset by us having to work. I felt unbelievably guilty one night, when I overheard her telling Chris when he was putting her to bed, almost in tears saying she missed spending time with us. I felt like we’d been so consumed with our own work – which has been difficult as you can imagine during lockdown, that although we had tried to balance everything equally, we’d let her down. That’s where the new routine has been most useful for us.
Each evening she is here, Lily will write a plan with Chris for the next day, almost like a school timetable, so she is able to know when we are working and when we are taking time out to spend quality time with her.
Chris and I have split our time equally to be with her and make sure we are able to get our own work done without interruption. I will do crafts with Lily or set her on some work during my time, which I help with with, and then after an hour or so, Chris will take over.
We are also trying to eat our meals together twice a day, making sure we have proper breaks, instead of my usual grab something and eat it as I work.
And it has made such a difference!
During this time, children, be it biological or step children, are already finding this time difficult, everything in their life has changed, they’re not seeing friends, they not being able to hug grandparents, visit loved ones or even sit on a swing at a park.
Having a routine in place can help so much in giving them that structure that is so needed right now, and I think now we’d be lost without it!