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What lessons can we take from the COVID-19 pandemic?

Beautiful family in medical masks

What lessons can we take from the COVID-19 pandemic?

Beautiful family in medical masks

COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on many people – whether it be from a health, financial or emotional point of view.  People have either been laid off from work, seen their businesses come to a grinding halt, or cannot get employment to support themselves and their families.

With the enforced isolation measures, we have seen our social activities significantly curtailed.  It seems a lifetime since some of us last played a round of golf, been on a night out with the girls and shared a few glasses of wine or cocktails, had a couple of beers with our mates at the local pub, or went to the footy to watch our team play.  This has all taken a substantial toll on us emotionally and physically.  Some relationships have been severely tested, with an increase in the levels of family violence clearly evident.

The silver lining for most of us during this crisis is that we have had the opportunity to spend a lot more time with our families than we probably ever have in the past.  This has served as a timely reminder of that which is most important to us – our loved ones, and their safety, good health and wellbeing.

With our work essentially dominating our lives, we have been reminded over the past few months of just how much we are missing out on as our children grow and achieve milestones in our absence.  As the song goes, “the hardest part about workin’ hard ain’t the bills I gotta pay.  It’s you growin’ up while I was away.”

They say with crisis comes opportunity.  That has certainly been the case for many parents as they have spent meaningful quality time with their children.  As painful as home-schooling has been and our gratitude for teachers and day care providers continues to grow, just being able to sit down with our children and play games without feeling rushed, read a book as they snuggle to sleep in our arms, take them for a bike ride, or kick a ball around at the local park while watching the joy this all brings to their little hearts has reminded us all of how valuable these moments are.  It has taught us that our normal pre-pandemic routine of school, work, dinner, showers – then do it all again like zombies – must be revised.

It is therefore likely that we will look to hang on to and allow ourselves to enjoy many more of these precious moments before our time is up.  Working remotely and having more flexible working patterns will probably be the way of the future.  The traditional model is on the decline.  More households are now exercising the dual-earner, duel-carer model.  This has been to the benefit of both parents.

Sharing the responsibilities of child care and domestic duties has enabled more men to spend greater periods of quality time with their children, as opposed to just being the “fun dad” who plays games with them for about an hour each weeknight after getting home from work and before they have to go to bed.  Fathers are taking delight in carrying out care tasks such as the drop-offs and pick-ups to and from school, feeding and bathing, and attending to these and other nurturing tasks that were previously mainly reserved for mothers.

Some women, too, have enjoyed being relieved of their full-time parental responsibilities, with greater assistance provided by their partners.  Looking after children all day can be a demanding and stressful job, particularly with younger kids and the more of them one has to take care of.  It is a 24/7 job for which there is no monetary compensation, and is often thankless, as society just expects you to carry out these duties.  As a result, career progression gets severely stifled, leading to a lower income earning capacity and a far smaller superannuation nest egg to call upon in later life.

The lessons to be learned from the pandemic are simple.  Life is short.  It can be taken away from us in a heartbeat.  What is most important to us?  Not all relationships are going to last forever.  That’s ok.  There are many families that are broken through separation.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t still try to give our children the best of two worlds, two homes.

They shouldn’t be punished because their parents are not compatible life-long partners.  We should still do the very best by them.  They are innocent little human beings who love both of their parents, and just want to feel the love back from both.  They shouldn’t be burdened with having to make decisions such as which parent they prefer to spend more time with.

Adults ought to be capable of determining that which is in their children’s best interests and emotional welfare without needing a Judge to tell them.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that equal time arrangements must be put in place in every scenario.  There are many factors that the Family Law Courts assess when determining a dispute between parents, such as issues of violence, abuse, neglect, alienation, availability to look after them and to attend to all of their needs, and many more.  Each case is different.

To spare yourself money and heartache, you may consider sitting down together and constructively working out directly between you and the other parent of your children the future arrangements to be made for their shared parenting.  If you’re able to do so, we can help you by formalising the agreement you reach.  If you’re not, we’re here to help you in the pursuit of your rights and, more importantly, those of your children.

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