Q: I have been sheltered in place with my girlfriend's kids for three weeks. They are nothing like my children, whom I am supposed to see every other weekend, but have not because of this virus. They are getting on my nerves with their incessant whining that there is nothing to do. It's making me rethink my relationship with their mother and I'm thinking as soon as this is over, I will move out. I'm not sure how to tell her. What's good ex-etiquette?
A: Red flags all over the place — you do know that, right?
First one, life with anyone four days a month is not the same as living with them every day. I am not finding fault with your parenting plan, I am simply stating a fact. Some parents view your parenting plan as not enough time with their children while others don't complain. But the truth remains that just about anyone can be on their best behavior for two days in a row if they want to be. I don't think it's a fair comparison. That said, I don't think you should be comparing at all. When you compare, someone wins, someone loses.
Second, incessant whining. Sounds like everyone is whining at your house and I will attribute that to not being prepared. People didn't realize how going to work and going to school gave them a breather from each other. Yeah, you come home tired and spent, but usually relished coming home. Now everyone is home and looking for diversions from each other. This is human nature, but it still does not give you relief from what you perceive as whining.
A major problem in this case is you can't divert their attention by suggesting they play with a friend. So, we have a bunch of frustrated, whining people looking for ways to escape each other. As one of the adults in the home, these kids need your direction, not your disdain.
With that in mind, don't be so quick to talk about breaking up right this second. This is a temporary situation and after the dust settles you may be very sorry that you said something so finite, especially if the reason is your partner's kids are driving you crazy.
Communication is key in any relationship and so talking about your frustration is paramount — but blame is a disaster. Your job as your girlfriend's partner is get in there and help. Granted, everyone drives you crazy right now, but if you are not looking for ways to divert everyone's attention from finding fault with each other, you're not doing your job as a primary role model in the family. This isn't to say you can't escape to the back porch for some quiet time or run around the block to get away from things, but when you come home, be a solidifying factor. And, in a month or so, when this is over, if you still feel the way you describe, take a look at it.
You may also be feeling guilty because you are sequestered with kids that are not biologically yours and can't see your own children. Understandable — and that's another column.
Jann Blackstone is the author of "Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation," and the founder of Bonus Families, bonusfamilies.com.