For Moms

Parenting With An Ex During a Pandemic

“We’re going to keep your passport in our office safe until September for your new stamp,” the visa agent messaged me.

That’s the second time my passport goes into a safe in fourteen months.

A year ago it was in a safe above coffee condiments stacked in a twin room at the Hyatt Regency in Yogyakarta.

My son had a school break, and I was jobless. Perfect mom and son opportunity to bond, climbing the world’s largest Buddhist temple.

Just like the previous Hong Kong trip, my ex was adamant that I should not be spending on international holidays.

I didn’t defend my decision. He breathes quantity. I sit on the opposite end of the seesaw multitasking in the sunset.

To my ex an occasion or event has to be justified each time, and the only way to determine its value is to analyze it quantitatively. He nitpicks on things I spend for even if it benefits our son and he does not contribute a cent.

Our Bali holiday, he declares, is a waste of money.

How Do You Quantify Moments?

How do you quantify moments, especially moments with a take-your-breath-away quality?

Count the number of times you inhale and exhale while you watch your son drop his phone for the first time in forever to observe an island peak disappear in the mid-morning fog?

The ex quantifying Bohemian Rhapsody while I qualify the number of atoms in salt is a normal weave in our fragmented family of three.

Our son’s ambition to sell garlic and samurai swords alternates with a fancy to own a cement factory when he grows up.

We Split Expenses 50-50

The arrangement seems to be working since we implemented it when I took our son back from my country to his. I feel empowered to be of use, and it’s a balm for his macho ego, bruised for coming one step behind me in the divorce.

In either case, it’s a win-win. Our relationship may be volatile but we try our best to be as civil as we can be to each other especially in front of our son.

We communicate via Messenger. Best for the enmity between us. It was proven better when I typed an argument away: son joining an overseas camporee just a few weeks before the virus hit.

Like numerous instances in the past, the ex quickly says no to anything that involves money. I seethed as I debated my stand that our son should be allowed to go. “The fact that we have diminished spending ability should not deprive our son of an important learning activity. It’s not his fault we both resigned from our jobs.”

He had me seen-zoned that entire weekend. I could at least relax until he responded again.

“My big brother says CJ should go,” the messenger blinked. “$$$ has been transferred to your account.” Good, old Messenger.

An in-law’s opinion sounds all too familiar to me.

“My Mom thinks we should take Jay to the doctor now,” he announces hours after our son, five months old at that time, became a burning bush of one hundred and four degrees.

Myself going frantic about rushing our convulsing baby to the clinic does not affect him one bit. He had to ask his Mom first.

Talk of irony. As a senior executive for a huge trading company, making serious decisions is part of his daily business routine. Dealing with a sick infant? Dial Mom. She’ll know what to do.

I wonder how the grand lady would have barked directions nowadays if she were alive.

She liked to take charge. Her ways both riled and awed me. You know when you are newlyweds living in a rented space and suddenly here comes Mom-in-law.

She furnishes your townhouse in one fell swoop, fires your maid, hires a new one, and pays her salary too.

Co-Parenting During a Pandemic

Officially, I am thrilled that the ex and I are shared-parenting on our own without roller-coaster rides. Especially during a pandemic. Even if it means being stuck alone in a high-rise condominium that the late ex-MIL bought in spot cash for her son.

Almighty woman, mind-numbing virus. What a combination! Not that I am about to compare the two, but while one rages on, reminders of the other overhang vivid.

I learned to play along with my ex-hubster’s accounting style. Pay fifty percent of everything. Rigidly.

But when we all went on lockdown, something in him softened.

It’s either because he is too happy to have our son with him every day that he can’t be bothered about covering expenses a hundred percent now or he is willing to overlook the fact that I am no longer paying my half as long as our son is with him.

The latter is probably just common sense.

He must have realized there’s no more use keeping track of every cent as COVID reduced me to a dried-up well. If that’s not enough, immigration and visa matters are right up my nostrils. Amidst quarantine, suspended flights, and having to keep up with your child’s study online, visa uncertainty is a horrifying thought.

So far though we are coordinating well.

The ex drives our son to see me on his birthday and I get to host a little party for the two of us. He updates me about school days on Zoom, and surprise, surprise he pays reservation fees upfront for the next school year without expecting me to cough up my half.

That used to be my job. I send him an invoice of the fifty percent, and every other fifty percent of our son’s expenses, and we’re good to go.

I can’t say I miss that job. I do miss our son who has grown like grass as quickly as the virus sent us reviewing priorities.

Kindness up a notch. He provides documents I need to be granted a long-term visa. “I don’t want Jay without a Mom while studying here or in case anything happened to me.”

It gets me every time despite subtle hostilities between us. Whatever triggered the nicety? As if we were not playing hardball in the divorce field for the past sixteen years.

But yes, priorities.

Such as add a few more stamps on the passport with the son when COVID is gone. Or go a more qualitative route like understanding, optimism, humility, and gratitude. The ex can quantify them all he wants. They are safe bets to bank on.

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